11 Missoula, Mi Amor
“So, are you coming?”
“I don’t know, Ace.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know of it’s a good idea”
Ace held the phone and said nothing.
“Well, I hope you’ll come. We’re going to be so close. You could drive home after the set.”
“I just saw you guys play, Ace. That isn’t why I would be there.”
Oh. Ace felt his ticker thump out of time for a beat.
“Ace” she said quietly. There was a sadness in her voice. “What’re we doing? We’re getting out on dangerous ground with these phone calls.”
“I‘m feeling things inside of me that I haven’t felt in a long time. I like the feelings, Ace, but I don’t want them to happen. I don’t want them to happen to you, either. You’ve got a wife and daughter.”
“I have a daughter, but I haven’t had a wife in years, Rob. Or maybe I have had a wife, but I sure haven’t had a friend or lover.”
“Well, you deserve a friend and lover.”
“Are you flirting with me? How dare you flirt with me! Don’t you know I’m an unhappily married man?” It was his best Groucho voice. Cut the tension; he didn’t want this to be about tension. But he was excited to be talking this way with her; he was loving it.
Roberta smiled. “You could always make me laugh, Ace. “
“That’s because you have a sense of humor; not like some women I know – such as my wives! So are you coming or not?” Ace was pressing her again.
“I‘m thinking about it; I can’t figure it out yet. Please forgive me, Ace”
“I’ll forgive you if you come.”
“Will I have to beg?”
“Oh, yes, I’ll make you beg!”
Joey was feeling better, even though he hated making the drive all the way from Seattle to Spokane on the bus. He thought he had been awfully good about it all. He wanted to fly but he felt he should do a little slumming to be one of the boys. You’ve got to know how to handle your people, he thought. He didn’t think, however, that he could do much more driving with the Hebe. God damn it, the guy was a pessimistic little rat: so nervous, always drumming on the table, finding fault with something meaningless, scratching himself. All the strung-out shit rubbed Joey the wrong way. What a Goddam loser! Oh well, fuck it; it’s just another few weeks. The Xeonosis stock was going through the roof. Maybe he should buy that place in HuicaHuica, where all the big wankers like Stone were getting haciendas for retirement.
Joey was worried about his penis. The thing was still sore, though a little better, but he hadn’t had a hard-on yet, not even when he woke up. What if it wouldn’t work? He had a moment of panic. It would be at least another week before he could take it for a test drive. Where would they be? He checked his blackberry: Missoula, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Des Moines, Chicago. Chicago! My kind of town, he thought. Eight days. Well, I find out then. Got to get Horn about a charter; I ain’t driving those dates.
Harry washed his face in the little basin of the bus’ bathroom. He looked at his thin reflection in the mirror. What are you doing, Harry the Hebe? I’m surviving this tour, chilling, leave me alone. You’re going to get caught. Do you want these guys to come down on you again? Fuck them. Right now you’re feeling good, but you’re going to blow it, what then? I won’t fuckin’ blow it! Shit, leave me alone!
A fresh quart of Crazy Cossack was hidden in his gig bag. A stage hand had copped it for him after sound check.
Joey gets to fly and be fuckin’ rich. Ace and Boomer get to drink wine. If I want to drink, then that’s my prerogative!
Well, don’t blame me when the shit hits the fan! said his face. I won’t blame you. Now fuck off!
Sandy looked at the Coors Lite clock on the wall of the Tesoro station. Three o’clock. If she left now, she could be in Missoula by seven. She didn’t have a ticket, but she didn’t really need one. No, she’d wait until they came to Pocatello. She’d waited thirty years, what’s another month?
Enrique came in around five to get a six-pack. He was older than most of the Chicanos here. He spoke good English.
“Hey, Sandy, wanna’ have a beer with me?” He smiled and showed a gold tooth. He wasn’t a bad guy. Most of the workers were just fine. They lived cheaply and sent home most of what they earned.
Sandy shrugged. “Ok.”
Later on, she lay in the darkness of her room. She felt bad. She’d long ago given up on the concept of a real man. Taking care of her old father, watching the station, occasionally spending a couple of hours with Enrique; this was her life. Jesus will wash me clean someday. That isn’t what hurt. It was what had been taken from her, what she was missing, that hole in her heart that could never be filled. That’s what needed to be fixed.
There’s only one way to fix it.
The college crowd at the University fieldhouse was fairly raucous. There’s not that much to do mid-week in Missoula. The opening act, a local young band called the Spiny Rooters, went down pretty well. What would the audience do for a band of old men? Only about a third the people in the hall were older ex-hippies, the rest were college kids whose parents were just getting their first French kisses when The Big One was a hit. A lot of the students thought, quite rightly, that a penis implant was something only old limpies would get.
Ace was nervous, but not about the set. Will she show up?
“Showtime, ladies!” Russell came and got them. There was only one dressing room tonight, a locker room with benches and hard chairs. The only booze was a keg of Moose Drool served in paper cups. Harry was frantically trying to find a way to get out his fifth of Crazy Cossack without anybody seeing, but he was running out of time. Joey was pretending to be groovy, but inside, he was pissed. He didn’t need this shit. College gigs! Boomer couldn’t care less, but despite his yoga, his back was hurting him. Too many bus rides for an old man. Marco was the only one who thought the gig had promise. College girls- just his speed. Too bad he was burdened with having to be associated with such old farts. The girls would probably look at him and say, over thirty – boring!
The set wasn’t a total disaster. They survived, but it wasn’t a triumph as had been their other gigs so far. The older folks clapped along with the hits, but many of the kids left as they played. As Ace sang he could see whole rows getting up and filing out. He felt suddenly very old. Joey’s shtick got the remaining half of the audience off their feet at the end of the set. Harry went back out to the stage quickly after the set to help take his drums down and gulp down a quick third of his quart behind some big road cases. He was sharing a room with Ace tonight at the Red Lion, and wouldn’t get a chance to have another drink. The meet- and- greet was fairly light, only a handful of respectful older long-hairs with glasses and ponytails and a few retired rockers who lived in the Bitterroot Valley. Harley Axelrod, the legendary country singer, and Tony Riggs, the lead singer of Riggs and the Derricks, grabbed Joey and Russell and tooled down in Tony’s huge crew-cab Ford 250 4WD to Tony’s 1,400 acre spread near Hamilton for the night. Tony offered to fly Joey over to Cheyenne the next day in his Gulfstream. Marco hooked up with a couple of college lookers. Boomer and Harry got on the bus, ready to go the Red Lion.
Ace stepped out of the fieldhouse into the parking lot, gig bag over his shoulder. He breathed in the cold night air. Missoula. Man, Ace loved Montana. But he was sad and angry. She didn’t show; fuck!
Just as he was about the get on the bus, the Subaru pulled up. Roberta rolled down the window, smiled at Ace, and said, “I told you I wasn’t going to come to hear you guys play again.”
“They’re coming down this way in the morning anyway. They’ll pick me up at the Cutthroat Café at nine.”
Ace dropped the phone back on its cradle on the nightstand. The sound of the river coming from the open window was relentless, yet soothing. Ace turned to Roberta.
“Jesus Christ, Rob.”
“I know, baby.”
“I’ve just been… Shit!” Ace was crying again.
Roberta was crying too. They held each other.
“Fuck! I’ve loved you for so long. The whole time.”
“I’ve always loved you, too, Ace. Our lives just went different ways.”
“Can we get them going the same way?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m confused. It’s not like me. I usually have it all figured out.”
“You’re a Taurus. Grounded”
“Yeah, but not right now. I just slept with a married man who has a little girl. What am I thinking?”
She took his face in her hands. Her breasts pressed against his chest. He reached up to feel them. God, they were perfect in his big hands. Their legs were intertwined. The cool air washed over their sweaty skin.
“I’m thinking, “She whispered, “That this is the most beautiful man I know in this world. I want to have what I can have of you, even if it’s only for tonight.” She kissed him hard.
“Jesus Christ, Rob…you trying to get laid again?” He laughed and she laughed, too. They kissed and felt each other. He was hard. He hadn’t been this hard since he didn’t know when. She got on top and slid slowly down onto him and sat up. They clasped hands, nails digging in, and moved together until they came in groans and tears and ohmigods and babys.
Later, they got up and made coffee and went and stood out on the deck above the river for a while, holding hands until that led to more kissing. She wrapped her legs around him and he carried her to the railing of the deck and they felt the cold breeze coming down the canyon as the bats of the night and first birds of the dawn flitted around in the river- washed air.
They finally settled on the couch in front of the fireplace and warmed their feet as the light filtered through the branches of the big Doug firs and the narrow lodgepole pines
“Who needs sleep?” Murmured Ace.” I can sleep when I die. And When I leave you, I will die; therefore I will sleep at that time.”
“Ace” Roberta sounded serious.
“We have to be on guard for what we might feel later. We’re probably gonna get a backlash; you know, feel remorse.”
“What I feel right now is the opposite of remorse. Remorse I save for my marriage.
He grabbed her and pulled her to him. “This is what I want to remember: how good this feels. And also, I want to remember what it means when we talk to each other. All that other bullshit has just been blown away.” He spoke quietly right to her soft-breathing face. “God, you are so beautiful, Roberta. I want to fall into you, over and over again.”
He stated laughing. “This is crazy, but baby, I can safely say, I’ve never felt like this before.”
She touched his face with her long fingers.
“It’s been so long since I felt anything like this. In some ways, I don’t even care what happens. This is so big.”
Bigger than the Xeonosis implant?” he joked.
She reached down. “Ace, you don’t need any implant!”
“Not when I’m with you, I don’t!”