by Riff Dixon
Anybody seeing him making his way down the trail wouldn't think he was very good
at it. He didn't know if he was being watched, but behaving as if he was had become second nature. He dressed according
to the same concept. He looked like he was shopping at Kmart. Exactly. Let anybody think he was out of his element
and over his head. When the time came to show something, he thought it was foolish to give away the element of
Over the years he'd let himself go a little, for the same reason. Nothing extreme,
but he looked like a guy not quite keeping up with his gym dues. The cigarettes helped. He paused to light one.
Easing into a relaxed posture didn't help to make him look like he belonged there.
Smoke billowing, he surveyed his surroundings. The coast between L.A. and San
Francisco is justifiably celebrated for its beauty. He wished he was there. Above San Francisco the coast continues
but the demographics decline. The fact that the narrow canyon he was so ineptly descending was known locally as
Meth Gulch spoke for itself.
The natural sounds were interrupted by his coughing. The young gun grinned when
he stepped into view. He wasn't bothering to show any gun.
"You lost, pop?"
"Gee, you startled me!" punctuated by some off-balance footwork.
The young gun's hat said RICK.
The older man's sheepish grin looked real. "I'm from Brooklyn, believe it
or not, but I just love this countryside. I rented a car and I finally couldn't stop myself from pulling over and
walking around a little."
"Yeah, well pop, you picked the wrong place to not be able to stop yourself,"
the grin growing a little wider.
"Yeah, sure, private property, I understand. The thing was, I'll be honest
with you, it looked like I could handle it, know what I mean? I'm not exactly a kid anymore and this isn't exactly
"Yeah, well pop, this is as far as you can handle it," he said, riding
his riff, "it gets much worse further on."
His bemused gaze followed his over-the-shoulder thumb gesture, so he actually
saw the older man's hand flash by his face and grab his thumb. Rick had the presence of mind to realize the twist
and turn movement that carried the older man behind him was doing the same thing to his thumb. There was a loud
"God Rick, I hate that sound, don't you?"
Any reply died with him when he heard the sound of his own neck snapping.
Manny Depasio wondered how long it would take Herbie Fontana to notice the civilian.
"Who the fuck is that? He looks like he took the wrong turn at Marineland."
"It took you long enough."
"I was looking the other way."
"So was my brother."
"Jesus Manny, not your fucking brother again."
They let the civilian get close enough so all they had to do was stand up to make
They weren't pointing the M16s at him, but they were hard to ignore.
Herbie got right to it: "Who the fuck are you?"
"You really startled me."
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
"Are you guys hunters?"
"Fuck who we are. Who the fuck are you?" Herbie seemed to want to do
all the talking.
"I'm Rick's father."
"Rick? Up the trail? I'm his dad."
"I've been pestering him to show me where he works."
"This is very fucking unprofessional."
"Gee, I don't want to get him in trouble."
"Wait a fucking minute. Rick's a spic."
"Well, he's his mother's boy."
"He don't look like you."
"Want to see a family picture?" The civilian's hand hovered over his
wallet pocket as he looked hopefully at Herbie and Manny.
"Fuck your family picture."
The only subject Manny could be accused of being remotely sensitive about was
family. "Jesus Herbie, lighten up man." He turned to the civilian. "Okay buddy, let's see what you
Ninety minutes later and twelve miles away a customer at the local fast-food drive-in
was telling his friend behind the counter what he'd missed:
"Jesus Steve, you could hear the explosion for miles. You know man, they
use some very volatile chemicals to make that shit. Those places can go up just like that."
Steve noticed another customer walking in. "Listen John, let me take this
guy's order and then you can tell me the rest."
Steve noticed the new customer wasn't from around there. He was dressed just like
a customer on one of the chain's commercials. Steve couldn't help thinking of his father.
"Sorry for the wait, sir. We're having a lot of excitement. Another one of
those methamphetimine factories blew up real close by and everybody's talking about it."
"I'll have the Whopper, medium-rare, and an order of fries."
Steve blamed the restraint of his description for the customer's lack of reaction.
"My friend said a cop told him eight or ten people were killed!"
The customer, looking more thoughtful, said ". . . make that the large fries."