By Wayne Elise
A few days ago I was sitting behind a table at a sidewalk cafe talking to my friend Lael. She does the singer/songwriter thing. But she could easily be walking a catwalk. People describe her as stunning. But what I dig most about her is she's a loner - like everybody cool I know.
We were wrapping up our conversation. She was standing, leaning, eager to go meet up with her sorta boyfriend at the day job he holds grinding coffee beans and wearing hipster hats.
But then the topic of her creative endeavors held her there. She described writing music. "The lyrics have to make sense. The tone has to match the chords. It should rhyme and be interesting. And I have to be careful so I don't compromise the original inspiration. People think it's an easy job. And sometimes it is. Sometimes it just flows. But mostly it's just hard."
"I can only imagine," I said. "So many things to intertwine. No wonder musicians do drugs."
She laughed. "Anyway. How about you? What are you writing in that notebook?"
"I'm working on a short story."
"What's it about."
"It's based off my favorite book, the Hobbit. I take characters from that story - such as Gandalf The Wizard and put them in Echo Park."
"Sounds interesting. What's the…"
At that moment, as if conjured by a wizard, a strange guy appeared from my right. "Can I get a quick opinion about GMO?" he said.
GMO? Genetically modified organisms? I hadn't heard that opener before. Interesting twist. But his timing sucked.
Lael looked at me for guidance. She's no killer. For all her awesomeness, she can't slit a guy's throat.
"Come back in five minutes," I told the guy.
"Sure," he said. "No problem." He walked off, back the way he came.
"Thanks," she said to me.
"I doubt he'll come back. But if he does I'm going to tell him I just want things to be like they are in science fiction movies. Anyway, you were just leaving. We can talk later."
We said our goodbyes and she walked off to my left.
The opinion-opener guy never returned. Apparently he lost his interest in genetically modified organisms without a hot girl in the picture.
I opened my notebook and found my pen.
Later, two girls playing the five finger game tugged each other past my table. One turned and caught me staring. She scowled, pulled her hat down over her ears and turned to whisper in her girlfriend's ear.
Fuck. They thought I was staring because they're a lesbian couple. No. I was devouring them because they looked delicious. I may be a pervert but I'm no tourist. Alas there was nothing to do about it. I sighed, picked up my pen and tried to re-imagine Gandolf the wizard impressing the Echo Park crowd with his smoke rings.
Later, I took off my reading glasses and slid them back into their case. The world drifted back into focus. Cars were switching on their headlights. Morning doves were heading home and night owls were starting to peek out from their rafters.
My bike is a night time death machine. It's the color invisible. No lights or reflectors. My single front brake is symbolic. I don't wear a helmet. It was time to ride home before dark.
I collected my things and walked my bike to the corner. I like to have free space to mount the beast.
I spotted the opinion-opener guy. He was interviewing Bluebeard the local pirate on the sidewalk. He had a camera, tripod and television crew.
Fuck. I felt bad for judging the guy as being shallow and trying to hit on my friend. He was just doing his job. He was some sort of journalist, possibly Nordic.
I waited a few minutes for him to wrap up with Bluebeard and I walked over. "Do you still want opinions about GMO," I asked him. "I'd be glad to help."
He passed the microphone to a helper. "Thanks. But we got enough."
"Oh good. I'm off then. Enjoy your stay in our country."
"What? I'm American."
"Oh. My mistake. Sorry." I turned to walk away.
"There is one thing you could do," he called after me. "That girl you were with. Tell me, is she single? What's her name?"
I walked back and hit him with a karate chop to the carotid artery. The flow of blood to his brain stopped and he crumpled to the pavement.
I just shook my head, mounted Silver Streak and peddled home.
On the way, I passed a four-car accident. Cops had closed off the streets to other cars but I weaved around the barrier.
I heard a guy holding a towel to his bloody forehead talking to a police officer. "That car's supposed to be turning if he's in that lane."
"Not necessarily," the cop said. "You can't presume that."
I continued to peddle up the hill.
"I texted you," Erika said when I walked into the house. "I was worried about you riding in the dark. I heard lots of sirens. I'm glad you're okay. How was hanging out with Lael?"
I leaned my bike against the living room wall. "Good. She liked the brownies you baked. At least, I thought so. Perhaps she's a secret agent and hates brownies. Maybe she takes out her false teeth and rips the rubber mask off her face and she's ugly. I have no idea."
Erika looked me as if I was the weirdest person in the world.
I squinted my eyes. "After dinner I'm challenging you to a battle of wits, Princess Bride style. We can use that Trader Joe's wine we bought."
"I didn't see the movie. What sort of battle of wits?"
"It's all about guessing the other person's intentions. It'll be fun. We just need to find some poison."
We played and I lost. But luckily I've developed an immunity to Iocane Powder.