The Weather

The Tarzana Scarfaces: You Can’t Go Home Again

This is the final installment of Patrick Benjamin’s serial story about a gang in suburban Los Angeles. To start the story at the beginning, click here

My uncle came down from Centralia and helped me move. I’d told him I needed a change of pace. He ignored that as well as all else I said.

“Wobblies do what no other man will. Stand on the roof and shout,” he dropped his end of my floral couch. “We are owed a living!”

His arms he raised to the sky like a revivalist.

Strikes and standoffs and hunting down scabs and union busters.

Uncle Ron, to his own self be true, considers life a spy novel with a consistent Local Union 252 twist.

Over microwaved seafood enchiladas from Rutebagorz, Ron detailed Woody Guthrie’s life as though I hadn’t done my research.

That was a Friday night.

By Sunday I couldn’t reasonably imagine spending another day with Uncle Ron and told him I’d gotten a new job, which required much preparation.

“Jeez, that was quick. Even with you getting canned and all? If you were in a union this wouldn’t have happened.” He paused with a finger to his chin. “What kind of job is it?”

The suddenly inquisitive Uncle Ron had intruded on my already battered emotional territory, and as he left holding his wet head he said I was no nephew of his. Not anymore. That my mother would be ashamed of me. That Aunt Beverly was going to hear about this. That my allowance wasn’t going to be there to save me anymore. Then a screech and a vroom and he was gone.

The PT Cruiser had garnered me a handful of change. Enough for first and last month’s. Boarding the bus to Huntington Beach I saw a covey of teenagers at the back laughing a secret laugh. Joking in code.

I had to cancel my month at Kakslauttanen. Finland had seemed the perfect destination for a wayward novelist. Or, I guess, a failed novelist. A novelist without a publisher. Without a home. Without family. Without any family.

I called Lucia. Lucia came over. Lucia came. Lucia left.

Down to my last few hundred dollars I trekked bus-wise to Cinefamily to trundle through a Kenneth Anger retrospective.

The glittery dresses moved like tears away from each other. A rack of horrid glitz I couldn’t keep from crying through. A young man, looking a bit like Tyler but a decade older, ran up the aisle naked as a jay disrupting everyone’s true, honest experience.

The boys weren’t on the bus on my way home.

The Leitmotifs hadn’t called. They never did. I don’t think so anyway; my answering machine got lost in the move. I bought a cellular telephone and called Tyler. He didn’t answer. Just the deep sound of Grieg’s cellos, his double basses, his bassoons. Up and around and about the sound pushed my… parts and I had to call someone.

I called Lucia. Lucia didn’t come over.

Money felt like blood or air. Something I didn’t have enough of. I was drinking in the mornings and Mr. Ratiocinor, late as the rent was, always pushed a cornucopia of breakfast-stuffs through the mail slot.

It was ridiculous. But kind.

Scrambled eggs on the floor. A jellied bagel, jelly side down, sogging the tile. After a week I began leaving a plate beneath the mail slot to catch the weird variety of sweet room service.

No longer being able to afford books, I began visiting the library. I hadn’t been in one in years. Who needs libraries when you’ve got eBay?

I did all at once in a violent way.

A construction worker building a new wing had been compiling firewood from felled trees on the south side of the book borrower’s borough.

He had the telltale signs of a workingman and I wished on him a curse of a wife and children. This I found he’d already been cursed with.

I offered the accented man a strawberry chew. He accepted but put it in his pocket and kept piling up the wood.

Broken up trees. Broken up.

I remembered a soup kitchen I used to volunteer at and went there for, what else, soup. Or anything.

Sister Nancy scrubbed the callouses from my feet and gave me a cot. I met Danny and Hokey and left with them in the morning.

It’s the three of us now, back in the library. I can see Danny, a heroin aficionado, watching people love each other in all the weirdest ways at his space. And Hokey. He’s researching jobs. That seems like a good idea.

Problem is, I met up with Tyler the other night and Tyler’s never going home again. I don’t know a polite way to say it. So I shouldn’t say anything.

Then again, this may be my last message.

I guess the best I can say is his head felt wet when I took it.

Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.