We dragged ourselves up after daybreak. Lucius’ burbling snores had disturbed my sleep. I didn’t make an issue of the snoring till much later, when it was really too late. Further into the trip, two mornings after Gullivar left us, Lucius narrowed his bleary eyes at me and say, “You know, you snore.”
As I struggled to get up, a relatively fresh Lucius followed Gullivar’s turn in the bathroom. Thus far, we hadn’t showered and so were all ripe, and I looked forward to hot water.
Now, Lucius wouldn’t like what I’m about to say. He scorned describing characters in terms of celebrities. Reading a printout of this travelogue, he’d no doubt huff and adjust his ass on its seat, clenching the papers two-fisted above his stomach, peering at them under his glasses. Following Lucius’ turn in the bathroom is like the scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles where Steve Martin follows John Candy.
Lucius left me only hand towels. The shower curtain was half torn-down and hanging outside the tub; the bath towels huddled miserably on the floor in a wide pond. To be fair, two of the bath towels had been employed the night before, to clean up the shampoo mess, so it’s not like he went out of his way to use all the towels. One of the far rings of the curtain was popped open and hadn’t ripped the eyelet from the plastic. I jury-rigged a functional water screen from inside the tub, and as I washed up under rapidly chilling water, I danced around Lucius’ spilled shampoo that slithered toward the drain.
I assume it was shampoo.
I left the bathroom like I found it, and still have misgivings for the cleaning lady.
We emerged to a tepid dawn and a steel-gray sky around eight o’clock, checked out, and drove across the street to a mini-casino-cum-diner. I remember it being painted a garish red, with a Western font on the sign and blinking lights around its windows, but maybe I’m conflating it with the slot machines. Waiting for breakfast, Gullivar and I blew a couple dollars on them while Lucius caught up on The Weekly World News.
* * *
The road between Tonopah and Las Vegas doesn’t look very long on a map, but it drives long. The sky gradually admitted a stern pale sunlight through a veil of high cloud. Forbidding plains of spiny yucca trees rolled by and now and then a squalid semi-ghost town; on its horizon there’d be a fluorescent pink or green brothel. Gullivar drove. After we passed a sign for The Shady Lady, we all got into a conversation about the flora, which led to a conversation about peyote that led in turn to ayahuasca.
Lucius said, “That’s a strange drug. I had this intense hallucination on it once. The guy said it was mescaline when he gave it to me, but no way it was mescaline. He got it from South America, and people who’ve used it say they’re sure it was ayahuasca.” He addressed Gullivar. “I was in the backyard on a lawnchair after I drank the tea, and you were up sleeping in your room. A jungle grew up, and I suddenly thought about you, so I tried to get back to the house but I couldn’t fight through the vegetation.”
“Really?” I said.
“That’s not even the spooky part.”
“Is this when I woke up yelling?” Gullivar said.
“Yeah. Your mom came running in. She told me later you had a waking dream and kept yelling, ‘Daddy’s lost in the jungle!’ “
“Seriously?” I said.
“Oh yeah. I don’t think I’d try ayahuasca again. But maybe.”
“You remember this?” I asked Gullivar.
He shook his head. “I was too little, but I’ve heard it before.”
We passed a sign to The Alien Cathouse, and I pointed it out. Lucius seemed to chew on a thought.
“You remember Shapes?” he asked Gullivar, who nodded.
“What kind of shapes?” I asked, still pondering hallucinations.
“He was our cat,” said Gullivar.
Lucius said, “All-white. And enormous. Usually I don’t like cats, but he earned my respect. Once we had to go on a trip and asked the neighbor to come over and feed him. She left the back door open, and her dog got in and went down to the basement and met Shapes. When we got back, she was all teary-eyed.” Lucius mimicked a distraught woman: “ ‘Your cat killed my dog!’ ” He giggled.
“Bullshit,” I said. The giggles became full-blown laughter. Lucius shook his head and slapped his thigh.
“Nope,” said Gullivar. “It’s true.”
Finally, Lucius took off his glasses to wipe his tears. “I miss Shapes,” he said.
* * *
We stopped at a roadside casino to take a leak around 11 a.m. There were about a dozen cars in front, and the inside was a single open floor about a hundred feet across. We had to take turns at the small toilet. While we waited for Lucius, Gullivar and I went to get cash from a machine. Meanwhile, Lucius finished and went out. When we caught up to him, he was watching a man shout at his young daughter near their car. The kid began to cry. The man’s hand came up. “Don’t, don’t, don’t,” Lucius muttered, so quiet I could barely hear. I looked and his expression was blank. He made fists.
The guy lowered his hand to the car door, jerked it open, and steered his kid inside, then went and got in the driver’s seat next to his wife. They left a few seconds later.
The guy had no idea how close he’d come to being murdered.
“Let’s get out of here,” said Lucius.