Zeno had a vision in primary colors, not a dream. It occurred a few days before he was due to be sentenced to the minimum security federal penitentiary at Lompoc, California. The horse trading had concluded and the deal was done. He whinnied like a lame also-ran. The government took everything he owned and sent him to jail for baking delicious cookies, cupcakes, and all-natural granola. Not even his collection of lucky pennies inherited from Joe Avirgan was spared. The judge with the porky snout explained how fortunate he was to get such a good deal. Reliable waves from the Pacific Ocean he would never get to hear or feel for the duration were only a mile away. In a Texas prison, he’d be serving twenty years with scorpions. His coupled lawyers made out like bandits as they heartily shook his hand and slipped him dead skin. The dream was different. In the dream there were mothers and sons running. He ran alongside on the left. His head was aiming for the right. South and north had flipped. The nightmare came later. There were Cossacks in a dark forest hunting for sport, and wolves for game.
Later in the same dream, a different mother and son were waiting on his front step, but not for him. He invited them inside out of the frost. The wolves continued to howl. He noticed an indigenous rug had been single-handedly turned upside down and the dyed wool on the geometric sofa had been brushed with wires to face the wrong direction. Plus, the primitive blue in the nappy rug clashed with the front lines in the closed curtains that refused to concede artrificial turf. Compromised circuits could not handle the load. Sirens blew chunks and wads. The primary red was stained with mixed blood and used topsoil.
It was in the vision where he was caught in a transparent web, and clearly surrendered to the surveillance camera, arms up, head down. The focus and exposure were too explicit to deny. There were shiny new chains draped on the backs of stylish steel chairs. His chafed red hands were cuffed. He sat until the itch in his ass began to evolve.
The nightmare as it turned out was closest to the truth, a nebulous shade of black and white that merged into pale gray as it swirled. Time off to suck hard for good behavior moved like glaciers in inches. He still had three more months of stirring drab to serve.
He sat on his semi-detached bunk as he listened for the first clash of metal in the morning, modern locks and keys requiring advanced lubrication. It was time to rise above. He never forgot he was still running hard.
Right off, the guard wanted to know, “What’s on the menu for this morning?”
“Shit on a shingle for a select group of 1250.”
“Man, I love that stuff.”
“I won’t spit in yours.”
“I hope you never get out.”
“You’ll get fatter and your wife will get fed up.”
“I can live with that.”
Zeno was released on a sunny day in February that felt as if Spring had popped a stone fruit, a cherry or a plum. A small envelope discreetly padded with bits of cash was waiting for him in a locker at the Greyhound station. He walked a mile to the sand dunes on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway that had not rolled over to play dead. Ebb tide still flowed. Cossacks had not chopped off any heads in the vicinity. Rats still picked like pros though piles of human trash. Lying pols kissed, told, and kept score. Nancy Reagan had never responded to his letters from jail. Ronald Reagan was still acting glib.
He crossed his fingers when crossing the road. A gull nearly shit smartly on his head, but missed. Sand still slipped through cracks. He still did not lie to himself.
He bought a tri-tip sandwich simmered slowly with lots of cumin in the dry rub and a six pack of Anchor Steam beer at a bodega in Santa Maria, and a 1976 Datsun with less than 90000 miles on the odometer from a humiliated beauty queen filling in for her insensitive father at the family friendly used car lot on the corner. He picked at pieces of meat that fell into his lap as he drove. The dry rub had seeped through the skin overnight. He followed the San Andreas fault north by northwest. Unsettled rocks lurked on the precipice of a fractured edge. Traffic seemed to shrink behind him. There went one of the California Missions. There went another used car lot. There went another church. There went another prison. Who knew a crappy Datsun had such oomph? The itch in his ass began to devolve as the sun began to dip into healing waters beyond Big Sur.
He did not stop until he reached the Santa Cruz Mountains and finished climbing. No longer a beginning, but nowhere near an end.
The man of the house was there to open the front door before he had a chance to knock. Woz had gained a lot of weight but not as much as he would soon. Some men eat when stressed while others starve.
Woz said, “I recognized the rumble. I used to drive a Datsun. What a piece of crap.”
First, they finished drinking all of the beer that Zeno had brought. Next, out came more.