Zeno lost the tip of his left pinky in a collision with an entitled birth mother ramming a high end Aprica stroller through a lovely park in Beverly Hills. He skinned his knee too but that’s no big deal. She was wearing a sharp push-up bra with detachable wires for optimal support. The wires may have been picking up signals from sub-orbit. Respectable opinions differ. Whatever forgettable t-shirt and pair of jeans Zeno was wearing was strictly second rate in comparison. The sleek Aprica stroller, the first time mother’s first, came with aggressive gears that required shifting, and thingamajigs standard. Top of the line to the max. She had every right to push hard at high speed. If you don’t push in Beverly Hills, you’re done.
“Don’t you dare point that finger near me.”
Zeno would admit to feelings of ambivalence about mothers. Fathers, too. And entitlements. He had been visiting the park to witness a live demonstration of aqua glass blowing and meander on a crowded path among masterful consumers before returning north. Nancy Reagan would have felt right at home wearing red in the setting. It was a sticky Saturday in July. Who knew that AIDS was lurking in blood nearby? No one yet, that’s who.
“This man needs help.”
“Where’s a cop when you need one?”
“There are innocent children watching.”
“Someone help him up.”
“It’s only a little blood.”
“It looks like a lot of blood to me.”
“Someone get him out of here.”
“It’s just a finger. Why can’t he walk?”
The pushy mother, who refused to reveal her true identity, had come out to strut her revealing stuff in a gauzy lycra blend camisole with accessories purchased at the fabulous Jane Fonda Workout on Robertson Boulevard. Working out at a fast and furious pace paid off big time in pounds shed, six gone in only sixteen days. She had gained twenty four pounds during pregnancy, her first to fruition, better than average, but she still had twelve pounds to lose. Average would never do. Everybody knows that. The latest facsimile of Jane Fonda preached a positive outlook along with high kicks, rhythmic lunges, and heavy breathing. It was tres au courant among those in the know on the Westside. Her accessories also included an opal pendant, silver bracelet, and her short husband, an up and comer of a talent agent at William Morris. He did his best to maintain a distance from the commotion.
In the end, which took not much more than an hour to reach, Zeno was informed in the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Hospital that a tiny bit of finger could not be helped or saved. It had become caught and occluded in the cogs between spinning wheels, craft, and commerce. A doctor defined an occlusion for him in medical terms. That explained it all. Then he was late in checking out of his hotel in West Hollywood and incurred additional charges.
Zeno understood later he had no business to be there on a Saturday. His business in L.A. was done. Several known jerk-offs said they’d get back to him. Yeah, right. Opportunists, parasites, and scavengers hunting prey. He blamed the recession on the idiot Reagan following the idiot Carter. How did they manage to pull off a recession alongside inflation rates of 18%?
By the time he returned almost whole to the Santa Cruz Mountains, it was nearly dark. His arrival elicited no joy among the natives. A young red tailed hawk was crying from the top of a redwood tree. An irate blue jay chased an interloper from the seed of a pear. He smelled skunk. It was what it is. There were lots of other seeds to share in the dirt but there was no one at a higher level to greet Zeno with empathy or a hug.
The most recent woman who used to greet him with plenty of empathy recently claimed he did not listen. The woman before that said pretty much the same thing. Then, there were words. But, how could that be? He listened all right. He heard a whirring noise like a buzz saw. But then what? Was he supposed to jerk a knee and goose step into line? What was so great about worldwide procreation anyway? How did that help to mix and stir a bowl without spilling regrets?
Zeno proved to be a tireless provider of the same incorrect answer to the question. A bowl has limits, any bowl, he reasoned. According to basic logic too much is neither necessary nor sufficient. It’s not just an urban myth that disposable diapers cause clogs in pipes. Am I right or am I right? Which is why he found himself later that night enduring the taunts of a pseudo-blues band with unfortunate disco tendencies at a redneck bar overlooking Rio Del Mar Beach. He was sipping Hornitos reposado, because what kind of tastelss cretin gulps Hornitos, and diligently taking his yellowish pills according to prescribed directions, sort of, for his severely moderate pain. The beer after beer he was drinking merely served to quench his advanced case of dry mouth, a side-effect, no more than that.
He said, “Keep ’em coming.”
Sadly, what kept coming included a mind numbing version of Disco Duck. Isn’t that what led to violence at Comiskey Park? Zeno was shaky on the details. The consideration of that quandary led naturally enough to more beer. What goes around, came. It takes practice to learn how to perform with aplomb. His vision, however, was clear. He observed a pair of white men who did not dance to the music object to a trio of black men who did. There was a little tit for tat back and forth. Several white women also became involved, swaying to and fro along with the incendiary beat. At first, Zeno thought nothing of it. This was a classic redneck bar, after all, in the unenlightened year of 1982. The tide ebbing in Monterey Bay was unfazed. Soap operas like Dallas on CBS still topped the Nielsen ratings. Loony Moonies were getting married en masse. Then Huey P. Newton punched a redneck smart alack in the fucking mouth. Then the huge bodyguard of Huey P. Newton started to kick the shit out of a different, dumber redneck. The bodyguard of Huey P. Newton appeared to be eleven feet tall and weighed a minimum of two trillion tons. The dumber redneck had no fucking chance. When he got up he staggered, both drunk and punchy. Then he was knocked down again. Then he started to crawl before he could walk or run. Then Huey P. Newton pulled out a gun. Then nearly everybody followed an invisible leader and started to lam the fuck out of there. But not Zeno. Zeno continued to observe with wide eyes from his prone position on the floor. Huey P. Newton at the time was a Ph.D candidate at the nearby University of California in Santa Cruz. He was charged later that night with attempted murder. He’d previously been there and done that. What a crock of fucking shit. All he aimed to shoot according to the evidence was a ceiling. Zeno did not need to be told to hit the deck right from the get-go. Which is why his wee frail pinkie started to bleed all over again. And then some.
When the smoke cleared, he opted to visit a second emergency room in a second hospital in a second city on the same day, a first. It made its own sense. But, the joint was jumping on a Saturday night in July. Gang bangers had converged on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk to exchange trinkets without values. Tourist season was peaking under a jaundiced moon. There were puddles of red blood and blue blood all mixed up that looked the same. He was forced to wait his turn. The plastic seat started to become molded to his ass.
Once one day has turned seamlessly into the next, there ain’t no stopping how it is what is is. And here and now. No logic or reason reigns. Hearts were attacked and broken. Babies were born and spit out gobs of goo. Victims of gravity staggered under heavy loads. A small pinkie finger was all Zeno had to offer. It wasn’t much.
He considered his options as the blood slowed to a trickle but stayed put. A reduction in speed may be no less of a hidden trap. Who says inertia has nothing uplifting to offer? Otherwise, the heat would rise, as it does, to frigid heights, as is does, too.
It was not until his tender finger became tended to by a nurse who turned out to possess an abundance of empathy to spare that one finger became enough. Enough trumps too much, too. He not only possessed the right stuff, but at the right time. This, he concluded, must be the place.
One thing led as it does to another. Nursing took no molded back seat to any higher calling. Logic won by a fucking TKO. Necessary and sufficient.