Dreaming of La Sal

A serial novel by Michelle Curry Wright


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Chapter 17 – Circus tents

July 31 held no spare minutes for anyone at La Sal Junction. Syd and Mimi manned and womaned the kitchen while Anna planned for the wedding and Max placed orders for more supplies. Sydney felt he deserved one last day in the kitchen of the La Sal Junction Cafe and Mimi was only too glad to have him there doing the bulk of the work and being enthusiastic enough for two. The next day, the cafe would be closed, and, as of August 2, John Werner Standish would be around probably to look better than he tested out.

Sydney decided that mushroom curry on couscous would be his last daily special and advertised it as “The Yogi Special.” For whatever reason, it worked, and once again, a diverse group of people agreed to taste something they’d never tasted before. Later, Syd and Mimi argued about weather they all associated the name to an Indian yogi or to Yogi Bear, and even though she might have been right about Yogi Bear, Syd felt she was being a little too quarrelsome over something so silly.

During the midday rest, Mimi went to find Max, and having indeed become irritable with sublimated worry about the be, picked an argument with him this time, about switching some of their distributors. Then just to e fair, she rounded up Anna and posed pointed questions about her reasons for this and that concerning the wedding. Three arguments later and feeling a little better about herself, she returned to work to find a note from Syd. “Went for a drive, be back before 4. Curry sauce is made; couscous just needs to be re-steamed briefly.” He signed it, “Yogi — whichever one you want.”

“I probably drove him away,” Mimi chuckled to herself. Affixing the “iced Coffee” sign to one of the windows, she gazed outside. The afternoon thunderclouds, bright white but dark-centered — and not too far distant — promised a cozy and cooler evening in the cafe where the light had already begun to change things. While the stark and flat look of objects under a blazing sun stirred neither artist nor feeling human being, once the light softened and obscured itself, in the process creating patterns and shadows and highlights over things large and things small, the beauty of the landscape was evident even to the most blasé. Mimi stared at the rain coming down in mist-like sheets ten miles away and would have remained reverential had a couple of recreational vehicles containing cyclists not pulled in and sucked her back into her life.

Sydney came back on time feeling much refreshed, or so he said And his parents pulled in very shortly after that, hauling a hell of a lot of food with them and not looking, not surprisingly, anything like Syd at all. Joelle, Caucasian except for a deep tan, had a striking head of coiffed white hair and the look of a forty year old rather than what Syd said she was, which was 62. Lucien, a black man, also completely white-haired, had skin the color of dark chocolate and the most perfect teeth Mimi had ever seen, but gapped in the front rather widely. With little talk between them but much, Anna thought, understanding, Syd set up his parents beside him in the kitchen so that they could prep for the next day. Anna, obviously taken with them, hovered about offering to do anything to be of service. This pleased the parents who still could not believe that the would be grandparents soon. Thus did they let the aristocratic-faced Anna do chores for them.

In the course of a pretty good night of business, Mimi garnered four more signatures, which boosted her confidence but did not diminish her personal prayers to the god of just rewards. She never questioned how a god might feel about her prayer-mantra that went something like this: Let the best person win, God. Just let the best person win.

She never thought about appropriateness, she just simply said the prayer-mantra over and over again, silently, in the course of the night It was all she could do having still had no word from Yates Bishop and Sally Varner Vicks. “And hold Yates and Sally in the palm of your hand,” she added every so often. Evidently, this was the Irish part of the prayer.

Max spent the evening at work on a wedding gift for Syd and Anna, tiling the tiny kitchen and bathroom floors of their Airstream while they busied themselves with the elder Renoirs; and when he came to fetch Mimi to show her his handiwork, she squealed with delight. “It’s just like our trailer!” she said, and then realized she had not had time to think of a present for her best friend. “Oh-oh,” was a response that matched the new look on her face.

“This’ll be from both of us,” said Max kindly. “We can say you thought of it.”

“Anna would see right through that. No, I’ll just tell them my present will be a little late. Then I’ll think of one.”

All slept fitfully on the night of July 31, despite four additional signatures on the testimonial. A full moon, brighter than you average full moon, questioned all the implications of the word “night.” Anna got up to pee at least six times while Syd wished he hadn’t had an iced coffee around eight. Joelle and Lucien, in the foreign desert and out of their time zone, played Belotte, a card game of French origin, until about 3:30 in the morning and didn’t have to turn any lights on to play, the moon was so bright.

Max went in and out of dreams like a worm crawling in and out of the earth, and would wake up periodically to look around in a panic and then fall back onto the pillow. Mimi decided to take the animals for a walk in the middle of the night, animals who were the only ones sleeping peacefully. She roused them nevertheless and dragged them into the moonlit world, vindicated in having made them stay up with her. Once outside, the animals raced after each other in circles and figure eights; and Dale Evans even tried to get Mirabelle up on Napoleon’s back with her, circus style. They pulled if off for about five seconds and acted giddy and drunken afterwards. “It’s got to be the moon,” Mimi summarized, yawning .”Wow, an actual yawn,” she said, and then went back to bed.

They were all allowed the luxury of sleeping in until eight o’clock on the wedding day, since the restaurant was closed, which all of them did on account of being exhausted from the moonlit night. Joelle and Lucien made them a breakfast of “tartines” — grilled French bread with butter and jam, and commented on the quality of their coffee, which made the others laugh out loud. “People will actually come back for the coffee,” Syd explained. “They’ve sort of become addicted to it.”

“Yeah, and so have we,” Mimi added. “I get going on the decaf alone, and so does Anna.”
After several cups of this coffee, however, newly filled with ambition for the day and angst about the bet, the six current residents of the cafe split up and attended to their affairs. Sydney helped Anna with laying out her wedding dress and she helped him with his white silk. Mimi acted nonchalant enough but could be found in the back of the restaurant calling people in La Sal who might know the whereabouts of Yates and Sally. They still needed four trucker signatures by the end of the day, and the cafe wasn’t even open. Max was in the warehouse tiling to quiet his own nerves; with scraps, he had decided on a mosaic to span a room divider he had erected earlier.

Friends started arriving around eleven for the wedding at two o’clock and Anna was delighted to learn that her mother, not yet present, had arranged for the delivery and erection of a large red and white circus-like tent, two banquet tables, sixty chairs and enough balloons to lift the tent off the ground.

“I had wondered where the people were to come together,” said Lucien Renoir in a voice deeper than anything Mimi had ever heard and with the finest most mysterious accent to go along with it. She envied Anna such an in-law. “Your mother must know how to make a party,” he added, utterly serious.

“That, she does,” Anna admitted with a trace of a sneer.

“Well, we will have a big beautiful party here, bien sur,” said Joelle who had figured on having the meal around 2:30 after rum drinks and strawberries. Sydney had warned everyone that there would be no champagne but enough rum to ride a raft down — that was the surprise. “Tradition, you know,” he’d said sheepishly “And it’s the best rum money can buy.” Anne, in her condition, would have to forgo the rum but couldn’t have been more thrilled that her wedding had taken a turn down carnival lane. She was grinning a grin bigger than anything Mimi had ever seen.

At noon, Anna’s mother arrived in a rented sports car and came to a screeching halt, making a movie star’s entrance most notably on account of white gauze-like scarf wrapped around her head, Audrey Hepburn style. If she was surprised by the look of the place and the lack of anything surrounding it, she didn’t show it. “Oh, hello darling,” she said and proceeded to introduce herself to everyone there. Oddly enough, Anna thought, she was endearing herself to everyone. “Your father should be showing up very soon,” she said to Anna confidentially “He’s been doing something or other in Nova Scotia but wouldn’t dream of missing his little girl’s wedding…”

Anna, not daring to hope he’d come, was beside herself. “Sydney,” she screamed, “My dad’s coming!” And sure enough, he showed up right on the heels of his ex-wife, in a tinted-windowed car big enough to live in. He was alone, though, and got out of the car wearing a tuxedo. “Dad!” Anna yelled as she raced to meet him, laughing at the sight of him in formal clothing, “You’ll expire in that thing if you don’t at least take off the jacket”
Another handsome father, Mimi noted, staring at the formidable waxed mustache stretching the width of John Ortiz’s face.

More friends arrived, among them Michael Norris Hanratty, alone this time and driving a Jeep, publishing types from Los Angeles, selected Telluride people bearing gifts, and the jazz quartet who, from the looks of them, had never played such a venue. “This is it?” said the bassist, a smile spanning his face. “We’re playing in the middle of the Mohave desert, Man!” he said.
“Naw, man, this isn’t the Mohave. We’re in Utah, man, this is the fucking MOON, man,” the keyboard guy laughed, adding, “”Scuse me,” to Anna’s mother who looked too proper for such language but who proved later not to be that proper at all. The musicians set up inside the tent but kept emerging to chat and to gaze about, and to stare into the distance — something La Sal Junction prompted in nearly everyone no matter what their origins happened to be.
When 1:30 rolled around and Yates hadn’t shown up with good news or bad news or any news and hadn’t phoned in either, Mimi had to think of a contingency plan and began again to explain the bet once more to everyone — how this was deadline day, how she was expecting her trucker friend to call in any minute, and how in any case she would have to begin serving burgers after the wedding in an attempt to get those last four signatures since she couldn’t exactly wait on him forever.

“By the way,” she added to the assembly before her, “If you’re wondering why I made this bet in the first place, it was because I was sure I’d be able to win and because I really don’t like the nut-case who put me up to it. It may look a little reckless to you now, but he’s making me look that way on a technicality. In principle, I’ve already won. Anyhow, that’s it. Keep your fingers crossed for me. For us.”

At this point, everyone taking part in the wedding shuffled off to change — including Max and Mimi, the Best Man and Maid of Honor. Folks from La Sal whom Anna and Syd had invited were beginning to arrive and approached the tent with a visible combination of anticipation and circumspection. They had never seen such an elaborate set-up but wanted nevertheless to be with Anna and Syd on their big day
Angel Sheetz, who on the sly had acquired a crush on Syd, had made covers for their Airstream love seat as a wedding gift, using material Mimi had seen and approved. Actually, Mimi had been surprised at Angel’s good taste; the material was heavy tapestry-like material just exotic enough to look right in the white and khaki trailer. Angel’s plan was to slip the new covering on during the wedding. Other gifts from La Sal included a French kitchen knife, a pure white hand knit cotton blanket, presumably for the new baby, a copy of the Book of Mormon (no one took credit for that), and a tiny coffee press, among others. Anna and Syd loved all the presents, were tickled with them really, especially the new tile job in the Airstream and the slip covers Angel had made.

While the wedding party busied themselves with buttons and zippers and earrings and belts and all the rest, friends who had gathered for the near-nuptials of Anna and Syd witnessed what only a few of them — namely the La Sal folks — could explain. Eighteen wheelers began to roll in one by one, starting with Yates Bishop’s rig, and rolled in slowly and silently as if paying homage to the sanctity of the day and of their mission.

Yates jumped out of the rig and upon learning that all the involved parties were occupied took it upon himself to direct the truck traffic in, quietly, and everyone watched the parking lot overflow in no time. Within several minutes, very large trucks, probably over fifty of them lined the road and filled the lot at the cafe, while more rolled mutely in every minute Even the more eccentric of the guests, those used to the unusual, were dumbfounded by this mobile show of support and love, and began to suspect that something far removed from the ordinary was happening at this little cafe with the 50s look, plopped down in the middle of a flat Utah plain.
The truckers themselves, grinning at the sight of each other and at their sheer numbers, silently gathered near the tent as if prepared for nothing other than the witnessing of a wedding. Yates and Sally had given them two o’clock as a deadline and had mentioned that they would be coinciding with a wedding party.

So, none of the truckers batted an eyelash at the sight of the great red and white tent, the balloons, the band, or the motley group, though some were tempted toward surprise. The band, truly an outstanding feature, had flabbergasted them.
So on this warm July day centered in the heat of the sun but rimmed all around by clouds that promised to roll in later on, a scene was taking place, one, that by its sheer craziness would impress itself upon the minds of those gathered and would be called up by many of them whenever life began to disappoint them, whenever the fizz in the soda of living began to flatten. And this scene, in all its glory and color, would remind them of two things: one, that life can indeed take you by surprise if you let it; and two, that the imagination will manifest itself if given half a chance. Heartened by this reminder, they would think of Mimi and Max and Syd and Anna fondly. And gratefully.

When the wedding hour finally struck and the bride and groom, best man and made of honor appeared at last, Mo Robbins was ready with her camera to catch the expressions on their faces, even though Anna’s mother had arranged for a professional photographer from Moab to come in. Mo’s pictures would show four beautifully attired people in various states of disbelief and joy, hugging each other and everyone else they could get their hands on. In one photo, Mimi, with a look of unbridled ecstasy on her face, had her arms open as if to embrace the land, the people, the life she’d come up with. In another, Max, dressed in old blue jeans and a formal shirt, had Mimi in his arms and twirled her about while her dress, made of yards and yards of pale apricot rayon, floated behind her. Syd, looking as exotic as a priest among heathens — though that would hardly be the case — stood still in one of Mo’s photos, smiling sweetly in the loose white silk tunic. And Mo’s favorite of Anna had her laughing like an idiot while she held her protruding belly, a belly swathed in the satin and pearly beds of her wedding gown. Photos of the crowd were no less expressive. A total of 80 truckers showed up, sort of the Greek chorus of the wedding, and could be counted on to cheer at the right time, be silent at the right time, and generally lend the event a larger proportion than it otherwise would have had.

The ceremony — an exchange of vows with neither judge nor minister nor priest present — was felt deeply by all. The science fiction vows recited by Syd and Anna were not that wacky, after all, and the two of them exchanged rings as a symbol of eternity in love even though there was no officiating presence in their midst to tell them to do so. It was when Syd stood holding both of Anna’s hands in his own that Mimi broke down, just as she knew she would. Mimi, whose tear ducts were on call 24/7, would cry at sappy TV commercials, Olympic Games ceremonies, the voice of Ray Charles, old letters and photos. She’d cry at the thought of an argument and after sex. Mimi O’Rourke cried at the drop of a hat.

And so despite all her best efforts at staying dry, despite lip biting and swallowing and pressing her tongue to the roof of her mouth, she finally could not help letting the waters flow as she watched Syd and Anna, hand in hand, gazing at each other as if no one else in the world existed. Max, embarrassed by the tears — nevertheless put an arm delicately around her. And much to his own surprise, felt a tear of his own fall to his lip.

it came as a great shock to both of them then, overcome with emotion as they were, when they heard Syd’s voice directed at them. “Maybe we should just make this a double wedding.”
The crowd cheered wildly behind Max and Mimi who were now caught in the spotlight and who, still crying, looked each other in the eye for a good long moment, and then began to laugh, sniffling at the same time. Both shook their heads. “Nope,” Mimi ventured the first word, and then simultaneously both added, “We’re not ready!”

“Well,” said Syd addressing himself to the crowd, “I guess they’re not ready. It looks like they’ll have to have their own wedding then, some other day, when we’ll all have to get together again.” Another round of cheers.

“I’d like at this time to give my wife her wedding present, or at least tell her what it is, and I have to say I hope she’ll like it. I went ahead and bought a little cafe over there in Dove Creek, from Cherise and Parker Pivey who are here today… in the hopes of staying in this part of the world and close to my friends here at the La Sal Junction Cafe. I managed to purchase some acreage not too far from there where we’ll be able to park our Airstream, and I’m hoping to make a go of my own brand of vegetarian cuisine in Dove Creek. I hope to see you all there once we open.”

With this he handed the keys to the cafe to his near-wife who stood there happily to receive them, crying now herself. Mimi not one to contain herself, had rushed to the bride and groom and was hugging them while jumping up and down. Then she went to one of the band mics and made her own little announcement.

“Wow,” her voice was loud, and with reverb on, it echoed itself. “Wow-ow-ow.” The bassist came over to adjust it. “This is almost too good to be true,” she said. “But I’m not going to fight it! I really want to thank you all for coming to Syd and Anna’s wedding, which has only just begun, by the way. Joelle and Lucien Renoir, Syd’s parents, who are also in the restaurant business, having come generously prepared to feed us all and make us drunk with good rum, and Bring Betty, a jazz quartet from LA are here for your listening and dancing pleasure.

“Meanwhile, I’m assuming all you truckers are here by the grace of God and the wiles of Yates and Sally.” A cheer went up and they did the wave. “Well, I’m absolutely overwhelmed,” she choked on her words but went on. “You can’t know how much this means to me. The only thing I can think of to say is this: I hope we’re here for a long time to come, and I hope you’ll always feel very very welcome at the La Sal Junction Cafe. There will be burgers served after all the Renoir’s food is gone, and everything is on the house today! Let’s have a serious good time and drink some of that rum! And for all you drivers, please feel free to sleep here tonight. In fact, that’s an order, if you don’t have to be somewhere else. Thanks again, all of you, for saving me, us and the cafe.”

And with that, Joelle and Lucien set about to create a banquet and a feast comprised of heaps of fresh fruit with a yogurt nutmeg sauce and salads of grains and vegetables Mimi had never seen the likes of before. A row of curried dishes was lined up next to a pile two feet high of chapatis, followed by a soup tureen of extra mild lentil dal. Lucien was cooking flambeed bananas to order on a Coleman stove, dousing them in rum and throwing brown sugar down like dice. In the hour it took to get everything ready, people drank rum, the best rum, all agreed, they’d ever tasted. “And tasting better all the time!” as someone put it.

Mimi, looking out over the sea of people while Bring Betty played everything from Thelonius Monk to the weirdest James Brown she’d ver heard, was proud to have been even remotely responsible for this gathering. Nothing could hav pleased her more than seeing Michael Hanratty, in khakis, striped shirt and rep tie, in an animated arguem3n5 with Cherise Pivey, whose standard boots and halter would ordinarily have been enough to make him blush. Or Mo Robbins’ twins attached to Dodge Robuck at each of his hands, attracted to the “puny” man once again and for no apparent reason. Or the Dali-esque John Ortiz dancing with Anna and holding her in his arms like a bouquet of gardenias, the scent of which was about to make him swoon. Certainly there was something fine about the aristocratic Jane Kidd on her third rum and pineapple trying to lead the small jazz combo, wooden spoon in hand, foot tapping lightly beneath her thousand-dollar dress.
Max, himself not immune to the beauty of the moment, brought the animals out to mingle — which they did well until Eleanor and Emma Robbins gathered them together for a few crowd pleasing circus tricks For that matter, the festive nature of the gathering was lost on neither the cats nor the dog; all were on their best behavior, sitting politely together and watching the crowd throughout the better part of the event.

The surprise of the day came in the form of Isadora and Rimsky Bell, who happened to be vacationing in the States and, finding out about the wedding, decided to make the detour and see a part of the country they’d never seen. It was beginning to be clear to Max, Mimi, Syd and Anna that many people had never seen this part of the country and that friends might be lured out on these grounds. Missing the actual ceremony by ten minutes, the Bells spent the rest of the day trying to get someone to repeat the “science fiction vows” Mimi had already told them about, herself half-drunk from “just strawberries.”

Both Isadora and Rimsky wore traditional whites and khakis, looking at once elegant and perpetually cool. Mimi couldn’t take her eyes off the slender Isadora, whose facial structure alone suggested a true Slavic beauty. She made sure Mo got a shot of both of them together. Rimsky, whose appearance as the token famous playwright — Mimi was happy to note — duly impressed the professor, did a lot of looking around and gazing into space. His plays, what one could call “minimalist,” could have found a happy home here on the range.

The gathering grew steadily in the curse of the afternoon since all of those stopping by for burgers were asked to stay rather than leave. By six o’clock, Burgamaxes were being flipped and strong coffee was being brewed, and the testimonial list of truckers for vegetarian burghers had reached 120 signatures, at which point Mimi considered it safe to place a call to the Kid ranch in Montana just in case Rory was there, which he was.

“Well, Rory,” Mimi told him standing on top of her truck and speaking not only to him but to the hushed crowd before her. “It look as though I have something to tell you.”

Rory Kid, well aware of the situation, told her he knew she’d won. “How did you already know I’d won?” she asked him, not really caring how he’d found out.

“You sent out a spy!” she screamed to the crowd as well as to him. “He had a spy here! Isn’t that perfect?” The half-drunk half-wired throng went wild. “Well, I suppose you know what this means,” she went on. “Yes. It means you’re letting your cows go free. But I’ve changed my mind on the vegetarian part of it. You’re no longer required to change over. Just let your cows go and we’ll call it quits.” She covered the mouthpiece. “He’s got to let 500 head of cattle go!” she squealed.

“Yes,” she said pressing her ear to the phone. “No, I don’t know who owns the other half of the runway, who?” And while listening intently to the other end, the smile marking her as a woman of glory faded. “You’re about to become the new owner?” She repeated the words she heard, weakly, then felt herself rise to the occasion, for herself, for her crowd.
“Well, you won’t have any friends here, will he people?” She held the cordless phone to the crowd who booed and hissed and grumbled, sounding more like a crowd of 600 than what it was. Anna felt her blood run cold while Syd and Max individually felt they would knock the guy’s lights out given half a chance. But for the four of them, one thing seemed evident: here was a guy who wasn’t going to disappear from their lives as easily as they’d thought.

“Well,” said Mimi, ready to express what they all felt as she jumped down from the top of the truck. “It just appears that the thread of our lives and the thread of his comprise the same web at this point in time. I don’t know what else to say, except, “THANK GOD I WON THAT BET!” Otherwise I’d be up shit creek serving burgers branded with a K. Now, let’s forget that lanky son of a gun and get on with it. We’ve still got lots of food and our DJ from Telluride is here ready to relieve the superb jazz guys. Let’s give Bring Betty a big round of applause, and let’s bring on the rock and roll!”

Mimi, stunned by this new piece of information that Rory Vermillion Kid would be her neighbor on most sides, realized something as she headed toward the DJ with some requests. What she realized was that it was the place of plots to thicken — that this is what they did of their own accord. And that even though she despised her new neighbor, in her heart she felt herself rise to the occasion and she felt herself smile about it.

Guest DJ Chuck Ludman, of the Buck and himself a music aficionado, was ready to roll and to rock. “Hey Chuck,” said Mimi handing him a glass of pure rum on the rocks. “How about The Clash to get things going?”

“Sure thing, Mimi. Oh, and by the way, fantastic party. Incredible, really. ” And there he was, a heavy set guy wearing a baseball cap that said “Makita Tools” sitting at a lone table in the dust, connected to the power source by means of a very long and very orange cord. He dropped the needle in the groove and out came the extra loud first notes of “Rock the Casbah.”
“Ah,” thought Mimi, losing herself in the overwhelming sound. “Sharif don’t like it…. Rock the casbah, Rock the casbah.”

Max, evidently more hurt by Rory’s news than Mimi, had come to the conclusion that life itself is bittersweet. Syd, sure that the guy would be running home long before he would ever consider living here, was amused by the information and saw life as ironic. Anna had decided just not to think about it at all right now, though her comment on life would have been “fateful.” Ready to ensure the success of their party, however, they all committed themselves equally to dancing the night away and to getting others to dance.

At this time, the professional photographer took over for Mo who needed liberation from the ten pound ball and chain called a camera. Larry Miltman’s photos, the magnificent product of a disorderly professional given a disorderly assignment, showed much promise as pieces of art. Not having denied himself any of the rum the others were also drinking, he took all the remaining photos with a wavering eye and a wide angle lens. He’d forgotten about replacing it. Miraculously in focus, the otherwise surreal photos showed people in motion and at odd angles smiling the beatific smiles of those living for the present moment.

Whenever Mimi would look at those photos later on, she’d smile a crooked half-smile at the bonding of odd couples, the bonding of a group so diverse it boggled the brain. Larry Miltman, ashamed he’d gotten so twisted, never charged them for the party but remembered it fondly as the best assignment he’d ever had. He’d framed a photo of the dog and two cats sitting together under the light of the blinking La Sal Junction Cafe sign, heads cocked at precisely the same angle, eyes glowing with concentration. It was his favorite photo of all time.

As the day turned into night and came to a close, reluctantly and slowly, Mimi and Max convened with their friends Anna and Syd. “We are so glad you’ve decided to give it a go in our general vicinity,” said Mimi slurring all her words by this time. “Yes,” Max answered solemnly, “We are. Were your parents upset, Syd?”

“No, no,” he answered, “I don’t think they ever really expected to see me in Jamaica. Even they were drawn to this place in the same way we all were. They promised to visit more often and stay longer. I think they’re going to sell the restaurants and retire, which is something they are more than ready to do. Restaurants are hard work, as you know.”

“As we all know,” said Anna, the only sober one at the Junction aside for various children and pets. “Personally, I’m happy to be staying even if that creep will own a bunch of land out here. I’m just happy,” she went on. “Happy to see my dad, happy to be happy to see my mom, happy to have this life. Sorry to be so happy!”

“And as for me,” said Syd, “I needed to stick around as Mimi’s editor for the publication of her book. If it goes over well and she decides to keep writing, I can be her agent. There cant be that many agents in the vicinity. I might be the only agent in four states….”

Mimi, with a rubber tongue and rubber knees grinned a very messy grin. “I can’t top this, can you top this?” she said. “I mean who could top this? I need some coffee, don’t I — I’m about to be a published author but meanwhile my life is much more interesting than anything that ever went on in my head. Can you explain this?” She pointed at Max. “Can you?” She pointed at Syd then at Anna. “Scuse me,” she said unable to wait for the answer. “I’ve got to go sober up a little.”

She found the professor leaning appropriately against a wall and dragged him in with her to have coffee. It didn’t take long to emerge, partially anyway, from the rum haze but just to ensure a clearer head, she stuck her own under the cold water tap. “Ahhhh,” she said. “I think I might be coming back.”

Michael Norris Hanratty, no less the product of rum, rum and more rum, would not be coming around so fast. “Do you need help to your vehicle?” inquired Mimi politely and then screamed for Max to come and help her with the professor. “He’s really out of it,” she giggled. “I never thought I’d see the day; but in this particular meeting of rum and the human body, we have all been equalized once again.”

The professor let himself be carried to the back of his vehicle where a bed had been laid out. “Thanks,” he mumbled. “S’been quite a day, quite a day. Oh and Mimi, I don’t think I ever really told you how much I liked those letters all that time. I thought I’d better tell you that. Thought I’d better….” and he fell not only into sleep head first but right into an aggressive sounding snore.

Max, who’d managed to hold his liquor well, took Mimi by the hand and headed off into the darkness. “I want to see the party from a little ways back,” he said pulling her along. They crossed the highway and from what would soon be Rory Kid’s land, gazed at the lighted oasis in the middle of the black night, at the people still dancing, at the trucks lined up along the road for what looked like miles and miles Over to one side and on the edge of the shadows stood Yates and Sally, arm in arm and swaying to the beat. Syd and Anna, in the tent beside Joelle and Lucien, looked remarkably happy as they said goodnight and headed toward their trailer. Mimi figured some people would be dancing through much of the night if Chuck kept the music going, and knowing him, he would be doing just that.

“Hey,” said Mimi, “I know I’m open for business tomorrow at 5:30 in the morning and that I have to train someone new. I’m sober enough to know that. But the thing is, I can’t tell whether I’m sober enough or drunk enough to know just how good life can be. What do you think, Max?”

“I think,” said Max, stretching his body as if it were morning, “that if you’re drunk enough when you’re sober — and sober enough when you’re drunk — that you’ll always be on the right track. Like right now, you’re sober enough, when drunk, to know how good life can be. In the morning, and in other mornings, hopefully you’ll be drunk enough — figuratively speaking — when sober to know just the same thing. Never completely drunk; never completely sober.”
“Wow,” said Mimi, “That’s pretty good. Do you think you’ll remember it tomorrow?”
‘Maybe,” he said to her. “Maybe not.”

It was after midnight when they opened the door to the trailer and stepped into a sanctuary far enough removed from the party to be almost quiet. Max lit a candle, afraid that too much light might physically hurt them. It was in the candlelight that both of them noticed an object on the bed and went over cautiously to inspect.

‘Maaaax,” said Mimi, accusing him and wagging a still rubbery finger. “You put that there — just to get me.”

“I didn’t put that there,” he answered staring at the small burlap bag of Anasazi beans. “I had nothing to do with it.

“Don’t deny it, Max, I know you did it.”

“I’m not denying it, Mimi,” he said a bit more loudly. “I didn’t do it.”

“Well, then, who did it?” Mimi had a certain half-drunken urgency to her.

“Probably Anna and Syd,” said Max, not convinced that either of them would do this on their wedding day.

“Yeah probably them,” said Mimi as she tucked the bag under her pillow. “I’ll just sleep on it and see what it brings, okay Max?”

“Okay, Mim.” Max was feeling his limbs get heavy with fatigue. Under the sheets and with a cool breeze to caress them, they lay their heads down ready to drift off.

“Max,” whispered Mimi. “I know we’re not Syd and Anna, we’re not like them.”

“I know that, Mimi,” answered Max, comprehending what her point was without her having to say any more. “We’re more confused and more complicated as a combination. But I think we’re just as durable.”

Mimi’s heart leaped the drunken leap of a drunken heart. Soberly drunken and drunkenly drunken. “Yes,” she agreed sweetly. “We may be just as durable, we’ll have to see.” It was as she kissed him on the cheek, her head propped sideways by the sack of beans under her pillow, that she felt asleep — impossible as it might have seemed — and fell into the magical world of bean dreams and long lasting rides into the sunset.

THE END