Friday, September 25, 2015

Getting Clean

  Seven in the morning and The Valley was already hot. It was the end of September, but The Sun was always nostalgic that time of year in Los Angeles. It did not let go easy. The Van Man opened his eyes and shuffled. The interior of the van was too warm to sleep any longer. He felt rough and gathered himself rather gingerly. Van Man rolled up the sheet and put away the pillow. He could sense something vile and tingling within his chest, a demon mustering itself from the darkness. The days of that charming, lingering cough were long gone. At present, was a vicious and hacking choke. One that lasted minutes instead of seconds. It was the kind of cough that only his grandmother, The Gran Van, was acquainted with. And even she smoked Virginia Slims for over fifty years. He suppressed the hellhound bark and decided this was a good day.
  Van Man ached, sore in every part of his body. Neck, back, thighs, fingertips. He wished the aches had been the result of a good fuck, but that had not been the case. He grimaced, as he checked under the hood. Van Man had spent the previous several days repairing the van and wanted to make sure nothing leaked or loosened from the night before. The van was a seventy-nine and had been fading. The last thing he wanted was to lose it. After all, a Van Man without a van is just a streetwalking tramp. Three days of installing fuel and water pumps, hoses and filters had left Van Man battered and filthy. The day before, a friend took pity on Van Man and let him rinse off. Even that was not enough. The grease and oil still caked his fingers and hair. Van Man needed a wash. A real cleaning. The kind of shower that would penetrate his soul. AC/DC was only a few days away. Van Man cranked the engine and listened. There was a squeak somewhere, but the motor had power. Whatever had to be fixed could wait until after the Thunder From Down Under.
  In the midst of all the van repairs, Van Man had closed one show and prepared to open a second. On closing night of the first, the director cornered Van Man in the bathroom and paid him for the gig. Van Man was excited, he could buy food and gas. On the other hand, it was his first time getting paid in a men's room. There was a feeling connected to it that he did not want to revisit. Unless it was in the ladies room.
  In days, the second show was to open and Van Man was glad that he had a supporting role. The water and fuel pump ordeal had depleted his energy. As did doing the repairs under a ninety-seven degree, reminiscing Sun. That evening was a dress rehearsal and he had errands to run. The day was to only get hotter, so Van Man stopped for a quick coffee and continued on. A blue car passed with a fluffy dog sticking out the back window, its puke plastered over the entire passenger side. The dog seemed happy and wagged its tongue. They got it worse than me, thought Van Man as his stomach growled.
  The rehearsal came and went. It had been rough, but everything in East Hollywood was rough. Van Man made his way back over the hill and into The Valley. Before he called it a night, he stopped off at the local convenience store. A platinum-blonde, homeless man sat outside the doors. Van Man and Blondie had crossed paths at the store many times, they were familiar with each other's face. Van Man handed him some loose change and walked in. On his way out, Blondie thanked him and mumbled something about the van. He nodded in appreciation and drove off. Van Man was tired and did not decipher Blondie's words, at first. Then he understood what was said. Blondie had complimented him on the choice of a big van. Blondie knew he lived in it and that meant Van Man was known to the homeless of Burbank. He was one of them, but higher up. A One-Percenter of the destitute. A vagabond with a van. He had a ghastly cough and nasty fingers. There were more repairs to be done and he did not know when he would earn another paycheck. Yet, AC/DC was only days away and The Van Man did not have dog vomit on his van. October was near and life was good.

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