Matter 1

“But what’s more important is that you failed to rob a restaurant and I managed to become an accomplice and we are now fugitives for stealing nothing,” I say.

“I know I know I know.” He says. “Let’s get a drink.”

We climb out of the Trail Blazer and Ed puts his revolver underneath a seat in the back. It is very hot outside. I look towards the ocean and the sun bounces off the waves relentlessly. Ed walks past me with his right hand in his pocket.

I tap him on the shoulder and say, “no weapons, right?” about his pocket and he shakes his head and opens the door. The room is so wooden my eyes get splinters. The tables and chairs and the walls and counters are all made of wood. Behind the bar in the back of the room is a television set to the news and besides a hostess and a bartender, nothing else moves. We walk to a table outside near the dock and sit down.

“How can you be so calm?” I say to Ed after we order some drinks from our waiter. He knows him by name but I don’t care about that right now. “You just threatened a group of people with a weapon, I mean, if that’s something you do all the time, I need to know.”

“No, I don’t do that all of the time,” he says while looking straight ahead. “My life has gotten pretty serious, Richard.” Ed looks at my face, “I don’t have much time.” I look at the waves in his eyes. He doesn’t cry and tells a story about how he has lost all of his money.

#

Last year, just after New Years, Ed fell flat and unconscious on the cold linoleum floor in the middle of a shopping center. He was on his way to return a gift he bought for grandma; call it a ritual. She passed away right before my twenty-fourth birthday so her funeral was where I celebrated my age last year.

He didn’t fall flat exactly. He bumped into a wooden bench next to a plastic tree and lay there for a little while. He doesn’t remember anyone stopping to ask him if he needed help or even move him. He only remembers waking up and having a terrible pain in his chest. He describes it like endless saltwater moving through an open wound. Well the doctor told him he had lung cancer and he told him he only smoked a little bit, and the doctor told him it doesn’t matter, “We can’t get rid of it, Ed. We can only slow it down.” So Edward has been spending all of his money because he doesn’t see the point in spending that much time in a hospital. He’s out of money before the end but he did manage to buy the revolver. He says as we finish our drinks, “there isn’t anything left for me to do, I’m sixty-eight, that’s why I bought a gun, and it’s the best way to take care of things.” We sit on the shady patio overlooking an empty dock and hungry seagulls.

“We’ll have to keep to ourselves for a couple days, if you plan to stay here,”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now,”

“Me either.”

“I’m surprised we’re not famous fugitives yet. I know I talked to the waitress and made eye-contact with a few people in there.” I say.

“Don’t talk like that. It’s not over yet. Let’s go.”

We get up from the table and leave some cash in the middle. I try not to look at anyone as we walk through the doors. We walk fast towards the car and before I can buckle the seat-belt we’re back on the highway. I’m still hungry but we decide to take the Trail Blazer back to the condo. We decide we will take a little time and hope things blow over. Ed knows plenty of people around here but he insists that acting like everything is normal will help just incase anyone shows up. I don’t like that I’m an accomplice in all of this. I want to relax and find somebody else to talk to but I can’t so I sit down on the couch in the living room. There is a knock at the door.

#

“Shit shit, shit,” I mutter as I duck down in front of the couch. Ed walks down the stairs when he hears the knock and slides down into a crouch next to me. The knock is louder the second time as I look Ed in his tired eyes.

“What do you want to do?”

“It could just be a neighbor or something. I don’t know. It could be the cops, I really don’t know. Hang on a second,” Ed says and slides up near the door. He’s wearing a gray t-shirt with the letters, “WWYD,” on the chest and looks exhausted. He moves carefully, flat along the wall, and then he motions for me to come closer. I look around for anything to use as a weapon. I lean around the couch and grab my sneaker and pull myself up to the door next to Ed. I watch him pull his hand around his body and reveal the revolver. He looks at my shoe and gestures for me to get rid of it.

“Hello? Anybody home?” We hear through the door.

“Some guy named Benny called yesterday. I forgot to tell you. Sorry. It might be him,”

“Hold on a minute!” Ed yells as he puts the revolver behind his back. The cogs in the door turn and we are face to face with Benny, an older man with two huge duffel bags and a chubby grin.

“Ed you bastard!” Benny yells from his inflated chest, “It’s been awhile!” They both hug and I remind Benny that I’m the grandson and then we all walk out back to the patio. Zoey is awake and barks at me when I look at her. I sit with my back to the little beast.

“What’s been up?” Benny asks while popping the top off of a flask he brought. He takes a swig and I watch the liquid slide down his throat.

“Not a whole lot,” Ed looks at me, “just been showing Rich around town. He’s come to stay here for awhile.”

“That’s great. You could use the company.”

Benny talks about how he and Ed met but I don’t hear much of what he says. I nod a lot and check the time.

“It’s almost two o’clock.” I say.

“And?” Ed says.

“I talked to someone else yesterday, your neighbor; she said something about the beach. I mean, you want to be a tour guide, you should at least show me the only reason why people want to live down here.”

Benny and Ed and I all get up from the patio furniture and walk through the house. They both insist on telling stories to me and I want to listen, I’m sure there are lessons to learn, but I can’t help shutting them off.

We hop inside the Trailblazer and I watch Ed and Benny pass the flask back and forth. “What the hell is that?” Ed says. “Absinthe. Shit hit’s the spot.” Benny says and I make sure to get a swig before it’s all gone.

I’ve heard Ed talk about Benny before but I didn’t make the connection until now. Benny is an old college friend of his. They went to the same four-year university and lost most of their contact after they graduated. The man is in his sixties. When I saw him at the door I would have bet money on a number in the forties. He dyes his hair black and it looks frail in the wind as he leans back into the headrest.

We park under some trees next to a bush and a sandy staircase leading onto the beach. Lowdermilk is where we’re going. Benny tells me this as I walk out onto the white sand. There are people gathered around a wobbly volleyball net. We walk about twenty feet away from the game and set a couple lawn chairs down. I scan the crowd for Sunni.