ON HE RODE — Chapter Twelve

“Would this be one of those times?” she asks.

Seriously, I think. Coyly? A bit. Just the right amount, I surmise.

But what do I know? “Could be,” I reply.

“Will you know . . .? I mean when will you know?”

“As soon as we get inside one of these historic abodes and have a look around.”

“Cool. Historic abodes. That makes us, what, paleontologists?”

“Right. Or some kind of -ologist cover for breaking and entering.”

“Then it’s just entering, only half-illegal.”

We spend a half-hour trying doorknobs and window latches, picking at

locks and poking sticks in cracks. Fingerprints everywhere, no doubt.

But since we don’t get in, no harm, no foul, right?

“Let’s just kick the damn door down,” she recommends.

“If I was drunk, I just might.”

“I know a beach,” she suggests. “Let’s get some beer.”

King perks up to this unexpected wisdom. He’s been hang-doggedly aloof

from Sigrid since our expedition began, and as for me, I don’t even

exist. But if I think that frees me to act in an untoward manner

toward his temporarily deranged mistress, I should think again. Know

what I mean? Before books, came looks. Eyeball-to-eyeball. Then away.


We get Miller Hi-Life, cheese, sausage, bread. She directs me to a

quiet, secluded beach where we set up camp in solitary splendor. How

does she know about this place? Did she grow up here like I grew up on

Puget Sound, knowing it inside and out from living in it? A resident

free spirit? Or has she been assigned here? Is this her beat?

And is she interested in me because she’s interested in me? Or am I

suspect? Of what? Should I be happy or concerned? Let’s pop a couple

champagnes of bottled beer and see if we can get to the bottom of

this. So to speak. Sounds like Evers. How’s Tammy, by the way?

Bottomed out? So to speak?

Sigrid tosses her jacket across the hood and tries to interest King in

fetching a driftwood stick. “Desultory” sticks in my mind. Does that

describe his lack of real enthusiasm, his counting each pace?

“Ever read ‘Call of the Wild’?” I ask.

“My brother did.”

“Your King reminds me of its main character, Buck.”

“Do I remind you of anyone?”

“You mean someone fictional?”

“Or real. Anyone anywhere?”

“Your jacket reminds me of an Ian and Sylvia album cover, but you

remind me more of Lady Brett Ashley.”

“Cowgirls and countesses. You flatter a poor beer maid, sir. Humble

Mistress Quickly at your service. Sorry I can’t offer you a glass.”

So the afternoon goes pleasantly enough, but King remains a duenna to

be reckoned with. Though Sigrid keeps her cards covered, I do find out

she’s had some experience at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland,

which seems a good thing. Let’s check out her improv: “I see you’re

looking at my hair,” I offer.

“You don’t have any hair.”

“So you’re looking for it, not at it?”

“I see you’re looking at my feet,” she ripostes.

“I see you know your J. D.”

“I see you do too. So why’d you do it? The hair?”

“The hair?”

“The hair.”

“There is no hair.”

“Why? Or why not?”

“Because,” I say, squaring up in my most gruesomely earnest, fulsomely

genuine, innocently at-risk expression of self-deprecating honesty.

“Because I am so beautiful with hair that way too many women can’t

seem to keep their hans off me, can’t get enough of my body. And

they’re only too willing to share with others. It’s quite a

distraction, I assure you. It’s hard to get anything done.”

“I get it,” she says, her fake-honest thoughtfulness surpassing mine,

“you’re on a working holiday to get away from the awesome

responsibility of nurturing your admiring bevy. Impregnating a few

along the way, perhaps, as long-term evidence that you’d passed their

way? Come on,” she laughs. “Why’d you shave your head?”

“Because I’m going bald and I want to know what to anticipate. Will I

be able to live a normal life as an aging bald man? Or should I

precipitate an early conclusion?”

“You’re kind of nuts, aren’t you? What’s your favorite cowboy band of all time?”

“Hmm. All time. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. ‘San Antonio Rose’. Yours?”

“Ever been to Texas?”

“Headed that way now. You?”

“Cali girl all the way. Can’t you tell?”

“Call girl? No. West Coast. Northern Plains. I told my dad once that I

was going Out West when I grew up. New Mexico. Arizona. Texas. He got a

kick out of that. ‘Out West, huh,’ he laughed. We lived on Puget


“You’re farther west now.”

“Not much. Farther south, for sure. Anyway, I thought the West was

horses and cactuses, not fishing boats and Douglas firs.”

“What else did your father teach you?”

“That our universe is an organism like a human being, made up of

jillions of cells, like us, and that that organism is a hugely

expanded version of each of us in our own imagination, and that our

conception of the universe being much larger versions of ourselves

puts each of us in direct connection with the spirit of the universe,

which is God, and makes us all part of the universal spirit which is

God. He also thinks humans are the cancer of the universe.”

“So we’re killing ourselves?”

“And everything else. Even our Host.”

King drops a smooth, grey driftwood stick at her feet, a nicer one

than she tried earlier. She picks it up and easily sends it arcing

end-over-end a hundred feet down the beach. King gets a bounding head

start and almost snags it mid-air.

“Firewood?” I suggest.

“Not when he gets done with it. Believe in ghosts,” she recommends.

“I do. Sometimes.”

“Think that’s good enough?”

“Sometimes. It’s got to be good enough for now.”

“When will you know?”

“Sometime. Later.”

“You hope?”


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