They could say lots about her, you know; put up posters and photographs and maybe all that would be okay because she was happy with how it all laid out. How it went. She’d been places. She’d been to the big spinning wheel, you know, like the one Blood Sweat &Tears used to sing about. And oh gawd she fucking hated that song, but it was so right.
She missed her Zen teacher, and she wondered if he’d been Hindu or Buddhist or something because she couldn’t wrap her head around it all. Lots of ohmmm ohmmm booka-looka-lacka-lacka stuff. Chanting, you know. Have you paid your dues yet Terri? And yeah we’re good this month.
No great answers there though besides the booka-lacka-lacka ohmm ohmm shit. The lotus eaters in the robes hadn’t judged her about the drug scene, not like Jesus did. That’s why she even considered Jesus because she thought she needed someone to kick her ass once in awhile – not just sit around chanting peace and harmony. Now, that’s a pipe dream.
But what was seriously fucked is what happened to her all the time. Like what her old friend, musician Patrick Miller used to go on about how every molecule in his skin being pushed down down down every day and fuck, you know? Hand me a line or two of coke because I can’t handle it. It’s not drugs that fuck you! It’s the terrible feeling you get when your body realizes the pain from day-to-day living and the drugs are gone. Jesus doesn’t give you that kind of high, but you can cling to him when you really are under a shit-load of that pressure.
So Terri looked around her surroundings. Get this place, though. The Los Angeles County Jail. Surrounded by electric gray bars that weren’t electric at all, but nobody touched them all the same. The one thing Terri could remember from her Zen teacher was that she should always take in the moment, take in her surroundings, because no matter how great it was or how fucked up it was, she was there. Taking it all in.
Oh but now forget all that nonsense because her fellow inmates needed to be taken stock of, even though Terri thought they were all beneath her. As if. Time was ruining that through close proximity, though. It seemed cliché, for instance, that the majority of them were prostitutes and junkies. Terri felt that as a rock band manager she was both prostitute and junkie, so this was as good a place as any for her.
What was embarrassing was that she been here before. What was even more embarrassing was that she was on a first name basis with several of the booking staff.
Oh my god! Terri Lindsey!
Oh hi Carrie.
We’ve got you for the main cell.
You’re not serving tuna sandwiches again are you?
Don’t worry. You’ll be out of here soon. Somebody will put up bail.
How are Paul and the kids?
No! I’m so sorry.
And so on.
The thing was, Terri felt she’d gone beyond all of this. She’d found Jesus after all, remember? Had bought a bible and a silver cross. She was cleaner than six months ago, if that was saying anything. Well, clean as Terri could get without all the distractions. Yet as she sat there on the hard metal bench staring at her sandals, she counted herself blessed that the arresting officers hadn’t made it a point to search her Jeep because…,
… well let’s just say there were bad things in there that would’ve gotten her in much more trouble than what she was now.
Crossed arms, her eyes moved around the concrete floor. Her butt hurt from the bench and she was wearing only a skirt and light blouse and it was cold because some uniformed dumbass hadn’t turned down the air conditioning once the sun went down.
“I’m hurt, Terri. And when I say hurt, I’m telling you I’m really hurt. Why didn’t you call me first?” Sylvester Dimes said from behind the wheel of his Mercedes Benz.
“You’re not a friend.”
“I’m your best friend.”
Terri groaned, watching the pedestrians blur by and felt her hair rushing in the wind.
“I’m an insurance policy, girl. You need to realize that.”
Sylvester Dimes was her dealer, straight and simple. There were many things about him other than drugs that brought the two-hundred-seventy pound Samoan close to her; one, he’d been a friend of her sister, and another, he was attractive in a “large man – kind face” sort of way. He didn’t appear to be a drug dealer to any degree. He always seemed to be the warm, even jovial South Seas Santa Clause everyone needed in their lives. Yet, despite the façade, Sylvester was not one to screw with. He was lethal, and Terri knew about this firsthand because she’d seen him in action.
At the moment, however, he was in his charitable mood. This mood never afforded free samples, of course, because Sylvester always maintained a vender’s perspective when it came to his products. However, he’d been free with his cash to spring Terri out of jail, and that was charitable enough; she’d spent at least the United States’ national debt on him – it was the least he could do.
“I was expecting Grant or Colin to provide bail for me. Or, at least just show up with my money and bail me out, you know.”
“I mean, should I expect – whoa!” She checked her wristwatch: 7:30 p.m. “I almost forgot! They’re at the gig with the new guy.”
“Well, there you go. Maybe they don’t hate you as much as you think. Maybe they’re just busy.”
“They coulda still come by.” She told him to make a turn down the boulevard for the spot.
“What for? Why show up at their gig?”
“Because I want to kill Colin.”
Sylvester shook his head. “That’s not what you need: another confrontation. You need to cool your jets and let the ebb of life flow again. Here: we’ll do a few hits together and watch the ocean for awhile. I’ll float you a few barbs just to mellow you out a little.” He gave her a serious look. “You’re good on account, aren’t you?”
It sounded much more attractive than breaking into the gig and making her band look bad. It was their night, after all. She hated Sylvester for being so smart about things.
“Why are you always out to fight the world, Terri?”
Sylvester sniffed, put a free arm up on the rest as he drove. “I’ve known you for so long. You’re always fighting things. People. Why?”
“Don’t get fucking philosophical about things.”
“Hey, just because I throw out a few luudes doesn’t mean I don’t see things. What the fuck’s got you on fire to get beaten up all the time?”
She rolled her eyes, her head, and watched the blackness whizz by.
Sylvester gave her a glance.
“Don’t you get sick of being a pariah?” She asked him.
“You mean for being a drug dealer?” Sylvester shrugged. “Most people don’t understand. I mean, sure, it has its dark side, but it’s not like I want to spread darkness for darkness’ sake. I don’t want to hurt people, but you’ll be surprised how these people who want a fix seek me out. I don’t seek them out. It’s not like I take advantage of them.”
“You’re evil, Sly.”
“I am not evil. All the bad stuff about this comes from the government. You know, I’d pay taxes on this shit if they legalized a few things. I’m saying that if there wasn’t a drug trade, there would be no foreign policy. Most of my stuff comes up from Tijuana. The cartels, you know? Some from Asia.” He laughed. “Well, you’d be surprised how much I get from the Chinese guys.”
“They’re scary. I heard about the Chinese Mafia.”
“Ah, they’re not so bad. They’re quiet and don’t mess with you unless you do something to mess with them. I mean, I’m more nervous around the Mexicans because they go off for no fucking reason sometimes. I’ve got scars on my back just for shit and giggles.”
Terri grimaced. “Are you telling me they’d cut you up for no reason other than just to fuck with you?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. But I get even more nervous around college kids. These guys get nervous and if they think you’re fucking them, they’ll pull out a gun – just because they want to look big in front of their friends. I don’t deal to college kids no more.” Sylvester sighed. “I’m going to sit in the sand myself tonight. Blow some steam off. I’ve got a boom box in the trunk. We’ll listen to Al Green. Maybe some funk. You’re on the music scene, Terri. You like Earth Wind and Fire?”
“Yeah, sure, I guess.”
Yet, the beach never became their destination. A few minutes later Sylvester received a page through his beeper and he had to make a stop out in Redondo Beach. A few of the down-and-outs had pulled their panhandling proceeds together and needed some cheer in a back alley.
“A back alley?” Terri wanted to know. “You aren’t nervous?”
“I’m always nervous,” Sylvester told her with a frown. “Any deal is a gamble; somebody can get fucked up and give you some hurt, but you can’t pick and choose anytime you want to. I have an old-fashioned forty-five in the glove compartment and I’ll jam it down my shorts. We’ll be fine.”
She wasn’t reassured at all.
“When’s your court date?”
Terri shrugged. “The eleventh of next month.”
“Oh yeah? They moved you quick.”
“I don’t know.” She’d been high on snow, of course, when she’d been picked up by the police that day.
Sylvester took the 405 onramp and they headed south. “You aren’t known to be the coolest kid on ice, babe.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
“I mean I am sooooo frustrated. I mean, dude! Throw me in the fucking sea already.”
“When was the last time you got laid?”
The question hit her hard.
“Oh, you know it. Like, a hundred years.”
“You want to have some fun?”
She gave him a grin.
“I’m serious. We’ll make it as soon as we’re done with this deal.”
Well, that perked her up. She’d been so sullen, she’d actually thought about quitting everything. Everything. Walking out and screw them all. Even though she was afraid that Sylvester would, no doubt, squash her with his bulk, Terri couldn’t think of a better way to go.
Coming off the freeway, the view out west was blacker than black; an impassible wall, beyond the yellow lights. Sylvester seemed to know where he was going, and his confidence made her feel better. He knew these people. He’d done this a hundred times before. In some ways, sharing the drug dealer’s errands was Zen. If one could get past the guilt, that is, of bottom-feeding. There’s NO people like DRUG people, she mused. Oh, but would Jesus forgive her?
“Be cool,” he whispered. “Stay in the car.”
“Do I need to be worried?”
“Always.” Sylvester gave her a wink and they took to an alley.
There were five figures in the gloom, buffered out like ragged scarecrows from the netherworld. The dispossessed. They probably weren’t as frightening when viewed during the daytime. Everyone was normal during the daytime, you know.
Sylvester warned her again to stay in the car and got out. He took a knapsack from the back seat and headed out to meet them.
Being there with Sylvester reminded Terri of her sister. It was inevitable, even though other times she’d been in his company; there’d been nothing of her sister haunting the elusive back reaches of her brain. There were obstacles there, though, and some places Terri didn’t feel like going to. For instance, thinking of her sister would make her think of her brothers, and if she began to think about her brothers, she would think about her parents, and then she’d think about the whole fucking clan – and everybody knew what that would grant you. You know: Alabama. Southern Alabama, and there’s nothing sweet about it. Hicks and sticks.
There were shadowy corners there, and places she just out-and-out didn’t remember, although there’d been a time when a few neighborhood boys had tied her up naked to a tree with a bullwhip and pissed on her.
Of course her father hadn’t been the nurturing type either. She’d learned only later that the constant beating of his family members had been because he was just mean. There was no love there to win.
So, yes, some corners Terri didn’t like exploring. The drugs helped, but she couldn’t just tell the world that it was a turbulent adolescence that had caused her to run to substance abuse. Let’s face it, folks! Terri Lindsey loved excess!
Yet – her sister. She was dead. Cancer. That wouldn’t be so bad, really, because people dropped dead all the time. Terri loved her sister – she’d been the only one in the world past or present who owned the key to Terri’s soul. Not because she’d been wise or kind, though she had been, in her way, yes, but not excessively so! Only because Kelly Ann had been the only one out of six siblings who’d paid attention to her. They’d been lost, like little archipelagos in seas of indifference. Now, there was nothing. The void is more tangible when you once lived there, with people who were no longer alive to weather the pain.
And then there was Helen. Helen. Sweet soft Helen! Helen with the dark-honey-colored hair that reached her waist! She played acoustic guitar for modest crowds at bistros somewhere in Mobile and read poetry for bongo-beaters and the New Age people reading Tarot cards. She’d suffered sexual abuse from an obscure uncle before she’d reached puberty. At least, that was the gossip. There was always that uncle in every family, it seemed.
Helen was … ummm … pretty, in her way. Well, in any way, really. Because she made up for superficiality and shallowness with feigned caring that most people took for granted. It had to be her voice that clenched the deal: authoritative in its way, but sweet as honey and as smooth as river stones. Read my palm, Helen, because you make me love the lie that you are.
Terri didn’t want to think about her – them – her family. It was then she realized she was stone-cold sober …,
… and suddenly there was a shout and a gunshot.
Colin Morales was the front man of the rock band Terri managed. He was rock and roll, at least, in a rock sort of way. He was stable. Weeks ago they’d been driving together to see an Apache guitar prodigy in Fort McDowell, Arizona. All the time the roof was down and the sun was baking them hot. Hot Hot Hot. Sam, Colin’s wife in faraway Connecticut, would’ve been all ways pissed to know that her husband and Terri had been doing lines on the hood.
Terri was going on like “You know the thing to eating junk food is just to eat a little at a time.”
Like she cared. She didn’t care because she might only weigh a hundred pounds, but her cholesterol had to be triple digits somewhere. It was the boilermakers. One-two-three, and no breath in between.
“And you know something, Colin?”
“I’m going to leave it all behind. You know what it means to be who you are,” she’d said as they sped through the desert. “It means that weird shit happens to you. You’re a fucking rock star.”
Music blared, of course, because it had to contest with the wind. The radio – because even though there was a cassette player in the car, no one had thought of bringing anything to accommodate it. Cheap Trick. I want YOU to want ME! Terri mumbled that Colin and Scott should come up with a good live tune to put on the first album. The Eagles had done it with “Seven Bridges Road,” remember? She’d said. Colin reminded her that Gearhead’s last live album had fallen off the charts without a whimper after only three weeks.
“Fuck! This sun, man!” Terri then produced a small envelope and a thin straw and began to snort its contents. “Don’t look at me that way. I’m not doing this straight. No fucking way.”
“I thought you’d found Jesus or some shit.”
“I did.” She paused, gazed bleary-eyed around the crossroads. She looked up at him. “You want a hit?”
And he took one from her and she’d felt so pleased by it all.
“Colin, let’s make it. Right out here. In the desert.”
“C’mon, Colin! C’mon! We’ll pull over and I’ll ride you. It’ll be fun. Sam’s a sweetheart but we’re just having fun you know?”
“And why the fuck not?”
He sighed, gave the passing markers a brief glance. “Because you’re ugly. You’re fuck ugly.”
Her face contorted, twisted into a prune. She was quiet for a few minutes. Then, she said, “That’s not … That isn’t a nice thing to say.”
Colin frowned, watching the road turn into a dirty gravel snake.
“I know I’m not pretty. I know that. I just want to have some fun is all.” She wasn’t looking at him – she was looking at the dead, reposing, giant Indians that were the sun-blasted hills east of Phoenix.
There was surprisingly little blood there. Part of her panic-stricken mind clung to that, as Sylvester’s head lay on her lap. The stuff was gone, and in the darkness she didn’t realize that she was blind to all the fluid beneath them on the pavement as it trickled to the storm drain. The fact was, Terri was covered in blood. She just couldn’t – wouldn’t – see it.
Sylvester Dimes was gone. He’d been gone long before she’d made it to his side and the junkies ran from her. She bawled.
She could hear his words rolling around and around in her brain: you can’t pick and choose anytime you want to.
Everyone loves you when you’re dead. Everyone does. You should check it out sometime. But enough with the horseshit, there’s always something new slapping the world around. Slapping it around like an errant whore, as David Geffen had once described it to her. Terri didn’t talk to the record producer anymore because, frankly, he never took her calls. She was always mentioning that.
Don’t ask her how much she operated on. Terri had checked her bank account two weeks ago and it had nothing. That’s because if she managed her money alone, she would be broke. Drugs, you know. Nobody trusted her on that. So what she had was bus fare because she couldn’t take Sylvester’s car. Forget that bullshit about somebody – like Colin maybe – coming out of nowhere and saving her either.
Actually it was easier than one would think, escaping the scene: she’d already been coiled up for a spring. Fuck Sylvester, you know? She loved him to death, but fuck Sylvester! No way was she going to get a bullet in the back of her head.
Terri pulled a few coins out of her purse and took the bus out of Redondo Beach and hoped to make Inglewood by nine-thirty. It had been too eventful of a day for her, and topping everything off with a bad drug deal was going to leave scars. When she got out near Walnut Park, she stood there under the pales lights of the city at night.
And then she found herself bent over the railing of a park bench rowfing. Upchucking. Spewing. Puking. All over the place. And it wasn’t so much of a park bench as it was a bus stop. People within earshot gave her a decent amount of space.
She then flung herself on the bench and sat there in a daze. She reached for her necklace and the silver cross that hung there and found nothing. Somehow she’d lost it. She’d had it when she’d left the jail, she was certain.
Oh, but damn!
And then it came pouring out of her. The night, the fear, everything. Terri placed her head in her hands and shook up the screaming green meanies. The night moved on and on around her, oblivious, because there were so many others.
“I’m thinking this is it, Colin.”
“You’re thinking what is it?”
“I’m going to kill myself. Just like the String Man did.”
“No you’re not. You’re just going through a patch.”
“Nobody gives a fuck, Colin.” Terri didn’t know if Colin would believe her. After all, he’d seen her wasted before, so wasted she’d almost killed herself doing some stunt, like trying to do a trapeze walk on the top of a fifty-story building. He’d seen her so wasted on Quaaludes she’d had her stomach pumped.
“What are you going to use?”
“Uh? Sleeping pills, most likely.” But let’s face it, she didn’t like being asked. She didn’t approve of … planning.
“You know that statistics show that women will kill themselves with sleeping pills rather than shooting themselves in the head, right?”
“That’s a woman’s vanity for you. She would rather go out looking good.”
“That’s … I’m serious, Colin.”
“So am I. I pay a lot of attention to statistics. Like the fact that most people who first threaten to kill themselves generally just need a little reassurance. Nobody wants to kill themselves.”
“You won’t get any sympathy,” he told her. “Scott and I’ll make it a point not to even show up at your funeral.”
“Go ahead.” And that’s the way to lay it down, she thought.
“Look, I’m going to hang up now. So don’t get fucking stupid. Come down to the label because I’m going to need you to talk to these execs when they find out the band isn’t on schedule.”
“You’re on schedule.”
“Not for the tour we’re not, and I haven’t even figured out who’ll do the cover art for the album.”
She sighed, the lungs aching but the head clear.
“So, come down, all right? Put suicide on hold until we seal this deal.” He hung up.
So, there it was. Fucking bastard Colin and the fucking rock and roll band that will not die, whether she wanted it or not. And he didn’t fucking care.
She’d show them all. The label. The band. Colin. She’d show the world what Terri Lindsey was made of.
A meeting with anyone at Golden Records back in 1980 was usually informal. A bunch of mop-tops sat around a large table on the ground floor and anyone who didn’t know faces and names would’ve had a difficult time figuring out who was the music talent and who was the label staff. Gene Kellogg, the head honcho, traditionally wore Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, and sandals with his long pepper-gray hair bound in a ponytail and he wore sunglasses indoors and out. He looked like Jerry Garcia. Colin always figured this is what God would look like – shuffling on a galactic beach with a piña colada.
“Colin, you and Scott Davis are headliners,” Gene said. “You know how it rolls and you’re both big talent. I think –”
The conference door blew open and in strolled Terri – eyes dilated and as big as dinner plates – looking like she’d been ran over by a mixing truck.
“Fuck all y’all!” She exclaimed, and in one motion, did a forward somersault on the conference table and lay there spread-eagle, blinking under the lights.
- February, 23 Florida
- New feature: How I Write