Thursday, January 22, 2009

CHAPTER 20

To get in the pool you needed to show your room key, and then some lady in a Hawaiian shirt let you by, and your body turned a turnstile and you were inside an outdoor store that sold all kinds of pool-themed things, including swimsuits with underwear lining sewn in. We bought swimsuits, mine were dark purple, and walked around trying to find somewhere to change into them. Leroy asked some 89 year-old Italian guy, who was smoking a pipe and limping along with a gold-tipped cane, where the nearest restroom was. The guy started pointing around wildly and going into great detail with his directions. I just stood on a bridge that went over some lagoon. People floated by on rafts below me, probably fleeing their village from some natural disaster. They looked calm though. What brave fools.

We walked by many different pools, some with all kinds of tiki torches and cabanas, some that were closed for some reason, some that were filled with people, and finally one that looked like it was reserved for movie stars, but was empty for now, and, luckily for us, the bathroom was open and empty. I went into a stall and changed into my trunks, balling up my pants and boxers in my arms.



*


I am standing here in flip-flops looking into a bathroom mirror. I do not own a pair of flip-flips or sandals of any kind. I like to wear socks. I am not doing so now. I have on swim trunks and a black t-shirt that reads, “Operation Desert Storm: Freedom and Justice For All,” in red, white, and blue lettering with some kind of fighter plane flying through it. I have thick black sunglasses on that for some reason remind me of Huey Lewis. I have a Chicago Cubs hat on that is too small for my head. I keep opening my mouth in the mirror to see if my teeth are still there. I am carrying a bundle of clothes in my arms.

“Where the hell did I get flip-flops from?” My voice echoes on the tiles of the bathroom walls.

Leroy ’s voice rings out from behind the closed stall door, “Hey! You’re speaking English again. Those are mine you ass hole! I was wondering where the hell those things went.”


*


I kicked off the flip-flops and, after taking a long time trying to set my bundle down somewhere dry, I put on my argyle socks and my converse. A grown man wearing argyle socks with shorts. It was something.

Leroy came out of the stall all dressed to go for a swim. He put on his flip-flops and we were off to waters of blue.

We decided to try and find Chet, who, according to Leroy, was at some pool that Leroy had forgotten the name of. He assured me he’d be able to find it. It was a very confusing walk. My mouth was on fire and it was still burning hot out. I needed water. I started thinking about Samuel Taylor Coleridge for some reason, something to do with my thirst and all the chlorinated pool water all over the place, and I reached out and grabbed Leroy by the arm and screamed, “There was a ship!” Leroy wrestled himself away from me and called me a few bad names. We passed many pools on many white walkways, crossed many bridges over calm waters. Leroy kept thinking he’d found the right pool, and then would say, “No! This isn’t it! What the hell is the matter with us? I see it. It’s right over there.” He said this many times at many different pools. Some of the pools were closing and they were ushering people out to other pools or areas I guess. We were standing around one of these pools, convinced that we’d spot Chet soon, when a beefy tanned guy came up to Leroy and told him that we’d better leave because the pool area was closing.

Leroy came over to me and said, “I don’t know why that guy’s whispering things to me. He says we’ve gotta go. The pool’s closed.”

“What? They can’t close this pool. Look at all the people in there on those rafts, all those kids swimming around in there. He’s lying. He just wants the whole pool to himself. Quite a little scam he’s got going. Was that a Corona in his hand?”

“Come on. Chet’s not here anyway.”

We went on. I decided the only thing that mattered was getting myself a bottle of water about the size of lake Huron. I told Leroy I’d find him later and went back to the store where I’d purchased my swim trunks. Turns out the store wasn’t allowed to sell beverages when the bar was closed. That made no sense to me, but I couldn’t do anything about it. The nice lady at the entrance told me I could buy water inside the casino. So back I went into the air conditioning, which was nice, carrying my pants and underwear in my arms, still wearing my swim trunks with my argyles pulled all the way up, and my too-small Cubs hat, and my 1981 sunglasses, and my Operation Desert Storm T-shirt. The escalators weren’t melting anymore. Not taking any chances, I took the stairs.

As I walked around this goliath mall-land I started singing another song that I’d made up. It went, “Restaurant…Restaurant…Please give me what I want…I don’t want somebody else’s order…” I sung it in a very deep, melodic voice. It was a great Operatic piece. I tried to look very serious and filled with deep emotion as I sang and walked along looking for a bottle of water.

A flamboyant and very helpful cashier helped me find a good bottle of water in some kind of annex shop that split the rent with a high-end clothing company. I thanked him and told him I’d be back for beer later. The water made things easy and good again. I drained the bottle as I walked back outside. Leroy and Chet were in the hot tub of the first pool I went by. I got in for a little, but it was really too damn hot in there. I got out and sat on the edge with just my feet in and started smoking one of Leroy ’s cigarettes. Whatever it was that had been in that truffle was starting to wear off. Things were clearer and my speech was getting better. Unfortunately, Chet was starting to freak out.

“Can’t we get some pool-side service? I mean don’t they have cocktail waitresses out here that can bring you drinks on a tray and charge them to your room?”

“Not today. The bar’s closed. It’s Sunday, you know?” I tried to talk sense.

Chet didn’t care. “So what? This is fucking Vegas. We can do whatever the hell we want.”

Leroy butted in, his head barely above the bubbling spa water. “We’ll just get beer on the way up to the room. Did you eat all of those cookies?”

“I don’t know. What the hell. This place it hot, this water is hot, I keep drooling. What the hell?” Chet had obviously eaten all of the pot cookies at some point earlier that morning and they were slowly taking hold. “Is that girl wearing a dress in the pool? Is that a raccoon? Watch out! Fuck, it’s eating that kid’s ears. It’s going to…”

Leroy dunked Chet’s head under the water before he could go on and start scaring the rest of the people in the hot tub. A few women in bikinis left. The men looked at us and away from us a few times, but kept smoking their cigars and leaning back in repose. Leroy dunked him a few more times.

Chet came up shaking his head like a wet dog and bellowing. Leroy and I grabbed him and went over to the sunbathing area where they’d thrown our towels and clothes over a few rubber chairs. We sat Chet down and he started talking very rapidly and low, almost a whisper. We let him ramble on, like he was talking to himself, which he kind of was, and we smoked cigarettes and lay in the sun. I almost fell asleep. After all, it was a Sunday afternoon. A few tattered clouds were briefly hiding the sun. Chet was keeping himself occupied with endless drivel. Leroy was lying peacefully on his towel and smoking. Everything was nice and still, and I felt drowsy, calm and ready for anything.

Then it just so happened that Chet had a complete freak-out, meltdown, delusional whirlwind. Leroy and I tried to calm him, but it was no use. He became excited and his voice was starting to raise again. He’d over done it on the cookies and now the evil cannabis Gods had taken his mind prisoner. I knew what that was like. Demons darting all over and fiddling with things, ordinary things becoming surreal and every motion a multimedia experience, and your mind rolling over and over the same thing and freezing on a single pitch or note and playing it over and over, a record skipping in your head. There was nothing we could do. He just had to wait it out. We decided to wait it out in our room upstairs, with beer and whiskey to fortify ourselves. We gathered our stuff and headed in while Chet went on and on about biped polar bears in trench coats walking around the pool with machetes, or some such thing. Fortune smiled on us again though and we made it back inside without incident. I decided we’d better take the stairs, avoiding another possible melting elevator experience, especially with Chet being in a bit of an altered state. Leroy took the stairs two and three at a time with loping tarantula strides. Chet grabbed the guardrail tight and hopped his way up. I walked.

Soon we came to the fountain where I’d foolishly dumped out all of my chips. They were no longer there, but there was a large wet plastic bag on the floor. I held it up. It seemed familiar.

Leroy said, “You left that there in your fit. Remember?”

“This? I thought it was a potato sack. Wasn’t it a potato sack?”

“What? No. Remember, you picked it up out of the fountain and dumped all of your chips out. I guess somebody stole your chips. Too bad. We could’ve used them to buy more beer.”

“This is what I was carrying around over my shoulder?”

“I thought that was strange but, you know, I didn’t question it. You were pretty messed up, you fucking goofball.”

I couldn’t believe it. No wonder those security guys hadn’t laughed at my joke about the three-legged race. I knew it had been funny.

Then it hit me. What the hell had been in that truffle?

I punched at Leroy ’s arm. “What the hell was in that truffle? What kind of sick concoction of drugs was soaked in that chocolate?”

“Drugs? Um, I think dark chocolate has some caffeine in it. Technically speaking I think sugar is a drug.”

“Remind me never to eat chocolate again.”

Leroy just laughed with his cigarette hanging out from under his mustache. I’m surprised he never lights that thing on fire with all the slow-burning cigarettes he dangles out under it. I grabbed the coffin nail out of his lips and stamped it out on the carpet. “Quit that fucking shit. I’m tired of you and all those damn cigarettes and all of your bullshit.”

He picked it up and looked at the dead butt in his fingers. He looked at it for so long I thought he was going to make a speech and start saying things like, “he was a man of infinite jest.” But he just stood there looking at the flattened thing in his fingers, looking rather amused. Now I began to realize what I was dealing with. Leroy had eaten some cookies too. Obviously they’d both had too many. Leroy started waving his arms around in slow motion and continued making long loping strides ahead of us. Chet was moving much slower and I kept having to push him to get him to keep up.

I looked at Chet and screamed, “You’re going to be a tomato!”

That was a bad idea. It sent Chet into a frenzy. He started shouting, “Ketchup! Ketchup!” Over and over as he bolted on up ahead somewhere. I tried to keep an eye on both of them but they were in their own little demonic worlds and it was too difficult. So I gave up trying and decided to go buy some booze at the little shop where the nice, flamboyant man had sold me the water earlier.

After buying four tall-boys of Budweiser—all with Oscar De La Hoya’s picture on them for some reason, which the nice man at the counter pointed out to me very lovingly, saying that I should keep them as souvenirs when I was done—and a fifth of Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, I followed the signs to the elevators. As soon as I got to the elevators I realized I had no idea what floor we were on, or what room we were in, or where the hell Leroy and Chet had wandered off to. This was not the best of situations to find myself in, still dressed like a dork, carrying my pants and underwear in a bundle under one arm, a paper bag filled with beer and whiskey in the other, and having no idea where the hell I was going. On top of it all I couldn’t see very well under my dark shades. Things were very murky to say the least.

Somebody screamed, “Hey! Look! It’s a Cubs fan!” It was Leroy, hiding behind a tall ashtray stand. I saw Chet laughing next to him. I ran over and kicked over the golden ashtray. Cigarette ash spilled all over the white carpet like a volcano’s aftermath on a snow-covered field.

“Where the hell did you fuckers go? You both owe me for beer by the way.”

They got out of their respective crouches and tried to grab beers from the bag. I couldn’t stop them so I grabbed one too and opened it.

“Look! It’s De La Hoya,” I pointed out. “These are collectors items. Be careful with them.”

They both ignored me. We all drank our tall boys with Oscar De La Hoya on them and waited for the elevator.