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The Shivers — Sacramento

Jeff Buckley.

Mein Fuhrer.

Roy Schneider.

Born Under a Bad Sign.

Balloon payment.

Wrigley Field.

Bad dog, bad dog.

We spent the rest of the evening engaged in group sex with Buzz Aldrin taking turn satisfying Stan, Donna and me. I had no more tears to shed and I felt hollow and violated. There was nothing but quiet hostility in that small motel room. I needed mountain air and strong drink—Truckee was rich in both.

Dressing in clean jeans and a t-shirt and jacket borrowed from Buzz, I lit a cigarette and pushed my hands deep into my pockets fiddling with the loose change and pull-tabs from the Coors we shared through the night. My head was filled with crazy fantasies of driving through Wyoming and South Dakota to Wisconsin and winning Nita back but there was no way I could get out of Truckee today. She must have found another man to love, someone solid, present. The kind of guy who knew punching a clock was better than warming up in the batter’s box. But I didn’t know anything else. How could she expect a leopard to change his spots? I’m just some dumb farm kid who played a pretty good first base. She should have known that before she ever got wound up with me.

I found myself trying to sing one of the songs Donna was singing back in the motel room. I honestly didn’t know she could sing so good. She just hummed and sang and made all of us feel better about the world, even it was for just a little bit. She offered to pray with me but I didn’t think God was taking prayers this week. But we tried anyway and prayed while Stanley Kubrick sodomized Buzz Aldrin, and somehow I think God could hear us over Buzz’s screams.

It felt almost like being back in church in St. Paul.

The Ponderosa Pine Club was at the end of the street from the motel. I sauntered over there with nothing but weight on my shoulders. I thought gin and cheese fries and good conversation would shelve this pain and give me insight to what I needed to do.

The place was jumping. Some guy dressed like Little Richard was playing Fats Domino songs on the dinged upright piano while members of the San Jose Sharks held court over the merits of NHL hockey over Olympic hockey—Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov were world class blowhards. Children were everywhere, sweeping up peanut shells and bring fresh pitchers of beer to the tables. Jonas Salk was behind the bar muddling mojitos and holding court over the recent unpleasantness in the country. He was certain that this whole thing could be solved with super-charged injections of penicillin into the municipal water supply of the top 25 major cities.

“That’s you answer to everything, Jonny,” Nabokov barked. “More penicillin here, more penicillin there. Jesus, why don’t you just make the fucking mojitos with penicillin? God damn fraud!”

The bar roared with laughter as I sat next to this statuesque woman. I ordered a Tanqueray and tonic and Salk poured a stiff one. Taking stock of the room, I figure this was as good as anyplace to spend the evening before I start making the slow, depressing trek across the country to win back my family. The blond spoke to me.

“You’re Harmon Killebrew, aren’t you? My name is Eva Braun.”

I told her it was nice to meet her.

“You swing a pretty good bat,” she said running her hand down my thigh. “I wonder how you well you can swing it with me.”

“Not now, Ms. Braun. I’m a little bit under the weather,” I said out of the corner of my mouth focusing on the local TV news program doing a story about Girl Scout cookie sales being impacted by these shivers. “Maybe when I get to know you better we can see how my bat works.”

I sucked down my drink and ordered two, one for me and one for Eva. She seemed put off.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Oh, no. I’m sorry if I came on a little too strong. I’m just a little sad today,” she said sipping her Cuba Libra. “I couldn’t help but think we both lost some people we loved this week.”

“You too?” I asked. I could tell she wanted to talk and that was fine with me because I didn’t really have too much to say. “Was it your parents?”

“No, my husband.”

I felt real bad for her. I knew what it felt like to lose a spouse and she was probably hurting real bad.

“How’d it happen?”

Eva told me a really sweet story about how she got married but later that day, her husband had to kill himself because he was really misunderstood by a lot of people. I knew exactly what she was talking about because once I had to ride at the back of the bus after striking out against Sandy Koufax in a playoff game. I asked if she saw all the horrible things I did and she said she yes.

I guess the world is really tough these days.

I was getting ready to buy her another drink when everything went crazy in the bar. Buzz Aldrin came through the doors covered in arrows but he was still growling and scratching and biting people. It seemed like every time he bit somebody, that person would become weird like Buzz. I was back towards the bar trying to flag down Jonas Salk, but he was killed instantly by some guy that looked exactly like Tito Puente by a thrown dagger—that’s when I knew I had to pour my own drink.

I asked Eva if she’d like one but Buzz Aldrin was gnawing her face off. I shot both of them in head, reached over the bar was a short draft and walked out of the bar. I must have been in the Ponderosa Pine Club for a long time because the entire forest was ablaze and there was a Grade-A fire giant reaching down and eating scorched people running to get out of Truckee.

I didn’t care. None of the drinks or cheese fries could help my mood. I kind of just stared at the fire giant, hoping he’d eat me so I wouldn’t feel some much pain. I even waved at him, but he just waved back spewing chunks of flames across the city, igniting both the post office and the church.

Pretty friendly guy.

I started to walk through the madness when a station wagon pulled up and told me to jump in. I casually opened the front door and there was this black guy behind the wheel. He told me to hurry up or he was going to leave me. I told him to hold his horses because my knees were acting up. I gingerly slid into the front seat and he drove out of there like a bat out of hell.

“My name is Harmon, what’s yours?”

He ignored me, probably because he was too busy screaming a lot of profanities and trying to drive through the mounds of fire and pyramids of dripping corpses. I just snapped on my seat belt and fiddled with the radio. There was way too much Christian rock stations, but I eventually found a country western station that was doing a block of George Strait songs. At first I just thought that KBOY 101.4 had picked some really good songs, but it turns out George Strait had been killed from a golf ball sized asteroid that hit him on the head while he was riding a horse, playing his guitar. I couldn’t help but think that would make for a good country song.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, cocksucker, fuck, dumb shit, fuck nuts, piece of shit, ohhh! Fuck!” the driver said spinning through the smoldering cars and waves of flames that turned the asphalt into concrete milkshakes and caused the cows to burst open. “We got to get the fuck out of here!”

I nodded because it was getting too warm and I realized that I might have had too much to drink.

“Don’t just sit there like a clump of shit, motherfucker,” he barked at me. “Get that 12-guage Gatling gun and kill these motherfucking shivers.”

I looked in the backseat of the old sedan and there was this machine gun that looked like it belonged on a helicopter or tank. It was really, really heavy. I decided it would be better if I slid in the back and jam the nozzle out the window. It took me a second to figure out where the safety was, but after I got it to fire, it blazed a white-hot lightning stream of shotgun shell out the right side of the car. I was mowing down any shiver that came towards us and the backseat of the car was filling up with smoke and shells like I was in a ball pool at Chuck E. Cheese.

It was real easy shooting shivers because my heart and mind weren’t into it. I was thinking of Nita and Eva and Donna and other girls whose name ended in the letter A. It was the mindset that I needed when I knew I had to get a hit. If I didn’t think about what I was doing, I could easily go 3-4 with a couple of RBIs. Even when the bat-humans appeared at the top of Donner Pass, I was just popping them straight out of the sky. The driver was real impressed with my shooting ability because he kept saying bad words and driving like our lives depended on it.

Eventually I ran out of shotgun shells for the gun, but it didn’t matter. There were no more shivers or fire giants or bat-humans or anything else around us and he drove fast and hard towards Sacramento. I crawled back to the front seat. There was a Faith No More CD case on the dashboard with white powder cut into lines. I asked him if it was Angel’s dust and he said no. I asked him if I could have some then and he gave me a thumbs up.

Geeked.

Black hole.

Brain dead.

Fire walker.

Karl Bingham.

Blue tooth technology.

Olympia Beer.

“Hey, you want to get me a beer? You can have one too,” the driver said as he motioned to the glove box. I pulled out two cans of Olympia Beer and started drinking mine.

“You’re a pretty good shot.”

Thank you. I like it when people recognize that I can do good things well. I also like to think that I am a pretty fast learner. I also also like it when I can do drugs and drink beer in moving cars with strangers.

“You said your name was Harry?”

No, Harmon. My name is Harmon Killebrew. I play first base for the Minnesota Twins and I have a career batting average of .256 with 19 stolen bases. Jeez, don’t be rude. I already told you who I was.

“My name is Rich,” Rich said. “Man, I can’t believe we fucking got out of there.”

Me neither. You’re a pretty good driver but you shouldn’t swear so much.

“What the fuck?!?”

Goodness, gracious. Where are we going, Rich?

“Sacramento. I got business at the state capitol. You wanna come with me? I could use a guy who can shoot like you.”

Well, I was trying to get back to Wisconsin but I guess since you’re already heading there, I might as well tag a long for a while. Besides, it might give Nita a chance to cool her heels.

“Who’s Nita?”

My wife, ex-wife. I don’t know, everything happened so fast in Reno. We met in high school. She was a home ec major, and I just loved turning wrenches and singles into doubles. She was the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. I mean, man alive, she was a looker. Still is. She thinks she’s too heavy cause she had the kids and all, but that’s the way I like her. Still is so pretty in those summer dresses when she’s sitting in the stands with my kids rooting for me and the boys. I can always find her in the stands. Sure, I know which sections she’ll be sitting in but my eyes always find her lickety-split. Kind of like a superpower or something else. But who knows, we’ll figure this out. She wants to be with me but I just have to get shipshape sooner than later. Can’t imagine retiring and not having Nita by my side. Yeah? Yeah. I’ll get her back, don’t you worry. No sir, don’t you worry at all.

“Divorces can be fucking nasty,” Rich said. “All of mine were.”

Yeah, things have been pretty nasty the last week or so.

Rich and I drove quietly drinking beer and not saying much. He didn’t care for the country western music and I didn’t like all of the news reports coming in from around the world. Since it was a little past 3 in the afternoon, we didn’t have a real good look of the Moon which apparently was split in two from a thermonuclear weapon launched into it. That’s going to make for some interesting summer nights. He was trying to get some information about the trolls that came out of the Sacramento River and find out whether or not it was going to be safe going into town, but I didn’t care. Life had a way of fixing itself and I figured if we had to decapitate a bunch of river trolls, we’d just work as a team and cut their darn heads off. Rich said he’d rather sneak in and I said that was fine too.

Coming out of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, we some how got through the security checkpoints set up by whatever parts of the Federal Government that was still working. Reptiles manned the checkpoints but these lizard soldiers were good bureaucrats, meticulous in their note taking and thorough in interviewing us on what we’ve seen on our different adventures throughout the country. Rich came from Peoria Illinois and turned out to be a really funny guy. The lizard soldiers laughed at almost everything he said and I couldn’t help chuckle every now and then between the blasts of cocaine and shotgunned beers. I offered to share Rich’s beers with the lizard soldiers, but they said they were still on duty.

Real professional lizard soldiers.

I recapped my story from Baltimore to Sacramento and they looked pretty impressed. Their large globe-like eyes blinked rapidly as I told the story of the brick monsters and watching Walt Disney’s head cracked like a melon, but when I got into my recent divorce, they just smoked cigarettes and ate passing flies. It was their indifference that hurt the most. I think they were just making sure that I was a Christian and wasn’t going to be doing anything evil or participate in tearing the fabric of society any further. Rich asked if I could take the wheel after the lizard soldiers waved us through because he had to check his notes on how to get to the state capitol. I said sure even though I was really tired.

Like most of the cities I have been to in the last week, Sacramento was a dump. Most of the city was burning and there were dismembered people littering the sidewalks. The only thing living we saw were over-sized dogs feasting on the corpses and vultures sunning themselves on cars, their bellies filled with human flesh. I told Rich we should find a place to get a slice of apple pie and a cup of coffee, and he snapped at me saying there wasn’t enough time to get apple pie and coffee, that I would have to wait until he was done at the state capitol.

He apologized later for yelling at me, but he said he was tired from all of the driving and escaping for life-threatening events for the last six days.

I piloted the car to L Street and 15th Street and parked the car. Rich fed the meter while I scanned the horizon. With the exception of the California State Capitol, the rest of the Capitol Park was left to rubble. The heat was oppressive. It just pumped from the ground and felt hot against my loafers. I don’t think it’s appropriate to wear shorts, but I wished I had made an exception that day.

“Legislatorum est justas leges condere.”

Whatcha say, Rich?

“Ah, it’s something I read driving into California. It’s Latin for ‘It’s the duty of legislators to pass just laws,’” Rich said rummaging through his briefcase. “They take things real fucking serious in California and you wanna know why I know it’s real fucking serious?”

I cringed at all of his profanities but I was curious, so I asked why.

“Because they wrote it in Latin, that’s why,” Rich explained as his eyes widened when he found what he was looking for.

“You want to freebase some crack before we go inside?”

That would be lovely, Rich, but please stop using the F-word.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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