33. Pot Pies and Assignations – Saturday, September 25
The Marijuana Harvest Festival was Garrett’s idea. He, Cindy and Andrew have decorated Tyler Avenue like a hippie farmhouse.
Garrett’s baking a dozen apple pot pies. He sends me out to a feed store on highway 6 to pick up as many bales of hay as I can fit into my car, party decorations.
The old guy at the counter is suspicious of my motives.
“Hay? What you need hay for?”
“Feed a horse,” I lie.
“What you doin’ with a horse?”
“It’s not my horse. It belongs to a friend. It’s visiting, while my friend has an operation. Hernia operation,” I add. “He was trying to pull the engine out of his F250 with a block and tackle that he’d strapped to a limb of a live oak in his front yard. The limb snapped under the weight; he tried to grab the rope, and pulled a hernia. My friend’s name is Ray. He’s from Utica. The horse’s name is Rocky. After Rocky Marciano. A gelding. Nine years old, about 15 hands high at the withers. Quarterhorse Morgan mix. Likes Cracker Jack, straight from the box. Can’t get enough of it. But who doesn’t love Cracker Jack, right?”
“Your friend must be pretty stupid. Load up out back.”
And now I have a problem: how to fit three bales of hay into a VW bug. The store’s two hired hands in back approach it as a challenge in structural engineering. The first bale’s easy. Tipped at just the right angle, about 57 degrees through the driver’s side door, it wedges into the back seat, bends a little, and then collapses into the space with a sigh.
The second bale will fit, but only if we remove the front passenger seat. We take it out and strap it to the roof. The last bale we carefully dismantle into individual pads that are stacked on the floor. I save the twine to reassemble that bale when I’m back on Tyler Avenue.
A dozen or so onlookers, other customers picking up their feed deliveries for the week, have assembled by the time we’re done. A cheer goes up as we fit the last pad into the glove compartment. My watch says 4:30.
An ancient black man with a white beard has observed us throughout, from the shade of an eave over one of the feed sheds in the yard. As I’m shaking hands with the two workers, the old man yells at me.
“Where you takin’ that hay to?”
“Fool. Town’s only five miles away,” he points out. “Why didn’t you just make three trips? Would’ve been finished an hour ago!”
At Tyler, I unload and reassemble the bales, reinstall the front seat, sweep as much hay as I can out of the interior, and grab a shower. Voices of arriving guests sound from below as I turn the water off.
Downstairs, I find all of last Saturday’s harvest work crew, Nick and Suzie (both looking beatifically pregnant), James’ sorority chick and other hangers-on. Dr. Hirsch, of course. Dottie Carroll has brought a stack of albums from the Nickleodeon, all new releases, she says.
Amy Madigan is glowering at Garrett’s 48”x72” day-glo poster of Che Guevara on the parlor wall.
“There used to be an original Chagall there,” she points out.
“Yeah, we decided to take it down. Garrett doesn’t believe that surrealism is a legitimate art form. I’m surprised to find you here.”
“James invited me.”
“Oh-ho. So you and James are ….”
“Don’t even joke about that. I’m warning you. He’s been trying to get me in bed since the novel was published. I’ll admit he’s pretty to look at. But I prefer articulate men whose resumes don’t include future time spent in federal prison.”
“So you came for . . . ?”
“I came to bear witness to the degradation of this beautiful old home at the hands of a bunch of drug-addled adolescents.”
“How are we doing?”
“It’s worse than I expected.” Amy glances from the Che poster to the centerpiece of Cindy’s purple lava lamp surrounded by a decorative assortment of dried gourds, in keeping with the harvest theme. “The pie, however, is excellent. It has an earthy quality, unlike anything I’ve tasted before.”
“You should have another slice,” I urge.
Another unexpected guest in the living room: Joan, on the couch, sitting between a glum-looking James and his sorority chick.
“I have fond memories of this couch,” she’s saying to the sorority chick. “James and I bought it a month before our wedding. And the first time I screwed Brother Leopold, it was right here.” She pats the cushions fondly.
“I’d still like to know who invited you tonight,” James warns, “so I’ll know who to murder in the morning.”
“That would be telling,” Joan says.
I find a cloud of sweet smoke and a crowd of partiers in the kitchen. In the center, at our table, sits Ho, with a hookah. She gazes up at me smiling, eyes brimmed over with love and good will.
“She brought hash,” Garrett tells me. “Dottie says she got an enormous brick of it up in the projectionist booth. You ought to try some. It’s the best shit you’ll ever have.”
I’m chatting with Suzie about how it feels to be pregnant, some hours later, when Amy Madigan approaches, fails to halt her steps in time, tips me over and lands on top of me amid a scuffle of feet.
“I’ve been poisoned,” she mutters as I try to help her stand.
“You’re stoned,” I say.
“There’s pot baked in the pie. Couldn’t you taste it?”
“Pot pie?” Amy giggles. It’s the first time I’ve heard her giggle. “Pot pie? We used to have that for lunch in grammar school. It never made me feel like this before.”
She giggles like a horse, choking. The sound, modulated by the after-effects of Ho’s hash, sounds weird. She stumbles about, disoriented, back into the crowd. I lead her upstairs, by the hand, out of danger, into my room. She scowls in dismay when I turn the light on.
“Is this where you live? Good lord, it’s depressing. You live like a monk. You look like a monk. Do you know that? You look like one of those Buddhist monks fasting in the wilderness. All you need is to shave your head and get a little bowl to beg for rice with.”
Another giggling fit. Amy collapses on the floor and crawls to my pallet. Somebody knocks at my door. I open it. Framed in the doorway, luminous from the hallway light behind her, stands Joan.
We stare at each other.
“Daniel?” she begins, before glancing into the room.
Amy falls back onto the pallet with a witch’s cackle.
“Oh,” Joan says, “excuse me.” And she’s gone.
I stand in the doorway for another moment, wondering what just happened.
“Was that Joan?” Amy asks.
“I think so.”
“Coming to your room? Did you have an ass?”
More giggling. “Sorry. Did you have an as-sig-na-tion . . . yes, did you have an assignation with Joan?”
“Not that anyone told me about.”
“I have a secret,” Amy says. “It’s about assignations.”
“I’m not a big fan of secrets.”
“You’ll like this one. Harold is having an affair.”
“I’ve heard it rumored.”
“It’s true. But you don’t know with who. No, I mean you don’t know with whom. With whom Harold is having assignations. It will shock you.”
“I’m not easily shocked.”
“Harold is sleeping with Dr. Giordano’s wife,” she hisses. “Mrs. Giordano.”
“I take it back,” I admit. “I am easily shocked.”
Amy rises, uncertainly, to her feet and moves toward the open door.
“Where are you going?”
“More pie,” she whispers. “Pot pie.”