“Handy Dandy, if every bone in his body was broken he would never admit it
He got an all-girl orchestra and when he says
“Strike up the band,” they hit it
Handy Dandy, Handy Dandy” – Bob Dylan
He stepped off the stage and moved through the club into the alley. This is the moment he wanted to smoke, wanted to be cool, wanted to want the young females again. He settled his hat on the back of his head shook the wants off his shoulders as he hefted his bass on his back, he’d come back later to get paid.
He missed her. She was no longer there, home, to say the blue dog barked at the full moon and the rabbit in the moon only laughed at the dog. No longer there to say the beer was cold. No longer there soft and sleeping in bed. But the walls talked at him, reminding him how she flared with anger, blue eyes demanding his attentions, kisses, pecks, smooches all to say, Babe, it’s ok, you’re home.
He straightened his hat, the fedora she picked for him. High crown, sable, horse hair braid. To keep from walking into the dumpy bar he made his mind up to list all the gangsters in fedoras. Not the Panama hats, straw too delicate for his beefy hands, but the felt, shaped. . .the kind that once used mercury on the pelts for shaping. “Mad as a hatter” he told himself. He was a research librarian without a book. He was a bass player with out enough gigs. He carried concealed, legal. He would find her killer.
* * * *
Agnes : Close Your Eyes
“Well I’m angry and he’s depressed. Nothing changed but the killing.” Agnes watched him cross broad South Congress, move in and out of street light heading north, down hill to the river.
“A river that’s a lake and has three names but use only one. I never have understood why they changed the name. Then there’s the bridge no one calls it by the new name which is a shame because Anne Richards was one amazing woman. I’m his Agnes.” She moved without effort. Where her mind went so did her vision. When her vision moved her being moved.
A being-state, anti-corporeal. It was a whole lot of ‘nots’. Not sleepy not happy not awake not hungry not horny not walking not eating not touching not. Not. Not. Just present and angry, kind of. Watching and aware. She watched an old Volvo go by with music spreading out the open windows, a slip stream of noise and bright colored laughter: I’m no angel. I’m no stranger to the dark. Let me rock your cradle.
Agnes found him just standing staring at the water. The brim of his hat shadowed his face. “What a dandy you are in that fedora,” she’d said to him the first time he wore the hat on stage. It stuck, he was The Dandy Bass Player. She could tell if he let one vertebrae go, one muscle unknotted and he would crumble to the sidewalk.
What she understood to be her shape, she held his head, putting her cheek to his, her hands hold him this way, and he let go a sigh. She then slipped around between his back and the bass he carried there. A shiver and she sang:
“Close your eyes, close the door
You don’t have to worry anymore
I’ll be your baby tonight”
Agnes only wanted to hold his hand. One more time.
* * *
“OK there Handy?”
He stopped watching the water slide by, turned to see Buddy Hawk in his sturdy, old station wagon pull up along the curb. Handy shook his head.
“So why not come on home now. Get in.” Buddy paid no mind to the cars honking and let Handy lay his bass down in the back seat then get buckled into the front. “You hungry? Let’s get a bunch of tacos to bring home. We’ll eat and watch some old western.” Handy shrugged.
“Man, you got that thousand yard stare down.”
“Well that’s something.” Handy replied.
“And something is not nothing.” Handy couldn’t help but like Buddy’s company. His stellar ways on the pedal-steel made gigs fun and interesting. He wasn’t always easy with people but Agnes had charmed him into friendship. As the car moved down Congress, neon and twinkle lights blurred together, he saw Agnes alive in memory going into the weaving shop for yet more wool for her felting. Then he saw her leaning over the jewelry counter at Tesoro’s. He heard her bitch about the attitude in the video store and the service at the up-scale pizza place. He longed to hear her laugh.
“Hey! Did you hear me? Do you care what kind of tacos we get?
Handy shook his head and then gave Buddy some money. He waited in the car with the radio on, the panderia’s red and green sign and white tiles were too much, he pulled his hat over his eyes listening:
I’m movin’ after midnight
Down boulevards of broken cars
Don’t know what to do without it
Without this love that we call ours
Beyond here lies nothin’
Nothin’ but the moon and stars
Past the Aztec ruins and the ghosts of our people
Agnes was a sucker for cairns. She loved how the word itself was Irish and mixed with happy memory of learning trail makers at camp made the outing an adventure. She knew how rocks placed with care and attention could be found in just about any culture, pre-Columbian and the pre-history of Europe and Asia. Some for burial, some as markers for hikers and all silent, elemental. ” As she took in them in she practiced the other names she knew, Steenman in Dutch, the Inuit: inunguak and ometto in Italian, each meaning ‘stone man’.
She wandered up the creek’s dry bed. All rocks and boulders tumbled round by water that’s supposed flow when the rains do come. But due to the drought, Agnes found pockets of scummy puddles as well as the litter of transients: shards of a pipe of some sort, a single flip-flop, empty Lone Star cans. “Well at least it doesn’t smell. Too hot.” She muttered, tied her trademark blue bandana around her head to keep her hair and sweat from her eyes, then her battered Red Sox cap and pulled the pony tail through. She scouted around for a path down to the creek in the dried brush and prickly pear.
Agnes started out to photograph swiggled and swirled calligraphy of street art that caught her eye on the way back from the airport. The building that couldn’t be built, with pilings in concrete was a canvas for the men and women with spray paint or wheat-pasted, air-brushed images of Kim Jong-Il, Johnny Cash and Jackie O. Work that she imagined would call to Andy Warhol as Basquiat had. When she walked from down to the main drag of Barton Springs Road, she stopped at Bouldin Creek and stared at the little city of cairns. “We are here” the small stone towers seemed to say. The makers’ hands absent while cars and bikes sped above She took pictures from the bridge, the sun bright on the rocks bleached.
She climbed over the guard-rail and went down the embankment. Agnes shot close-ups of them, some thin and close together like meerkats. Others were more conical . he took angles where the grasses seemed like feathers coming from the top, a standard of sorts. Then the creek, empty, yet showing life was lurking in dust and shadows. She took photos and more photos. The freight train came through, close and she photographed this with the rocks in the foreground.
Time got by her when she noticed she’d wandered to a more deserted area, and kept going, photos done. She saw path up and out of the creek and then another path but couldn’t discern where they would take her. She knew if she followed the creak she’s get to Mary Street and could walk home from there.
As she came up to the street there where cockleburs on her socks and she felt the itch of fresh bug bites. “Damn mosquito puddles.” She sat on a rock to pull off the burrs and be still for a moment. Agnes looked up to see a man, tucked into the hill. Young and thin, desiccated from heat. “Hey,” she acknowledged him, “how ya doin’?” She kept her uneasiness to herself.
“You should be here. No you shouldn’t”
“I’m just taking pictures of rocks and stuff. What are you doing here?”
“I’m waiting for Wolf to come back. He said he’d come back but . .” Agnes watched take a swig from his pint of Rebel Yell. “He was there, he was dying and I didn’t do anything. . .I’m waiting. Wolf said he’s be back.”
“You got somewhere to eat today?” Agnes asked.
“No. I’m not a good person. Wolf was good and he found me food.”
“You know if you come with me up the hill, I”ll get you some water and lunch”
“You shouldn’t talk to me. I’m no good. I’m bad. I gotta go.” His movements reminded Agnes of a feral cat, the way he folded and slinked, looking at her with glossy blue eyes, fearful and angry. “Don’t talk to me. I’m waiting for Wolf.” Then he was gone.
“Good God that’s sad.” she thought. She was now spooked and hustled up to Mary Street taking comfort in the cars going by and the smell of the local BBQ trailer nearby.