Animal Style

This is a repost of a piece I wrote a while back.  Thinking of The Anvil and figured I’d throw it out there again.

We’re barreling down La Cienega in a 92 Toyota Corolla with a fat sound system and a broken door while one of my oldest friends, an evil little Latina with a bad attitude and Elvis glasses, shouts over the music to educate me on the finer points of In-N-Out Burger’s secret menu.

This is L.A., where everyone has surround sound, and no one eats carbs.

“You can’t even fucking conceive of a four by four animal style!” she screeches, narrowly missing a rusty El Camino that’s doing about 50. She doesn’t even look at the road as she flings her glasses to the floor and grabs me by the lapels.

“A four by four animal style would fucking kill you!”

And with that, she punches me in the shoulder, hard, her silver skull ring digging into my muscle and raising a welt the size of a walnut. Before I can complain, she whips the car to the right in a savage turn across two lanes of traffic and over a curb into a parking lot, where she jams on the brakes with her tiny little feet and we come to a screeching stop in front of a liquor store.

It’s my turn to the buy the beer.

I roll down my window so that I can lift the outside latch and let myself out. Smoke from our tires drifts around me. It’s in my nose, aggravating my asthma, but I cannot cough, cannot show weakness or fear, or she will be on me when I get back, mocking me with the ferocity of a rabid mongoose. So I clench my teeth, stifle my wheezing, and proceed to buy an 18-pack of ice cold Tecate, four limes, and a shaker of salt. This should appease her, placate her. Get her back in an easily manageable head space so we can ride out the rest of the evening without incident, which, as should be obvious, is no small feat.

Because there have been Incidents. Lots of them. Some minor, some legendary. But that is part of the package, part of the freight you pay when you truck with Ann The Anvil, my mentor in all things and one of my oldest, dearest friends.

If she knew I’d called her dear she’d slash my throat and my tires.

But it’s true, and I’ll stand by it, because she is as loyal as she is loco, and that’s why I’m on the West Coast, drinking Mexican beer and Irish whiskey and recognizing architecture from a million movies as we blaze by, pushing the Corolla well past the manufacturer’s specifications.

Ann, you see, has a Project, and she’s flown me out to work on it. I’d like to say she asked me to be a part of it, but Ann doesn’t ask. A terrified deaf mute showed up at my house and shoved a sweaty plane ticket into my hands. He looked at me with wet fluttering eyes and quivering lips. He mouthed the word “Anvil” and then fled into the night, the stench of his fear lingering on the breeze like rancid lilacs.

Two weeks later, here I am, in Ann’s rickety rocket sled. Our work is done for the day, the Project is wrapped, and now we’re heading to someplace on the side of a mountain that belongs to her indicted co-conspirator, a woman they call Hellcat, which would seem like a kooky nickname, an ironic moniker, something fun to say, but when you meet her, you know it’s pure fucking truth. She’s the sort of woman that would flash you a bit of stocking top right before she shanked you between the ribs. As you lay on the ground bleeding out, your last sight on this earth would be chunky four-inch heels attached to legs six miles long. You might even catch a glimpse of her sardonic smile before she caved your face in with an overhand swing of her Powerbook.

I saw the thing, and it had the dents.

Her house isn’t a house so much as it is a hideout. There are secret rooms and passageways and actual wolves patrol the grounds, their hellbreath fogging in the cool night air. Bodies have been found here, and this is where we’re drinking tonight.

They do not fuck around.

But I’m safe here, I think. I take off my shoes and sit with my back to the door. They give me whiskey, on ice, and light candles and incense. Melancholy hipster music plays on the German sound system, and they explain the history of the art on the walls. These are ninja women, primal and vicious, but they take care of their own, and I’m one of them now. It’s the Project. I’m jumped in, part of their crew, and I’m reaping the rewards, namely cold liquor and good conversation and safe haven from the grifters and deadbeats who screw and cheat each other like a bowl of squirming maggots in the City of Angels far below our mountain lair.

I’m at peace here somehow. I’m still. I’m inside myself. I should be blind drunk, but I’m not. I’m with Hellcat and the Anvil, and everything’s right. They’re my people, and they know and I know that I’m on loan from my other people, my East Coast people, who also have names. I’m on loan from Penny Dreadful, and Cambaloney, and the Bean Machine. There’s family, and there’s Family, and somehow, right now, I’m gaming the universe, beating the system, because I have both.

I’m down with the West Side women and Clan Mac. Dual citizenship. A dispensation. I’m an ambassador. In two days I’ll be back in my home country, the Commonwealth, taking care of business with a stiff upper lip and a detached New England air.

But tonight I roll with the wolves and the ninjas. I lift my glass and silently toast the Project, long may it live.

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