The Unknown: The Red Line.

Good to be home,”
Dirk sighed, as the van lumbered down First Avenue towards Pioneer Square. It was a postcard type of day; Mt. Rainier loomed ahead, free of the clouds that usually hid it and its volcanic destiny, i.e., the equivalent of L.A.’s “Big One”—yes, Seattle, once voted Most Liveable City, had an apocalypse of its own disguised cleverly as a placid natural wonder, a snow-capped “ooooooooh”-elicitor for unjaded tourists. Dirk hoped that he could somehow not be in Seattle when Mt. Rainier decided to blow chunks and then return to the city during the aftermath, just before property values recovered. He figured that would be the only way he could ever afford to live in Seattle. He hated the idea of profiting from others’misfortune, but on the other hand, he had been raised an American and so took a certain glee in imagining a real estate coup akin to when John D. Rockefeller used the 1929 Crash to fill his portfolio with oodles of price-challenged stocks. “I’ve got to cut back on the weed smoking,” Dirk thought. He could barely afford a pair of jeans these days; where would he get the capital to become a real estate mogul in a post-Rainier era? Time enough to solve that conundrum. Now he had but two goals: get through their reading at Eliot Bay Books and score some fine Pacific Northwest sativa. The former would prove to be the most difficult.

William precipitated the crisis when, after ingesting far too many Budweiser and Nyquil cocktails, he began calling the store the Effete Fey Kookstore, and yelling loudly that he owned more poetry than anyone in the place and he had a database file on a floppy to prove it. The staff, the usual collection of aging hippies and school librarians on crank, were as gracious as they could be given the circumstances, but when William insisted that it be collected poems at dawn, 20 paces, and began loudly demanding a one-volume edition of Robert Kelly’s complete works to serve as his weapon of choice, the night manager pulled Scott aside and softly suggested we put a muzzle on William pronto or kiss the reading goodbye. Whatever else Seattle may be, it’s a good book town, so a chance to face such a potentially receptive audience was not something to cavalierly toss aside, despite William’s apparent move to do so. While Scott distracted William, I snuck up behind him carrying an American Heritage Dictionary. William's skull responded well to the healthy crack I delivered to his raving head and he dropped soundlessly to the floor. We immobilized him with packing tape and propped him up on stage for the duration of our presentation. Occasionally, we would nod in his direction and he would begin writhing; flecks of spittle sometimes slipped passed the adhesive and formed a small pool in his lap.

We nearly broke up the tour that fateful evening in Seattle. That it had come to this . . . this violence . . . and words were exchanged that . . . that pretty much brought Scott to tears. He left the bookstore after reading some of William’s poems and walked off alone with the van keys in his pocket. He knew Dirk would find someplace to crash, and that he could probably take William with him.



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The Unknown at Spineless Books.