A little army of cobwebbed beachcombers in the bar. Levi counted them; there were seventeen. They were leering off into the bar's long mirror, their cheeks swallowed up by LSD and mescaline and morning glory seeds. Their hair strung, wet-looking, gray and twisted to just above their shoulders. Their pastel Hawaiian shirts and water-stained buckskin jackets clung to their skinny arms.

Levi ignored the hippies.  Their image, their mutation from the divergent to the complacent, kamikaze sensationalists of the Nam era to cocktail drones drinking rail whiskey–it saddened him.

Life is a series of wonderful gifts. The economical way of the divine, to only feel you deserve nothing. And the old-fashioned jukebox reached down for another shiny black record. Its arm descended onto the spinning black surface and a Buddy Holly song began. It was all a little inappropriate for Levi, a little sanguine. The old jukebox. America's forgotten innocence-all lightning strikes in the annals of history that he had wished he hadn't missed.

Levi ignored its music too. Some of the more potable, lethargic musicians like Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb. He remarked of their value to the bartender, but most of this was done with a hidden, weary impatience for both parties.

The music dissolved into a din of glass sliding on wood, old hippies bickering about San Francisco and a toss-haired gay woman screaming into the sticky payphone at the other end of the bar. Levi melted to his barstool and grabbed a newspaper from a barstool adjacent to him. He read the Sunday feature about war veterans, then some melodramatic article about a movie star's retarded daughter and their fight to end some condition. He cleaned his fingernails with a toothpick. He bent matches around their white, cardboard flip-case, struck them over the flint stripe and smelled the sulfur.

Most of the old pilchard, the brisling hippies left around midnight, to swim their psychedelic sea. Around two they were probably drinking weak coffee at some old diner, sifting the cane sugar substitute in their mug, Levi thought, to melt out whatever remnants of their brains still sputtered.

Reba finally showed up. Levi was bumming a light from one of the remaining relics of Pax Americana: a carroty-looking pipe of a man, reticent, but kind in appearance. Levi had a glinting talent for picking out the best people in the world, Reba thought, and she approached the pair with a vague, tingling hope.

"Would you look who it is," Levi said. He hugged Reba. When they had finished, he addressed the old man, "And this is…"

"Christian name Tomcat," the old man said. He slowly offered his hand, "Famed proprietor of kismet and your psychedelic guide this evening."

Reba looked to Levi-who approved in a smirk-and took the orange, rawhide hand with a smile.

Tomcat shook, let Reba's little hand drift from his, "Quite a woman you've got here, son." He finally offered the matchbook.

Levi lit the match, revolved the flat, circular end of his cigar in its fire. The smoke pillowed his tongue.

"I'm earnest. If, perchance, our friend doesn't treat you the way you desire, you know who to look for? "

"Yes," Reba smiled, blushing, "Apparently you."


Reba noticed that Tomcat's eyes were bulging, reeling, sliding noticeably away from each other as he nodded his skeletal head.

"I'd like to dance," he said.

"Dance?" she asked.

"Yes. Boogie-woogie. Trip the Light Fantastic. You know, dance. Dance, my darling."

"I don't–"

"Or you could always deny me a dance, forcing me into making eyes with you all evening."

Again, Reba gave a glance to Levi. Too entirely uncertain of the situation to deny Tomcat the dance herself, she believed that if she thought say it enough-if she would scream it in her head-that Levi would hear her telepathically. He could alleviate any tension that might arise with a simple, masculine, "No."

"What do you say?" Tomcat asked Levi, "Can I have her for a dance? Surely an old man like me…you would permit a dance?"

With the cigar clenched between his back teeth, "Haw haw haw haw," the young man said, "Be my guest."

Tomcat pealed Reba from the bar and they took position a few feet from the jukebox. His tattered fingers locked onto Reba's slight hips and the girl's delicate arms fell loose on the very farthest flats of the old man's shoulders. Oddly, a Beethoven piano sonata–For Therese–played from the spinning black vinyl.

"Ah, I love this," Tomcat said, "'Tis truly a masterpiece. Shabda. The sound. The pervasive medium in which light must travel through."

"Yes, yes. Would you mind to ease your grip please?"

"Whatever you entreat, my darling."

A moment of silence passed between the two as they revolved, allowing Levi to tease Reba as their eyes met in her passing circles. The young man poked the air as she looked to him; though he was beginning to become very drunk, he was sly in his teasing. The old, orange man had no idea and this made Levi's drunken simper all the more irritating.

"I assure you, darling." Tomcat said, "My name–Tomcat–is not merely titular."

"I‘m sure it isn‘t." Originally meant to insult him, Reba found herself placating the old man.

"Oh, but you don‘t know at all," He said, "You don't know at all." In his voice, something.

Reba had heard this voice before, or something like it. She was startled at the association that it called upon. It was the soft, confident cadence of a Las Vegas hypnotist named Alexander the Amazing.  She had seen him when she was fifteen, on a family vacation.  It was the same lull that pushed a volunteer into a submissive coma; it was the dulcet heat of words in ear; the rheuming, turbulent embrace. "Oh, but you don't know at all."

Levi doubted Tomcat's intentions. Another song had began–a duet with a much faster, footloose tempo–yet he remained swaying with Reba in an awkward, tender stance.  Levi shrugged the feeling off, felt it best to ignore the distrust and puff on his cigar.

"Hey bub. Get you another?" Levi looked up. The bartender.

"Sure. Sure." He said. "Sure."

"What'll it be?"

"Whatever you'd like. Whatever‘s popular around here."

"How about a scotch?"

"No. Nothing to sip. Something, a beer."


"Something hoppy. Hoppy, yes. Haw haw haw."

"Got you." The bartender turned and faced the mirror. His fat, clean hand grabbed the equiangular cube of a handle. "So what do you do?" The man sat down the glass of ale on a little hay-colored coaster in front of the young man.

"I'm a historian," Levi took a sip of the beer and licked foam from his fairly small, fairly thin mustache. "This is excellent beer."

"A historian?"

"Well, in training."

"I don't think we've ever had a historian in here."

"Haw haw haw haw. I'm not a historian yet."

"We've never had a historian in training in here either."

"That's something." Another sip of beer, "What is this?"

"My own brew."

Levi grabbed the bartender's forearm gently, "Mind if you tell me what's in it?"

"Nothing special," the bartender retrieved his arm, "A little extra kick of lemon, to dull the hops."

"I think I'm in love with it."

"Don't get too attached. Last call's in ten minutes."

"Surely it can't be–" Levi looked at his watch, and finished his sentence glumly, "that late."

"You got a name, historian?"

"Faye. Levi Faye at your service."

"Biblical, huh?"

"No, no. My mother had a thing for naming us after influential American icons. Haw haw haw. Levi Strauss for me! A pair of fucking blue jeans!"

"You got a lot of siblings then, huh?" The bartender signaled to a dried out hippy at the end of the bar slumped beside an empty glass. The patron shook his head in mild disgust and conceded to its weigh. It fell down on his folded arms.

"Hell, I've got nine brothers and a sister." Levi resumed.


"Shit. Haw haw haw haw. Sure, why not?"

"You married?"


"To the girl you had in here earlier?"

Levi laughed hard, belting out until he no longer had breath. "No," he gasped, wiping a tear, "that's the one sister. Reba."

"Reba? That's no American icon name."

"Well she was supposed to be a boy-given the preceding six boys, Mom figured, you know?"

The bartender nodded.

"She was going to name her Johnny–from Johnny Reb, you know? But she came out a girl and bam. Reba." Levi turned to point out his sister, but the dance floor was empty. The jukebox, still lighted white and red, was playing a new rock and roll song that Levi was unfamiliar with. The burgundy, shiny floor in which his sister and Tomcat were dancing upon was deserted. "She was just here," he said.

"Oh yeah, I saw her leave with Old Tomcat. A good guy. Should take care of her."

"Take care of her? What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Too concerned, even shocked to fulfill his anger, Levi jumped from his stool and darted around the bar. He searched the moldy corners, ripped booths, oddly clean bathrooms. No sign of Reba, only the dim shadows of empty hippies and stools. "You sure they left?"

"As sure as I am that you owe me fifty-eight dollars."

The young man pounded three twenty-dollar bills on the counter and raced for the door.

"Thank you for your custom," the bartender chided at Levi, pissed that his tip was so slight.

In an orange-lit parking garage, black stains of old chewing gum spotted the concrete floor like big, flat, black stars. It wasn't far from the Pete's Griddle and Bar, where Reba and Tomcat nestled together in the bed of his old, black truck.

They drank peach schnapps from a black leather flask and shouted to Poseidon to spare the lives of surfers.  They laughed a bit, discussed the prima facie of alcoholic bliss.  As the air had been cooled by the night's lathering breeze, the old man had given the girl his buckskin jacket and the two sat, deep in serious discussion. The neophyte girl and the sagacious old hippy; they scaled the walls of theory, together. 

"What is it…what one deserves?" the old man asked his companion. He combed his bamboo fingers through her fine, black hair.

"What do you mean?"

"What is it you believe you are owed, simply by being you?"

"Nothing, I suppose."

Miffed at the response, Tomcat sat up and forced Reba from his shoulder. "No. That's not it. It can't be."

The girl sat silent. She was troubled to see this new, excitable feature in Tomcat.

"We all think we deserve something. I mean, when you get married, you think that you deserve your husband's fidelity, no?"

Flashing pictures of married life blitzed through Reba's brain. A grandiose wedding. Large, burgundy candles that smelled of cinnamon. A long, soft, white shawl over her shoulders. The groom: a blonde-haired, quiet boy from Mississippi. A pink carnation on his lapel. Then, love-making. A saxophone's ambrosial hymn. A backlit summer sheet molten behind his thick, naked neck.  A baby. A little red bike with training wheels and big, black, rubber grips. The rummy eggnog her father used to make. Yearly trips to La Plata. A peaceful day sleeping on a fishing boat.  The outboard motor still running. The pleasant, thirsty smell of gasoline. 

"Yes, I suppose I would."

"Then you know now that you deserve something." Tomcat leaned back, guiding the girl's opposite shoulder down with his body.

Reba thought about this, said, "I can't say, really. It would take a long time to decide what I deserve outright and what I only receive from others as…gifts."

Tomcat ran a hand loosely over his chin. "Everything is a gift, Reba my darling." He ran his hand over the girl's hair again, smoothing it down. Reba felt his chest tense then.

"I've got it," he said. "I've got it." Tomcat sat up, again throwing Reba to a sit. ‘If-if-if you don't feel you deserve it! That. That's it! Life is a series of wonderful gifts, bestowed upon us by erudition…eruption! Yes! The economical way of the divine, to only feel you deserve nothing. If only we could forego this ideal of what we deserve… My God!" His eyes began circling, shaking in thought. In this epiphany, Tomcat felt that he was loaded. He now had the proper apparatus for being: the espousal of positive thought to positive body. The girl, his Calliope, his Thalia. She had done it for him, given his life credence. He would write a book about it, her. "I love you, Reba my darling!" he shouted, clutching her against his neck.

Reba remained silent. The old man's narrow chest behind her felt muggy, viscid against her back. She looked down to her hands then; they were rubbing vigorously together, slick with sweat. Her hands were a sign to herself, she believed, to get out of the truck and find her brother. Now, with this strange feeling of remorse, she could never touch Tomcat in any indulgent way. "I have to go." She stood up from Tomcat and removed his jacket. It fell to the truck's bed heavily.

"My darling?" Tomcat's eyes whirled. He protested the girl's stately jump from the bed of the Dodge to the black spots of gum on the parking garage‘s floor with another shout, "My darling?!" Then, as her body melted into the Californian dark, "We will have no requirements! Only gifts! It is your duty to remain, my muse! I am your steed! Pegasus! Pegasus!"

Exhausted and still mildly drunk, Levi laid on a bench near an immobile replica of a green, electric trolley. Beside it a broad, white sign read, "MOVEMENT, APRIL 9TH-12TH." Levi wished he had the time to stay in Bolinas to see the show, though it was April 16th.

A few miles away, the bus station on the south end of Bolinas was closed. Levi would have to wait for two more hours to buy a ticket. He sighed, a sour, early preparation for the long ride home to Georgia. His sister would have to find a way to get home herself, Levi posited, though it made him vulgarly ill to think about. It was her decision to leave him for Tomcat, and though this disgusted and incensed him–their touching, dancing–he decided it best to sleep the feelings off. She'd survive, he thought, she was a Faye after all.

Levi slumped, laid his head on the bench. It felt cold and good and stiff on his left temple, a welcome remedy for a long, exhausting search for his sister. It came to him then, with his head on the green metal, the realization that he did not know Reba well enough to track her down. His own sister.

Levi had checked a diner called Bally's. It had no outer walls, only big, wide windows that forced light out into Bolinas' main street from the conical red fluorescents hanging above the milkbar. Levi looked out from the dull glow there to the waxy green grass of a courthouse, its surroundings banks, law offices, restaurants. No Reba.

He checked a few of the old, dull coffee shops. He saw a few of the corduroy artifacts he expected to see there, mope-faced and high, drinking the weak, brown coffee he expected them to. No Tomcat, though. No orange leathery smoke-pit sitting in one of the plush, red booths, preaching his platform of the miracle joker-card lifestyle, nor was Reba there listening to the hokey socialist bullshit of the decaying iconoclast.

Eventually, Levi acknowledged the boring wisdom of the streets. They were wired tight and well-paved, sloping downhill, each connecting with a vague sense of clemency. They pushed Levi towards the bus station.  Drunk and sad, he felt it inevitable: sleeping on the bench. 

Levi sleepily thought of his enemy's name-Tomcat, Tomcat, Tomcat. He felt foolish for letting his sister dance with the old man.

He spat there; the saliva hung from his lips. With the lemony hops, a wanton Saltine taste wringing his mouth, Levi resigned to the worst-case scenario: Reba falling in love with the drugged-out zombie and eventually producing children.

"Haw haw haw haw haw." Like he had in the bar, until his abdominal muscles were taught and sore, "Haw haw."

Levi imagined the dark-haired hippy children–his future nieces and nephews, "Haw haw haw haw." At the Faye family's celebrated Fourth of July party-in and around the above-ground pool. Some of the kids were reading Kant and trading turns on a water bong, others were running around, discussing Harry Truman‘s foreign policy.

The youngest girl, Reba Jr., with a fuzzy stem of sunflower in her tiny, red mouth, pulled at his shirt hem. She called him Unkie Levi; she wanted a spoon of opium.

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