Monday, June 05, 2006

A Los Angeles Storm

Latigo Flint stepped up onto one of the concrete planters that rim the patio area of his local Starbucks and turned his weary eyes to the north. He stood there for a long time, tasting the wind with deep nostril breaths.

The cute Starbucks barista was working the closing shift that night. At 11:01 she locked the door and put away the half-and-half thermoses. She didn't see Latigo Flint, because the lit side of a windowpane becomes a mirror when it’s dark outside.

At 11:15 the manager let her out and re-locked the door behind her. The cute Starbucks barista cut across the patio, fishing in her purse for her car keys.

"Reckon there's a storm on the way." Latigo Flint's voice was low, gritty, haunted--the sort of voice that has watched men die from the devil's side of a six-gun.

The cute Starbucks barista rolled her eyes.
"Oh, it's you."

Latigo Flint stepped down from the concrete planter with hardly a noticeable stumble. The cute Starbucks barista smirked but it must have been at a recollection of something funny that happened earlier in the day, because Latigo Flint's stumble had hardly been noticeable.

"Storm's a comin'." Latigo Flint repeated. And as if on cue, heat lightning flashed in the distance.
"We best find shelter Ma'am. How far away do you live?"

"Like I'm really going to tell you."

She was upset, rattled by the approaching storm no doubt--perhaps subconsciously affected by the dropping barometric pressure or something. Latigo Flint reached out his hand.

"You ever seen hail on the prairie Ma'am, ice lumps as big as your fist? If your horse can't outrun the storm, then your only choice is to wear his carcass like a bomb shelter with eyes and a tail."

The cute Starbucks barista had never seen hail on the prairie and Latigo Flint’s description of its fury unsettled her. Two steps and he was at her side, coat flap held open so she could share.

"Come Ma'am, let’s go to your place. We'll wait out this storm together."

Latigo Flint didn't whimper much when the mace hit his face. But he could have done without the kicks to the groin as he knelt on the pavement, rubbing his eyes.

"Keep to the thickets Ma'am." Latigo Flint groaned. "And the southern sides of the hills."
He remained noble and concerned for her safety, despite the testicular mayhem.

"Do you understand we live in LA?" She said with a sneer as she entered her car. "It's not going to rain tonight you fool--it's not going to rain 'till fall."

"The ravines may seem to offer shelter, but are death traps if the flash floods come." Latigo Flint replied, on the off chance she could still be swayed.
"We should probably find a cave on high ground. Like your apartment for instance."

She slammed the door and drove away, leaving Latigo Flint calling her name. A few clouds massed but it didn't rain, which was probably just as well--seeing as he had to spend the night in a concrete planter just this side of hell.


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Isaac said...

Latty! I am drinking beer, and reading your stories. Your beautiful stories. You are the greatest of all our poet-warriors and I have not told you that recently.

I am eating shredded wheat and the shredded wheat is really good. I am also continuing to drink beer. I have perhaps drank more than I should have at this hour (my clock says 3:48) but the beer is good. As is the shredded wheat. As is your warrior-poetry.

Sometimes I think that you feel Canebrake was more of a man than you are. Latigo, you are a full man. A squinty-eyed man. A heroic man. A man Canebrake would be happy to shoot in the back.

Do you read Achewood? It has teddy bears and is really good.

It was nice how you tried to help that girl.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

I suspect there are other baristas. I mean, there are other Starbucks, aren't there?

In fact, I KNOW of one, right near where I live. Bring your balls up here and try your luck.

At 10:06 PM, Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Latigo, your weatherbeaten, leathery exterior (I'm guessing your wardrobe is leather, although for the modern cowboy breathable cottons and light silks are considered a good choice when in the squinty-eyed West, known for its God-hot heat) belies a purplish, tender interior and also a deep, sweet soul located somewhere between the purplish bits and near to where the 4 humours are. (The precise seat of the soul is not clear but people who've had their appendix out turn into real bastards). Some baristas will take such a deep, sweet soul and puncture it as if she was kebabing a puppy with her Manolo heel. Some baristas will just be scared and confused and not ready for a storm right now. Some baristas will be fellas.

In all these cases, Latigo needs to pick himself up, dust himself off and call her names, not her name. Call her names, Latigo and then repair to the sandwich shop. Sandwichistas may lack the beguiling hauteur of baristas but they are more likely to be wearing less than a half inch heel (avoiding the soul-puncturing part) and, so the legend goes, they're also easier. Or I may just have misunderstood when I heard they will give extra pickles to the right customer.

Friend, go and squint at a sunset and maybe walk into it as far as the LA road system will allow. You'll feel much better. And whisky might help too.

At 2:58 AM, Blogger greta said...

I do wish I had access to a dangerous, yet charming and meteorologically-aware gunslinger pal when I got caught in a downpour while walking through the park yesternight. At least I think it was rain. The yellowish hue to my cardigan leads me to believe it could well have been possum pee.

At 5:28 AM, Blogger Peter said...

You are nothing if not consistent Latigo, the number of rejections by that Starbucks Barista would have discouraged a lesser man.
The number of testicular attacks you have suffered in this quest have surely numbered in the dozens, for gods sake man, give your balls a chance and go look elsewhere for love or lust.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Ari said...

Greta -- Possum pee is my new catchphrase of the week.... maybe the year.

Sorry, Latty.

Maybe next time you should go with somethin' simpler and more Elvis-like, such as "I only wanna put it to ya, little mama." It's what Dwight would maybe do.

(p.s. I've been meaning to mention for about two months that that record is lovely.)

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

It turns out, Isaac, that my stories are best read with beer. I'm not entirely sure why that would be.
(Though I have a guess or two.)
Canebrake Divinity represents a purity of character I shall never be able to achieve. He sees no gray and is all the stronger for it.
Anyway, thank you for your extremely kind words. I tell myself I don't need to hear them from time to time, but of course that's a lie.

So in other words, Old Hoss, Blondie and Tuco should have abandoned their quest for the gold just because two armies were fighting a war over the bridge they needed to cross?!!!

Sam, I kid you not, I snortled my beer straight out my nose when I got to the part where you implied our souls are located in our appendixes.
Thank you for saying mine is sweet. It isn't of course, it's savage and brutal and I'm going to die alone.
But it's lovely of you to say nonetheless.

Don't discount the possibility, lovely Greta, that a canary bird somehow became trapped in with your laundry wash.
(Thus accounting for the yellowish hue to your cardigan, of course.)

Peter, the cute Starbucks barista is, and has always been the rock my ship breaks itself apart against. I can no sooner look elsewhere for love than a sea captain could reverse the deadly tide.

Ari, I consider your purchase of Dwight Yoakam's acoustic album to be one of my only significant accomplishments in nearly two years of writing. It is completely without guile or satire that I say that the last track, the acapella version of Guitars and Cadillacs, is quite simply the finest thing I've ever heard.

At 12:17 AM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Great story, Latigo. This one made me smile.


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