Galaxy Four, Part One8:59 PM
by Rudolfo Carrillo
Jones dug the living hell out of that first semester at Coronado Hall, even if there always was some dude from Peñasco or Ojo Caliente passed out and supposedly drowning in his voluminous, yellow, post-beer-bong vomit, sprawled out in the head; like the world was over for that rascal except for toilets and tile floors.
The Grateful Dead tapestry that he put up on the window to shut out the light was a total hit with his roommate and the fellows next door, and dammit all if the food wasn't a gazillion times better than Allsup's.
Plus which, the plethora of bookish flowerpots, hippie gals, and full fledged punk rock women setting down for dinner every night and right across from the glorious water fountain straddling the indoor patio at La Posada Dining Hall where our protagonist sat, damn near made Jones smile.
And so with wow and yeah serving him as enthusiastic interjections, the semester jetted out across the world quick. That spring, Charlie Jones, Jr. made a grip of ceramic objects, read and decoded two situationist texts, learned how to tinkle out a couple of dances by Bartok, and met a server name of Katie DuBois, at the dining hall where she worked scraping the plates clean.
It happened that Ms. DuBois pretty near broke Jones heart with her sharp blue eyes and proclivity for anthropology graduate students; but that was just fine because the fragile memories he gleaned and then had to shake off like wintertime gave him time to think.
For instance, Jones decided, as sure as eggs was eggs, he could never move home again. It wasn't of any use, anyhow, living with the old man. That dude was still trying to sell folks automobiles while sporting a gleam in his good eye combined with a gin-soaked handshake. Old Charlie never seemed to get over his Afghan hound Duchess dying early. Twenty years had come and gone and it was still like living on the moon when he was around, all silent and dusty.
Reckoning the student ghetto was the way to go, Charlie began exhaustive research focused on finding a shack he could call his own, but did not have to extend himself too much into that before he ran into his pal Donna in front of the student union.
It was just about springtime around those parts and Donna was gamboling about on the lawn with a skinny black-haired lady dressed all in white, wearing a skirt long enough to sweep up the grass where they danced. Both of the women smelled vaguely of cacti and burnt rope.
After a couple of of obligatory hippie-hugs, Donna introduced Zelda and let it out that the two of them found an underground haven, a remodeled, carpeted, and suitably dark basement apartment, utilities included. The deal was they needed a third to make the rent. You gotta be fucking kidding me, Jones said as the wind came up and it started to rain like it used to do in Albuquerque before the environmental disaster of 2087.
The next morning, Jones got up early, went into LaPo, gave Katie the bird and hauled his sorry ass over to the student ghetto. It was early, with the light just coming over the jungle of tired elms that framed the place. As Charlie approached his new digs, a dude dressed as a steam-shovel operator came racing up the steps with Zelda on his heels in a fashion that mimicked the German withdrawal from Stalingrad.
Charlie just stood there while the two of them began to argue and cajole, gesticulate and weave. Finally the dude in the industrial costume raced over to his El Camino and drove away. Zelda gritted her teeth, and extended her right hand, all friendly and like nothing at all had happened around there or anywhere on earth, for that matter.
But, with her standing out there in her bare feet, toeing at the dirt nervously and clad in an oversized wifebeater and sweatpants, Jones could just sense Zelda was unsettled about the whole thing. Tell you what, he said, drawing back a ways as they shook hands, I'll start bringing my stuff over tomorrow.
It poured water from the sky for the next two days and when Charlie Jones, Jr. finally got moved in, he thought it was a sweet deal, anyway. There was a tiny kitchen at the top of the stairs, then the rest of the place really was underground; dank, dark, all the walls were very cool to the touch and hardly any light got in at all.
Donna was never home. Sometimes Jones played record albums in the big room in very back of the joint, but otherwise kept to himself, getting up early every morning and hauling his sorry ass to class and he could never tell whether Zelda worked or not. Every time he went by her room, the door was open, with Fleetwood Mac or something like that floating through there and the woman reclining languidly through it all.
She'd usually glance at him wanly, as he passed. He'd smile vaguely or give her the Vulcan hand salute. One or the other of them would tilt their head before looking away. After two months of that, a spot opened up at Fiesta-Perpetual, a collective of artists that Jones knew from school. They had a slick pad right down the street from a haunted house and a decent pizza joint.
Charlie split right away, at night, so he didn't have to make eye contact with Zelda. He didn't see her again until just after Thanksgiving, and by then, it was easy enough for both to pretend they were strangers.
Later when he told the old man about what had happened, the salesman laughed and said, man you ought to write that down, that's rich.