By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Bumpkin’s been a very bad boy,” said Jay.
“Yeah, she’s not too happy. But I’m busy! I’m in the middle of shooting a picture! I’m in a little bit of hot water here, Jay, help me out!”
“I’m trying to be sympathetic. But to most of us, being in hot water with Viv Wembley probably isn’t the worst thing in the world.”
“Think you’re man enough to handle it?”
The audience laughed. Jay cracked up, blushing.
“When we come back, I want to talk about the Dalai Lama — he’s a friend of yours, right? — and the important work you’ve been doing building clinics over there.”
“Helping to,” Kit added, with a modest smile.
“Where are they, India?”
“Yes,” Kit said matter-of-factly. “India.”
“For the refugees.”
“For whoever needs them.”
Jay looked straight into the camera and said, “Kit Lightfoot. Right here. Right now. Wearing makeup. So don’t touch that dial.”
Kit gunned the Indian down the 60,toward Riverside — the familiar, unfamiliar route. The faux-stucco skin of the old house was thick with cement spray-on coatings, ordered throughout the years by his father in varying fits of mania. Seasonal cosmetic makeovers were his thing.
The sun-bleached DeVille was in the drive, and a junk car too. It was less than a beater — no wheels and up on blocks. Urchins ogled the chopper.
Kit sat in a ratty chaise, feet propped on a tire swing, sipping beer while scanning love letters and ghostly Polaroids of Rita Julienne. Burke came from the house bearing gifts: coleslaw, corn, and KFC. “If I knew you were coming, I’d have provided something a little more sumptuous,” he said, delighted his son had shown up.
“That’s cool,” said Kit benevolently, softened by the words and images of his beloved mother.
“See? You’re like your old man after all. You arrive unannounced.”
He let the remark slide. “I see the neighborhood hasn’t changed. Still shitty and depressing.”
“That’s Riverside!” said Burke.
He talked about a methamphetamine lab that had been busted up a few blocks from there. A chemical odor hung in the air for weeks — no one could figure out where it was coming from until someone’s lawn caught fire.
“I’m telling you, it was straight out of David Lynch.” He ‰ looked over Kit’s shoulder at a snapshot. “Catalina. You were conceived on that trip. Did we ever take you to Catalina?”
“We had a wonderful time there. Years later we went back and had a not so wonderful time.” He sighed. “Such is life.”
“Look,” said Kit, neatening the documents. “I think I’m gonna head back.”
“But you didn’t eat,” said Burke, waxing paternal. “Have a bite before you go.”
“Some other time,” said Kit, lighting a cigarette. He lifted his feet off the tire.
“Don’t you want to see your old room? It’s exactly as you left it.”
“Got to keep it authentic for the tour groups, huh, Burke.”
“I thought we could go by the school and have a look at the future Kitchener Lightfoot Auditorium.”
“They’re not going to do that, are they? Name it after me?”
“I know they want to. I’m told ten thousand will make it happen. It’d be nice press,” said Burke, smiling like Cardinal Mahony. “I’m always looking out for you.”
Kit got the notion to fuck with him.
“Do you need ten thousand, Dad?”
The man chuckled like a bad actor.
“I don’t need it. I could use it but I don’t need it. Not personally. The alma mater needs it: Ulysses S. Grant.”
“I’ll send a check over, OK?”
“That would be a beautiful thing.”
“Now who should I make that out to? You, Dad? Or the school? If I made it out to the school, that’d probably be better. For me. I mean, tax-wise.”
“Either way,” said Burke, staring off with stagy indifference. “Either way’ll do. To the school would be fine.” A pause, then, “It’s just . . . I’m not one hundred percent sure if Grant School is the right entity. I’m not sure they have their funding entity together yet. They could be calling that project something else. So if you write the check to me, that’s fine too, I’ll hold it in escrow then funnel it to the correct entity. No problems. Make it out to me, son — or leave the pay-to line blank — not the amount — and I’ll turn it over. Save your business manager the hassle of a reissue.”
Cela appeared at the front fence and made a dash to Kit’s arms. Pleased at the fortuitous arrival, Burke said, “Kit Lightfoot, this is your life!” He went inside so the high school sweethearts could be alone. Kit was certain his father had alerted her, because she was dolled up more than a Saturday afternoon would call for.
“What a surprise.”
“How you doin, Cela?” She was still gorgeous to him, but drugs had taken their toll. She was old around the edges.
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