Excerpt from The Ice Pick Job

THE FIRST PART

THIS WHOLE THING, WILDLY ABRIDGED
It's simple, really. This isn't The Odyssey or organic chemistry or the way the bonfire flickers in her lip lotion, reminding you of someone uncomfortable from a decade ago and the I-banker she married who still rubs you wrong. It's much simpler and here it is, ready? Go. My friends Roger and Sylvia went off to an island for three weeks to photograph killer whales and they offered me their home in the Hollywood Hills provided I take care of their dog Raymus (a golden retriever/something else mix) and I said yes because I needed a quiet place to plan my freshman English class and that's where I lost my mind. Utterly. Plus, someone died. How passive of me to put it like that. There'll be another death if there's more leakage and a chunk of this cracked and bubbly ceiling crashes down onto my skull while I'm munching on celery or whatever else won't double my gut. There. Now you don't have to read the rest.

THIS IS NO WAY TO START, PETER
I know. It's just that I don't know how and if I don't start now, tonight, with this celery string wedged between my teeth, making my gums tickle, then I won't start at all. I know myself at least that well. I'm sure I'll kick myself for not having started with a description of the lemon tree in the front lawn or the way Raymus makes a noise like Legos clicking together when he nibbles his front leg. There is no lemon tree in the front lawn.

I will be honest about all this.
I will be honest about all this.
I will try to be honest about all this.

Relax. Both of us. I've had two massages in my life, both paid for by my friends Roger and Sylvia (the killer whale photographers, you remember). Both masseurs commented on the unprecedented tension in my back. I see my shoulders as a sack of knotty wet ropes, all tangled up and frustrating, locked around each other like battling snakes. During both massages I got erections, though in the second one it didn't happen until the very end as I had stressful things (Easter, driving) on my mind. I tell you this not to give you an erection if that's even possible or to admit that I have a certain attraction to certain men as well as women but because I will try to be honest about all this and if that involves blood rushing through my PG parts, so be it.
I understand every appliance in this house except for the washer and dryer. They're older than I am, and I am 43. It takes upper body strength beyond what I've been given to open the washer door. There's a button with a picture of a key on it but nothing happens when I press it. Ugh, why am I'm telling you about what's in the house before you can picture the house itself? I'm always going about things in a backwards or, in this case, inside-out manner. It frustrates me to no end. You don't even know.

THINK GLASS AND LONG
This will give you somewhere to start. There's only one floor and it takes me about twenty-five seconds to walk the entire thing if I'm walking quickly. I haven't timed myself, I'm good at time predictions though. We're up on this hill, Raymus and I, and we look out over the entire somewhat-city of Los Angeles. It looks back at us and shrugs like it doesn't know what to do with us, which is rude.
I guess the house is "modern" though when everything in it is falling apart, that term seems like a misnomer. The nights here are quiet except for the occasional shriek of sirens on Hollywood Boulevard or the shick-shick-shick of a helicopter looking for a burglar who obviously mucked something up. Other than that it's quiet, the ideal hill on which to plan a high school freshman English class, provided you can do it without losing your marbles. Not just losing them, Hail Marying them out to sea in all directions throughout the day so they don't have a chance of ever seeing each other again.


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