A is for Alibi Page 43

"How so?”

"God," he said facetiously, "let's just skip over the preliminaries and get right down to the personal stuff, why don't we.”

I smiled. "I'm not very polite.”

"Neither am I," he said.

"So what do you want to talk about first? The weather?”

"Skip it," he said. "I know what you're here for so get to the point.”

"You remember much about that time in your life?”

"Not if I can help it.”

"Except for shrinks," I suggested.

"I did that to please my mom," he said and then smiled briefly as though he recognized the fact that the phrase "my mom" sounded too boyish for him at his age.

"I worked for your father a couple of times," I said.

He began to peel a strip of label with his thumbnail, feigning disinterest. I wondered what he'd heard about his father and I decided, on impulse, not to give Laurence Fife any posthumous pats lest I sound condescending or insincere.

I said, "I've heard he was a real bastard.”

"No shit," Greg said.

I shrugged. "I didn't think he was that bad myself. He was straight with me. I suspect he was a complicated man and I don't think many people got close to him.”

"Did you?”

"No," I said. I shifted slightly in my seat. "How'd you feel about Nikki?”

"Not that good.”

I smiled. "Try to keep your answers short so I can get 'em on one line," I said. He didn't bite. I drank beer for a while, then rested my chin on my fist. Sometimes I just really do get sick of trying to coax information out of people who aren't in the mood. "Why don't you fold up the table and we'll go outside," I said.

"What for?”

"So I can get some fresh air, fucker, what do you think?”

He chuckled suddenly and moved his long legs out of my way as I slid out of the seat.

I'd surprised myself, getting snappish with him, but I get tired of people being cute or sullen or cautious or tight-lipped. I wanted straight answers and a lot of them too. And I wanted a relationship based, just once, on some sort of mutual exchange instead of me always having to connive and manipulate. I walked aimlessly, Greg at my heels, trying to cool myself down. It wasn't his fault, I knew, and I'm suspicious of myself anyway when I'm feeling righteous and misunderstood.

"Sorry I snapped at you," I said.

The trailer was about two hundred yards from the water's edge. There were several larger trailers nearby, all facing the sea, like a queer band of animals that had crept down to the water to drink. I pulled off my tennis shoes and tied the laces together, banging them around my neck. The Salton Sea has a mild to nonexistent surf, like an ocean that has been totally tamed. There is no vegetation visible in the water and few if any fish. It gives the shore a curious air, as though the tides had been brought to heel, becalmed, the life forms leeched away. What remains is familiar but subtly changed, like a glimpse into the future where certain laws of nature have been altered by the passage of time. I placed a drop of water on my tongue. The taste of salt was fierce. "Is this ocean water?”

Greg smiled, apparently unperturbed by my former outburst. In fact he seemed friendlier. "You want a lesson in geology," he said, "I'll give you one." It was the first time his voice had contained any sign of enthusiasm.

"Sure, why not?”

He picked up a rock, using it like a piece of chalk as he drew a crude map in the wet sand. "This is the California coastline and this is Baja. Over here is Mexico. Right at the tip of the Gulf of California is Yuma—southeast of here, more or less. This is us here," he said, pointing. "The Colorado River curves right up through here and then up past Las Vegas. That's Hoover Dam. Then it goes up here and over into Utah and then to Colorado, but we can skip that part. Now," he said, tossing the rock aside. He began to draw with his fingertip, glancing up at me to see if I was listening. "This area in here is called the Salton Sink. Two hundred and seventy-three feet below sea level—something like that. If it weren't for the Colorado River forming a kind of natural dam right here, all this water from the Gulf of California would have spilled into the Salton Sink years ago—all the way up to Indio. God, that gives me the willies when I think of it. Anyway, the Salton Sea came from the Colorado River itself, so it was originally fresh water. Overflowed in 1905—the river did, billions of gallons of water pouring in over a two-year period. It was finally controlled with rock and brush dams. The salt, which has been gradually saturating the water, was probably from prehistoric times when all of this area was submerged." He stood up, brushing wet sand off his hands, apparently satisfied with his summary.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies