I hadn’t seen Jimmy in a while but I knew he’d still be there. Never strayed too far from the water for any amount of time. Last I had seen him, he was living in a rented house in Daytona a couple of blocks back from the water. I worried about that because it meant that he had to cross the street to reach the surf. Nothing bad about Jimmy, but I’ve seen roadkill that had more common sense around traffic than him.
Jimmy and me went way back. Used to steal hubcaps together in high school. I grew up and went to college. Jimmy grew up and, well, kept stealing hubcaps. Probably would’ve wound up a career criminal were it not for a little thing called aluminum rims. Jimmy never could figure out how to steal those and as hubcaps phased out, so did Jimmy’s career as a thief.
To pass time after that he started a rock band called Smash the Infants. You’d be pretty safe in assuming that you wouldn’t hear many STI tunes on your average easy listening station. But they were harmless. Just kids who knew how to really annoy the hell out of everyone. The band broke up years ago and Jimmy never really did much after that. Except surf. And help me out from time to time.
I’ve never been able to put a finger on what made Jimmy tick. In fact, further explanation at this point would probably prove to be fruitless. Suffice to say that Jimmy was a living example of the classic inner struggle of intellectual well-being pitted against the respondent bipolar delusions of psychotic terminal stress as physically manifested in both sub-linear quadrants of the upper cerebral cortex.
He was fluent in one language and had heard portions of at least three others, a couple of which he may have even been able to identify if given a hint and a few guesses. He rarely wore underwear, and when he did, it was always something unusual, often with a farm animal motif.
I pulled up to his house around 3 o’clock. What Jimmy would refer to as “noon-ish”. The yard looked as if it hadn’t been mown in weeks. A VW bus that had seen better days sat in the weeds, with two spare engines baking in the sun on the ground around it, both missing what appeared to be some crucial parts. Trash cans on the side of the house were empty, which meant that all of beer cans and pizza boxes were still inside.
No doubt. He still lived here.
I left my keys in the car and walked up to the porch. I never worried about car theft. Anyone who stole Dick Lassiter’s wheels was in for a world of hurt. Besides, not a big market for 72’ Impalas.
The front door was open so I let myself in. Jimmy was curled up on the couch, snoring softly. To look at him, you might figure that he was the kind of guy who often got lost in his own home and wound up peeing in the kitchen sink by mistake. To know him was to confirm that.
I took off my shoe and clocked him in the head with it. This was fairly standard procedure. Jimmy lifted his head and tried to raise himself to one elbow but lost his balance and slid over the side of the couch, all in one graceful movement. He landed on the floor with a gentle thud.
“Wha..?” he said, looking around the room dazed.
“Wake up Jimmy, I need you. Preferably with a pulse,” I said.
Jimmy groped under the couch and found his sunglasses. After putting them on he surveyed the room again.
“Are you the pizza guy?” he said, looking in my general direction. “How much do I owe you?”
“Put a cork in it Jimmy. It’s me. Dick.”
Jimmy looked around the floor, presumably in an attempt to find a cork.
“Dick? Whoa, shit. Hey man! What’s up? What are you doing here?”
Jimmy staggered to his feet and gave me what I presume is a cool surfer hug. Hugs between grown men should be illegal. Jimmy didn’t have a problem with it though.
“Got some business. Need some backup. Thought you might be interested,” I said.
“Yeah? Cool. Count me in, dude.”
“I haven’t even told you what it is.”
“Well, you know . . . hey, whatever man. That’s cool too.”
Jimmy’s life knew no warmth.
“Sit down, I’ll get you a beer,” I said.
Jimmy’s kitchen would give Martha Stewart cardiac arrest. Keeping the floor conveniently covered with trash prevented the need to sweep. There was a urine soaked TV in the sink instead of dirty dishes. Jimmy didn’t have dishes. All eating and drinking was performed with the assistance of plastic, paper, and Styrofoam. Saved on Ajax.
The fridge held three cases of Schlitz and a phone book. Jimmy liked Schlitz because he thought it was imported. I grabbed two, waded back to the other room, and threw one at him. He caught it on a one hop. We popped tops and drank, Jimmy after waiting momentarily for the geyser of foam to subside to a slow trickle.
“So,” he said. “How are the kids?”
“I don’t have kids, Jimmy.”
“Oh.” Pause. “Wife?”
An uncomfortable silence closed in, so thick that for a moment we couldn’t see each other.
“Um, how about those Bears, huh?” Jimmy asked hopefully.
“Jimmy, let’s cut to the chase here, okay? I’m alive, you’re alive, and I need your help on an assignment of global importance.” Just to make sure I wasn’t wrong I asked, “You are alive, aren’t you?”
He checked for a pulse. “Yeah, dude.”
“Okay, here’s the deal . . .” I sat down on a foldable lawn chair and filled him in on my surprise visit from Mr. Jackson Burroughs that morning, paying particular care to go over all of the important parts at least twice. After half an hour I finished and leaned back. “So, what do you say? You in?”
“Let me see if I got this straight. All we gotta do is find this Burroughs character and let the KGB know where he is and we get some free cereal? Nothing else?”
“No Jimmy, we find the Moose.”
“Moose? What moose?”
“Nevermind. Just grab some things for an extended trip and meet me out front.”
“Okay, dude,” Jimmy said. “You know, I’m ready for a change anyway. The surf around here just ain’t what it used to be you know? Pacific’s dead. Tell you the truth, I’ve been thinking about moving out to the East Coast for a while. Check out the surf there.”
“Jimmy,” I sighed, “ this is Daytona Beach. Florida.”
“You’ve been living on the East Coast for six years.”
“Whoa.” Bless his heart. He looked so lost. “That would explain a lot.”
Suddenly, the door burst open and four mean looking guys burst in. None wore shirts. All of them had that “badass” look about them. They stared at me and Jimmy menacingly.
“Friends of yours, Jimmy?”
“Nah, shoulder hoppers.”
The room erupted in motion and we had a big Kung Fu fight right there in the living room. When we finished beating up the shirtless ones, I nodded to Jimmy and walked out the front door.
I leaned on the hood of my car and lit a cigarette while I waited for Jimmy to pack. I had an eerie sense of déjà vu, but I couldn’t quite place my finger on why.