The rental had been described in the advertisement as a bungalow. It was an apt description for a small, symmetrical building that was bigger than a cabin but smaller than a house-house. One open space encompassed kitchen, dining room, and living room and there were two bedrooms, a cracked concrete back patio, and a car port.
A car port, for those not familiar, is basically an awning large enough to park your car under. Car port. Cabin. I kept thinking there was another word that started with “c” that applied, but I couldn’t think of it. Bungalow would have to do.
The place did not have bugs and it did have furniture. It was basically used throughout the warmer months by sport hunters, but winter was the offseason. Just in the fifteen minutes that a woman showed me around the place I learned more about hunting than I had previously known, including the fact that it was okay to hunt beaver–not a euphemism–year round. But apparently people didn’t rent a bungalow in the winter to do that.
“Sorry the place is kinda spartan,” she said. She was wearing a fleece-lined flannel jacket and looked more like Janine than anyone else I had met. Maybe that was the tired and slightly annoyed expression on her face. Her name was Joyce, I think. “But it’s mostly my husband and a buddy who come here, and they don’t need a lot. Though it’s better than it was. When we first got the place it was like they were camping indoors. I insisted on putting in a hot shower and a microwave. But, you know.”
“I know,” I said, as if I did. I pulled open the drawer in one of the bedroom side tables and discovered a stash of condoms. I wondered if Joyce knew they were there or not and decided not to say anything.
“It was my idea to start renting it out when they aren’t using it, but I really didn’t think I’d get someone in for the winter! I forgot all about the ad that’s running.”
I had a copy of the ad folded up in my pocket. “Does the $350 include the hot water?”
She eyed me for a moment. “I wouldn’t mind if you chipped in another $25 toward it. It’s too much trouble to change the billing over to you for such a short stay.”
“I wouldn’t mind chipping it in, either. So, $375?”
That was $375 per month, by the way, not per week. We did some paperwork on the spot. She no longer seemed irritated at everything. Now, if anything, she was trying not to gloat. I guess $375 was good money.
In my mind it worked out to about twelve bucks a day, which is less than a tenth of what we were paying at the motel. We’d have to buy our own pastries from Costco, though. I was looking forward to that.
I got a page while driving away and I had to pull over at a gas station to check who it was from. The number looked familiar but I couldn’t place it off the top of my head so I went to use their pay phone to listen to the voice message that had been left for me.
It was Flip. I called him back and left him a voice mail.
Since I was at a phone, I tried Ziggy’s apartment again and got his machine again.
Then I tried Carynne at the WTA office. A secretary picked up her line and said she wasn’t in, but when she heard it was me calling she asked if I wanted to talk to Barrett. I said sure.
“Daron, hey, glad I caught you.”
Like he’d caught a cold, I thought. Except people weren’t usually glad about that. “Have you seen Ziggy?”
“Not since yesterday.” He did not mention the memorial. “I’m supposed to see him for dinner tonight. Look, I don’t want to press you. Lord knows the last thing I want to do is back you into a corner, okay? But we need to have a conversation about Japan and we need to have it soon?”
“How soon?” The words just came out kind of automatically. I wasn’t really focused on actually thinking about the future.
“Well, are you going to have an opportunity to come to the city in the next couple of weeks? Or should I come down there?”
Just to talk? Wasn’t the phone what that was for? “Didn’t I say I wasn’t going to Japan?”
“Did you? If you did, that word hasn’t made it to me, but you know, I’m always having to guess what Ziggy is leaving out when he tells me things.”
That sounded likely. “I’m not kidding when I say I don’t want to end up in a water tower on the hotel roof again.”
“I’m not kidding when I say I don’t want you to, either. But are you open to having a conversation about doing some dates there later in the year?”
“Isn’t that what we’re doing now?”
“Well, no, since I’m taking nothing for granted. Look. I know you’re not back to healthy yet, and I know there are issues. But if you’re not going to play on the tour, there are things you could do to help make it happen, to make it a success, with music direction or consulting or a… a… lot of other things I probably haven’t even thought of yet.”
“Isn’t that what you have Linn for?”
“Um, to be blunt, I don’t know what exactly went on between you and Linn? But there seems to have been something?” He ended every sentence with an upward lilt.
I leaned on the wall of the gas station next to the pay phone and realized the whitewash left ghostly dust on my jacket. “She doesn’t like me, Barrett.”
“She used to.” He sighed. “We can’t really get into details of any kind without Ziggy. I mean, it’s too early to have a conversation.”
“But if I came to the city next week, or you came here, it wouldn’t be?”
“Well, then we’d be ready for it.”
Or he would be, anyway. I didn’t think I would be. “Um, if you see Ziggy, tell him to call me? It’s kind of urgent.”
“Kind of urgent?”
“As in emotionally urgent but not physically urgent, if that makes sense?”
“It does. I booked him kind of a full day today. Medical stuff, chiropractor, trying to cram all that kind of thing in while he can. You know.”
“Yeah.” Okay, so maybe he had an excuse for not calling me all damn day.
“He wasn’t too happy about it, either. But I promised him I’d take him somewhere nice to make up for it.”
I wanted to ask if Sarah was going to go along to dinner, too. But I realized that just sounded like a weird thing to ask. “Have a good time. I’m on a payphone so I’ve got to go.”
“Okay. I’ve got some business I could do in Memphis and Nashville so keep it in mind that I could pass through.”
“Sure.” Of course there was music industry stuff to do in Tennessee. Just not the part I was in. But, you know, have rental car, will travel. I got off the phone without making any commitments on when we’d talk.
Of course as soon as I got back in the car I thought of a dozen things I could have and should have asked him, about the lawsuits and various other things. But if Carynne called me later I could ask her those things, and she was probably the better person to talk to since she was my actual manager.
So many things I had been avoiding thinking about because when I did think about them all I did was obsess over them. You know it’s bad when I preferred thinking about cancer.
(If you don’t know Leonard Cohen, one of the great American iconoclasts and song writers — who should be as much a household name as Dylan but was just far enough on the other side of weird from Dylan to not be — he wrote this song. He died this past year, and while poking around YouTube I realized that REM charted this song in early 1992. At the time I didn’t realize it was a Leonard Cohen cover. Feels like it fits the mood here. -daron)