THE BIRTH OF THE BOUFFANT by Peter Nolan Smith


In the late-18th Century Marie Antoinette’ coiffeur sought to camouflage the queen’s baldness by upsweeping her thinning tresses to cascade over her ears. The femme fatales of the ancien regime imitated ‘le bouffant, until the royal coif lost its popularity with the Marie’s final haircut by the guillotine.

Two centuries later Jackie Kennedy, JFK’s wife, reincarnated the fashion during her tenure at the White House.

American women idolized the glamorous First Lady regardless of their politics.

Overnight millions of housewives hit their local hair salon to acquire the look.

Movie stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Kim Novak further popularized the rage and within months the only women rejecting the coif were Durgin Park’s gang of crew-cut bull dyke waitresses and the nuns at my grammar school, Our Lady of the Foothills.

The bouffant died out with the advent of the hippie era.

Young women grew long hair and the coif was once more threatened with extinction, except for brief respite from the lead singers of the B-52s and the late English singer Amy Winehouse.

Last year Jamie Parker and I were happy-houring at Solas in the East Village. We had the Irish bartender to ourselves. Moira liked a good laugh and Jamie told her stories of his go-go bar in Pattaya.

After our second margarita an attractive woman walked into a shadowy bar. Her bleached blonde hair was stacked high on her head. Stiletto heels added another five inches to her Amazonian height.

“A model.” Jamie Parker smirked at the passing beauty in designer drag.

“Probably coming from a shoot.” The actresses in TV show MADMEN had revitalized the early 60s, although few woman in present-day America could pull off the time-travel make-over.

“She looks like a 1960s transvestite.” The lanky ex-con squinted down the bar.

“And that’s a bad thing?” I caught the scent of Chanel No.5. She was high-class.

The goddess sat at the end of the bar and Moira went to attend to her need. She was into girls.

“Not in this light.” It was almost night that deep in Solas.

“You don’t like the bouffant?”

“Not at all.”

“And why not?”

“Because the Mr. Kenneth who re-invented the hair style for Jackie Kennedy was queer.”

“You have something against gays?” Back in the 60s gays were feared by young men, unless they were looking for a good time, but his was the modern times and gay-bashing was not in fashion.

“Me, I love gays, but gay hairdressers used the bouffant hair style as a strategy to turn straight men gay.”

“What do you mean?” I wasn’t following Jamie’s line of thoughtlessness.

“Just that it’s not a really natural look and women refused to have sex to avoid ruining the helmet of hair on their head, so men sought release elsewhere.”

“With other men?”

“The sexual revolution freed us from our chains.” Jamie was a couple of years older than me, although he didn’t look it.

“I had a girlfriend with a bouffant in 1965.” Jo and I met in the Mattapan Oriental Theater. We were both 13.

“And you went all the way?”

“Not even close.” Steel-rimmed bras safeguarded against any attempts by unschooled boys to reach ‘second base’.

“See.”

“It had nothing to do with the bouffant.”

“You’re from Boston. Men from Boston love Jackie Kennedy’s bouffant. You probably went to bed jerking off to the First Lady.”

“Not that I can remember.” Jackie O rode horses and spoke French. Women like her were destined to marry rich regardless of their hairstyle. “Jo was my muse. I know my place.”

“Don’t we all.” Jamie was in the States visiting his mother. She lived in the Bronx and thought that he was teaching school in Thailand, instead of running the Pigpen A Go-Go featuring fat pretty bar girls and skinny ugly pole dancers.

“My mom had a bouffant.”

“Mine too.”

“It had them feel like a queen.”

“Better than knowing your place.”

“Send the princess a drink on us,” Jamie told Moira.

“Happily.” Moira played for the other side.

“Do you like the bouffant?”

“It’s very Kim Novak.” The blonde had mesmerized Hitchcock in his film VERTIGO.

“Wasn’t she gay?” Jamie asked eying me.

“I think so.” Moira played for the other side. She was holding the model’s hand. They looked like a nice couple.

If only for happy hour.

“Ah, here’s to the bouffant.” Jamie raised his glass.

“And Jackie O.”

At my age I might think about her once in a while.

After all she was the mother of the modern bouffant.

NOT A CHANCE by Peter Nolan Smith

On December 24, 1984 I flew home from Paris to celebrate Christmas with my family in Boston.

After the holiday I trained south to New York and my apartment in East Village.

The falling snow prettified the concrete city.

I arrived at 256 East 10th Street at sunset. My Yamaha 650 was buried under a snow drift. I climbed three flights. I entered the railroad flat and flicked on the lights. Thankfully the electricity hadn’t been cut, however the radiators and risers were frigid to the touch. I lit the stove and taped over the windows, dreaming of Florida. Key West was only a twenty-four hour hitch to the south.

My phone rang. It was Clark Hoseman.

The previous October I had assisted the New York fashion photographer at the Paris pret-a-porter. He shot the fashion models back stage for Women’s Wear Daily. At night Clark bought the girls to the Bains-Douches, where I worked as a physionomiste or doorman. The French were experts at having at good time. Clark was a star too.

“I called hoping you were in New York. What are you doing?” asked Clark and I told him, “Waiting to sublet my apartment and then return to Paris.”

“You ever been to Jamaica?”

“Only in THE HARDER THEY COME.” I had seen the reggae movie in 1973 at the Orson Welles Cinema on Mass. Avenue in Cambridge. Jimmy Cliff transported me to a world far south of Florida. A world of Jah, guns, and ganja with a few palm trees and white sand beaches.

“I’ve never been too. Do you know how to scuba-dive?”

“Sort of. Why?” I had snorkeled in Florida and the South of France.

“Because I’m shooting the cover of LIFE Magazine with a young movie actress in Jamaica.” He mentioned the American name.

“Never heard of her.”

“She’s going out with Jackson Browne.”

The singer had been on the cover of the September 1983 Rolling Stone. He had protested against the nuclear plant in Seabrook. Ground zero was about 40 miles from my hometown of Boston. Jackson Browne was cool.

“Still doesn’t ring a bell.”

“She played an acrobatic clone in BLADE RUNNER.”

“Ahhh, the Blonde.” I had loved her performance as an killer in Ripley Scott’s transformation of Philip K Dick’s DO ANDROIDS DREAM ON ELECTRIC SLEEP. “She was very cool. ”

“Then I have a late Christmas gift for you. How’d you like to come to Jamaica, because I need an assistant who can dive and handle a camera underwater.”

“Then I’m your man.” I was an ace at faking expertise.

Three days later we departed winter on a flight from JFK to Kingston, Jamaica with the LIFE Crew. Darryl was coming in from Hollywood. The jet’s passengers were predominantly Jamaican and as my body shook off the cold, I realized that we were headed closer to the Equator. I ordered a rum-coke from the stewardess. It was strong and the next two were even stronger. I fell asleep to the roar of the jet engines and woke with the gentle bump of the landing.

Hundreds of people waited outside the Kingston arrival terminal. None of the islanders paid us any mind. We were just tourists to them. Clark hired a small prop plane to fly Bernadette, the LIFE reporter, Irwin, the make-up artist, Deb, the hair stylist and two of us to the northern side of the island.

“Where’s Darryl?” My eyes scanned the grassy runway for a blonde movie actress.

“She’ll be here tonight.” Clark was clearly disappointed by her no-show and whispered to me, “She’s having troubles with Jackson, which might give me an opening.”

“An opening””

“I want a shot at her. You help me and I’ll double your bonus.”

“Help you?”

“You’re a poet. Make me look good.”

“I’ll do what I can.” I was no pimp , but I was also good at faking lackeydom.

As a failed writer I understood Hollywood’s rules, since actor friend had once explained the pecking order of cinema.

“At a party the producer has first dibs at the actress. 15 minutes later it’s the director’s chance. A half-hour is slotted for the leading man, but a writer never gets any play, because an actress would rather go with the parking valet than a writer.”

We boarded the prop plane and thirty minutes later arrived at Port Antonio’s rundown airport. A rainburst drove us into the hangar. The driver appeared in a van. His name was Dave. The black man drove the LIFE team to the Trident Villas and pointed to a flowered villa. “That’s where Errol Flynn lived. He was good for Port Antonio.”

Errol had been a star in CAPTAIN BLOOD.

Jamaica had been a pirate island in the 1700s.

Port Antonio had lived enough of that history for every inhabitant to have buccaneer blood.

At the Trident Villas we registered with friendly staff and headed to our individual rooms. Mine overlooked a cliff. The waves smashed on the rocks. I breathed in the mist and heard a laugh.

“You Here?” Jerry was a famous Broadway choreographer. We knew each other from the Continental, an after-hours club. “Come and join me.”

We drank pina-coladas and smoked pot on the patio and traveled through the years to our youth. I missed the LIFE crew dinner and as I went to bed the morning Jerry gave me a bag of pot weighing over a pound.

“The hills are buried in ganga, but it’s not legal, so I’m not taking it back home. It’s yours and give whatever’s left to the next person.”

Jerry and I hit a farewell bowl.

“One love.”

I hit my comfortable bed hard.

The next morning I woke wanting more sleep, because a crazy old woman had been speaking in tongues in my dreams. It wasn’t me and the room smelled of an old woman. I opened the doors to the Caribbean.

The sea was blue and the sky was even bluer than Paul Newman’s eyes.
It was time to get ready for the shoot.

Clark appeared on my balcony. We examined the four cameras and seven interchangeable lenses. All the batteries were charged to the max. The light meters were working well and our film had nicely chilled in the minibar.

“Ready?”

“All systems go.”

“She isn’t here yet.”

“She?” I was thinking of an old woman.

“Darryl will be here at noon.” Clark shook his head. I was a bit of a fool in his eyes. “Let’s get breakfast and hit the road. We have photos to take and remember what I said. She’s mine.”

At 1.20PM a double prop plane landed on the asphalt runway. Darryl stepped down the steps. Dave grabbed her bags.. She was clearly tired from her trip, but asked, “Let’s start.”

No one introduced me and I sat with the driver. Our first location was on a wave-tossed beach. A few mulatto school children picked through the flotsam for sea shells. Erwin the make-up guy lightly powdered the actress’ face. The hair stylist let the wind do his job. I checked the light. It was 5.7 f-stop. I stole a glance at Darryl. Clark hadn’t been lying. She was a goddess and he shot hundreds of photos.

None of them were overkill, because Darryl possessed a boundless beauty.

I wanted to swim, but Clark was possessed by the fashion gods of speed.

“We’re working. Not holidaying.”
That night we ate spiny Jamaica lobster in a restaurant filled with white diners served by Jamaicans.

The lobsters had no claws.

Clark said to Darryl, “My assistant’s from Boston. They have the best lobster in the world there. Tell her.”

I replied with New England pride, “This is wicked Lobstah.”

It was not true.

The only wicked Lobstah came from Maine.

Back my room I smoked a big joint.

Paul Newman was staying at the villa across the rocks.

The iconic movie star looked small in the dim tropical night and I wrote a poem about COOL HAND LUKE.

“Small men can be tough. They can be smart. Few are COOL HAND LUKE.”

After I fell asleep, a woman whispered in my ear.

She was not Darryl and I resumed my Ganga stupor.

The next morning was once more overcast. I ran into Erwin in the dining room and he said, “I didn’t sleep last night. Fucking ghost.”

“Goat?”

“No, ghost. An old woman. I’m not joking.”

“I come from New England. I’m familiar with ghosts.

“She came to my room and wouldn’t leave me alone.” Erwin was gay and I asked, “Did she try and get into bed with you.”

“Thankfully no, she was an old lady.” Erwin sighed with relief, then added, “Say nothing to anyone else. They’ll think I’m crazy.”

“No problem.” His secret was safe with me, because anyone from the South Shore of Boston knew how to hold their sand.

The sky over Port Antonio shoned like a deep space cleared after breakfast.

Dave the driver had found a trampoline, which the hotel had set up on the lawn.

Darryl had been a gifted high school acrobat and Clark snapped two hundred shots of her bouncing in the air. I changed film like a machine gun ammo boy during a kamikaze attack. We broke for lunch at noon. Clark had me clean the cameras.

“I think I have a shot with her.”

“Of course you do.” I ordered a rum and coke from the bar.

That one strong drink ended up as my lunch.

That afternoon Clark photographed Darryl on the rocks. Erwin struggled to freshen her make-up after every suit change. I checked the lighting and changed film with increasing skill. I was a fast learner.

During a break Darryl said, “I heard you’re a poet.”

“A bad one.”

“Could I read something of yours?”

“Maybe later.” I shrugged harmlessly, as Clark glared, as if I was poaching on his turf.

Darryl returned to the rocks.

Clark made sure that Darryl and I didn’t speak the rest of the day.

Every break I had chores.

During lunch I had to pick up more film at the hotel.

“Your friend his eye on that gayl.” Dave the driver wasn’t blind. “But she have no eye for him.”

“Who she have an eye for?”

“Who know the mind of woman?” Dave shrugged with a laugh.

“Certainly not me.”

“Then you are a wise man. Tonight I take you Rooftop Club and dem girls like a fool.” Dave chortled and I laughed with him, because no man is wise when it comes to women, when they bshy as Darryl.

Right before sunset we returned at the Trident Villas and I huffed on a big spliff before joining the LIFE team in the restaurant.

During dinner Clark recounted to the table about his shooting the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop.

“I love Iggy.” Darryl hummed I WANNA BE YOUR DOG.

Clark winked at me and I left before dessert.

As promised Dave drove me to the Rooftop. Within ten minutes I knew the bartender’s name. I rub-a-dubbed with big women. I vaguely recalled Dave putting me to bed and thinking I’m going to regret the last two rum and cokes in the morning.

I regretted them earlier than that.

The hiss of fabric crossed the wooden floor. I sat up in bed. Something was in my room. I saw nothing, then footsteps raced across the terrace. I slipped out of bed and chaed the shadow outside to the night. The rock cliff was lit by a half-moon. The villas were dark across the cove.

Someone whispered behind me and I said, “Darryl.”

It was wishful thinking. Dave the Driver appeared out of the blackness beyond midnight.

“Nice sky.” The Milky Way split the heavens.

“Lots of stars.

“More than any man can count.”

“Is that man your friend?”

“Yeah, why?” Whatever Clark’s faults were mine were worst.

“Because he no talk like he bredren.”

“Yeah, he my boss now. You want some.” I lit the joint.

“Herb is the healing of a nation; alcohol is the destruction.”

“I like both.”

“You’re a bad man.”

“Thank you.”

And like that I forgot the shadow and we grooved on the cosmos.

The following morning the dawn clouds broke into gray threads beneath a blue sky and I ordered breakfast to my room. Clark showed up ten minutes later and drank my coffee.

“You look like shit.” Clark was preparing out the underwater cameras.

“I’m fine.

“Today is no joke. Today we scuba-dive. Have you ever buddy-breathed, because you’re going to be sharing your air with Darryl underwater.”

“Sure.” I had seen Lloyd Bridges save a friend by that method on the TV show SEA HUNT.

“It’s like soul kissing without the tongue. Let’s go to Blue Lagoon.”

Every island in the Caribbean had a Blue Lagoon.

Brooke Shields had starred in a film of the same name.

Darryl had auditioned for the role.

“But I was rejected for being too old,” Darryl declared getting out of the van.

I did some quick math. She was 24. BLUE LAGOON was shot in 1979. She was 19 then. Brooke Shield had been 14.

The castig director had been right.

Clark suited up for dive. Darryl sat with the make-up man. The writer scribbled in a notebook. Her skin was lobster red. The dive instructor stood with Dave. I approached them loaded with diving equipment.

“You dive before, man?” I shook my head.

“I thought so.” Ernest gave me a five-minute lesson.

“You got it, man. No worries.”

Yeah, no worries,” I tried to mimicked his speech, except no one with a Boston accent couldn’t fake Rasta.

The LIFE reporter, Darryl, Clark, and I boarded a small diving boat. Irwin remained on shore and the light-skinned boatman powered away from the beach to a sheltered cove.

“Not to worry. Easy water dis.” Ernest was on my team.

“There was a ghost in my room too,” Bernadette mentioned without any humor.

“Ghost?” Clark stifled a laugh.

“Yes, she kept on speaking to me and wouldn’t go away.”

“Old lady?” asked Ernest and Bernadette nodded her head. The boatman said, “No ghosts on water. Sleep now. We dive.”

Underwater sea turtles floated past us. Fish bragged vivid colors. Darryl posed as a mermaid. Clark frantically snapped shots, as the current dragged us out of position. I passed my mouthpiece to Darryl. Her spit tasted better than mine.

After thirty minutes we returned to shore.

I packed the equipment, while Clark walked down the beach with Darryl snapping candid shots. He kept touching her shoulder. The movie actress shrugged off his fingers.

She wasn’t getting close to him, but this shot was scheduled for another three days and three days was less than half the time God took to create the world.

We arrived at the hotel at sunset.

During dinner everyone discussed the ghost.

Darryl asked about my poetry again.

Clark cut short my reply and ordered me to clean the cameras. He leaned into Darryl. She ignored whatever he had said and looked at me, as if I was an extra in BLADE RUNNER.

I stood up from the table and said my goodnights, but I had already cleaned and loaded the cameras. I walked through the garden to our van. Dave smiled seeing me.

“Weh yaw seh.”

“‘Mi Deh Yah, but I got to get away from the Broni?”

“Yeah mon, The Roof Club again?” asked Dave. “Sometimes there be trouble deh deh.”

“Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

“This is Jamaica. Trouble be different here.”

“Trouble always different everywhere, but I know what to do when trouble get too much.”

“Run?”

“Better to walk, because Jamaicans are too fast on their feet.”

“Yeah, Ray Steward be fast. I drive slow.”

“Faster than I can walk?”

“Faster sure.”

Once more I danced with fat women and skinny girls to old school reggae. I brought two rounds at the Rooftop. They called me ‘White Chocolate’. They probably called all semi-cool whites that, but I sang along with JOHNNY TOO BAD and drank with the old men drinking 151 rum and Red Stripe beer.

The trip home was a blank and I passed out an old woman sitting on my bed.

She didn’t say a word, but shook her head with disapproval.

“You’re not my mother. Leave me alone.”

Pillows covered my head and the woman said a prayer.

“And now go.”

A second later I was KOed by a right from the ghost of Livingston Bramble.

The next morning Clark woke me with a shove to blinding sunlight.

“Where were you last night?”

“I wandered off the reservation to the Roof Club,” I recounted the evening to the best of my ability.

“Lucky you. I’m getting nowhere with Darryl.” He sat on my bed next to the camera bag. “I thought you were going to wingman me to the aircraft carrier, but I ended up alone. No Darryl. No you.”

“You’re trying too hard. Chill your jets. Girls like cool.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

I could only be right or wrong and we left the Trident Villa for the day.

On an idyllic beach Clark caught Darryl in the money shot. She was wearing a red bathing suit. The light was an idyllic 5.7 f-stop.

“That’s the cover.”

“I think so too.” Darryl had exhausted her beauty on camera.

She sought solitude and sleep.

On the way back to the resort we stopped to pet some goats.
Darryl said to me, “Dave told me you went to the Roof Club. Clark said it was dangerous.”

“I was the only danger to me last night.” I recalled dropping a split to JOHNNY TOO BAD.

“Maybe we can go tonight. You have some weed?”

“A little.” I didn’t want to say how much.

“I’m dying for a puff.”

“Tonight then.”

Clark signaled me to steo away and I obeyed his command, but not before saying, “And maybe we can go to the Roof Club later.”

“I’d love that.”

She wandered off to where Clark was playing nice with a baby goat.

I stood with Dave.

The teenaged herders were anxious about their goats.

“Nothing better than baby jerked goat.” He smacked his lips.

Before we got into the car, Clark came over to me.

“What were you talking about to Darryl?”

“She wanted to go into town. She’s bored with the hotel.” I didn’t mention the Roof Club or reefer.

“So we’ll go after we get back to the resort. I think your strategy is working.”

“I know women.”

In truth I knew nothing about them, but he didn’t want to hear anything about ignorance of the opposite sex.

Back at the resort I showered and dressed in a white shirt and jeans.

Dave was at the desk.

“Where’s Darryl?”

“She left with your ‘friend’, but I know where. You want to go.”

“You bet I do.” I had two big spliffs in my pocket.

Dave drove into town like I was James Bond chasing Doctor No.

“That girl is an island beauty. She deserves the best.”

“Me?”

“You no straight head, but not you, mon.” Dave’s laugh hurt in a good way.

I found Darryl on the sidewalk of a record shop. The stereo was pumping CRY TOUGH by Alton Ellis. Clark was inside flipping through LPs and 45s. He loved his music.

“You got weed?”

Indeed I do.”

Then let’s get out of here.”

“We’re going to the Roof Club,” I shouted to Clark.

“Me too.” Darryl walked away fast.

We wandered to the docks and smoked a thick spliff.

The blonde spoke about her life.

“It’s not easy being this beautiful, especially since I don’t think I’m beautiful.”

“Every beautiful woman can see the truth in a mirror, not a man’s eyes.”

“Worst is that everyone wants me.” She dragged heavy on the joint and her eyes rolled into her head like cherries on a broken slot machine. “Your friend thinks he’s going to get me. Not a chance. You probably think the same.”

“Not me. I’m a poet.” Dave’s chuckly echoed in my ears. “I know my place. I’m the last man on Earth.”

“Good, let’s go to the Roof Club.”

We were the only white people in the bar.

Darryl bought two rum and cokes.

“My back’s killing me.”

“Let me give you a massage.”

“Please.”

Her muscles were pliable to the touch and she writhed, as we swayed to THE HARDER THEY COME.

The girls in the bar taught her to rub-a-dub. I drank white rum with the young rude boys. The Shatta toasted the return of “White Chocolate’. We grooved to Lee Perry’s ZION BLOOD. I was ready for a long night at the Rooftop Club, then Clark walked through the door. One look at Darryl and me rubadubbing and he strode up and said, “We have to go. The others are expecting us back at the hotel for dinner.”

“I’m cool here.”

“Then you can stay here alone.” Clark snarled and Darryl shrugged surrender. I muttered under my breath, following them to Dave’s van.

Back at the restaurant Bernadette asked me to order wine.

“Why me?”

“Because you lived in France.”

I read the wine list and chose the most expensive wines, figuring them cheap at Eight Jamaican Dollars to the US Greenback.

At the end of the meal Darryl sidled up to me and asked, “You mind if I come to your room. You can finish your massage. Maybe smoke some more weed.”

Everyone at the table was stunned by her request.

None more than Clark.

In my room I tried to tidy up the bed.

“No worries. I live in rock-n-roll squalor back in LA.” She stripped off her shirt and lay face-down on the bed with my journal in her hand. “Is this your poetry?”

“Yes.” I kneaded her shoulders. The tropical breeze was soft on my skin.

“On a heel I turned to the hell of here.”

That was the only line she read of my hitchhiking poem.

Clark burst into the room.

“We have to clean the cameras.”

“Darryl proved that she was an actress with good timing and opted to ‘stage left’.

Once she was gone Clark exploded in a livid.

“You tell me to chill my jets, so you can zoom into my place. Thanks a lot. By the way the price of wine was in US Dollars, not Jamaican.

“Opps.”

He slammed the door shut and I totaled the bill. The sum was the price of a second-class ticket to Paris.

“Fuck LIFE Magazine.”

I went down to the bar.

I was the only one there.

I asked the bartender to put on some deep reggae and he ran through WINEY WINEY by the Kingstonians, SLAVING by Lloyd Parks, and before dropping to the early 70s.

Each of the three rum and cokes tasted better than the last and I staggered down the flowered path to my room around midnight.

In my room I stood naked to the wind and then crashed into bed like a 747 running out of fuel.

I dreamed about Darryl and me on the road. She was probably a good travel companion.

A hand touched my shoulder.

I opened my eyes.

“Darryl?”

It was not her, but an old woman eerily moaning in pain. I tried to speak to her in English, French and German. Her words was indecipherable and I said, “Listen lady, I’m too drunk to deal with this now.”

I closed my eyes and left the ghost to the blackness storming through my skull.

The next morning the sea was calm. I swam in the warm sea under a hot sun. By evening I would be in winter.

Dave waited by the van. All the equipment and bags stored in the back. Clark sat in the front.

“You ready to go?” He acted like nothing had happened last night.

“I guess I am.” I turned to Dave. “I saw the ghost.”

“What she say?”

“Don’t know. What about Darryl?”

“She left with the rest of them. It’s just you and me.” Clark slapped my shoulder to show there was no hard feeling.

At the airport I slipped Dave $40.

“Thanks, White Chocolate.”

“And you tell the old lady I said good-bye.”

“She like that.”

The prop plane took off for Kingston and I spotted Trident Villas under the wing.

No one was in the sea. The guests surrounded the pool.

Several hours later we landed at JFK. A sleety snow slashed across our faces.

Clark paid my wages along with a bonus.

“You did a good job.”

“Thanks.”

A month later Darryl graced the cover on LIFE.

I had never stood a chance with her, but neither had Clark.

But I had been close.

In February I returned to Paris and remained a failed poet, which suited me just fine, because poets knew their place in the world and the City of Light was made for people like White Chocolate.

Toujours.

fotos by Peter Nolan Smith and Dustin Pittman

As a failed writer I understood Hollywood’s rules, since actor friend had once explained the pecking order of cinema.

“At a party the producer has first dibs at the actress. 15 minutes later it’s the director’s chance. A half-hour is slotted for the leading man, but a writer never gets any play, because an actress would rather go with the parking valet than a writer.”

We boarded the prop plane and arrived at POrt Antonio’s rundown airport. A rainburst drove us into the hangar. The driver appeared in a van. His name was Dave. The black man drove the LIFE team to the Trident Villas and pointed to a flowered villa. “That’s where Errol Flynn lived. He was good for Port Antonio.”

Errol had been a star in CAPTAIN BLOOD.

Jamaica had been a pirate island in the 1700s.

Port Antonio had lived enough of that history for every inhabitant to have buccaneer blood.

At the Trident Villas we registered with friendly staff and headed to our individual rooms. Mine overlooked a cliff. The waves smashed on the rocks. I breathed in the mist and heard a laugh.

“You Here?” Jerry was a famous Broadway choreographer. We knew each other from the Continental, an after-hours club. “Come and jon me.”

We drank and smoked pot on the patio and traveled through the years to our youth. I missed the LIFE crew dinner and as I went to bed the morning Jerry gave me a bag of pot weighing over a pound.

“I’m not taking it. It’s yours and give whatever’s left to the next person.”

Jerry and I hit a farewell bowl.

“One love.”

I hit my comfortable bed hard.

The next morning I woke wanting to sleep more. Someone had been talking in my dreams. It wasn’t me and the room smelled of an old woman. I opened the doors to the Caribbean. The sea was blue and the sky was overcast with unthreateningly clouds, but I felt no rain in the air.

It was time to get ready for the shoot.

Clark appeared on my balcony. We examined the four cameras and seven interchangeable lenses. All the batteries were charged to the max. The light meters were working well and our film had nicely chilled in the minibar.

“Ready?”

“All systems go.”

“She isn’t here yet.”

“She?” I was thinking of an old woman.

“Darryl will be here at noon.” Clark shook his head. I was a bit of a fool in his eyes. “Let’s get breakfast and hit the road. We have photos to take and remember what I said. She’s mine.”

At 1.20PM a double prop plane landed on the asphalt runway. Darryl stepped down the steps. Dave grabbed her bags.. She was clearly tired from her trip, but asked, “Let’s start.”

No one introduced me and I sat with the driver. Our first location was on a wave-tossed beach. A few mulatto school children picked through the flotsam for sea shells. Erwin the make-up guy lightly powdered the actress’ face. The hair stylist let the wind do his job. I checked the light. It was 5.7 f-stop. I stole a glance at Darryl. Clark hadn’t been lying. She was a goddess and he shot hundreds of photos.

None of them were overkill, because Darryl possessed a depthless beauty.

That night we ate spiny Jamaica lobster in a restaurant filled with white diners served by Jamaicans.

The lobsters had no claws.

Clark said to Darryl, “My assistant’s from Boston. They have the best lobster in the world there. Tell her.”

I replied with New England pride, “This is wicked Lobstah.”

It was not true.

The only wicked Lobstah came from Maine.

Back my my room I smoked a big joint.

Paul Newman was staying at the villa across the rocks.

The iconic movie star looked small in the dim tropical night and I wrote a poem about COOL HAND LUKE.

After I fell asleep, a woman whispered in my ear.

She was not Darryl and I resumed my Ganga stupor.

The next morning was once more overcast. I ran into Erwin in the dining room and he said, “I didn’t sleep last night. Fucking ghost.”

“Goat?”

“No, ghost. An old woman. I’m not joking.”

“I come from New England. I’m familiar with ghosts.

“She came to my room and wouldn’t leave me alone.” Erwin was gay and I asked, “Did she try and get into bed with you.”

“Thankfully no, she was an old lady.” Erwin sighed with relief, then added, “Say nothing to anyone else. They’ll think I’m crazy.”

“No problem.” His secret was safe with me, because anyone from the South Shore of Boston knew how to hold their sand.

The sky over Port Antonio cleared after breakfast.

Dave the driver had found a trampoline, which the hotel had set up on the lawn.

Darryl had been a gifted high school acrobat and Clark snapped two hundred shots of her bouncing in the air. I changed film like a machine gun ammo boy during a kamikaze attack. We broke for lunch at noon. Clark had me clean the cameras.

“I think I have a shot with her.”

“Of course you do.” I ordered a rum and coke from the bar.

It ended up being my lunch.

That afternoon Clark photographed Darryl on the rocks. Erwin struggled to freshen her make-up after every suit change. I checked the lighting and changed film with increasing skill. I was a fast learner.

During a break Darryl said, “I heard you’re a poet.”

“A bad one.”

“Could I read something of yours?”

“Maybe later.” I shrugged harmlessly, as Clark glared, as if I was poaching on his turf.

Darryl returned to the rocks.

Clark made sure that Darryl and I didn’t speak the rest of the day.

Every break I had chores.

During lunch I had to pick up more film at the hotel.

“Your friend his eye on that gayl.” Dave the driver wasn’t blind. “But she have no eye for him.”

“Who she have an eye for?”

“Who know the mind of woman?” Dave shrugged with a laugh.

“Certainly not me.”

“Then you are a wise man. Tonight I take you Rooftop Club and dem girls like a fool.” Dave chortled and I laughed with him, because no man is wise when it comes to women, when they bshy as Darryl.

After a long afternoon we returned at the Trident Villas and I huffed on a big spliff before joining the LIFE team in the restaurant.

During dinner Clark recounted to the table about his shooting the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop.

“I love Iggy.” Darryl hummed I WANNA BE YOUR DOG.

Clark winked at me and I left before dessert.

As promised Dave drove me to the Rooftop. Within ten minutes I knew the bartender’s name. I rub-a-dubbed with big women. I vaguely recalled Dave putting me to bed and thinking I’m going to regret the last two rum and cokes in the morning.

I regretted it earlier than that.

The hiss of fabric crossed the wooden floor. I sat up in bed. Something was in my room. I saw nothing, then footsteps raced across the terrace. I slipped out of bed and chaed the shadow outside to the night. The rock cliff was lit by a half-moon. The villas were dark across the cove.

Someone whispered behind me and I said, “Darryl.”

It was wishful thinking. Dave the Driver appeared out of the blackness beyond midnight.

“Nice sky.” The Milky Way split the heavens.

“Lots of stars.

“More than any man can count.”

“Is that man your friend?”

“Yeah, why?” Whatever Clark’s faults were mine were worst.

“Because he no talk like he bredren.”

“Yeah, he my boss now. You want some.” I lit the joint.

“Herb is the healing of a nation; alcohol is the destruction.”

“I like both.”

“You’re a bad man.”

“Thank you.”

And like that I forgot the shadow and we grooved on the cosmos.

The following morning the dawn clouds broke into gray threads beneath a blue sky and I ordered breakfast to my room. Clark showed up ten minutes later and drank my coffee.

“You look like shit.” Clark was preparing out the underwater cameras.

“I’m fine.

“Today is no joke. Today we scuba-dive. Have you ever buddy-breathed, because you’re going to be sharing your air with Darryl underwater.”

“Sure.” I had seen Lloyd Bridges save a friend by that method on the TV show SEA HUNT.

“It’s like soul kissing without the tongue. Let’s go to Blue Lagoon.”

Every island in the Caribbean had a Blue Lagoon.

Brooke Shields had starred in a film of the same name.

Darryl had auditioned for the role.

“But I was rejected for being too old,” Darryl declared getting out of the van.

I did some quick math. She was 24. BLUE LAGOON was shot in 1979. She was 19 then. Brooke Shield had been 14.

The castig director had been right.

Clark suited up for dive. Darryl sat with the make-up man. The writer scribbled in a notebook. Her skin was lobster red. The dive instructor stood with Dave. I approached them loaded with diving equipment.

“You dive before, man?” I shook my head.

“I thought so.” Ernest gave me a five-minute lesson.

“You got it, man. No worries.”

Yeah, no worries,” I tried to mimicked his speech, except no one with a Boston accent couldn’t fake Rasta.

The LIFE reporter, Darryl, Clark, and I boarded a small diving boat. Irwin remained on shore and the light-skinned boatman powered away from the beach to a sheltered cove.

“Not to worry. Easy water dis.” Ernest was on my team.

“There was a ghost in my room too,” Bernadette mentioned without any humor.

“Ghost?” Clark stifled a laugh.

“Yes, she kept on speaking to me and wouldn’t go away.”

“Old lady?” asked Ernest and Bernadette nodded her head. The boatman said, “No ghosts on water. Sleep now. We dive.”

Underwater sea turtles floated past us. Fish bragged vivid colors. Darryl posed as a mermaid. Clark frantically snapped shots, as the current dragged us out of position. I passed my mouthpiece to Darryl. Her spit tasted better than mine.

After thirty minutes we returned to shore.

I packed the equipment, while Clark walked down the beach with Darryl snapping candid shots. He kept touching her shoulder. The movie actress shrugged off his fingers.

She wasn’t getting close to him, but this shot was scheduled for another three days and three days was less than half the time God took to create the world.

We arrived at the hotel at sunset.

During dinner everyone discussed the ghost.

Darryl asked about my poetry again.

Clark cut short my reply and ordered me to clean the cameras. He leaned into Darryl. She ignored whatever he had said and looked at me, as if I was an extra in BLADE RUNNER.

I stood up from the table and said my goodnights, but I had already cleaned and loaded the cameras. I walked through the garden to our van. Dave smiled seeing me.

“Weh yaw seh.”

“‘Mi Deh Yah, but I got to get away from the Broni?”

“Yeah mon, The Roof Club again?” asked Dave. “Sometimes there be trouble deh deh.”

“Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

“This is Jamaica. Trouble be different here.”

“Trouble always different everywhere, but I know what to do when trouble get too much.”

“Run?”

“Better to walk, because Jamaicans are too fast on their feet.”

“Yeah, Ray Steward be fast. I drive slow.”

“Faster than I can walk?”

“Faster sure.”

Once more I danced with fat women and skinny girls to old school reggae. I brought two rounds at the Rooftop. They called me ‘White Chocolate’. They probably called all semi-cool whites that, but I sang along with JOHNNY TOO BAD and drank with the old men drinking 151 rum and Red Stripe beer.

The trip home was a blank and I passed out an old woman sitting on my bed.

She didn’t say a word, but shook her head with disapproval.

“You’re not my mother. Leave me alone.”

Pillows covered my head and the woman said a prayer.

“And now go.”

A second later I was KOed by a right from the ghost of Livingston Bramble.

The next morning Clark woke me with a shove to blinding sunlight.

“Where were you last night?”

“I wandered off the reservation to the Roof Club,” I recounted the evening to the best of my ability.

“Lucky you. I’m getting nowhere with Darryl.” He sat on my bed next to the camera bag. “I thought you were going to wingman me to the aircraft carrier, but I ended up alone. No Darryl. No you.”

“You’re trying too hard. Chill your jets. Girls like cool.”

“Maybe you’re right.”

I could only be right or wrong and we left the Trident Villa for the day.

On an idyllic beach Clark caught Darryl in the money shot. She was wearing a red bathing suit. The light was an idyllic 5.7 f-stop.

“That’s the cover.”

“I think so too.” Darryl had exhausted her beauty on camera.

She sought solitude and sleep.

On the way back to the resort we stopped to pet some goats.

Darryl said to me, “Dave told me you went to the Roof Club. Clark said it was dangerous.”

“I was the only danger to me last night.” I recalled dropping a split to JOHNNY TOO BAD.

“Maybe we can go tonight. You have some weed?”

“A little.” I didn’t want to say how much.

“I’m dying for a puff.”

“Tonight then.”

Clark signaled me to steo away and I obeyed his command, but not before saying, “And maybe we can go to the Roof Club later.”

“I’d love that.”

She wandered off to where Clark was playing nice with a baby goat.

I stood with Dave.

The teenaged herders were anxious about their goats.

“Nothing better than baby jerked goat.” He smacked his lips.

Before we got into the car, Clark came over to me.

“What were you talking about to Darryl?”

“She wanted to go into town. She’s bored with the hotel.” I didn’t mention the Roof Club or reefer.

“So we’ll go after we get back to the resort. I think your strategy is working.”

“I know women.”

In truth I knew nothing about them, but he didn’t want to hear anything about ignorance of the opposite sex.

Back at the resort I showered and dressed in a white shirt and jeans.

Dave was at the desk.

“Where’s Darryl?”

“She left with your ‘friend’, but I know where. You want to go.”

“You bet I do.” I had two big spliffs in my pocket.

Dave drove into town like I was James Bond chasing Doctor No.

“That girl is an island beauty. She deserves the best.”

“Me?”

“You no straight head, but not you, mon.” Dave’s laugh hurt in a good way.

I found Darryl on the sidewalk of a record shop. The stereo was pumping CRY TOUGH by Alton Ellis. Clark was inside flipping through LPs and 45s. He loved his music.

“You got weed?”

Indeed I do.”

Then let’s get out of here.”

“We’re going to the Roof Club,” I shouted to Clark.

“Me too.” Darryl walked away fast.

We wandered to the docks and smoked a thick spliff.

The blonde spoke about her life.

“It’s not easy being this beautiful, especially since I don’t think I’m beautiful.”

“Every beautiful woman can see the truth in a mirror, not a man’s eyes.”

“Worst is that everyone wants me.” She dragged heavy on the joint and her eyes rolled into her head like cherries on a broken slot machine. “Your friend thinks he’s going to get me. Not a chance. You probably think the same.”

“Not me. I’m a poet.” Dave’s chuckly echoed in my ears. “I know my place. I’m the last man on Earth.”

“Good, let’s go to the Roof Club.”

We were the only white people in the bar.

Darryl bought two rum and cokes.

“My back’s killing me.”

“Let me give you a massage.”

“Please.”

Her muscles were pliable to the touch and she writhed, as we swayed to THE HARDER THEY COME.

The girls in the bar taught her to rub-a-dub. I drank white rum with the young rude boys. The Shatta toasted the return of “White Chocolate’. We grooved to Lee Perry’s ZION BLOOD. I was ready for a long night at the Rooftop Club, then Clark walked through the door. One look at Darryl and me rubadubbing and he strode up and said, “We have to go. The others are expecting us back at the hotel for dinner.”

“I’m cool here.”

“Then you can stay here alone.” Clark snarled and Darryl shrugged surrender. I muttered under my breath, following them to Dave’s van.

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Back at the restaurant Bernadette asked me to order wine.

“Why me?”

“Because you lived in France.”

I read the wine list and choose the most expensive wines, figuring them cheap at Eight Jamaican Dollars to the US Greenback.

At the end of the meal Darryl sidled up to me and asked, “You mind if I come to your room. You can finish your massage. Maybe smoke some more weed.”

Everyone at the table was stunned by her request.

None more than Clark.

In my room I tried to tidy up the bed.

“No worries. I live in rock-n-roll squalor back in LA.” She stripped off her shirt and lay face-down on the bed with my journal in her hand. “Is this your poetry?”

“Yes.” I kneaded her shoulders. The tropical breeze was soft on my skin.

“On a heel I turned to the hell of here.”

That was the only line she read of my hitchhiking poem.

Clark burst into the room.

“We have to clean the cameras.”

“Darryl proved that she was an actress with good timing and opted to ‘stage left’.

Once she was gone Clark exploded in a livid.

“You tell me to chill my jets, so you can zoom into my place. Thanks a lot. By the way the price of wine was in US Dollars, not Jamaican.

“Opps.”

He slammed the door shut and I totaled the bill. The sum was the price of a second-class ticket to Paris.

“Fuck LIFE Magazine.”

I went down to the bar.

I was the only one there.

I asked the bartender to put on some deep reggae and he ran through WINEY WINEY by the Kingstonians, SLAVING by Lloyd Parks, and before dropping to the early 70s.

Each of the three rum and cokes tasted better than the last and I staggered down the flowered path to my room around midnight.

In my room I stood naked to the wind and then crashed into bed like a 747 running out of fuel.

I dreamed about Darryl and me on the road. She was probably a good travel companion.

A hand touched my shoulder.

I opened my eyes.

“Darryl?”

It was not her, but an old woman eerily moaning in pain. I tried to speak to her in English, French and German. Her words was indecipherable and I said, “Listen lady, I’m too drunk to deal with this now.”

I closed my eyes and left the ghost to the blackness storming through my skull.

The next morning the sea was calm. I swam in the warm sea under a hot sun. By evening I would be in winter.

Dave waited by the van. All the equipment and bags stored in the back. Clark sat in the front.

“You ready to go?” He acted like nothing had happened last night.

“I guess I am.” I turned to Dave. “I saw the ghost.”

“What she say?”

“Don’t know. What about Darryl?”

“She left with the rest of them. It’s just you and me.” Clark slapped my shoulder to show there was no hard feeling.

At the airport I slipped Dave $40.

“Thanks, White Chocolate.”

“And you tell the old lady I said good-bye.”

“She like that.”

The prop plane took off for Kingston and I spotted Trident Villas under the wing.

No one was in the sea. The guests surrounded the pool.

Several hours later we landed at JFK. A sleety snow slashed across our faces.

Clark paid my wages along with a bonus.

“You did a good job.”

“Thanks.”

A month later Darryl graced the cover on LIFE.

I had never stood a chance with her, but neither had Clark.

But I had been close.

In February I returned to Paris and remained a failed poet, which suited me just fine, because poets knew their place in the world and the City of Light was made for people like White Chocolate.

Toujours.

JFK Assassination Solved

Jackie Killed JFK in Dallas 1963.

I never considered the 1st Lady as a suspect.

The second shot.

A revelation from a New York lamppost.

Who Killed the Kennedys?

The night Barack Obama was elected president, people danced in the streets of New York. Our man had beaten the GOP. I looked into the eyes of a man my age and we started crying, not out of joy, but in relief of having endured the lost years since November 22 1963.

Obama was one of us. He took office two months later. The presidential limousine drove him from the inauguration stage to a series of parties. Thousands of supporters glad-handed their president and at the end of the festivities Barack Obama found himself in the White House.

He had it all.

The Oval Office.

The Red Phone to Moscow.

The Briefcase.

They were his along with two wars and a shattered economy.

That evening he must have looked at his wife and said, “What now?”

If I was Michelle, I would have said, “What about the Kennedys?”

“What do you mean?”

“Who killed the Kennedys?”

“That’s a dangerous question.” And he dropped the subject.

The President has had eleven years of access to the deep, dark secrets buried by various agencies; Roswell, Martin Luther King, Pearl Harbor et al. We have too many questions, yet nothing new has come to light during his administration and considering the body count for asking the wrong questions, I can appreciate his patience.

It takes time to unbury the truth and even fifty years after the fact and it doesn’t look like Obama is going to get it for us either before his access is gone.

So who killed the Kennedys?

Someone knows, but they ain’t saying.

THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH by Peter Nolan Smith

Gloomy clouds over Lake Michigan hovered low in the October sky. A black Suburban sped west on Route 2. The driver hadn’t seen a car since leaving St. Ignace and this late in the year no state troopers patrolled the two-laner traversing the Upper Peninsula. He cruised though Nabinway at 85, then stamped on his brakes upon spotting a white van parked at restaurant on the bluff. The SUV lumbered to the side of the road and the tall man behind the wheel reached over for his binoculars.

He focused them on the back of the van.

The plates matched those of the fugitive.

Only this morning the Assistant Field Director in Petrowsky had called off the hunt for their quarry.

“The fat man has slipped through our net, but someone that size will breach the surface sooner or later like Moby the Dick.”

The driver of the black car hadn’t imagined ‘later’ would arrive so soon and he tried a number on his cell phone without success, then dialed 911 with the same result. The UP had horrible coverage.

SOP recommended back-up and the agent waited for the phone service to come back on line.

The diner’s neon sign blinked HOME COOKING every five seconds and thirty minutes went by without a single car or truck passing the Wonderland Diner.

The sun dropped beneath the pines. The thickening darkness was all the cover that the fat man needed to escape into the Upper Peninsula’s trackless woods. The agent once more pressed the number for the FBI.

Nothing.

He pulled out his 9mm.

“Fuck SOP.” The agent shifted the SUV out of park and drove right behind the van. He flicked off the safety of his automatic and exited from the Suburban. Blessing himself with the left hand he walked to the entrance with his weapon behind his back. The door opened with a creak.

Neither the cook nor the young man at the counter broke from their fixation on the food fest at table #5, where a fat man in overalls shoveled down the remains of grits and eggs.

“Where them pasties?”

The fat man pushed his stubby fingers through lank hair.

“They’re coming.”

The cook flipped the half-dozen meat-stuffed pasties onto a plate, then turned to the tall man at the door.

“You comin’ or goin’? Cuz either way you gotta shut that door.”

“Business so good you can insult customers.”

The newcomer shut the door.

“Sorry, mister, I don’t heat the great outdoors. Not this time of year.”

The tall man sat at the counter and asked, “What’s good?”

“Most everythin’.”

The fat man wiped his mouth with the back on his hand.

“Chicken pot pie was damn good. Pork Chops too. Ya should try that.”

“Maybe I will.”

The tall man eyed the young man at the counter. The dirt on his hands had not come from any honest labor and the leaves in his long hair indicated a night under a bridge. He was no one and the tall man whipped out his 9mm.

“Don’t shoot me, mister. The money’s not much, but it’s is yours. ” The cook dropped the plate of pasties.

“He’s not robbing no one.” The fat man poked a fork into the flapjack stack.

“Not unless I have to.” The tall man produced a badge with his left hand. “I’m a duly authorized federal agent and that man is a fugitive from justice. You two stay out of the way and nobody will be hurt. Big man, keep your hands in front of you and stand away from the table very slowly.”

“I’m not with him,” the hippie stammered and the agent snapped, “Then keep your hands in plain sight.”

The agent approached the booth.

“Drop that fork.”

“Damn, who ya’ll? The fat people police?” The big man rose with extraordinary grace for a man his size. His hands rose in the air. “Yer wanna arrest me, go ahead, Ah ain’t gonna fight.”

The fat man was wanted Dead or Alive and the agent wasn’t taking any chance. “You know through the drill; turn around, face the wall, and spread them wide.”

“Am ah gonna be safe with ya’ll.”

The fat man stretched his elephantine arms and legs against the Formica wall.

“Safe?”

“Ah mean, the only reason Ah ain’t surrendered before was that Ah weren’t sure that yer cud keep me safe.”

“Oh, we have safe places for you.” The agent dangled handcuffs to the cook. “Slap these on the man. If he moves, I’ll shoot him.”

“Shootin’ a man that big like trying to hit a bear in a vital spot.” The cook took the manacles. “No offense, big man.”

“None taken.” The fat man’s head swiveled and gleamed a toothy smile. “Yer a good cook and Ah gots to dig yer fer that.”

“Keep your eyes straight ahead.”

“Ain’t that a laugh? Here ya’ll tryin’ to earn a decent livin’ and this bloodhound starts messin’ with yer customers and orderin’ ya around.”

“Shut your hole.”

“Bet that pea-shooter makes ya feel like a big man.”

“Shut up.”

“You wanna know why they after me? Cus Ah’m privy to the truth about lies. Cookie, why don’t ya ask Bossman why he’s arrestin’ me? I bet $100 he don’t have no clue.”

“These won’t fit.” The cook fumbled with the cuffs.

“You have to open them up.” The tall man glanced at the silent longhair. His hands were on the counter. The agent snatched the handcuffs from the cook and stepped closer to the fat man. “Get real tight with that wall and put your hands behind you.”

“I’m gonna obey your every command, bossman.”

“Cook, you have tape?” The cuffs were too small for the XXXXL man.

“Yes, sir.”

“Ain’t ya suppose to use government-issue tape?”

“I told you to shut your hole and I meant it. Where’s that tape?”

“Right here.” The cook offered masking tape.

“Wrap his wrists tight.”

“Hey, ya don’t wanna be cuttin’ off the blood. Ah mean Ah gotta eat with these hands.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll be stuffing your yap soon enough.”

“I hate prison grub.” The fat man spun on his heels and pushed the cook.

The agent had been expecting this move and pulled the trigger. The shot strayed wide and three hundred plus pounds of sweat, fat, and bones squashed the agent into the opposite wall like a Samoan lineman sacking a quarterback. When the fat man stepped away, the unconscious agent slumped to the floor.

“You killed him,” the cook declared with horror.

“He ain’t dead, only knocked out and you’re a lucky man. People will come in droves, cus they’ll all wanna to hear about what happened and not much happens this time of year or any other, right? If fact ya’ll should be thankin’ me for savin’ yer winter.”

“Thanks.”

The fat man cocked the 9mm.

“What you gonna do?” The cook looked at the payphone.

“Ah’m gonna go down the highway and ya can tell the fellas that come for this one that too.”

The fat man picked up the pasties from the floor and dropped several twenties on the counter, then looked at the longhair.

“I’m no trouble.”

“And ya ain’t gonna have none neither. I want ya ta drive fer me.”

“Drive for you?” The hippie lowered his arms.

“They have an all-points on my van, so Ah’m takin’ the bossman’s car.”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe ya didn’t hear me right. You’re drivin’. Afterwards ya say that Ah forced ya’ll, which is exactly what Ah’m doin’.”

“You’re not leaving me any choices.”

“Yer exactly right.” The fat man searched the fallen agent’s pockets, finding the car keys, and said to the cook, “Thanks for the lunch. It was delicious. Let’s go.”

The hippie exited from the diner and the fat man pointed to the SUV.

“I like big cars. They make me look thin.”

“There’s not many places to run on the Upper Peninsula.”

“That’s okay, cuz where Ah’m leavin’ here pronto.”

“You expecting an alien abduction?”

“That’s funny, but ET already landed on Earth. Sum of ’em are tubes, but Ah’m so fat, they can’t achieve orbit with my weight. Now git in the car, we have to go.” The fat man shoved the longhair behind the wheel and then sat in the rear with the SUV teetering to the right.

“Head west.”

The hippie studied the rear-view mirror with a little too much interest.

“Who’s been chasing you?” The hippie backed out of the parking lot.

“The FBI, the CIA, the NSA and even Mossad had a shot.”

“Was that guy one of them?”

“Maybe, but he mighta been after the million-dollar bounty on my head.”

“Why you worth a million?”

The hippie glanced in the rearview mirror.

“Keep yer eyes on the road. Ya seen me enough at the diner.”

“I ain’t seen anyone human eat that much.”

“Ya’ll can’t get a better disguise than a fat person.”

“So why they hunting you.”

“Ah tell you and they’ll hunt youse to the ground.”

“Heck, I’m already wanted for credit card theft, so I’m off to Canada, then north to the Eskimo nation to hunt seals or whales or carve tusks. I’m good with my hands and there’s not much call for that skill in the old USA, right?”

“Yer really wanna hear why they’re after me?” The fat man leaned forward to whisper in the driver’s ear.

“Hell, I’d tell you I’d keep it a secret, because after two beers or a joint I’d surrender the family skeletons to entertain the crowd, so if you don’t want your story spread around the Eskimo nation, keep it to yourself.”

The driver’s gray eyes gleamed with a hustler’s sincerity.

“You almost sound honest for a thief.” The fat man settled into the seat. “Ah was once young and full of life like you, then one day Ah heard a story, which altered my life. A secret Ah wuzn’t supposed to hear and didn’t believe. Anyway this man told me the truth of this world. Oh, Ah heard why we were in Vietnam to control the heroin trade. Why we gave China to the Reds? To control one billion people under one leader. The government waved the flag and blacklisted commies in America, which was smoke fer the real drama. None of those truths got me in trouble. No, the one that endangered me is the greatest mystery in the American Century. Yer have any idea which one that might be?”

“Is Elvis alive?”

“Elvis is dead. Ah saw the body.”

“You saw the body?”

“His corpse was bigger than me, but Elvis’ death ain’t the greatest secret in America, unless yer an Elvis impersonator. C’mon, think a little harder.”

“Biggest secret. Oh, I have it. Who killed Kennedy? You’re talking about Dallas, right?”

“Yer wanna hear the tale.”

“I don’t know.”

“Ah, fuck it, Ah’m gonna tell, like it or not. Ah was eleven, when Kennedy was assassinated. Hell, Ah can tell you what Ah was wearin’, cuz Ah went to a Catholic school. White shirt, blue tie, black pants, black shoes. Anyway Ah believed that Oswald was the killer. Same as the rest of the America and Ah believed that, until Ah met the assassin and he wuzn’t no CIA agent either.”

“Who was he?”

“His identity is unimportant, cuz he wuz part of the machine that killed the president.”

“Cause of the Bay of Pigs?”

“Cold.”

“Vietnam?”

“Not even warm. This story doesn’t begin with the Kennedys, but Marilyn Monroe?”

“Yeah, the movie actress JFK was banging.”

“Wrong.”

“Okay, okay, tell me your story then.”

The driver flicked on the headlights.

“What yer do that fer?”

“Cause it’ll be dark soon, that’s why.”

“Yeah, right, so as Ah said, the story starts with Marilyn Monroe. Not many people were aware of that she was the illegitimate daughter of a Mafia gangster. Anyway Marilyn became a movie star and every citizens in America believes she’s havin’ an affair with JFK, only JFK is usin’ her as a ‘beard’ to hide his womanizin’.”

“With Judith Exner Campbell.”

“Glad you watch The History Channel.”

The fat man dropped the southern accent.

“What happened to the drawl?”

“This story goes faster without it. So JFK sees Marilyn socially a couple of times, but she becomes a pain in the ass and JFK orders his brother, Bobby, to tell her it’s over. Bobby goes to Marilyn after the birthday bash in Madison Square Garden. Normally the sight of a crying woman had no effect on the hard-hearted bastard. Only she’s a beautiful woman and he comforts her broken heart.”

“So JFK never made it with Marilyn.”

“I never said never. Anyway Bobby falls in love with Marilyn and starts telling her his business and JFK’s too. He starts talking about leaving his wife and the Kennedys had a hard enough time electing Catholic in 1960 without having a divorce scandal clouding the 1964 re-election. JFK orders his brother to dump Marilyn. Bobby refuses and JFK vows to stop this union, but he can’t turn to the Mafia, since he’s stiffed them on Cuba, so he goes to that old drag queen, J. Edgar Hoover, who’s as pleased as punch to get dirt on the President. The little fruitcake tells him not to worry and flies out to Los Angeles with his boyfriend and they kill Marilyn. Unfortunately Bobby walks into the bungalow and beats the shit out of them and J. Edgar confessed that his brother ordered her murder.”

“Shit. A car’s following us. In fact they’re catching up.”

The fat man glimpsed over his shoulder.

“And they have flashing lights. Step on it.”

The longhair accelerated to 100.”

“Thanks, kid, it’s comforting to have someone in your corner. Now where was I? Oh, yeah, Bobby wanted revenge. Nothing came to him, until the brightest and the best of the White House discussed the drop in JFK’s polls. The president asked, if anyone had an idea to boost his popularity. None of them have a clue, but Bobby suggested that they stage a fake assassination attempt. The rest of the brain trust called him crazy, except Old Man Kennedy understood street politics and mumbled that nothing boosts the likehood of his son’s re-election more than a failed assassination. JFK accepted his father’s advice and gave the CIA the go-ahead. Those university minds plan to place a CIA team with blanks on the grassy knoll. JFK will become a hero, the election will be a landslide, and a mandate assures a new era of prosperity. None of them suspected Bobby was setting up his brother and he goes to the old Mafia boss.”

“Who was Marilyn’s real father?”

“Ten points. Bobby told the old man how JFK had ordered the death of his daughter and agreed to place another shooter on the scene.”

“The Texas Book Depository,” the driver spat like he was rushing an answer to a game show.

“No, Oswald was a fall guy. The Mafia chief put his shooter in the building across the street. November 22, 1963. Everyone was in place. The CIA team on the grassy knoll. Oswald’s rifle in the Depository. The Mafia hit man waiting for his shot. The limo made the turn and the Mafia hit man banged away, hitting the president. The CIA team was confused by the shots and pulled off a few round. The hit man delivered the coup de grace and Bobby had his revenge. Fratricide.”

“It makes sense,” the driver murmured and lifted his foot on the gas. The car slowed on the straight-away.

“I figured you for one of them.”

“Sorry, big man,” the driver apologized, as the car pulled over to the shoulder. “I’m only doing my job.”

Blinking lights filled the interior of the car.

“They want you alive.”

“Yeah, for now. You think about what they’ll do to you, once they find out you know what I know? They won’t be giving you a medal.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Officer Tippitt, Lee Harvey Oswald, Dorothy Killgallen, Jack Ruby to name a few, but we don’t have time to tally the body count. I step out of this car and I’m a dead man by Christmas. You’ll dead by Thanksgiving.”

“That is just some crazy bullshit.”

“Okay, you talk to your boys. If they ask, if I told you anything, you say no and tell them I have a gun and will only surrender to you, then come back to the car and drive faster than hell. A plane is at an airfield five miles from here and the pilot will wait another ten minutes. Now if I’m wrong, step away, because I’m not surrendering to those motherfuckers.”

“Why do they want you dead?” The driver rested his hand on the door handle.

“Who the fuck knows with those people, but you know how they are, don’t you?” The fat man cocked the 9mm.

“I’ll be right back.”

The longhair walked to the men behind the cars. They spoke for a minute and the hippie returned to sit behind the wheel.

“So?”

“You were right.”

“I wish I wasn’t. You ready?”

“Hell, yeah.” The driver stamped on the accelerator. The black car burned rubber. Shots shattered the rear window, but didn’t break the glass. “That’s one way to quit your job.”

“No one in my job has ever retired.”

“So welcome to head out of the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes your way,” the fat man sang Steppenwolf’s hit.

“Fire your guns into space.” The driver showed they were on the same team, because the open road was the only world left for people like him, until the ranks of the resistance outnumbered the liars in power and hopefully that would not take an eternity.