The Benny Poda Years
A Novel by Kevin McGowin
Chapter 1 - Minneapolis
"There's lots of water under the bridge, lots of other stuff too.
Don't get up gentlemen, I'm only . . . passin' through." Bob Dylan
If I couldn't ever do anything else right, I could play some pool, now.
And I was lining up the 8 at 1:43 in the morning at Archie's All-Nighter, fixing to win $25 from a drunken sailor from Beaufort when She came in. It was not a place one would expect to find her. Which is probably why I found her there.
She looked like an aging Veronica Lake, which is the only way for a woman to look where I come from, which is Fresno, California, and I just handed the sailor the goddamn cue and a 20 and a 5 and bought the bitch a stout. It was Minneapolis in early March and colder than a well digger's ass, not to mention an hour when anyone with a lover has already been fucked and then some, so I knew she wasn't here to meet anyone in particular. She lined up some hootie on the table with a Texaco card and put it up her nose like a Hoover over dried shit.
My kind of woman.
She was wearing the kind of dark glasses that would look gaudy on anyone you didn't want to have go down on your mitchum. I got another Waller's Dark Bock and she got a brandy and I knew we were getting somewhere before I even knew her name.
Which was Zoe Sophia Wilkerson. I found that out later. But she told me her name was Raina and lit a Benson. Or rather, she pulled out a Benson menthol and I lit it for her. It's a world of cigarettes and implicit sex, son. Don't let it pass you by.
I was 29 and she was about as old as an aging Veronica Lake. We'd both been to this rodeo before, I thought to myself. Many times. I broke the ice and asked her if she'd rather die as a witch on the stake or be devoured by a pack of rabid weasels.
A plume of menthol smoke grayed her bleached hair as she slowly looked up in the barroom light. "I've died both ways," she said. "What's your excuse"?
That I didn't have a car on me.
We got in hers and drove out further than the night.
I'd tell you we made it, but she passed out on the bed after a nightcap of Evil Rick's Cream Ale. Never fuck a passed-out woman, son. Instant karma's gonna get you.
May we all shine on.