So here I am, in Miami of all places, sitting in a tow truck across from Heather’s house. It says Art’s Towing on the truck’s door, but that’s not really true because it belongs to my friend Keith, the guy who was supplying Art with all the drugs he was eventually unable to afford, and who took it from him in order to settle that not inconsiderable debt.
Actually, Keith probably came out behind on the deal, but god knows he can afford it, and at the time he thought it would be kind of funny to have a tow truck around. I’m sitting in it because one night a couple of weeks ago Keith borrowed my old Taurus after sampling a little too much of his own product and wrecked it, and when I got this sudden urge to see Heather I guilt tripped him into letting me take the truck which was, after all, just rusting there in the driveway, the joke gone stale.
The sudden urge part is a little harder to explain. It was more like I suddenly felt a call, felt that I had to come down and see Heather, see how she was, where she lived, what her old man looked like and, yes, I know as well as anyone how crazy that sounds, how stupid and pointless and probably illegal, but what can I say, I’m here and it doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere soon.
Presumably she’s home – there’s a light on and a car in the driveway, but I’m on the other side of a median and four lanes of traffic, so I can’t really see much. I’ve been out here a couple of hours and it’s hot and sticky and, frankly, a little boring. There’s a couple of dirty books with the covers ripped off wedged between the cushions, but I’m feeling weird enough about the whole thing without resorting to Art’s second hand porn, so I just keep looking over at Heather’s house. It’s a ranch house, nothing elaborate, but, given the property values around here, it’s got to be pretty valuable. Before I left I taped a postcard of a Gauguin painting to the dash because the woman in it reminds me of Heather, not just her broad nose and thick lips, but the way she’s standing there, so naturally, half naked and insouciant, staring right back at you, and I look at that every so often when I get tired of the house.
It been getting darker, but all of a sudden it starts to rain, one of those wild Florida showers, with warm, huge rain drops, falling ropes of water, and after all this time in this grimy tow truck I wish I could just run out there and wash off all the crud and sweat, but I know that would really be crazy, so I just roll up the windows and lean over, trying to squint through.
Then the door of the house opens and Heather comes out, wearing one of those preppie yellow rain slickers. Even though I can hardly see I know it’s her by the way she moves, her reckless grace as she goes to the car in the driveway and gets in. I automatically fire up the truck, ready to follow her, but her headlights dim suspiciously, and it’s clear after a minute that the car’s not going to start. She wrenches open the door and stands there, arms crossed in that familiar pose of exasperation, looking around and then stops, glaring directly at me. I think for a second that somehow she’s recognized me, but then I realize – I’m in a tow truck and her car won’t start.
As she starts trotting across the highway I pull down my Steelers hat and put on Keith’s Ray-bans, as if they’d really disguise me. It would make things easier if I just took off, but I can’t do it, not when Heather’s out there stranded in the rain and I’m finally going to see her again. She taps on the window and I pretend to be startled, lowering it a crack. Excuse me she says, her tan face blooming inside the yellow hood. Excuse me, but my car won’t start. Could you please give me a jump?
Uh, sure, no problem I say gruffly in what I imagine is a tow truck driver’s voice. Get in.
She opens the door and swings in, the same old Heather, ignoring the hamburger wrappers and empty Coke cans, concentrating on the task at hand. I’m right over there, across the street.
I say and pull out, turfing over the embankment and curving back to her driveway. I know the moment she recognizes me, the exhalation as her sideways glance turns into an incredulous stare, then the little sigh as she leans back, shaking her head.
There’s silence as we jerk to a stop. So, Charlie, she says finally, You want to tell me what the hell you’re doing parked across from my house in a tow truck?
I say, I can explain the tow truck part….
She folds her arms again. Let’s just get the damn car started.