Rest Stop

Originally Published 09/26/2011

Photo Source: Stephen Shore

The western flank of the Verdugo and San Gabriel ranges loomed above the northern arrow point of La Brea, shimmering in the clear white light of morning and coming down. Morgan and Dawn, having driven all night, had stopped at the filling station to rest as the blotter they shared on leaving Taos wore off. Morgan went inside to buy some beers for the rest of the drive, while Dawn slipped into the telephone booth to confirm their arrangements.

They only got a buck from Morgan’s grandmother. There was three plus in the cigar box under the bed yesterday morning, but by the time he went back last night, only $1,000 was left. She probably ordered something from the TV or the Fingerhut catalog, or gave it to Jesus. Goddamn woman was losing her marbles quick. This was unexpected, and they would now have to alter their plans a bit. Still, a grand would hold them over for a good stretch, at least until after the cops were on to them.

Dawn dropped a dime in the slot and dialed Robby’s number. Robby was a friend from high school with access to a cabin in the San Gabriels where they could lay low for a few days. After about fifteen rings Robby answered and said they could come on out. He had left the key under a rock off the right side of the house, and some beer and blankets inside. She thanked her friend, lit up an Old Gold and slid out of the booth and back into the car, finally back to zero and glad that this piece had fallen into place.

And, Morgan told himself as he waited in line with a six-pack of Stroh’s, there was a good chance that his grandmother wouldn’t notice a damn cent missing. The cops would notice that they were missing. But no missing $1,000 meant no larceny charges. All they had to do was be cool for a bit and then explain why they left home. And that was easy enough: because that’s what you do when you’re young and in love. That always works, right?

Morgan got back behind the wheel, popped the top on two cans and lit a Winston, slouching down and into the leather bench seat. He exhaled; smoke billowing out along the roof and windshield and dissipating into the warm Los Angeles morning. He grabbed the directions to the cabin and the Texaco map in the glove compartment and started tracing the route. The cabin was between Rancho Cucamonga and Mt. Baldy, off 210 after taking the 101 and the San Bernardino Freeway. He turned to Dawn and said, “Well, last stretch. You ready?”

Dawn took a deep pull on her Stroh’s. She lit up another smoke, leaning all the way back on the head rest. “Yeah, but I need some breakfast first. Can we stop somewhere?”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea” Morgan agreed. “Let’s go.” He started the car, popped his lock down, rolled the window down and pulled out onto La Brea, and right on Melrose. They stopped at a diner on Melrose by the Paramount lot, and had pancakes, French toast, fruit and coffee. When they got out the air was fragrant with eucalyptus, lemon and orange trees, and they both breathed it in deeply before getting in the car and heading northeast toward the mountains.

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