Returning from a long night gambling, shuffle board steps down the Vegas Strip, think Ill stop in the Olympic Garden: OVER TWENTY-ONE DANCERS ON THREE STAGES NON-STOP CONTINUOUS ACTION. Daphne is her stage name, sitting in my lap. Havent slept in awhile. Close my eyes. I see the sign for SHEEP HEAVEN ROAD on California 44. Deer every 10 miles, I catch their eyes first telling me,
Go home. Forget it, slowing from 60 to zero in under 10 seconds, crossing the Sierras, bombing down two lane blacktop slicing the night in two, perfect round halves. Twenty-four hours later, Im holding Daphnes spandex buttocks in my lap, hoping she never gets up. I came here to gamble and forget. For a few, bosomed moments I remember... gambling on 60 as the safe speed to stay awake and avoid the harsh lesson: DEER DONT KILL PEOPLE. They stop you with their eyes forever brown moon pools burned into the back of my brain beg me to question... in Mount Shasta the waitress said, Nothing but deer from here to Reno. Two hundred and twelve black as ink miles thick with deer... Two people killed on that road just last night. Hit a deer.
Deer dont kill people.
Young couple on their way to Reno to get married.
Marriage kills people.
Running from a broken marriage, slamming into this wall of heat doesnt even slow me down. Hit 109 today in Vegas, but Daphnes back is cool marble as I tell her,
Im an advertising copywriter on vacation. Lies are cheaper than lap dances. Three, four times around her chilly brown eyes, I chase my shrinking desire. Adrenalin kicks in when I gamble but kills the sex drive. After a while, shes gone on to the next lap. And lying on a lumpy bed in a cheap strip motel, the Adult Channel cuts away to a face shot, a foot shot, just as Im about to see... Daphne...is her stage name.
Thats better than reliving: purposeful fingers dig a shallow hole in warm dirt. Place my wedding ring there. Somewhere south of Tonopah, north of Vegas, theres this cross about three feet high made from found wood, dry as a matchstick; bound together with a decaying piece of satin pink cloth. It was whispering black silk that pulled me there. Drove all night and half the next day to find a place to bury myself.
Back on the road pointed south, 800 down and 200 to go to Las Vegas, without her, is not the loneliest place in the world... is the Goldfield, Nevada Cemetery.
Dealers playing with six decks dealt out of a shoe. Should find a single deck game, but she and I once stayed here. My hands feel naked, stupid, unlucky without my ring to twist around. I ignore the showgirls over my shoulder performing Into The Night at the Sahara. Souls on empty. I picture her four- inch black pumps dangling off her painted toes the day her frosty chocolate eyes told me shes leaving. And I want to get up and over and off...this levee is about to break, Momma. Wash all over me with your crazy, manic, talk, talk, talk. Always go nuts in the mouth over very smart and very crazy women.
Showgirls over my shoulder. Two cards on green felt, one up, one down. Dealer up cards five. I double down on soft seventeen. No. Fuck it. Scratch green felt. Just hit me. Hit me. HIT ME, till I bust! Must love the pain of losing...makes me feel like I amounted to something in the first place. Trying to kill myself with a few hundred hands of blackjack.
She had showgirl legs and her routine down. I was her enraptured audience. Getting hard to be an audience of one; Just one more, baby, just one more. Daphnes been sitting in my lap for three, four, five songs in a row. Ive memorized her back...is cool marble... OVER 21 DANCERS ON THREE STAGES and not one of them could make me put on the brakes.
I skid into the Golden West Motel. Stare at urine colored curtains, wobbling ceiling fan. Turn the gasping air conditioner off...shaking and sweating full-moon-gambling-addicted-to-anything fever out of my bones...are soft, supple hooves, scraping black asphalt crossing the road thirsty miles. So thirsty.
Knees drawn up to my chest; frightened lonely animal has money and a car...grants him stable in the belly of the Beast... never sleeps, flogging me on with money and sex. MONEY AND SEX!
Daphne was her stage name, sitting in my lap. I see the sign on California 44...slowing from 60 to zero in under ten black seconds...lie down with deer on Sheep Heaven Road.