A work in progress. Seeks a publisher, a savvy agent, a home on the printed page.
Opiates are the opiate of the masses.
— Adam Panflick
Wars are better imagined than fought.
— Adam Panflick
1. Boulder City Encounter
2. Tin Goose
3. Win Win
1. Boulder City Encounter
“Addiction is an addiction,” Adam Panflick said, biting into a Big Mac. He was seated in his favorite McDonalds in Boulder City, Nevada.
“It’s time for war on the idolatry of addiction. The assumption we are compelled to do what does us harm. The idea that others have the right to deem what is harmful to us! Pshah!”
He was seated in the back, away from counter traffic. He had a view of the little airport and the jagged hills beyond. Well-being flooded him. He loved it out here. He could sit as long as he liked, musing away.
The climate was raw when windy, painful when over 110 but mainly sunny and warm. The colors were incomparable and ever changing. Subtle pastels. The night sky was visible.
Adam lived in the Vale Motel Annex for $85 a week. Meals were free at the casino down the hill to those who played the games. Ever capable of earning a bit by writing, he was now paid handsomely by Willie Palfrey, heir to the Palfrey billions,. His writing touched on guidance, channeling, magnetism, tectonic plates, optimism and post-Christian religion. Interesting stuff. A few hours at his Epson HX20, which printed out on cash register paper, and he was home free.
Even successive gambling losses, should they occur, would hardly touch him.
“How stupid to think my gambling is an addiction,” he thought. “If it were, I’d be down the hill pouring every penny onto the green instead of here reading odd theology.”
Boulder City did not allow gambling. But casinos were close by. Like the Gold Strike down the hill toward the Dam at the end of Lake Mead. Binions was Adam’s Fremont Street favorite, only a half hour down Boulder Highway in his used Mercedes Diesel.
“We act out of freedom if we have presence of mind. If we don’t, we act thoughtlessly. It’s as simple as that. Extreme situations are somewhat different. But more situations are controllable than people believe,” Adam harrumphed to himself.
Just then, he noticed someone who, even by Nevada standards, was a loser extraordinaire. He burst through the side door wearing but one piece of clothing. A pair of khaki-colored boxer shorts.. The man’s nether parts were barely concealed. The sight was not edifying.
The man moved to a booth in the back. He started motioning to Adam and calling, “Come here, Mister!”
Adam did as he was asked. He sat down facing the nearly-naked fellow. “Do you have any other clothes?” he asked.
“Fuckers,” the man responded.
Adam sat poker-faced.
“You know what I mean?” the man said. The hairs on his chest were gray but his topmost hair was jet black.
Just then, a team of some sort came through the side door
The woman of the duo, of indeterminate age and dominating size, hurled herself into the seat next to the strange man. She reminded Adam of his former semi-wife Ganya on a tear. The man, bald and rangy, sat next to Adam, blocking his exit.
“What have you done with your clothes?” the woman asked..
“Lost my fucking shirt,” the naked fellow answered. “Threw ‘em outside.”
“You promised you wouldn’t gamble anymore,” the man said. Then added: “I forgot. Addicts cannot help it.”
“Do you people have names?” Adam said.
“Who are you?” the woman said.
“Adam Panflick is my name.”
“Are you a compulsive gambler too?” the woman said.
“No and neither is he. If he was, he wouldn’t have a scintilla of freedom, right? True addiction is by definition slavery, a rare and disgusting phenomenon. Most addicts are products of the addiction business, rather like prisons and justice when you think about it.”
“Listen, mister,” the man next to Adam said.
“Panflick,” Adam replied.
“I don’t know who you are or what your addiction is, but I can assure you that over half the people you see are addicted to something. In Yemen, it’s qat. In our Nation’s Capitol, it’s crack. There are thousands and thousands of addictions. Power. Work. You name it. In Ashtabula, my mother-in-law is hooked on one of the most addictive substances on earth, nicotine. She’s home from the hospital waiting for the end. She can’t quit. This man here is addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, gambling and acting out..”
“Can it, Chester,” the woman said.
“Chester!” Adam exclaimed.
“Can it, you,” the woman said to Adam. “Let’s get to work.”
She turned to the gambling-nicotine-alcohol fellow. “Where are your clothes, Warren?”
“Two names,” Adam muttered.
“My clothes are out there,” Warren answered, gesturing toward the door.
“He takes his clothes off,” Chester said. “How many non-addicts take their clothes off?”
“Moi,” Adam thought.
“He means acting out,” the woman responded impatiently. “Get the clothes, Chester, now.”
“What is your name, how ’bout it?” Adam asked the woman.
“Beverly,” she answered.
Adam saw for the first time that, despite her summary manner, Beverly possessed an almost exotic beauty, not unlike that of the unlamented but hardly undesireable half-wife Ganya.
“I used to think I was addicted to sex,” he said calmly. “But it turned out to be just a stage.”
“Look,” Beverly said. “Chester and I work for the County. We are social workers. We don’t claim to understand everything. What did you say your name was?”
“Adam Panflick. I live here now. I was sitting over there when this gentleman walked in. He asked me to join him.”
“I see. Ah, here’s Chester. Warren, get up. Go with Chester to the men’s room. Hurry.”
Chester and Warren did as they were told.. But they did not hurry. Adam had time to establishe a rather more intimate relationship with Beverly than either had dreamed of minutes before.
It turned out that she was in the process of extricating herself from an abusive relationship. She was more than amenable to Adam’s suggestion that she try out an $85 a week room in the annex of the Vale Motel in beautiful Boulder City. There was a vacancy next to his Annex room.
She’d have to commute into Vegas to continue working at the Addict Unit of the Clark County Health Department. But that idea appealed to her.
She was likewise amenable when Adam explained he liked nothing better than to spend the night in the company of wise women he could talk to, and take or leave whatever else might happen.
”Sounds better than getting knocked around night and day by a bozo back on Paradise,” she said.
Adam felt some serious twinges generated by his sense of her body.
Chester and Warren returned. The Addict Unit van headed back toward Vegas. And Adam headed back to his customary table and returned to a dog-eared copy of Pascal’s Pensees.
“Cheeky guy, this Blaise,” he said after a while, shutting the volume.
He walked out the door in the direction of the local airport, wondering if he might be addicted to chance.
Adam liked to see the Grand Canyon from the air in the late afternoon. In fifteen minutes he was seated in a vintage Ford Tri-Motor, aptly known as the Tin Goose. It was piloted by his friend Peter who was exactly as old as the plane. That would be d,o,b. 1928.
Peter flew custom tours for a select clientele and allowed a few friends to ride along for a small fraction of what he charged high rollers.
If one crashed a small plane in the Canyon, survival was unlikely. But with three sturdy Wright Whirlwind engines – one on the nose, one on each wing — and Peter at the controls, plus Wanda, the faithful co-pilot and Jenna, the shapely stewardess, this Tin Goose was at once safe and well supplied.
Adam placed a C-note in Peter’s hand he climbed into the custom cabin.
“Flush?” Peter smiled.
“Good roll,” Adam smiled back.
The cabin was fitted with two love seats facing one another. Adam inspected the two passengers sitting across from him. There was a portly gentleman whose weight was increased by a plethora of dazzling jewelry on his fingers, around his neck and circling his wrists. He had a diamond studded belt-buckle as well.
And there was a sepulchral beauty from Senegal who wore no jewelry at all, but whose mauve silk skirt and black Manolo Blahnik boots spoke volumes for her taste and probably for her affuence as well.
Adam inferred Senegal because of a tasteful legend on her shirt. It said Senegal in Picassoesque calligraphy. She had nothing on under the shirt and not a trace of self-consciousness about the degree of her exposure. Self-possessed was the proper term to describe her. Adam stared at her for a full minute.
The woman moved over and sat down next to him, flooding his sensitive nose with lightly-applied Arpege.
The old plane chugged down the runway and hiccoughed up into the sky with all three motors going full bore. They made a beeline toward the Dam and gently buzzed the Gold Strike Casino while executing a 90 degree turn toward the mouth of the Canyon.
“Good one,” Adam said softly.
“Agreed,” the woman whispered. Her hand had moved very close to Adam’s.
It was understood that there would be no introductions on these flights. People had a right to privacy. Who they were was their own business, even if they happened to be well known.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the man said over the prop noise. “I’m Archibald Trammel. I was disinherited at 21 for drugs and gambling and have since made up for the pittance I didn’t get. I have never returned to Cornwall.”
“Gambling?” Adam said.
“Apposite,” Adam replied. He almost asked Trammel if knew the Palfreys, from neighboring Devon. Instead, he said, “I am Adam Panflick. A writer. From Boulder City.”
Just then the plane underwent a furious dead weight drop that hardly seemed scheduled. Adam looked out and saw the Canyon wall at too-close quarters. The Goose was cooked, he figured. He prepared to die.
But the plane moved forward a bit and then commenced a steep stuttering climb. And Adam was soon blinded by the sunlight. The Goose leveled off and then chugged along as if nothing had happened.
Peter strolled back from the cockpit.
”Microburst,” he said. “Rare climactic anomaly. Unsettling But we’re fine now.”
“No problem, old boy,” Trammel said.
Peter walked back into the cockpit.
“Where do you live now?” Adam asked Trammel.
“Dallas,” the man said. “My real passion is conspiracy. Dallas is the capital of conspiracy.”
Jenna entered. ”Cocktails?”
“Vodka Martini. Three olives. On the rocks. Yes. Thank you.,” the woman said.
“Sounds good.,” Adam said. “Same here.” He had about one Martini a decade.
“Water for me,” said Trammel
Adam looked at him. He was handsome for all of his bulk and no more than fifty. If he was the victim of any vice, it did not show. The alcohol question was implicit in Adam’s gaze and Trammel nodded.
Jenna returned with drinks and spent a few minutes describing sights one could find below. The Dragon Corridor. The junction of the rivers. Cape Solitude.
Adam was supremely uninterested. The Canyon didn’t move him though he enjoyed the ride.
What he most loved was the jagged, low-slung, seemingly-endless, pastel-colored range east of Sunrise Mountain in Las Vegas. Mornings, this vista surpassed the art of Cezanne or Picasso and might have inspired a better music than had been produced in this sorry century.
Jenna herself was of some interest. The conspiracy fellow warranted attention. And the nameless Senegalese beside him? Well. Who knew? Adam felt his hand touched. It was her. He turned.
“You are very old,” she said.
“Thank you,” he replied. This was New Age code, he knew, but she did not seem the type.
“Have you been to Africa?”
“Just a few days, a few years back,” Adam replied. “Kampala before Amin took over. I had terrible headaches. Prescient ones. I escaped up the Nile on a plane to Rome. I was working in Geneva then. How about you? Lately, I mean?”
“No,” she said. “I live here now.”
Her accent had a trace of French. Her speech was remarkable. Deep and soft, but with a laser preciaion.
He looked over at Trammel who seemed preoccupied with his full glass of water.
Jenna returned. “Can I bring you anything more?”
Trammel handed her the glass and said, “Bring me one of those, no olives.”
Jenna disappeared into the galley.
“Shit,” Trammel said. He seemed younger, almost boyish. “It’s no good.”
“Do you want to stop?” the woman asked.
“No. But I should. When I get started, it’s bad.”
The woman got up and walked over to him and placed her hands on his shoulders. She stood there silently. “Enjoy your drink,” she said softly.
The sky was darkening. The plane turned back toward Boulder City.
“Be my guests,” Adam proposed. “Our little casino is a pit. But I like it. A light supper. Any takers?”
Trammel said sure. The woman declined. But she had Adam write his name and number down.
Within half an hour, Adam and Trammel were getting out of the man’s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in the Gold Strike Casino parking lot. It was a lovely evening. The air was like a welcoming cloak. It fit like silk.
Life is good, Adam thought. And life here is never the same from day to day.
Adam took Trammel to the Steak House where he had a permanent comp that entitled him to any food or drink he wanted, Adam was a regular customer. Recently he had been a regular winner.
The Steak House was not high end. Just smaller than the Buffet. And somewhat better. They both chose trout.
Adam waited for Trammel to speak.
“She’s better than a Twelve step program,” Trammel said. “I don’t know what she did. I enjoyed the drink and I am fine now.”
Trammel had ordered no second drink. They both had lemonade.
“I gave up AA,” he said. “It’s a goddamned cult.”
Adam gestured to Tramell’s cigarette. “Now those I gave up.”
“I am a nicotine addict,” Trammel replied. “I cannot quit. But if that woman gets a hold of you you might have her administer a bit more whatever.”
“I was walking past Marina Towers on a sunny winter day. I was writing for the Sun-Times and on lunch break. It occurred to me I would definitely die young if I kept up. So I stopped then and there. Pack and a half unfiltered to nothing. No withdrawal. No patches. No drugs.”
“Let’s get out of here and gamble,” Trammel said.
They left half-eaten trout and a substantial tip on the table. The casino was not crowded.
“Roulette?” Trammel said. He gestured to the lone table where Lisa, a dealer, stood doing nothing. There were no players.
Trammel placed some C notes on the felt and sat down next to the wheel. He specified dollar chips and took the bulk of his buy in red five dollar chips.
“Place your bets,” Lisa said. Adam sat down next to Trammel but did not buy in.
Trammel placed three white chips outside, covering 1-3 and splitting the two Zeros and the 4-6 column. He placed a fourth chip at the junction of the two zeros and the black 2 in the middle of the first column.
The first spin landed on 17. He kept repeating the same four dollar bet as the spins hit 34, 36, 10 and 11.
On the sixth spin he doubled the same bet. Regardless whether he won or lost he kept adding to the bet every five spins. When he hit anything between 0 and 6 he added as well..
“I play the 2 only he said. If I hit I stay. If not I leave. That is the nice thing about gambling. We control.”
Forty-five minutes later Trammel cashed out $3270.
“Small change.” he said at the cage. It was large for the Gold Strike.
“So if you lose you quit and don’t get mad.
“There is no relation whatsoever between me and the results. Other than my choice to play or not.”
“Agreed. I am surprised you have a problem with smoking?”
“I’m a good gambler and a piss poor caretaker of me. I prefer the risk to extended therapy.”
“Pray for a major fright,” Adam said, considering whether to offer him some free therapizing at which he was something of an expert, though it was nothing he had ever hung out a shingle for.
He dropped Adam at McDonald’s propelled the Cloud in the direction of Las Vegas. Adam got into his 240D and drove to the Vale. Trammel had given Adam a slip of paper with a phone number and an address on Katie near the University.
The night was starlit, the temperature mild. It had been a good day.
Pulling into the motel, Adam saw the Addict Unit van parked in front of 7. He pulled into his space in front of 8. In 7, the light was on behind the curtain. He knocked. Beverley opened the door ans said, “Hi..” She was wearing a blue bathrobe. She looked relaxed and good.
“Welcome, Beverly,” Adam said. “You cut loose.”
“It may not be so easy,” she replied. “There’s no telling what he’ll do. He’s a cop. They can be the worst.”
“Would he know where you might be?”
“If you are worried, that’s your problem. I’m the one he beats up on.”
“Succinct,” Adam said. “I have a feeling that I am going to sleep very deeply pretty soon. There’s Jacuzzi where we might have a bit of conversation before bed. What say?”
In a few minutes they were the sole occupants and the water jets were going at full power. They had doffed everything and Adam was unabashedly appreciating Beverly’s substantial and well-proportioned body, partway between Botticelli and Reubens with some Warhol thrown in. He wondered whether she was soft to the touch. He hoped she would be both soft and hard.
It did not take long to find out. She moved next to him and began to run her fingers down his chest and beyond until he was more aroused than he had been in months.
“I think,” Beverly said, “if you want to go to bed early, we should get out of here and get you tucked you in. It appeals to my maternal instinct.”
“Fully agree,” Adam sighed.
Ganya berated him any time he failed to perform exactly as she wished, and she was never consistent in her instructions. Beverly and he, for whatever reason, took as much time as they liked and came together as though that was what people did all the time. “It can’t be just love,” he thought afterward. “It must be engineering too” But Panflick’s acumen on these matters was limited. He rolled over and fell immediately to a deep and unfitful sleep.