If the River Was Whiskey

If the River Was Whiskey by T.C. Boyle Page A

Book: If the River Was Whiskey by T.C. Boyle Read Free Book Online
Authors: T.C. Boyle
and Belize and Guatemala to the south. Now he wanted to be famous.
    He moved fast. Two days after I’d agreed to represent him he made the eyewitness news on all three major networks whenhe suspended himself in a mesh bag from the twenty-second floor of the Sumitomo Building and refused to come down.
    Terrific. The only problem was that he didn’t bother to tell me about it. I was choking down a quick lunch—avocado and sprouts on a garlic-cheese croissant—already running late for an audition I’d set up for my harelipped comedian—when the phone rang. It was a Lieutenant Peachtree of the LAPD. “Listen,” the lieutenant hissed, “if this is a publicity stunt…” and he trailed off, leaving the threat—heavy ire, the violation of penal codes, the arcane and merciless measures taken to deal with accessories—unspoken.
    “The nutball up on the Sumitomo Building. Your client.”
    Comprehension washed over me. My first thought was to deny the connection, but instead I found myself stammering, “But, but how did you get my name?”
    Terse and efficient, a living police report, Peachtree gave me the details. One of his men, hanging out of a window on the twenty-first floor, had pleaded with Zoltan to come down. “I am the Human Fly,” Zoltan rumbled in response as the wind snapped and the traffic sizzled below, “you want to talk to me, call my agent.”
    “Twenty minutes,” Peachtree added, and his tone was as flat and unforgiving as the drop of a guillotine, “I want you down here. Five minutes after that I want this clown in the back of the nearest patrol car—is that understood?”
    It was. Perfectly. And twenty minutes later, with the help of an Officer Dientes, a screaming siren, and several hundred alert motorists who fell away from us on the freeway like swatted flies, I was taking the breeze on the twenty-first floor of the Sumitomo Building. Two of Peachtree’s men gripped my legs and eased my torso out onto the slick glassy plane of the building’s, façade.
    I was sick with fear. Before me lay the immensity of the city,its jaws and molars exposed. Above was the murky sky, half a dozen pigeons on a ledge, and Zoltan, bundled up like a sack of grapefruit and calmly perusing a paperback thriller. I choked back the remains of the croissant and cleared my throat. “Zoltan!” I shouted, the wind snatching the words from my lips and flinging them away. “Zoltan, what are you doing up there?”
    There was a movement from the bag above me, Zoltan stirring himself like a great leathery fruit bat unfolding its wings, and then his skinny legs and outsized feet emerged from their confinement as the bag swayed gently in the breeze. He peered down at me, the goggles aflame with the sun, and gave me a sour look. “You’re supposed to be my agent, and you have to ask me that?”
    “It’s a stunt, then—is that it?” I shouted.
    He turned his face away, and the glare of the goggles died. He wouldn’t answer. Behind me, I could hear Peachtree’s crisp, efficient tones: “Tell him he’s going to jail.”
    “They’re going to lock you up. They’re not kidding.”
    For a long moment, he didn’t respond. Then the goggles caught the sun again and he turned to me. “I want the TV people, Tricia Toyota, ‘Action News,’ the works.”
    I began to feel dizzy. The pavement below, with its toy cars and its clots of tiny people, seemed to rush up at me and recede again in a pulsing wave. I felt Peachtree’s men relax their grip. “They won’t come!” I gasped, clutching the windowframe so desperately my fingers went numb. “They can’t. It’s network policy.” It was true, as far as I knew. Every flake in the country would be out on that ledge if they thought they could get a ten-second clip on the evening news.
    Zoltan was unimpressed. “TV,” he rumbled into the wind, “or I stay here till you see the white of my bone.”
    I believed him.
    As it turned out, he stayed there,

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