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August 16, 2012


(excerpted from The Ketamine Sun by Cole Coonce)

The sun didn’t care about stink. It didn’t care about money. It didn’t care about beauty. It didn’t care about tranquility. It was oblivious to its own reflection glimmering off the placid water, even if the ocean was the only element that could salve an otherwise stifling atomic fury that spoke of the new, inexorable radiation. I drove in to see Toshiro Kamiokande at his post-opulence palace in the Palisades, on an October Tuesday before noon in the heat of an all too obligatory Indian Summer. The planet was melting. The yellow fireball in the sky hadn’t yet crested, yet its sting cracked paint and melted the molded faces of gorgeous people stuck in traffic in West Los Angeles. When beauty gets sticky, it gets macabre and smells of chemicals and decaying flesh. The sun didn’t care about pulchritude either.

I wasn’t stuck in traffic nor was I wearing makeup, so the weather was no bother. Even in the heat and the haze, I felt cool and clean as penguin shit at absolute zero. My sport coat was pressed, my black slacks creased and my powder blue fedora kept my eyes from squinting.

It wasn’t always like today. I wasn’t always like today. Today, I was totally together. Today, I was Blackie Carbon, fit and working and in demand. I had been sought out by corporate Nipponese money to help control a pair of half-Japanese girls whose exploits were besmirching the family name.

I pulled off Pacific Coast Highway and dropped the transmission in low moan, softly careering up a desolate road that led to a secluded bluff buttressed by wrought iron. After sorting out security codes, passing the scrutiny of a cavalcade of private cops and finally parking, I walked past a chauffeur on his knees, detailing the chrome wheels on a neutrino black Cadillac Escalade. He was as overdressed as I was. After climbing a handful of marble steps, I was greeted by a soft-boned Caucasian man in stocking feet and whose suit fit. I introduced myself.

“Greetings Mr. Carbon. I am Simon Drake, Mr. Kamiokande’s personal assistant and the family’s life coach.” His hand was half-limp and wet. His expensive skin had begun to fall and had the tone and sallow consistency of a beached whale.

“‘Personal assistant and life coach?’ In another words, a go-fer with better public relations?”

“That would be a common and uniformed interpretation.”

It was his way of telling me he had heard it all before. In this town, we had all heard it all before. Everything was an echo, but one could suppose that repetitions beat silence—if only barely.

“Please remove your shoes, Mr. Carbon, and I’ll tell Mr. Kamiokande you are here,” Drake demurred and made himself scarce, his words bouncing between opposing 50-foot glass windows in an edifice that was part-Tuscany mansion, part split-level beach motel. The life coach’s words were still echoing in a hallway as wide as a hangar when a door cracked under a staircase.

A pair of hands with ten Kool-Aid fingernails grasped the door’s edge. A black-Japanese girl with metallic dreads and skin the color of green-tea ice cream poked her head around the door. It was a tease designed to paralyze a man like me, as if I had just bitten into the wrong gland of fugu. The hidden meaning of her soft sell being that whatever was still concealed behind the door was tantalizingly toothsome—and lethal.

I said nothing. I contemplated giving my wristwatch a cursory glance, but didn’t as that would be acknowledging the efficacy of her tease and her allure as sure as if I dropped on one knee and cited verses of John Donne from memory. Instead, I turned my back and feigned studying a Rothko on the wall. There was nothing to analyze. It was as blank as anything else in this town. I pretended to look anyway.

I heard the bombastic clacking of heels and caught a ghostly sight of the girl behind the door through a series of chiaroscuro reflections ping-ponging between the panes of the parallel glass. I turned around as she entered the room with a Newtonian bang, bouncing off the glass and then slamming against the door all equal and opposite-like. She wore a firehouse-red skirt whose abbreviated hemline said she was between parties. She looked old enough to drink or at least old enough to know she had the curves and the color to charm some under-sexed university-age geek into Photoshopping a California driver’s license. If there was any doubt about the dubious document, her 36C-cups would sway law enforcement, if not a nightclub doorman.

I went back to studying the Rothko. It was red.


(excerpted from The Ketamine Sun by Cole Coonce)

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