13 August 2012

"Clean Living?"

[Context of the scene: Dave is an ex-con, imprisoned for tax evasion, who's begun to hang out with skateboarders down the road from his housesitting job. He sees them mostly as hard partying punks, rather than athletes. Steve is a competitive skater; Dave, Steve, Bobby and others have traveled to attend a skating competition in Houston.]

When he woke up again, it was light. The digital readout on the tv said 7:30. Steve’s bed was empty. Dave put on his jeans and went outside to look at the morning. He heard a car start on the street behind the motel and then saw Steve in the parking lot, warming up. He was in shorts, socks, and tennis shoes, touching his toes. Dave nodded to him, unsure of where they stood.

Steve nodded back. “Want to run some?”

“I haven’t got anything to wear.”

“Those sneakers you had on last night’ll work. I’ll loan you some shorts. Come on.”

They ran south along the 59 access road, past an orange-and-white Whataburger and a giant supermarket called the Fiesta Mart. Steve kept the pace down to where Dave could handle it. He was the closest to cheerful Dave had ever seen him. “This isn’t how I pictured you,” Dave said.

“I don’t recommend this for everybody,” Steve said. “Somebody like Bobby, he’s probably got to keep fucking himself up for a few more years. That’s cool. You need that too. I’m not sorry I did all that when I was a kid. It’s just, after a while the engine starts to miss. You get tired of feeling poisoned all the time.

“Clean living?”

“A joint or a beer every now and then won’t hurt you. Even that doesn’t get me off like it used to.”

—Lewis Shiner, Slam (1990), pp. 139-140 [emphasis mine].

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