The Return of Harlin Coke

Maybe it’s corny, but I’ll tell you why we went down to California.  To be free.

There was a writer who said that anything in the continental U.S. not nailed in place slides down into L.A….like the stuff sliding into the corner of your junk drawer when you take it out.  Something like that.  Anyway, our case was no different, Sailor’s and mine.  We slid down into L.A. like a pair of old, dirty pennies.

After Sailor met Harlin in a smoky basement bar called Grog on the Lower East Side, he’d taken her to suck him off in the Chelsea Hotel.  After he’d paid, on the way out the door, he’d dropped a card.  Harlin Coke, filmmaker.  And a number.  Sailor told me that he’d mumbled something on his way out the door, lighting up a cigarette, talking low through the smoke.  “Could use a good indie chick like you.”

When she’d come home from all that, she’d flicked the card down on the kitchen table in front of me, right by my coffee cup.

It’d been right after my breakdown, and I couldn’t sleep.  I’d come out to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee and was just reading and drinking coffee and chainsmoking out there.  As I sat, the first light came through the blinds and fell in pale bars across the kitchen table.

“What do you think about that?”  She’d asked.  “Met him down at Grog.  One john that turned out to be a decent fornicator.  And he dropped his card.”

I didn’t say anything.  Just some asshole who wanted to shoot another cheap home porn with a New York hooker.

“Why do we need some shitty excuse to go down to L.A.?” I asked, “We can just go.”

“Upi owes this guy a favor.”

“I don’t understand.”

“If I just duck out he’ll track me down.  He’ll try to hurt me.”

I took a sip of coffee.

“Upi, I mean.  But if we have a reason to leave, and he knows the guy, owes him…well, maybe it will be different.”

I was still processing.  “He would track you down…across the whole goddamn country?

“He’s crazy.”  She turned away from me.  She was going through a corner cupboard I’d never seen her use before.

“And you think this other guy isn’t.   Harlin Coke?  What kind of name is that anyway?”

CLACK.  Sailor placed an old VHS cassette down on the kitchen table.  “One of his.”

I looked at it for a minute.  “You wanna watch it now…or…you wanna get some sleep?”

“Gimme five minutes.  I’m going to slip into some pee-jays,” she said, “Keep that coffee on for me?”

I pulled on my cigarette and looked at the VHS cassette.  Someone had taken a BIC and scrawled on a post-it note scotch-taped to the plastic.

The Priest    Harlin Coke, dir.

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