People come across each other, more by necessity or happenstance than by desire, and the odd relationships they forge become obsessive, inappropriate, and murderous. A blue collar menagerie becomes entangled in webs of deceit, extortion, crime and unfulfilled desires. What seems to be unrelated stories tie into a common and unexpected finale where art imitates imperfect life.
His first trip to the Strip in Las Vegas had left him in awe of the glitter, of the waste of water in the desert, of the crowds walking and rolling along the boulevard and teeming inside the outlandish casinos. His second trip had been like going to the McDonald’s down the street from his house with the smell of fries spilled on the floor. He had seen the haggard faces of casino workers after long shifts and decrepit gamblers throwing away their money down shiny slots to be rewarded with noise and lights, and he had hated himself for seeing those things.
Why could he not be like anybody else and just enjoy himself? His hypersensitive perception distorted normal life into half truths and ironies yet he could not get to the gist of things, to the whys and the hows, his insight getting mired on non-essentials that made his anticipated discovery of life's truths a disappearing mirage in the desert. He envied clods who got a kick out of eating at the NASCAR café whereas he could see nothing but a corporate attempt at deceiving him by giving him heroes he didn't care for, and he hated both the deceiving and the fact that he was too clever to be deceived.
There had been two moments of achieved satisfaction in this trip. He had stopped by a highway mirador in Utah to admire a landscape of mesas and canyons under a bright sun. He sat on a rock and took in the sights, breathing in a cold desert air. He had become enthralled by the sight of an eagle gliding over the rugged terrain with the smoothness of a celestial god. A crowd of screaming kids disgorged from a minivan and herded by their loud mouth parents had put an end to his bliss.
Later, he’d had *** with a ***** he had met in the lounge of one of the casinos. The short climax had been worth two hundred and fifty dollars. It had not been true companionship but he had enjoyed *** without emotional strings and had satisfied his curiosity over the flesh of a stranger.
Now he sat in his car stuck in the Denver afternoon rush hour, crawling his way through potholes and around orange cones. As the car’s stereo played Bob Dyland, he realized that he had divorced his wife only to fall into the lonely routine of a bachelor existence just as constraining as the shackles of a loveless and childless marriage. Something was amiss if his happiest moments of late had been sitting on a rock looking into the desert and screwing a *****. Whatever wasn’t right with his life, he couldn’t put a finger on what it was.
As he usually did on the way home from work, he stopped by the grocery store. With basket in hand he moved through the aisles not so much looking for goods but checking on the strolling humanity. He applied what he knew to be his flawed looking glass to the unsuspecting customers crossing his path. They came into view and he analyzed them and discard them and kept on moving, wondering how off the mark he had been in his judgments because he knew that his perceptions of other people were as flawed as people tended to perceive him. He envied people who could come into the store to buy groceries and walked away with just that. He always walked away with some groceries and the mental snapshots of the strangers he had crossed paths with.
He needed a hobby to occupy his wondering mind, something more enlightening than ruminating over stranger’s mental snapshots. He tried reading the usual fare of bestsellers but they left him as empty as prime time TV. He even tried a literary tack and picked up James Joyce's Ulysses but after a few pages he asked himself, what the hell is this crap? Since this first and last try at keeping his mind entertained, he had come back to his stacks of Car and Driver magazines as his source of mental stimulation.