Ray Tompkins is the kind of person you never get to know. He's the security guard, the factory worker, the man working the midnight shift. Nobody really understands Ray - not his coworkers, not his family, and certainly not the women in his life. There is a rage building inside Ray Tompkins and Los Angeles is the fuel - the sick obsession with celebrity mixed with the vacuousness of everyday life. Against this backdrop, Ray Tompkins finds a way to vent his anger. He, too, will be known...
"This pacy, tightly written novel is like 'Taxi Driver' meets Charles Bukowski's Factotum." Uncut
Marta and I met through her crazy son, Robbie. It was kind of an accident really. But not really all that surprising. That son of hers was an accident waiting to happen. Her son was waiting outside my local liquor store and asking anybody and everybody to buy him a six pack of beer. It seemed that same night some drunk took off with his money after agreeing to get the beer for him. “Wontcha do it?” the kid asked me. “Some *** jetted with my money.” It was possible. There was a gay bar, the S.S. Happiness, close by. Robbie then told me there was an extra ten in it for me if I bought him the beer. I bought it for him. When I brought the beer to him he said, “The money’s at home. I’ll give it to you when we get there.”
“When we get there?” I said.
He snorted, wiped his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
I told the little kid to go away and drink his beer.
He said, “I’ll introduce you to my mother.”
“What’s your mother got to do with any of this?”
“She’s sick in bed. I’m getting this for her.”
“Why’s she drinking if she’s sick in bed?” I asked.
“Just come over. I told you there’s ten dollars in it for you.”
I didn’t care much about the ten dollars. I just didn’t have anything else to do. I had checked the TV page. There was nothing on. And the kid looked harmless enough. Pock-marked, but harmless.
On the way back to his house, he showed me a picture of his mother, a Polaroid. I’d never seen a Polaroid take a decent picture of anybody, so his mother wasn’t very good looking. But that didn’t matter. Ugly women knew what it was like to live. Pretty women didn’t know anything about real life. They’d been looked at too long. Imagine, you’re a mannequin, people staring at you your whole life, telling you how good you look and that’s all that matters. You can’t tell me that they know what it’s like to really be alive. The uglier women had to rely on something other than their face. So I felt something for them. And I was no one to complain. I wasn’t all that pretty myself. And I hadn’t had sex in over a year. I wasn’t afraid to admit it.
Anyhow, pretty women scared me. That was true. They scared the hell out of me. Well, I’d say all women scared me, but it was the pretty women especially.
I stared at the picture. Underneath the woman’s crooked expression like she was tasting something awful, and an ugly blouse covered with large orange flowers, I could see something desirable. Long, thick blond hair, and rough skin like it had some stories behind it, and a full woman body. I could see some of her in her son except that her son had wide, crazy eyes and you just couldn’t look at anything but his nowhere stare.
We got to the house. It was white with light-blue trim, small, trapped between two apartment buildings. The house was over the garage. We climbed steep steps with chipped blue paint. He opened the door with a key. I followed him inside.
His mother wasn’t sick. She greeted us at the door, a healthy red-faced glow. She was wearing a black dress that came just past her knees and a thin line of fake pearls, prettier than the photograph. She looked at me suspiciously. Her son very-businesslike said, “I got some beer,” like he was talking to his wife.
“Good,” she said and he went off into the kitchen. “Who are you?” she asked. Her arms were crossed.