By the time the big Chevy nosed its way onto the Bolivar Ferry, it was well past 8:00 on a Sunday night. The ferry only had a handful of other cars on it.
“This is where I made my first mini-fortune,” Turner said.
“Yep.” He told her about selling school chocolates with his brother, but the only part she liked was the part where he extorted money from Cason in exchange for not snitching.
“You’ve got a killer’s instinct,” she said. “We just have to sharpen it up a bit.”
Off on the left loomed the big lump of Pelican Island. “See that?” said Turner.
“Yeah. What is it?”
“It’s a spoil island.”
“When they dredged the Houston Ship Channel, they had to put all the muck somewhere, so they heaped it up into an island. That’s it. Pelican Island.”
“Pretty name for something so nasty. What’s on it?”
“The most amazing thing no one’s ever seen.”
“What does that mean, Turner?”
“It’s a breeding colony for laughing gulls. Zillions of ’em, right there on the ground with their eggs and their chicks. Stinks like shit, and birds everywhere.”
“It is. But it’s really hard to get to and there aren’t any roads on it, and so it’s protected, so the birds roost and lay their eggs and raise their chicks on it. It’s kind of a sanctuary.”
The moon was rising and it shone down on Clem’s face. Her black hair was shiny in the moonlight. She turned towards him as the boat cleaved smoothly across the calm waters of the bay. “What’s with you, Turner?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what’s with you? You’re the least curious human I’ve ever met.”
“You lost me, Clem.”
“I did? Have you noticed that you’ve never asked me anything about me? Like it’s just normal for a smarty-boots philosphizer college student who rides a bicycle in his underwear to hook up with a hooker and never ask her anything about her life. Nothing ever. Not even once.”
“What do you want me to ask?”
“That’s just it! Most people don’t need a checklist, Turner! They ask! They’re curious! But here you are, sitting on a damn boat about to go make a major drug run and maybe get thrown in prison for life and you’ve never even asked me anything about ME. That’s weird, Turner! That’s fucked up!”
Her legs were up on the dashboard and her skirt had fallen down so that the white “v” of her panties were showing at the intersection of her crossed legs. The boat’s engines churned.
“Well, Clem, I’m very curious. Just not about the things that other people are curious about. That’s all.”
“Other people, you know, if they have a girlfriend, they want to know about her vagina, and who’s been in it, and how she uses it, and how many times she’s used it, and whether she plans on using it with someone other than them, and they get all into that, you know, I call it ‘pussy politics.'”
“But I don’t care about that. It doesn’t have an odometer on it, Clem … ”
She giggled. “If it did, I have flipped it twice by the time I was eighteen.”
“Right? But it doesn’t. So what do I care how you use your vagina, or who’s been in it, or what and how and when and why you plan to use it next week? I don’t give a rat’s ass about what you do with your elbows, do I? So why should I spend my waking time worrying about the crack between your legs?”
Clem looked out the window. “So if you came home and I was screwing some guy, you wouldn’t be mad?”
“I probably would be, but that’s your business, Clem. We aren’t married.”
“What if we were married?”
“I’d be really mad, then.”
“Would you kill him?”
“Hell I am.”
“Of course I wouldn’t.”
“Because I don’t think I could kill another human being. Especially for something like fucking. Fucking’s natural.”
“You know what I’d do if I came home and you were screwing some woman?”
“I’d blow your fucking brains out. Like this.” She made a pistol with her thumb and forefinger, switched off the imaginary safety, pulled back the hammer, and pointed it at the side of Turner’s head. “If you were fucking someone in my bed, I’d squeeze this trigger until your goddamned brains came out the other side of your head.” Then she pointed the finger gun to the floorboard, let the hammer gently back, and clicked on the safety.
There was a long silence as the water hit the sides of the ferry and the diesel engines chugged away in the moonlight.
“What about the woman I was fucking? Would you shoot her, too?”
“Only if she was really cute. But otherwise, no. I can’t blame her. She’s just doing what I would have been doing.”
“You say all this like you’ve shot somebody before,” Turner said.
“Maybe I have. But I didn’t kill him too badly.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? You didn’t kill him ‘too badly’?”
Clem laughed, then frowned. “I shot him good enough that he stopped doing what he was doing.”
“What was he doing?”
“What he wasn’t supposed to. Haven’t seen him since and don’t miss the bastard one whit and hope he never shows his ugly face around my house again. You better hope not, either. He’d shoot your narrow ass just for living.”
“You’re crazy, Clem.”
“I’m crazy? You’re the crazy one, Turner. Normal men kill other people for fucking their women. But you, you’re just kind of like ‘Oh, well,’ like she’s making some guy a cup of coffee. Are all philosophizers like you?”
“I’m not a ‘philosphizer,’ whatever that is.”
“Sure you are!” She dropped her voice an octave and scrunched her face up in a mock serious expression. “What is the meaning of justice? How do we know what we know?” She started giggling. “All your philosophizing crap is so dumb. I tried to read one of your books while you were at school and it’s the stupidest crap ever. It doesn’t even make any sense, except the part about the old man trying to fuck the young boys. Why do you care about that shit? Why don’t you just get a business degree and learn how to make money like everyone else? Who gives a shit about ‘What is justice?'”
Turner looked at her. “You know why I’m not curious about you?”
“Why?” She was so eager that her eyes seemed to flicker with electricity.
“Because the easiest way to kill what I feel about you is to examine it.”
The silence filled the car. They sat there.
After a while Clem spoke. “You see these other cars on the ferry?”
“What about them?”
“Any of them look funny to you?”
Turner surveyed the handful of vehicles. “No.”
“Why don’t you try to tell me what each one of them is here for?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“See that pickup? Guy and his wife and two kids. They’ve been on the island for the day and are headed home, somewhere on the mainland. The big Buick with the two old people? What are they doing?”
“I don’t know. Same thing?”
“Probably. What about the two Mexicans in the Pinto?”
“Working on the island? Going home after a day’s work?”
“Yes, I’d say so. What about that one?” She nodded over towards a rusted out Chrysler 300. “What are they here for?”
Turner looked. The car was really beat-up, with a huge dent in front chrome fender. The driver had a scraggly beard and was wearing an Astros ballcap. The passenger was slouched low, wearing sunglasses, but evidently not asleep. “I don’t know. They aren’t fishermen, that’s for sure.”
“No, Turner, they aren’t.”
Clem laughed. “Yes, probably birdwatchers finishing up a day over on Pelican Island.”
“Who are they, then?”
“I’d say they’re drug dealers.”
“Yes, like us. Which means … ?”
“You think they’re going the same place we are?”
The ferry’s engines strained as they reversed the screws, slowing the boat as the captain guided it perfectly into the ferry landing.
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