Kevin Cash ran through life like his tail was on fire. looking back, I often wonder if he didn't have the right idea. Life is like a big assed blanket and if we stand still long enough, or worse, just sit and watch, it will eventually smother us all.
Kevin used to tell me in his saner moments, "The Bible says it'll be the fire next time, dude. You know how I feel about water, and I doubt very seriously that anybody else will let me on their boat. So, I'm going to go down in flames. I'll streak across the heavens and leave nothing behind space dust." I know that this don't sound too coherent, but in the logic system that Kevin was using, it made perfect sense.
I used tell him, "Kevin, if I got a boat, and the rain don't stop, you're on it, man. But, the Bible also says, you gotta have two of every kind. Where am I going to find anyone to pair up with you?"
He'd laugh and slap his knee, "You ain't muthafucka, cause I'm one of a kind."
Standing there by his grave, all his friends were gathered at one end, clustered in between a flower arrangement that spelled out 'Go for it!' in red roses at one end and one that said 'Tell Johnny I Said Hello' in yellow roses at the other. The picture his sister Sharon took of the sad looking group looked like the after picture of the whole Sixties era, and, in perfect truth, captured the essence of those confusing times as they played out in our dusty, little town in the great San Joaquin Valley. I can't help but wonder though how many other such photographs exist and how many 'What the Fuck?' responses they would one day engender.
We laughed that there was nothing inside that shiny walnut box but the ass end of big joint in a roach clip. We joked about it because we had all seen it coming, and, each in our own way, had tried to warn him. We always presented ourselves like a stoic bunch of sad-eyed losers but a little bit deeper down, underneath the thin layer of epidermis we passed off to the public, our hearts were drowning. It was like being at the funeral of Icarus. All of us got a little sunburned, but it was always Kevin who flew the highest.
There were four of us at first, the neighborhood boys, me, Preacher, Little Dan and Kevin. Our group multiplied like that single cell that the scientists say started off our evolutionary journey. Stuck by a bolt of lightning while floating on surface of the waters, we first became fish, then amphibians, and so on. Lagging behind the rest of the humanity, we got stuck for a while in the simian stage before we evolved into angels with waxen wings.
I didn't see no lightning cracks or hear no thunder booms, but I know that they had to be there. I was browsing through a Life magazine one day and saw all these day-glo painted long-hair sumbitches dancing in the streets of San Francisco with almost naked girls. I took the picture outside to show it to the others. Later, when I watched the movie 2001 Space Odyssey and saw them cavemen touch that shiny metal object, I knew that those pictures in that magazine were the equivalent of Prometheus bringing down the fire. One day, we were playing wiffle ball in front of my house waiting for our moms to call us into dinner, and the next, we were rolling joints in back of the school cafeteria talking about tits and ass. None of us ever picked up a wiffle ball bat again.
His mom and dad were divorced, and he lived with his dad and his brothers, but his dad was too busy chasing tail to ever come home. I spent more time there than I did at home.
When I got out of high school, me, my brother Glen, and Kevin's brother Sammy rented a house for the summer. Sammy had a girlfriend named Carla from Freiberg, and she had a little sister named Juliette. Carla came down to spend a week with Sammy, and Kevin told us that Juliette, his girlfriend, was coming with her.
I was having girlfriend trouble myself, and, on top of it all, I was living off bennies during the work week to stay awake, and sleeping only on weekends. Juliette turned out to be the prettiest, most angelic looking girl I have ever known. Kevin never even came around. I was loyal though, and I defended his claims when all other guys hanging around were hitting on her.
Toward the end of the week, Little Dan asked her, "How long have you been going out with Kevin?"
"Kevin? I'm not going out with him. We've only talked once."
I looked over at her and our eyes locked, and I asked her if she wanted to go for a drive.
We got out to my car, and, all of a sudden, her sister's Volvo came screaming around the corner and stopped right where we were.
"Juliette, get your ass in this car! Fuck that lying, cheating, bastard Sammy!
Juliette tried to resist, "But, I'm going for a ride with Danny!"
"Get in the damn car! We're going back to Freiberg!"
I wrote it off to God wanting to punish me for using Juliette's presence at the house, to make Sylvia, my girlfriend, jealous. I learned a lesson that God don't reward devious little shits. I quit taking benzedrine that very day and went back to Sylvia.
During that time though, I had my first experience with hemorrhoids. I woke up one morning and thought that colon my was trying to escape from my body. I went over to my aunt's house because she worked for a doctor.
"It's all that stuff you're taking, Danny. You got hemorrhoids."
"I ain't taking nothing like that, Aunty."
"Don't lie to me, asshole. Your eyes are like BBs."
A couple of week later, Kevin and I were walking past her house while she was out gardening. We had taken some acid and were tripping badly. She looked up, and I waved and kept walking. At the corner, I looked back and saw her shake her head and go back to her gardening.
Kevin came up with the bright idea that we should go out to the Gold Dust Canal and catch crawdads. It sounded good at the time, but as early as that night, I couldn't have told you what I would have done with a crawdad if I'd caught one.
Kevin fell in the canal and almost drowned. Me and Little Dan had to jump in and save him. He almost dragged us both down with him. People say that right before you die your whole life passes in front of your eyes. All I saw was lots of intense colors and flashing lights. I also heard the music of the Moody Blues.
We finally broke surface, and I screamed, "Damn it Kevin, if you hit me again, I'm going to drown you fucking myself!"
Little Dan yelled from the other side, "Let go my fucking hair, Kevin!" Kevin finally relaxed, and we got him over to the bank.
Covered with mud and gasping for air, I asked, "Anybody else hear the Moody Blues?"
Little Dan replied first, "They suck!"
"How about you, Kev? You hear that shit?"
"Yeah (gasp) I . . hear .. it (gasp). 'And .. the sounds (gasp) we . . .make to. . .gether (gasp) is. . .the music (gasp) to the. . . story(gasp) in your eyes.' I got . . . the album. At. . . home."
So, we went back to his house and listened to the album while he washed and dried our muddy clothes. Sammy came in with his new girlfriend and saw us sitting around wearing beach towels and just shook his head and said, "What the fuck do we got here?"
While we were waiting for the clothes to dry, Kevin started riffin, "It'll be a cold day in hell before I ever get back in the water again. If you guys hadn't been there, I'd be deader than hell. Fuck that shit. It don't take a ton of bricks to fall on Kevin Cash's head. No siree. No more going swimming for me."
Many years later, I was talking to a friend who had to wash cop cars as community service on weekends. He told me that that the guy who owned the car lot where this happened used to blare the Moody Blues album Every Good Boy Deserves Favor over and over just to screw with him. That car lot was only a half mile away from where we were and obscured by a grove of Eucalyptus trees. I was as shocked and disappointed as the first guy who ever read Thus Spake Zarathustra. It was many years later when I discovered Carl Jung's theories of synchronicity before the mystery was restored to its proper place.
The last time I ever saw Kevin alive I was pulling him off a friend of ours named Billy Jones. Kevin had borrowed another friend's car and foolishly left it parked out at Cooper's Gulch where we all partied. Devil, the brother of Johnny Diaz, my then roommate, and some of his friends had happened upon our little party and threw the seats of the car into the fire.
Before they did that though, they were howling like werewolves and shooting their guns off at the moon. Preacher, Danny, and were afraid. Devil knew that I lived his brother, so I thought that we'd be okay, but damned if Kevin didn't come back while they were there. The friends he was with dropped him off and he went ballistic.
While Devil and his friends laughed hysterically, Preacher and I tried to calm Kevin down by convincing him that it was Billy Jones who had burned the seats of the car. Billy had been there when Kevin had parked the car. Little Dan backed us up.
We finally got out of there and kept trying to explain to Kevin what had really happened. He was so worried about telling his buddy about the car seats wasn't didn't even trying to listen. We pulled into a convenience store and Preacher and I got out to get more beer, and, God as my witness, Billy Jones pulled into to get some gas.
Kevin was on him in and instant. It took all three of us to pull him off of Billy. When I later dropped Kevin off at the alley by his girlfriend's house, he still hadn't took it all in. He moved to Las Vegas shortly afterwards, and that's where he died. Ironically, he fell asleep while driving home from work and flipped his car over into a ponding basin and drowned.
Sylvia left me after ten years of marriage, and I got a wild hair one day and took off one morning and drove to Vegas. Right from the start, I thought it was hella strange that he worked at the Gold Dust Casino when he died considering it was had the same name as that canal. So, I went in and walked straight back to barroom where Kevin had tended bar.
"Hello, Sweetie, What can I get for you?" An older lady bartender asked.
"Scotch and water, please."
"Hell no. Do I like a heathen?"
"Glenfiddich it is. That'll be five dollars, Hon."
"Keep the change. How long you been working here, Sandra?" I asked reading her nametag.
She smiled, "Hell, sixteen years, on and off. I took off once to have a kid."
"Did you know Kevin Cash? He used to work here."
"You one of Kevin's friends? Hell, they stop in here all the time."
"Yeah. He was my best friend. Tell me something. While he was here was there Moody Blues music playing in the background?"
Sandra smiled broadly, "How the hell did you know that? That dumbass Kevin bribed the guy who ran the sound system to play that shit all the damned time. I was so sick of that crap."
"Set yourself up. I want you to drink a toast with me."
"You got it. God, I loved that idiot."
And I swear, as God is my witness, as soon we tossed them drinks and placed the glasses down upon the bar, just like fucking magic, "Knights in White Satin" in all of its sappy orchestral glory came pouring out the speakers located above our heads.
I looked at Sandra who was standing there with her mouth agape. "That's too fucking weird." And then added, "But I gotta agree with Little Dan, that shit sucks buttermilk."