“Nope,” said Crumley. “Whoever that bad ass is in the tenement ain’t Hopwood. The old actor always smelled like a bed of marigolds and an acre of stardust. You want me to go sniff around your friend Henry’s door?”

“No,” I said, “by the time you got there, Mr. Armpits’d be back out here, waiting to snuffle around your door or mine.”

“Not if we type and shout, shout and type, you forget that? Hey, what was it you shouted?”

I told Crumley more about my American Mercury story sale and the billion dollars that came with it.

“Jesus,” said Crumley, “I feel like a pa whose boy has just made it through Harvard. Tell me again, kid. How do you do it? What should I do?”

“Throw up in your typewriter every morning.”


“Clean up every noon.”


The foghorn out in the bay started blowing, saying over and over in a long gray voice, Constance Rattigan would never come back.

Crumley started typing.

And I drank my beer.

That night, at ten minutes after one, someone came and stood outside my door. Oh, Jesus, I thought, awake. Please. Not again.

There was a fierce bang and a hard bang and then a terrible bang on my door. Someone out there was asking to get in.

God. Coward, I thought. Get it over with. Now, at last . . .

I jumped up to fling the door wide.

“You look great in those lousy torn jockey shorts,” said Constance Rattigan.

I grabbed and yelled, “Constance!”

“Who in hell would it be?”

“But…but I went to your funeral.”

“So did I. Hell, it’s Tom Sawyer time. All those bimbos on the beach and the crappy organ. Shove your ass in your pants. We gotta get out of here. Jump.”

Gunning the engine of an old beat-up Ford V-8, Constance made me fast-zip my fly.

Driving south along the sea I kept mourning, “You’re alive.”

“Hold the funeral and wipe your nose.” She laughed at the empty road ahead. “Jesus God, I fooled everyone.”

“But why, why?”

“Well, crud, honey, that bastard kept combing the surf line night after night.”

“You didn’t write, I mean, invite him to…”

“Invite? Jesus, you got no taste.”

She braked the car in behind her shut Arabian fort, lit a cigarette, puffed smoke out the window, glared.

“All clear?”

“He’s never coming back, Constance.”

“Good! He looked better every night. When you’re one hundred ten years old it’s not the man, it’s the pants. Besides, I thought I knew who he was.”

“You were right.”

“So I decided to fix things for good. I stashed groceries in a bungalow south of here, and parked this Ford there. Then I came back.”

She jumped out of the old Ford and led me to the back door of her house.

“I turned on all the lights, music, fixed food that night, opened every door and window, and when he showed up, ran down, yelled, beat you to Catalina and dove in. He was so stunned he didn’t follow, or he might have, part way, and given up. I swam out two hundred yards and lay easy. I saw him on the shore the next half-hour, waiting for me to come in, then he ran like hell. I had really spooked him. I swam south and surfed in by my old el cheapo bungalow near Playa Del Rey. I had a ham sandwich and champagne on the porch, feeling great. Hid there ever since. Sorry to worry you, kid. You okay? Give me a kiss. But no phys. ed. ”

She kissed me and unlocked the door and we walked through to open the beach-front door and let the wind haunt the curtains and sift sand on the tiles.

“Jesus, who the hell lived here?” she wondered. “I’m my own ghost come home. I don’t own this any more. You ever feel, back from vacation, all the furniture, books, radio, seem like neglected cats, resentful. They cut you dead. Feel? It’s a morgue.”

We walked through the rooms. The furniture, white sheeted in the dust and wind, moved restlessly, perturbed.

Constance leaned out the front door and yelled. “Okay, son-of-a-bitch. Gotcha!”

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray