You write the book about all this fabulous stuff, I edit it, we’ll grab the money and run.”
“But who’ll believe it!?”
“No one. But it’s so sensational, everyone will buy. Millions of copies. And no one will investigate, for they’re all guilty, city fathers, Chambers of Commerce, real estate salesmen, Army generals who thought they made up and fought their own wars, or made up and built their own cities! Pompous freaks! Here we are. Out.”
They made it out of the elevator and the shack as the next quake came. Both fell and got up, with nervous laughter.
“Good old California, yes? Is my Rolls still there? Yep. No carjackers. In!”
With his hand on the Rolls doorframe, Gibson stared over at his friend. “Does the San Andreas Fault come through this block?”
“You better believe. Wanna go see your home?”
Gibson shut his eyes. “Christ, I’m afraid.”
“Take courage from the insurance policy in your coat pocket. Shall we go?”
“In a moment.” Gibson swallowed hard “What will we name our book?”
“What time is it and date?”
Gibson looked at the sun about to rise. “Early Six-thirty. And the date on my watch reads February fifth.”
‘Six-thirty a.m. February fifth, 1994.”
‘Then that’s the title of our book. Or why not Zaharoff add Richter for the earthquake Richter scale at Cal-Tech. Zaharoff/Richter Mark V? Okay?”
The doors slammed. The motor roared.
“Do we go home?”
“Go fast. Jesus. Fast.” They went.
Remember? Why, how could they forget? Although they knew him for only a little while, years later his name would arise and they would smile or even laugh and reach out to hold hands, remembering.
Sascha. What a tender, witty comrade, what a sly, hidden individual, what a child of talent; teller of tales, bon vivant, late-night companion, ever-present illumination on foggy noons.
He, whom they had never seen, to whom they spoke often at three a.m. in their small bedroom, away from friends who might roll their eyeballs under their lids, doubting their sanity, hearing his name.
Well, then, who and what was Sascha, and where did they meet or perhaps only dream him, and who were they?
Quickly: they were Maggie and Douglas Spaulding and they lived by the loud sea and the warm sand and the rickety bridges over the almost dead canals of Venice, California. Though lacking money in the bank or Goodwill furniture in their tiny two-room apartment, they were incredibly happy. He was a writer, and she worked to support him while he finished the great American novel.
Their routine was: she would arrive home each night from downtown Los Angeles and he would have hamburgers waiting or they would walk down the beach to eat hot dogs, spend ten or twenty cents in the Penny Arcade, go home, make love, go to sleep, and repeat the whole wondrous routine the next night: hot dogs, Penny Arcade, love, sleep, work, etc. It was all glorious in that year of being very young and in love; therefore it would go on forever
Until he appeared.
The nameless one. For then he had no name. He had threatened to arrive a few months after their marriage to destroy their economy and scare off the novel, but then he had melted away, leaving only his echo of a threat.
But now the true collision loomed.
One night over a ham omelet with a bottle of cheap red and the conversation loping quietly, leaning on the card table and promising each other grander and more ebullient futures, Maggie suddenly said, “I feel faint.”
“What?” said Douglas Spaulding.
“I’ve felt funny all day. And I was sick, a little bit, this morning.”
“Oh, my God.” He rose and came around the card table and took her head in his hands and pressed her brow against his side, and looked down at the beautiful part in her hair, suddenly smiling.
“Well, now,” he said, “don’t tell me that Sascha is back?”
“Sascha! Who’s that?”
“When he arrives, he’ll tell us.”
“Where did that name come from?”
“Don’t know. It’s been in my mind all year.”
“Sascha?” She pressed his hands to her cheeks, laughing. “Sascha!”