Sirens seize the sudden bus and it
stands still. A chorus of burning horns bleat mournfully until the whole
lot sings in unison, then grows mute, one after the other. It's enough to
break Muriel Sparks's sputtering heart. Pings and pips
of broken glass and blistering steel. Ashes steam and smell like mildewed
Cadillacs, gutted and reduced to ugly shells, up to their rearview mirrors
in rubble. Orange smog hovers between Hollywood and the volcanic horizon.
Long ago Dudley gave up trying to find himself based on looks. It is the
picture of a man who didn't consider limb-bursting winds and subzero
temperatures. He reads the city like trappers read signs in wilderness. A
magic castle, purple mountains, pointed spiked and smiling sun. A game
of hangman in thirteen blanks. Dudley often comforts himself by
knowing where he isn't, but tonight he is where he is--walking in through
the gates of the Blue Motel--where his neighbor can't change a light bulb.
On the other side unborn twins paint
masterpieces for the Madonna. He hears Socco say he died and couldn't
save the baby. Everyone knows Pretty Mary is childless, but Socco loves
inventing reasons why the child is gone. He doesn't know why, he says, but
he found Death. A car backfires and the guests all turn in time to see
Warren Beatty driving down the road like Sunday in a dream boat, and he is
so pretty, has so much healthy hair they feel pity. In Dudley's drawer a
brittle garden at Marilyn's feet--the shade of Ada's undies. His guilts
and fears are sanded smooth.