Cheryl sat on a straight-backed wooden chair in the spacious bedroom that she had shared with Jasmine before she moved into the leader’s bedroom. She was picking out the notes of a Fernando Sor etude in B minor on her guitar. Jasmine was on floor stretching her Rubenesque body into impossible positions. Cheryl looked down at her, languidly. She asked, “How long have you been doing Yoga, Jas?”
Jasmine smiled. She was sitting with her legs spread apart and her torso bent forward so that her forehead and breasts pressed against the cool wood floor. “As long as I can remember. My mother taught me.”
Cheryl plucked Sor’s stately tenths, slowly and precisely. She said, “I saw you in a Full Lotus position a minute ago. I still can’t do that. I’ve been trying for a couple of years.”
“It’s hereditary.” Jasmine raised her torso to the vertical position, placed her palms behind her butt and pushed herself into the bridge pose. She was wearing only black panties and a black bra. Her dark hair brushed the wood floor and the scent of coconut shampoo filled Cheryl’s nostrils. Jasmine rolled forward, like a rag doll, into the cobra position and, from there, virtually sprung into a Full Lotus.
Cheryl had stopped playing. She said, “What you just did is impossible.”
Jasmine moved to the king-size bed, grabbed a Seventeen Magazine and opened it. “It’s hereditary. I’ve always been able to do it.” She thumbed through the magazine with one hand and began twirling a strand of her hair with the other. “My mother was part of a human rag doll act when she was young.”
Cheryl laughed. “Are you serious?”
“I’m a human rubber band.” She threw the magazine on the other side of the large bed and went into a headstand. Her feet banged against the wall behind her. She slowly steadied her 160-pound body in into a vertical position. She lowered her legs until her thighs reached the level of her head and then she draped her thighs around the back of her neck and locked them there so that her face was looking up at Cheryl, like the head of a smiling Buddha growing from between her legs. Her smile suggested that it was an everyday occurrence to make oneself into a living pretzel, a human rubber band who could place her head between her thighs as if it were a cantaloupe on a plate waiting to be sliced into pieces. Jasmine reached for the pack of Winstons. She took out a cigarette, put it in her mouth and said, “Would you give me a light?”
“You’re going to smoke from that position?”
Cheryl placed the guitar in its stand and reached for the matches. Cheryl was 23 and Jasmine seemed very young to her. So much energy made her feel old. She couldn’t remember when she was 17.
Jasmine returned to a sitting position, still holding the lit-cigarette in her mouth. One of her ample breasts popped loose from her bra and she tucked it back. She looked into Cheryl’s eyes to see if she had noticed. Cheryl looked away and pretended that she hadn’t. Jasmine said, “Brad’s a real hunk, isn’t he?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Cheryl replied dryly.
Jasmine laughed a sensual, throaty laugh. She asked, “If Brad died on the road and a skunk died on the road, what would be the difference?”
Jasmine’s black eyelashes snapped open and closed several times. She said, “If Brad died on the road there wouldn’t be any skid marks.”
Cheryl said, “I was in his room this morning.” There was a lascivious smile on her face. The pupils of Jasmine’s brown eyes widened with anticipation. “I looked into some of the books he’s reading.”
“Like what,” Jasmine asked. Her voice croaked.
“He’s reading a book by Rabble Ass.” Cheryl’s chin moved upwards into the air and her head darted to the side. She looked at Jasmine out of the corner of her eye. Jasmine observed that Cheryl’s profile was her worst feature.
“Rabble Ass!!” Jasmine squealed, “Groovy.” She stood up, put her cigarette in the ashtray and fell backwards onto the bed with a thud. Her arms were splayed like a living rag doll’s, and her legs were stretched out in impossible directions. She grabbed a breast with one hand and stretched out her other hand to simulate a poet, “I’m reading Rabble Ass. It’s sooo fucking cooool.”
Cheryl took Jasmine’s cigarette from the ashtray and drew a long puff of smoke into her lungs. She coughed and laughed at the same time. “Get up Jas. I’ve got to show you something.” She grabbed her hand and pulled her from the bed. They went through the dark hall into Brad’s room. Brad’s cat Zeta was sitting on the bed looking up with wary eyes. Cheryl clapped her hands loudly and Zeta scampered out of the open window onto the roof.
Cheryl said, “Look at this.” She went to the corner where a pile of white underwear lay and pulled out an undershirt. Jasmine fell to her knees and began picking through a row of record albums. “God, I luuv Jim Morrison. He is so cool.” She pulled out a Door’s album. “Look at that bod. Man, wow, look at this: Their Satanic Majesty’s Request. Far out.”
Cheryl shoved the undershirt under Jasmine’s nose. It was caked with something that she pretended was unpleasant smelling. Jasmine said, “Ugh. What is that?” She fell back onto Brad’s bed, out of reach, and Cheryl threw the undershirt after her and laughed hysterically. Cheryl made a motion with her hand that suggested masturbation. Jasmine closed her eyes and laughed silently. She said, “What a waste. I though he was a ladies’ man!”
Cheryl said, “He wants what he can’t have.”
Jasmine sat up, pulled her bare feet under her body and snapped her ample, rag doll-body into a Full Lotus pose. “Like you?”
Cheryl didn’t answer. She looked at the row of books that were lined up against the wall next to the record albums. “He likes books more than women.”
“Where’s Rabble Ass?”
“It’s the green one.”
Still in a Full Lotus position, Jasmine leaned over, stretched out her arm and pulled the green book out with her index finger. She opened it and read aloud from an underlined passage,
“Most illustrious drinkers, and you most precious syphilitics, for it is for you, not to others, that my work is dedicated.” She threw her head back and laughed. Cheryl reached into the pile of underwear in the corner, grabbed another tee shirt and threw at Jasmine’s head. She jumped on the bed and began pushing it into Jasmine’s face.
After wrestling for quite a few minutes, they lay on the bed together, exhausted and breathing hard. Jasmine had succeeded in bringing Cheryl to a childlike state that she had rarely known in her life, that she had almost been prevented from having in the orphanage. She was grateful for it. Cheryl was aware of a great and wonderful physical confidence and acceptance of her body that emanated from Jasmine. Cheryl felt comfortable lying on the narrow bed with this large, voluptuous woman who was only 17 and was so girlish. The feelings that she luxuriated in were a combination of mother love, sisterhood and schoolgirl friendship. They lay together, unselfconscious, in each other’s arms, innocently dozing on the narrow bed until they were awakened by the sound of squeaking brakes. It was Warren’s Corvair.
Cheryl said, “It’s Warren and Brad. We’d better get out of here.” The window was visible from the street and they moved quickly, hunched over, putting Brad’s things back where they found them.
In the hall, Cheryl pinched Jasmine’s bare thigh and said, “You’d better get dressed Jas.”
She sat down on the chair in front of the music stand and picked up her guitar while Jasmine put on a miniskirt and blouse.
Warren pulled his ’65 Corvair off highway 101 onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Brad was sitting in the passenger seat. Warren said, “That guy is such an idiot.” The wolf was in the back seat with a friendly face, as young and innocent as a small boy’s, with his snout stuck out of a partially open back window, trying to make sense out of the smells of a summer morning in Marin County.
Brad said, “He’s just an idealist. His type goes back a long way in American history.”
“He thinks his truck gets good mileage because he is such a good mechanic.”
“He is a good mechanic.”
“Yeah, sure. But that thing isn’t going to get more than 10 miles per gallon, no matter what he does to it.” Warren was silent for an indignant moment. “I wouldn’t care if he wasn’t such a prick. I mean he bugs me because I wear a leather belt. Man. He wears leather shoes and he doesn’t see a contradiction. Save our furry friends. What a jerk.”
Brad said, “Beatrice told me he was impotent. I suppose we should be grateful that she wasn’t corrupted by him.”
Warren said, “Brad. Will you swear to
“What do you mean? Of course. Secrecy for what?”
“I have to tell you something about Derrin but you have to swear to secrecy first. You can’t tell anyone.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“He thinks his truck gets 14 miles to the gallon.”
“14 miles to the gallon? So what? Why is that such a big deal?”
“He’s not that good. No Chevy truck that size gets 14 miles to the gallon.”
“OK, so what?”
“Well, you know that I’ve been sleeping in my car.”
Warren looked around, as if someone might be listening from another car, “Don’t tell anyone.”
“Everyone knows you’ve been sleeping in your car with the wolf, Warren. No big deal.”
“That’s not what I’m trying to tell you man!”
They were silent as they drove by the familiar Japanese nursery in Greenbrae. Finally Brad said, “Are you going to tell me or not?”
“Well, I’ve been putting gas in his tank at night.”
The Quarter Pound Hamburger Stand came into view on the left. They drove in silence for a while. Brad said, “I like that. That’s really funny.” Warren beamed proudly. Brad asked, “So he thinks he’s getting really good mileage and you two talk about it together and he brags about how well he cleaned the carburetor and how he’s changed the spark plugs again and changed the oil and all that stuff?”
“Yeah.” Warren had a faint but perceptible smirk on his face.
Brad said, “I like it. Come to think about it, he’s been bragging to me about that damn truck too. I asked him how he can justify commuting to San Francisco and even to the airport in that thing and he said it gets 15 miles to the gallon. I couldn’t believe it. Far out.”
Warren said, “He’s a real bastard, isn’t he?”
Brad gave a little laugh. They turned onto Main Street and drove the short distance up the hill to the commune. Brad said, “Far out man. How do you do it?”
“How do I do what?”
“I mean, how do put the gas in? Do you have a gas can or what?”
“It’s funny you should ask.” He looked at Brad as if he were a combination of idiot and genius. “Actually, I use a wine bottle.”
Brad said, “Cool. It serves the impotent bastard right.”
Warren looked at Brad sideways, “What do you think of Jas?”
“She’s kinda young. I guess she graduated from high school a year early.”
Warren said, “I’d like to get my hands on her.”
“It can probably be arranged.”
Warren said, “She’s a racist.”
“How do you know that?”
“Cheryl told me. Her parents are from Mississippi. I talked to her a little bit about it. Not much. She thinks they’re inferior. She’s a trip. You should talk to her about it some time. She doesn’t like Jews either!”
Brad said, “I interviewed her for the commune, sort of. She didn’t mention a word about Negroes or Jews. I guess it explains why she’s going to The College of Marin instead of Oakland City College. I think the only reason Derrin likes her is because she’s got big tits.” He started to say that Jasmine was next in line for the Leader after he gets through with Cheryl but he stopped himself. They pulled up to the curb with a loud squeak. Brad changed the subject back to Derrin’s truck. He said, “But what’s the point of putting gas in his tank? I mean so he thinks his truck gets really great mileage. So what?”
Warren got a malevolent look on his face. “Well, I’m going to get the bastard going and then I’m going to start siphoning it out to see what he does.”