“All I’m sayin’ is, Ray’s the man to raise the manta-rays, Amanda Rae.”
“Oof, you just keep repeating yourself, y’know.. and it’s ‘Veranda’!”
“Yeah, I heard there was tribes who name the kid after, like, what crawled past the cave-entrance when she was born..”
I wanted her to know I was ‘studied‘, you know, like Margaret ‘n me’d been buddies, whatever got the job done..
“Anyway, Porchie, probably once or twice in his life, a guy gets to say something like that, and now you just blew it for me…”
I was ‘manning’ the phone. Well, maybe Fay coulda picked a better man than me to do it, but I was free. Both ‘free’s. It’s a long story, but mostly short little words. I was in Monterey, my new home as of a week before, when I’d rented a little second-floor apartment above Fay’s place. Turns out she’d come out here almost the same week, back in 1970, from PA, and in a 122 Volvo to boot, just like me. But there the similarity ends; Hers was red, mine was grey, she stayed, I left.. oh and she’s a girl, and I’m not.
And she’d just given up her year-long search for pocket change and mini-fame with her “Para-me-see-um Mu-se-um”, a storefront ‘hands-on’ attraction mostly for kids.
“To see a world in a drop of water!” said the sign they were taking down. I loved that. So did she, but go figure. The place’d been less ‘packed’ every day for months, and she’d decided to go for broke with a manta-ray.. A bigger tank, obviously.. the men were busy tearing out a wall when I’d carried my worldly possesions around them on the way up the stairs. At the top waited Ray. Fay’s Ray. Yeah, the guy who hangs out with Fay.. Ray’s Fay. To distinguish her from the girl they’d just hired just in case they’d need her, who was also, improbably, Fay.
“You’re hired. May we call you something else?” Fay looked up from her microscope.
“Well.. sure..I guess” The girl smiled obligingly. She needed a job.
“Fey Fay” Ray was alway full of great ideas.. workable ‘solutions’, y’know. He held out his hand, to cement the deal.
“I’m Ray.. Fay’s Ray”, he announced, without a hint of the term’s ..oh…oddity. I gathered she’d already heard someone call him that. I was busy putting microscopes in boxes. Wouldn’t need ’em for the manta-ray, that’s for sure. Fay’d been in touch with a sorta secretive outfit in San Luis Obispo who’d agreed to supply a young one. They’d skirted the ban on import by declaring an independent nation, with all the trimmings, Fay explained. Only thing you had to do to get ‘citizenship‘ was to memorize and recite the National Anthem.. oh, and pay the ‘passport-fee’. Fay gave me the last five hundred bucks in her old account, and I spent maybe an hour getting two photos I could stand.. oh, and memorizing their wry little Hymn:
All Hail to Micro-nausea,
Where life’s a living hell
we vote in the ‘nighted nations
though we feel ‘a bit un-well’
Our melting pot gets stirred a lot,
Huddled masses turn to gel, but still
We welcome immigration..
To folks what knows to spell.
Now the question was only who’d watch and feed the ‘baby’ as he (she?) quickly grew to exhibitable size. Fay was just high from the whole idea.. ‘Charles Manson can watch ’em, I care?’ was her attitude, but I kinda thought it’d be a perfect job for Ray, which was why I was glad when I was the one who got Amanda’s call from the supplier..
“They all said Fay’d fade away.. Now they’ll say Fay’ll fail with the ray-deal.. but Fay’s in phase two of the Greatest Success Story on Land or Sea!” Fay had allowed herself a bit of bravado as she left, left me in charge, and turned left on Cortez toward the Sea.
So here I was trying to talk Miranda, whatever her name was, into not sending their dumb ‘expert‘ to grow up the ray. I went on a bit about how “Ray’s real good with fish..” Yeah, like I knew any more about what Ray knew about fish than he did, whatever that means. I had seen him order a McFish at the McDonalds down at the corner two nights ago. He’d said it tasted good. I tried to concentrate on that, as I summed up my presentation, and we’re back to the intro:
“Well s-o-r-r-y, Bud, I’m just thinking what’s best for the ray.”
I was with her there.. twice. (But how’d she know my name was ‘Bud‘?)
In the end she agreed to let ‘our people’ meet with ‘their people’ and then to deliver the goods.
“I did it!” I told Fay when she got back from the library. “It’s all set up.”
I knew Ray secretly did want continue in the ‘quarium bizness’, even though he was always going on, at least to me, about other ‘possibilities’. I decided to kinda let Fay tell me what she was hearing, without me asking, you know. I’m good at that, I’m told.
“Ray’ll rail on about cruel fate till you have to tell him to shut up, but I’m sure that, in a pinch Ray’d raid his Mom’s piggybank to stay right here” Fay shared.
“So let’s not forget Ray’s raise.” I smiled. Yeah, she’d forgotten that one.
“You know that Ray’s Mom’s ‘trivial‘?” I added, with an expectant glance.
“What does that mean?” Fay asked, all innocent.
“Oh, nothing special.. not all that important”, I bluffed, and then,
“If you want to read the little story I wrote about our first meeting, it’s right here.”
“That’s a link?” she said, like leaving our cozy home-page would be unsufferable.
“Yeah, but you can just click ‘back‘ when you’re done reading it, and I’ll still be here now“, I smiled, all reassuring.
“But you’ll be older, though” Fay actually looked saddened by the thought.
“Fay, we’re both in the primes of our lives, did I say that yet?”
Fay looked up at the ceiling, like she was looking for the script, or the teleprompter.
“No, don’t think so, but it’s true, I guess. Go up and get Ray, we’ll go to McDonalds again. I love fish, did I mention that?”
there: On the Waterfront:
It was a cold rainy night the morning I spent the afternoon moving my wordly possesions into the place I’d just rented, a quaint apartment above a storefront on Cortez, off of Del Monte Ave. in Monterey, right near the Dock, the Wharf, and the Doc. Might need him after seven trips up and down the narrow stairs, each time holding the spring-loaded doors with whatever was left free, and all under the watchful eyes of my, I supposed, cross-the-hall UN Observer. I started to resent, or despise, or rue, his ‘neutrality’. I mean, it don’t take too much humanity to volunteer to help a guy hold a cussed door open. By the seventh trip, I was busy trying to remember how one ‘glowers‘. I thought that’d be an appropriate look. Would sound about right in a post I was gonna do about him, too, I was musing when I heard behind me:
“Call me Ray..Phase-Ray” He held out his hand. Seein as how I was all tied up, I just looked at the hand, glowered a look that I hoped screamed, “Yeah, it’s got five fingers, too bad you don’t know how to use it” and threw the last boxes on the floor just inside my door.
“Gonna write a story about you, Cosmic-Ray”, I said, as neutrally as I could manage.. I’d watch what he made of that..
“Yeah, it’s about homophones..” Good a time as any to see who I’m dealing with..
“Yer momma’s a homofoam!” Ray raised his head a little, but otherwise seemed oddly un-fazed.
“It’s ‘homophone’.. you know, like ‘phone home’?”
“..and I guess you could say.. um.. ‘my momma’s momma’s a homophone’.. but that’d be kinda trivial.
“Your momma’s trivial !”
“Ooh, touche, Ray! There ya got me.. ya got me bad..”
“No, seriously, dude, who played that lack-luster gas-station attendant in the 1957 B-movie: High School Hound Dog?” I couldn’t tell yet who I was playing with, but a play it was, so hey, let’s see…
I thought for a moment, then I let it ‘hit me’!
“That was my Mom!” I said, like I was trying to squeeze every drop of small-town glory I could out of it.
“See, like I said, ‘trivia‘
“No, you said ‘trivial’. I wasn’t gonna pay for this bozo’s syntax.
“This whole thread’s trivial…” Ray’d decided to knock the chessboard off the table.
“You’re just saying that cause you’re a nazi..” I’d finally remembered how to glower, but by this time I saw Ray’s smile. He held out his hand in earnest, this time, and said:
“Hey, I’ll grab us a beer, then let’s go down and meet Fay.”