Push, Nevada
The Black Box

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Where Politos fear to dwell

Jim rides past The Gnarled Establishing Tree Of San Bernardino County and into a gas station as an indication of the fossil fuel we're all being turned into while watching a television program unfold at this speed. Oh, wait. It's Monster Job's Truck and Tow, and Jim walks through the bleached-out desert and toward the front door, passing Polito 2.0 (whose nickname falters only slightly here in Episode Two by virtue of this man not in any way resembling Jon Polito, any member of Jon Polito's family, or the wacky cartoon renderings of Jon Polito on his heralded collection of custom designed Polito Coffee Mugs, all rights reserved) and bidding him hello. Polito 2.0 doesn't seem to have warmed up yet from last week's skate through the ice castles, and he's decked in a knit cap and a huge puffy coat (it's Gore-Tex, Jerry!), shaking, rattling, rolling. Jim introduces himself accordingly, and we discover that he has shaken shaking hands with one "Caleb M-M-Moore." Unfrozen Caveman Polito tells Jim that Job will be back r-r-r-eal s-s-s-soon, so Jim joins him on the bench in front of Job's and somehow manages to keep himself from doing that "do you think you can stop?" thing when someone sharing a table with you starts doing that involuntary jimmy-leg thing. All reserve, that Jim is. Instead, he launches in: "Say, you didn't know Silas Bodnick, did you?" Yes. No. Kinda. Jim pulls rank in an exceedingly we-saw-him-give-this-exact-speech-last-week kind of way: "I work for the federal government. Lying to me is a federal crime." Is that true? Because, I mean, I'm a writer by trade, so does that mean lying to me is a crime against the whole of the English language? If so, y'all, shape up. I'm just saying, or I'm fixing to throw the book -- by which I mean all twenty-seven volumes of the OED -- at you. "Did you know Silas Bodnick?" M-M-Moore, finally, sees fit to lower his toes into the icy waters of the as-yet-placid Exposition River: "I already got a condition. Can't maintain homeostasis." Oh, don't worry, M-M-Moore. That happens to a lot of guys. Why not wait fifteen minutes and you can try to get homeostatic again, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. More? Oh, okay. More: "He come to me and put me in a tub of ice. And made me be cool so I'd keep my body temperature down…so I give it to him, and she ain't come by yet." What? I don't get the feeling this dialogue is cryptic in order to fit the action. Eye drops and coffee, Ben. Eye drops and coffee.

But Polito 2.0 has a bit more arbitrary coldness to attend to, so he clams up as Job pulls into the dusty parking lot. Jim doesn't waste any time before trying out material from The Big Book Of Transitional Sentences Straight Dudes Should Never, Ever Say To Each Other, Volume I with the transitional sentence, "Those are nice tattoos. Mind if I have a look?" I just hope he finds what he's looking for before he has to resort to the even more incendiary readings of "If you ask me, the director's commentary on Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss was even better than the movie itself" and "If you've got a hankering for the man-love, perhaps we could retire to your garage for a spot of the old anal sex." Predictably, Job is just slightly nonplused by this excess attention to his body, so he recoils slightly when Jim keeps pushing (ew, not like that) with the follow-up, "You wouldn't know anyone in town with a serpent tattoo, would you?" Job responds in a way that indicates he's read the chapter about being nice, but not too nice because you don't want to give them the wrong idea, mumbling something about not looking at other people all the time. But Jim wants to know who did Job's tattoos, lying, "I'm thinking of getting one." Job replies that the dude "only works on recommendation," and Jim Prufrock actually deigns to speak the line, "What is he, like, the Morris of tattoo artists?" What? WHAT? "That finicky?" Now, wait just a second. Is he actually talking about Morris the Cat, that finicky feline who just hates all that processed cat food made with tires and nails and horses, but adores the delightful flavor of Nine Lives? There's no way, right? It's just too random to fit all the way inside my brain and rest comfortably. Why would he say it? Why would anyone say it? Job ignores the line, because he's not paid to face down other people's misguided nods to kitschy '80s animal pitchmen and counter by following with twelve zillion of his own, and I am. Job asserts that the tattoo artist in question doesn't like it when people show up for the novelty of getting a tattoo and sober up and get mad, and Jim promises that he's pretty intent on getting one. But Job wants to know why Jim wants to find the man with the serpent on his arm, and the intrepid taxman keeps keeping everything close to the vest except for one tiny element in his mounting case called proprietary information, admitting, "I saw him kill someone." Who? We learn again for the ninetieth time. Job warns Jim, "He only works when he wants to, so you're going to have to roll the dice." Jim's still flirting, for some reason: "He's like the cable guy." But Job's got a better comparison: "No, he's more like Morris. Finicky." That Job. Never forgets. Always follows his nose and always knows. He's like the Toucan Sam of tattoo advising and auto repair. That's who he is. That's just who he is.

The Vintagemobile takes a drive through Bleached-Film-Stock-Topia, Jim exiting the car and stepping over a chain that's attached to two wooden posts and probably three feet across (walk around it, Poindexter), and stares at a trailer home with a painting on the door of a skeleton wearing a top hat and smoking a cigarette, with the number 13 painted below in red. He's so bad! Eight junior high bands just named themselves "Morris" and ripped off the design to use as their logo on the t-shirts they're going to sell for $6.66 because Satan is, like, the coolest. Jim bangs right on the skeleton, and a man wearing a black mesh shirt appropriate for gay biking and dolphin poaching opens the door, pointing a gun at Jim's face. Jim remains cool. He's not going to flinch. He's not going to be the Snap, Crackle, or Pop of the elite crime-fighting wing of the IRS. Morris tells him the rules: "You come in, you do what I want. If everything works out all right, maybe later we talk." Jim takes a gander at the too-dark-to-see inside and bails. The door slams shut. Pa. Thetic. Silly Jim, tattoos are for gay bikers! Jim Prufrock is totally the Twix Rabbit of non-gay non-tattoo-getting non-bikers.

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Push, Nevada

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