Bill DeMarco Rates the Top 50 Starbucks in LA: This Week: #1 (concluded)
“Hey, Phil” says an unearthily familiar voice.
I’m stuck facing the pavement so all I can see is a brushed suede stilletto heel spike the mud in front of me. Chantal! She got my name wrong again but she was closer this time. I twiddle a couple of dials and raise the suit to its knees. She looks sensational as always in a shrink-wrapped neoprene catsuit with what I will call a keyhole boob-window cut in functionally on her cleavage. Am I glad to see her. Am I glad to see her? And isn’t suede a poor choice for this kind of weather?
“Am I glad to see you!” I say through a speaker. “How did you–“
She puts a raised finger to my hood.
“I thought you might need this.”
She unclasps an anvil case and reveals a pristine five-string fretless bass. Good Christ. The workmanship is exquisite. Lathed. Artisanal. If you could carve a cup of coffee, or froth aged cherrywood, this is what it would look like.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I ask genuinely.
Even in the pounding rain, lightning striking, monsters rampaging, coffee beans precipitating, I can make out the trademark smile.
“Phil,” she says, thrusting the fabulous instrument into my mechanical appendages. “You and I both ROCK.”
Her meretricious and spokesmodelly pep-talk was all I needed. That ineluctable purpose I summoned four minutes ago has breathed a second wind. Never breaking eye contact with her (goggles contact, I’ve never seen her eyes, is that weird?), I grip the bass by the neck, retreat step by step, shut down the sensors in my armor, and begin to turn. All the words, the gimmicks, the half-baked ideas, the money-making schemes and toy-designing ploys, the fights with bosses and rock bands, every fleck of cognitive shrapnel spin and disintegrate until I’m ringed by monochrome planes of silence. I unlock my mechanical fingers and let loose the fugitive guitar.
“. . . . . . . . . . . . . .!!!”
My words are drowned in the rain. The bass hurtles epicyclically toward its target. Melusina gazes at it with a billboard-sized face of rage. She cries cacophonies of voices and frequencies. The instrument flutters into her mouth like a moth. The giantess goes mute.
It became night at some point.
Reverberations shake the ground. Big reverberations. Like a silo of nervous bowling balls. I sweep my shield around Chantal–no I don’t. She’s gone. Forget it. Gotta move. I start hauling, uh, sprockets. The vibrations grow higher and louder. Melusina looks thoughtful. A small flame bursts from her neck. Then another. Two shoot from her eye and arm. In seconds flames flare up all over her body. Fiery poppies. A more recognizable earth-shaking joins the vibrating as the logo-cum-creature sinks back into the fountain, tails and hair flailing. Shockwaves blast outward, vacuums suck back. I cling to the bundle of sticks that Washington’s statue’s hand rests on. Melusina has disappeared beneath the earth. One last shock. A strobe burst blankets the sky. I cartwheel backward. Crash into a jeep. A strange flame shoots out of the fountain, a giant tulip eating its own stem. It vanishes. Quiet. Sloshing water.
Two soft simultaneous clicks. Chantal? I make it to an upright position. Yeah, Chantal. She must have like jumped out of something.
“Hey, Mr. Robot-suit!” she says with characteristic energy.
“Yeah, well. Yeah,” I say with actual exhaustion.
“I’d say that was pretty fuckin’ unbelievable, right?” she continues.
“Yeah. Pretty. . .”
I don’t get this thought out either. We hear something that sounds like the L.A. Coliseum flying over our heads. Oh. It’s a spaceship. The size of the L.A. Coliseum, that makes sense.
“Fucking ay!!!” Chantal says, stepping back and craning her neck.
I can’t say that I’m amazed. Not to blow my own horn or anything but what I just went through was pret-ty wacky. Let’s say my tolerance has increased over the last 12 minutes. The flying Coliseum coasts to a stop. How now spaceship? A beam of light surrounds me. Okay. But you know what? It’s kind of, uh, dingy. It’s smoggy is what it is. It’s a smoggy beam of light. And I’m getting a little light-headed. I’m hearing robot parts creak.
“Phil!!! You’re floating holy shit!!!”
Chantal appears to be right. You win some, you lose some. But this seems like kind of a disqualification. My eyes are at tree top level, I can see the smashed-up plaza. Chantal is still earthbound. Sexy, but she’s staying put.
“Phil!!!” she shouts.
“Yeah,” I say through my mic.
“. . . . . . . . . . . .!!!”
Damn. Already out of earshot. The uh–what do you call these things?–tractor beam? Who came up with that word? It’s grimy. And it’s slow. Am I being abducted by an alien race of DMVs? Chantal becomes a gesticulating dot. The streets recede into gridwork. Just starting to see the first sirens. Mist. Stratus clouds. The ground disappears.
I don’t have much maneuverability up here so I can’t really see where I’m headed. Probably some. . .I don’t know. Some place that has a tractor beam. I just wanted to say folks that it’s been a pressure. Pleasure! Did I say pressure? It must be the pressure, this is stressful. But I meant pleasure. It’s been a pleasure. If I could help steer somebody away from a not-so-good Starbucks toward a not-so-bad one, then I have done a service to the Los Anjealous nation. It looks like I’m headed into outer space now so who knows what the hell happens next. But if you have questions or comments or lingering resentments, e-mail them to the good folks at the website and they’ll forward them to me.
Adios, Los Anjealenos. It’s been tasteful.