A HOSEMASTER OF WINE™ PULP FICTION CLASSIC
Chapter 5: God Gives Your Life a 78
Every day in this miserable world people disappear and no one cares. The lost, the lonely, the unloved. They board alien spacecraft, or they empty their bank accounts, leave their belongings behind and just get on a bus to nowhere, say Suisun Valley. If you believe you might end up one of them, take the spacecraft. They can be gone weeks before anyone notices, if anyone notices. People you might see on a regular basis in your daily life—at the grocery store buying one pork chop and Boner in a Can, sitting in the park feeding lit cigarettes to squirrels, in the bookstore tearing the pages out of every Jay McInerney book as a public service—and then one day you remember you haven’t seen them for months. And you don’t give it a second thought. You believe their family and friends are looking after them. But they are not. The world has swallowed them up--the heartbreak and loneliness, the sorrow and the weariness, the failure and the futility, the miserable and relentless part of our existence slowly eats away at them and they surrender. They disappear, just so many 78 point scores in a world that demands a minimum of 95. Life is arbitrary, just like wine scores. You do the best you can with the materials you’re given, you hope and pray that all of your hard work leads you to be “Highly Recommended,” but God gives your life a 78, writes “Nothing to like here, off aromas and very little taste, best to avoid,” and no one ever cares again about what happens to you. My advice? Ask God to retaste.
I was pretty shaken up by Tiny’s news that Avril had disappeared. First of all, it didn’t make any sense. I’d just slept with Avril the night before, slipping my big Bob Parker into her bearded Jay Miller while she gently tickled my Pancho Campo, so where could she have gone, and why was she already considered a missing person? How did Tiny know about it before I did? That was easy. Tiny knew everything that happened in Healdsburg before anyone else. But why was he rummaging around in Avril’s office? What was he looking for? Her lunch scraps?
“Hey, Tiny, what the hell are you doing here?” He seemed to be trying to hide something behind his back. Actually, most of the room was behind his back.
“Oh, nothing, HoseMaster,” Tiny wheezed, “I just came here looking for Avril, some clue about where she might have gone, or who might have taken her.”
It’s easy to tell when Tiny is lying. His lips are moving. “What’s that in your mitt?” I asked him. That’s when he decided to make his move. Of course, only Harris Ranch can move that amount of meat in a short amount of time. Tiny moves about as quickly as a floor stack of $25 Syrah. You can time him with a sundial. I let him go. Tiny’s pants were drooping pretty low, and I could see something stuck in the crack of his ass. Could have been a dachshund. But, really, it looked like a bunch of Avril’s files, and a Baby Ruth. But I had better things to worry about than Tiny’s shenanigans. I had Avril to find.
I thought as long as I was in Avril’s office I’d grab the report on Larry Anosmia’s suspicious death. I quickly rifled through her file drawers, but couldn’t find it. There were reports about lots of other wine country deaths, Copia (suicide) and “Crazyboy” Ascentia (mob hit) and Crushpad (liver failure), but no Anosmia. Had to be Tiny’s doing. Or else Avril had it with her when she disappeared. A little voice in my head kept telling me that Anosmia’s death and Avril’s disappearance were connected, and that Crystal knew a lot more about this than she was telling me. And that Tiny had had Italian for lunch that day. Avril’s office smelled like garlic burps.
I was still searching Avril’s office when I heard footsteps approaching. Sounded like two people, a man and a woman, both wearing heels. I ducked into Avril’s dark room, she didn’t develop photographs there, it was just a dark room, and left the door open a crack.
Crystal entered the room first. She looked nervous, even scared, like a wine judge facing fifteen Proseccos. Behind her was a man I didn’t recognize, wearing heels and a dress, pointing a nasty looking pistol at Crystal’s back. From his outfit, I guessed he was an M.W. candidate, and probably a British one at that. I remembered that this is how they dress when they’re taking their final exam. It’s never publicly disclosed, but it’s very well-known in the industry. Candidates have to pass three tests to qualify for an M.W., a written exam, a blind tasting, and the evening gown competition. It’s why there are so few women M.W.’s. The guys show more leg.
“I don’t know where she put it,” Crystal said, her voice cracking like a hot and sexy Stelvin. “I told you, it’s not here.”
“You’d better hope it’s here, Geyser,” the mystery man said, pulling his dress down a bit with his free hand—really, buddy, wear a thong—and poking Crystal with his gun. “It’s going to get really ugly if we don’t find it and destroy it.”
“But I don’t know where it is! Avril must know where it is. Ask her!”
“Miss Cadavril is, well, indisposed right now, and I have an exam in a few hours. I didn’t put on these pantyhose to impress you. I’m trying to pass. And that fucking Oz Clarke always makes me bend over and whistle ‘God Save the Queen.’ Now start looking.”
And that’s when I felt something crawling up my leg, I crashed through the dark room door, and the gun went off.