It was the third time the Domino's man had been back to
the same address; it was also the third time he had received
no answer at the door, and the third time the two Mexicans
across the street had sat outside their house and laughed. The
residence in question looked like a gang house or a drug place.
The yard was infested with weeds and filthwith cancerous
vegetation, litter and junk. There were parts of an old stove
tipped over into a busha rusted sink, a diaper, an old couch
wrecked and rotting in the sun.
The Domino's man stood on the broken front steps trying
to retain his composure as the laughter and remarks
continued across the street behind him. He focused on the door in
front of himon the peeling paint and fungusthen took
several deep breaths, as if he were about to enter the starting gate of
a grueling athletic competition. Then he turned with the
pizzaa large Extravaganzaand walked back out to the
street towards his pickupa Chevy half-ton with Minnesota
plates and a plastic Domino's sign mounted on the roof. He
had bought the pickup while in college in Fargo and had used
it while working construction during the summers. He
had then taken it with him when he'd come out West five
years ago to write for the moviesa decision his father had
told him was foolish.
It was beginning to dawn on the Domino's man nowas
it had been for some timethat his father may have been
right. As he reapproached his vehicle now, he wondered what
might have happened had he listened to his father and stayed
in Minnesota. By now, he most certainly would've been a
supervisor in his father's company, and would probably be living
in a house of his very ownprobably on a lakeand
probably with a wife and kids.
Instead, he had decided to change directions in life. He
had decided to take a road of greater riskto aim for higher
goals, loftier idealsand become a writer. He had chosen to take
a gamble and play the gameto go to Hollywood and tell
his stories. He had placed all of his marbles on this endeavor
and now he had failedand he had become humiliated in
the process. After five years of unwavering commitment, the
road of dreams had essentially landed him here, at this
specific point, in this particular predicamentin a silly blue and
red Domino's smock, carrying a large thermal bag with a
toxic Extravaganza inside, returning to his pickup which was
parked along a derelict street in Burbank, Californiawhich he
had been summoned to once again by the two taunting thugs
from across the street.
Yes, maybe his father had been right. Maybe what he
had chosen to do with his life had been foolish. It had amounted
to five years of frustration, five years of failure. He had
been struggling in an industry full of hustlers, fakes and
nepotiststrying to compete with other writers who, unlike
himself, brought no real-life experience to the table. The other
writers hadn't grown up as he hadin a real place, up north, in
the outdoorshunting and adventuring, trapping and
fishingdoing real things, real work. They didn't understand real
lifereal storiesand the people above them; the agents,
producers and development people, they didn't seem to understand
it either. The entire industry was made up of the same
peopletransient Hollywood suburbanites who had learned life
by watching television and by going to the
moviessoulless, pseudo-artistic quacks who had grown up in the safety of
their bedrooms where they had taken refuge from the world
by reading books and indulging themselves in masturbation.
The reason these people became writersor came to
Hollywoodwas also deficient; it was shallow and
misguided. They had come because they merely wanted to be writers,
not because they had anything significant to say. They
came because they wanted to be a part of Hollywood, part of
the movies, not because they had anything to offer the world,
not because they were filled with any great passion to speak
some new vision, or to reveal some new found truth.
As the Domino's man stepped off the curb now, one of
the Mexicans said something in a belligerent
tonesomething about white, about All-American. The Mexicans were
sitting in the shade in front of their houseor somebody's
housenear a car that was parked too close to the front steps. The
car looked hostile. It had big tires and dark windows and had
hot orange flames painted along the fenders.
The Domino's man continued past his pickup and
crossed the street, walking towards the two Mexicans, the pizza
perched against his left shoulder in a classic, deliverytype
posture. One of the Mexicans was wearing baggy, sloppy clothing
with a flannel shirt tied around his waist, his hair dyed blondish
red and dangling out from under what looked to be a
backwards L.A. Raiders cap. The other wore sunglasses and an
earring with slickedback hair, a white tanktop undershirt
showing off muscles and dullcolored tattoos.
"Hey Domino boyyou bringing us a pizza?"
The Domino's man continued towards the two,
crossing over the municipal grass and sidewalk, then onto their
driveway. "You guys order this?"
"No, the asshole across the street did, manbut he
don't fuckin' hear too good. You gotta knock louder."
The Mexican with the L.A. Raiders cap flicked down
a cigarette and stood up. "Hey Domino, let's see what you got
in the bag, man."
The Domino's man kept his course, walking directly
towards the two until he was within only a few feet. Then
he stopped. He stood alongside the hostile car with the
orange flames. "Did you guys order this or not?"
The Mexican with the sunglasses and slickedback
hair also got up and started lazily towards him. "What if
we fuckin' did, man?"
"Then you pay for it."
The Mexican with the Raiders cap moved to the
Domino's man's side. "You gonna take money from us, Domino boy?"
"Hey Domino, you talk pretty fuckin' brave, man.
You fuckin' proud?"
"Not really," said the Domino's man, then pulled out
from under his smock a Colt .380 auto. "How `bout you?"
The Mexicans stopped. The one with the reddish hair
and Raiders cap put up his hands and began backing away,
"Hey, heyfuck, mantake it cool."
The one with the slickedback hair and sunglasses put
his hands on his hips and lazily stood his ground. "Hey, you
got some sort of fuckin' problem, man?"
"Yeah, I sure do," said the Domino's man, and with
that admission, he abided by a creed that he had been taught as
a boytaught to him by his father. A creed concerning firearms:
1. Never point a gun at anything, unless you intend
2. Never shoot, unless you intend to kill.
The Domino's man abided fully, completing the
accord with five quick pulls of the trigger. When finished, he
stood blinking for a short time, his ears boxed in from the noise,
his heart pounding heavily in his chest. He was disoriented
for several seconds, unable to hear, and his balance was
somewhat off. He looked next door to the neighbor's house,
expecting to see chaosfaces in the windows, people screaming . .
. but there was nothing. He looked to the other sideto
the other houseexpecting to see people emerging or stirring,
but again there was nothing. He turned and looked across
the street, then looked both ways, up and down the block,
expecting hysteria, a gathering crowda mobcops, people
looking from windows, rushing out into the street. . . . But
again, there was nothing. Nothing odd, nothing unusual. The
only person in sight was at the far end of the block, at the
cross streeta jogger passing by with a dog following
behindin view for only a second, and then gone.
The Domino's man waited. He listened for sirens.
Surely there would be sirensand helicopters toothere were
always sirens and helicopters. But the only noticeable sound was
the quiet. He'd never heard Burbank so quiet. . . . Then there
was some low thumping music somewhere, coming from
down the streetan approaching car, a brightly polished
machine with flashing dingo lights and smokeblack windows. The
car passed by without lookingkidsthen faded down the
block and disappeared.
The Domino's man looked at the two Mexicans again.
The one with the blondish red hair was twitchinghis leg
and footand a long hiss was seething out of the other,
sounding like the life being let out of an air mattress. The
Domino's man turned away from it and walked back out to the street,
still holding the warm pizza against his shoulder and the warm
Colt along his side. He looked up and down the block again,
then tucked the Colt back under his smock and crossed the street
to his pickup, his eyes scanning the houses, up and down,
looking for somebody, anybodyan old woman peering out
from behind a curtain perhaps. . . .
But again, there was nothing.
The Domino's man got into his pickup and set the pizza
on the passenger side, then started the vehicle and let it idle for
a minute. He thought about the pizza, considering for a
moment what he should do with it. He considered the normal
routine: return to Domino's with it and report it as a no-show. Then
he considered keeping it for himselfbut immediately
rejected the idea. Then he considered throwing it into a dumpster
and paying for it himself, and saying nothing about any of it
until he was asked.
He chose the latter.
Then he quit his job.
After which, he went home to his studio apartment, sat
in his director's chair and waited. He did not turn on any
lights, or turn on the television. He did not turn on his radio. In
the distance he could hear the sounds of sirens and
helicopterswhich he thought surely would be coming soon, coming
to arrest him and to take him away. He had expected them
to show up at Domino's when he had turned in his smock and
hat and the plastic sign off the top of his pickup, but again
there had been nothing.
As the Domino's man sat waiting, he scanned his
studio apartment, staring at the tangibles that remained in his
lifeall collected before him now in one room. There was the
card table with his word processor on top, his notes and his
Colt .380 automatic. There was the final draft of his latest
screenplay, A Brush With Fire, a story about two guys
smuggling Indian artifacts out of Canada through the woods of
northern Minnesotaa great tale about smugglers, Indians and
FBI agentswhich he had been told was not believable, not
commercial. On the floor was his mattress, and against the
wallon blocks and plankswere his books and plants and
some remaining personal items.
As evening came, his apartment slipped into
silhouette, then into darkness, and when morning arrived he went
for a walk.
Upon his return he expected to be greeted by
flashing lights and sirens, but again there was nothing. He even
stood outside his dooron the stairsand listened for a minute.
. . . But the only sounds were of an argument next
doora neighbor slapping his girlfriend or wife, the woman
screaming profanities in retaliation. A baby was crying
somewhere, and there was a helicopter off in the distance, but nothing
out of the ordinary.
During the next several days the Domino's man
remained mostly in his apartment. He did not turn on any lights or
turn on the television. He did not turn on his radio or plug in
the phone. He did not buy a newspaper or look at one. He
talked to nobody.
On the third day, maybe the fourth, he began to sing.
He sang only one song and sang it repetitively. It was an old
Elton John tune that he knew from high school called
"Good-bye Yellow Brick Road." He stuck mostly to the same verse,
and especially to one line
I should've stayed on the farm
I should've listened to my old man . . .
He sang quietly at first, internallyalmost in a
whimperlike a patient in a home for the mentally unbalanced. Then
his voice began to evolve, gradually becoming louder and
more passionate, then expanding into other versesand soon
he was singing like Elton himself, standing in front of the
bathroom mirror, pouring all his soul into the barrel of his .380 Colt.
From the bathroom he went to his window, an
upperlevel perch that overlooked the rooftops of Burbank, where he
sang to the periodic sounds of sirens and helicopterssinging
out to them with open arms, as if welcoming them upon their
I'm not a present for your friends to open
this boy's too young to be singin'
He then stripped himself naked and grabbed an Indian
belt off the wall that usually hung as decor and strapped it
thinly around his waist. He lay down in the middle of his
apartment, lying spread-eagled on his back on the dirty brown carpet,
and stared up at the smog-soiled plaster and continued to
singsinging with introspection again, singing with depth.
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm goin' back to my plow.
He later added a pair of socks to his attire, which
he pretended were boots, then changed voices again and
moved back to his director's chair. He sat with his legs crossed, a
glass of L.A. tap water in hand, and began taking a very
intellectual approach to the composition. The belt that he wore had
been purchased on Melrose Avenue from an Indian named
Light Spirit, who told him that the colorful beads were mystical
and that the belt would keep him spiritually centered, keep
him balancedand that it was a one-of-a-kind deal for $135.00.
With his newly assumed position, the Domino's man
began searching for additional depth in the piecefor further
meaningoccasionally interspersing it with an emotionally
charged segment which included rising up and prancing across to
the window, where again he would sing to the sirens and
helicoptersbelting out a couple of verses especially for them
maybe you'll get a replacement
there's plenty like me to be found
mongrels, who ain't got a penny
sniffin' for tears just like you
on the ground
so goodbye yellow brick road. . . .
That last part he started to love. He reassumed his
spread-eagled position on the floor and began doing harmony on
that last part with Nigel Olsson. Nigel Olsson was cool. The
Domino's man remembered the first time he'd seen himon
the back of the Honky Chateau or Greatest
Hits album or one of those. Everybody thought he was a girl; he looked just
like onethe way he was sitting there with that long black
hair and those Indian fringed pants. Then it turned out that he
was a guy, so next, everyone thought he was an Indiana
Cherokee or something. Then they found out that he was
exactly what he was supposed to bejust a very cool British
drummer in Elton John's band.
The Domino's man couldn't stop thinking about
Nigel Olsson. He hated the thought, but he remembered jacking
off to Nigel Olsson when he was in about ninth gradewhen
he still thought Olsson was a girl.
Now he wondered what Nigel Olsson looked like naked.
As he lay there on his back, spread-eagled on the floor, he
wondered what it would be like to have Nigel Olsson in
his apartment with him, lying next to him on the carpet,
lying naked with him . . . touching him. . . .
When the next morning came, those same thoughts
made the Domino's man want to throw up. He tried to
induce vomiting by sticking a finger down his throat, but it
didn't work, it only gagged him. He felt sick. He felt empty
This was on the seventh day, and it was on this day that
he stopped singing. On the ninth day he got dressed. And on
the eleventh he left L.A.
He bundled his belongings into a tarp in the back of
his pickup, then took the 10 Freeway east to the 15, and
then followed it north to Las Vegas, where he pulled off and
cruised the strip, going past the Flamingo, past Caesar's and
the Miragelooking at all the people, at all the losers from
all parts of the country, and at all the girls. Girls. He
suddenly wanted to see one naked. He wanted to see one up close, so
he kept cruising, watching for signs that said
girls. He eventually wound up on the other side of the freeway at a dirty
little lowslung place that looked like a roadside store on one of
the Indian reservations back in Minnesota, except this place had
a flashing sign on toppink and greenthat said:
TIPS & TOTS NUDE DANCERS.
The Domino's man went inside and started to drink.
The place was scattered with old men in cheap suits and
toupees, and a few younger guys who looked as if they worked
in science labsand one guy who was right out of a time
warp, right out of Saturday Night FeverJohn Travolta with the
white suit, gold chains and poofedup hair.
The first few dancers were a little rough, but after a
few beers they got pretty good. The Domino's man walked over
to John Travolta and asked him if he knew who he looked
like, and Travolta ignored him. The Domino's man sat down
at Travolta's table and Travolta said something rude in a
New York accent that sounded to the Domino's man like some
sort of gangster talk. They sat together at the table and drank
and watched the show, and then Travolta asked the Domino's
man what he did for a living, and the Domino's man told
Travolta that he was a screenwriter, and that he was under
contract with United Artists in L.A.
Travolta suddenly became friendly. He told the
Domino's man that he produced movies. He told him that he
was looking for new scripts and that he would like to hire a
new writer; on spec.
The Domino's man had suddenly had enough of
Travolta. He left Travolta's table and went over and talked to one of
the toupee men, who told him that he was the guy who
had invented in-flight refueling for jets, and that he had a
new invention that was going publicFortune 500 or
somethingand that he was looking for a new partner. Then the
most beautiful girl the Domino's man had ever seen in his entire
life came out on stage. She was stunning. She was young
and gorgeous, and was a good dancer too, and her body was
near perfect. Some of the old men in toupees and a couple of
the scientists reached up and tucked dollar bills in through
the dancer's G-stringthe refueling man among them, giving
her a buck. The Domino's man dug into his money and counted
it, while Travolta sat down at his table and smoked a
cigarette. The Domino's man did some adding and subtracting,
figuring out how much money he would need for the remainder of
his trip; then he staggered up to the edge of the stage and
started sticking money into the girl's G-stringone hundred
dollars' worth in crumpled twenties, tens and fivesyelling up to
her over the music, telling her that she was amazingly
talented and that she should never give up her dream, because she
was going to be a star. The starlet smiled at the Domino's
man while dancing in place. She pushed her hair back and
flicked it, mouthing the words thank you to him several times.
Soon after that the Domino's man left. He started up
his pickup and got back onto I-15, and when daylight came he
was in northern Utah. When he finally sobered up, he was
in Wyoming, and when he got out into the middle of the state
and was cruising at a steady ninety-five miles per hour, he
began to feel hungry. He couldn't remember when the last time
was he had eaten. He had no money for foodonly for
gasand now he was beginning to regret giving the last of his money
to the dancer. He became frustrated and wanted to rebel.
He wanted to strike at something, but didn't know what, or
how. The day was hot and dry and there was nobody in sight,
just himself and the big sky, and an endless scape of barren
planet. He thought of his Colt .380 on the seat alongside him,
thought of it down inside the canvas bag. He thought of putting it to
his head and pulling the trigger while doing ninety-five
mphand the thought of this made him smile for a moment. He
liked the idea and wondered if anybody had ever tried it
beforewondered what the whole scene would look like, what
the crash would be like. He suddenly reached over and dug
down into the bag and pulled out a small cardboard boxa
Maxell floppy-disc boxwith a piece of sticker paper across the
front that said A Brush With Fire. He threw the box and its
contents out the window, then reached into the bag again and
rummaged around some more, pulling out the final draft of
A Brush With Fire. He laid the manuscript on his lap and
pulled out the brass clasps from Charlie Chan's copy shop,
then threw the manuscript out the window, watching it explode
in his side mirrorblowing into a turbulent puff of
whitea hundred and twenty-two sheets to the wind. Gone. Next
he reached down and unbuckled his $135.00 mystic Indian
belt that he'd purchased from Light Spirit on Melrose
Avenue, jerked it out of his waist loops and threw it out, too.
Then he took several deep breaths and put both hands
on the wheel.
He focused on the highway.
He followed it further east and further north,
backtracking the same path that he had taken five years
earlierretracing his way on the Yellow Brick Road. He was tired and
hungry but he ignored it. He stopped only for gas and he spoke to
no one. As trees began to reappear and the terrain around
him became slowly familiar, five years of life began to drop
behindquickly becoming distantas if a great
gravitational pull was lapsing it off into memory. He suddenly felt aware
of everything around himof clean air, of color, of
soundsof the humming of the motor and of the wind whistling near
the tops of the windows. He switched on the radio and there
was a song playing that he hadn't heard in years"Sister
Golden Hair." He had never really cared much for the tuneit
reminded him of getting ready for school in twelfth
gradebut right now, for some reason, it sounded pretty good. He
listened to the music with an odd pleasure and even started
to hum with it. Then he began to sing. . . .
His focus, however, remained on the road.
. . . the Yellow Brick Road . . .
. . . which he would follow back to his beginningsback
to his place in the woodswhere he would pick up where he
had left off and allow the dreams of his youth to slowly fade,
until one day, any recollection of what had happened would
no longer linger, no longer exist, but would slip off into
darkness, and become forever gone.