As I turn onto Santa Fe, I can see it really is Mwin Stache, Soh Ju’s bag man, directly ahead in the top-down red caddy. He’s mouthing and snapping at zeppole like sour gum, just like he does at the poker table. He’s a slick chrome domer with an appropriate and brushy handlebar tightly wrapping around his mouth, a toothbrush anus. His black shiny shades look pricey and badass, even from here. The top on his El Dorado is down, defying the brisk L.A. winter and any remaining common sense he might have held onto in his extended middle age. Not a shy man, Mwin: you can probably hear the cholo beat three blocks down.
And good taste in donuts, apparently. Angel’s crusty old sign floats behind Mwin demonically.
My stomach hits a pothole and fear makes my earlobes sting. I have only a second to think. I can pull across him into the alley on the left, but that’s crazy and would just draw attention. I can’t go right, though: I’m stuck in the left lane after turning in busy traffic.
All I can do is turtle it: I squish myself further down into the already cramped space. I’m going to have drive blind for a few seconds. Mwin’s chains and skull shimmer.
“Grandma! Watch the road for me!”
The truth is, Grandma doesn’t see very well in the best of times, and I’m not sure she’s really in a listening mood. I haven’t heard from her since we hit the road.
But that’s when the miracle happens.
She sits up straight and puts her chin on the seat, almost appearing to be driving.
Well, maybe. I’m praying, it looks that way.
Spanish and base pop like percolating firecracker coffee – Mwin is passing by.
I crane my neck further to god and grandma- did he buy it? Did he notice us? There she is, watching the road, wide-eyed, dead set staring like an ancient, withered eagle.
Why do noses get longer as you age?
There’s no sound of brakes, no swearing in four incomprehensible languages (Mwin doesn’t speak English or really anything in particular). Just the rumble and whoosh of the traffic and the bugles of the nearby 405.
It’s almost peaceful. The sun shines alone.
Have we made it? I sit up (and remind myself to brush Grandma’s gums.)
The comforting old pastry shack appears, as dumpy and inviting as ever. Gasoline and fried dough fill my nose. I’m not a believing man but want to cross myself.
Still, I know at this moment that we have to go back to the house. I didn’t want to mention it, but now it’s undeniable.
We have to go back because we can’t leave Grandma’s Shih Tzus behind. I’ve been feeling guilty about it this whole trip, but now I know I was wrong.
We can’t leave the doggies behind. Not after Grandma saved us.
Yes, we have to go back for Marx and Hegel. First, though, donuts.