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An actress from outer space

Matt Zalaznick

Gaucho, not nearly as uncomfortable as Dapple imagines, suddenly realizes: the woman is quite likely from outer space. The Gravybranches, though hard-working, grateful and devout, have long been further convinced of their select-ness by the frequent visits they’ve had with the always immeasurably wise, but often emotionally askew, sometimes downright deranged, citizens of faraway planets. “Oh yeah,” the woman says, “we’ve got to change the name because I’ll need it for a month.”Gaucho’s Uncle Isidore has famously toured the Pleiades. Cousin Edna often talks of the outlandish behavior of her friends from the string of planets orbiting the North Star. And this sopping wet, bespectacled, half-naked alien – presumably – will now offer Gaucho his own trip into the cosmos. Who needs the space shuttle or a roller coaster ride in the dark? But before inviting Gaucho to tour her home galaxy, the woman turns and hurls a bewitching glance at the Shootin’ Saint, who though he may not realize she’s a spacewoman as her robe just about falls off shuts his eyes tight and bites the color out his lower lip.”Y’should go for a swim, kid,” she says.Yes, Dapple thinks, it’s definitely Her. Wearing glasses. Like most movie stars, she doesn’t have them on when you see her on TV or in magazines. She’s certainly not as dressed up as she was when she won the Academy Award this year. Dapple had watched the show because her mother had thrown a party that night which reminds Dapple that she ought to call her mother as soon as she gets a chance to tell her Townie Lee is in town. With Handsome Vegas and the astonishing actress in the lobby, Dapple is now beside herself, slipping into rapture. Dapple hears, but does not quite process, what Prayer and Gun is now ranting about. Dapple can tell he’s pissed off, but his words are nothing more than hastily arranged alphabet noodles in a frothing stew:”… should be able to expect … ,” he hisses, “… a certain moral something or other from the Cozy Cowboy Lodge a chain that has a something or other with the Church!!! not nude blah blah blahs of low character something-or-othering around the lobby in front of blah blah blah blah decent whatevers … “Dapple, gathering all the composed respect and awe into her voice that she can, asks Townie what name needs changing, what she wants for a month? Townie, smiling, stepping toward Dapple, says she wants to reserve the Cozy Cowboy Lodge’s Honeymoon Suite for a month, but that it’d be a big favor if they could change the name. Prayer and Gun, meanwhile, is demanding either the expulsion of this blah blah blah woman or the something or other of his deposit on twenn’y whatevers. Dapple is telling Townie that, yes, the name of the Honeymoon Suite can easily be changed.”Twen-ty rooms!” he barks, impossible not to hear. “That’s not revenue to just cast into the wind!” “I’m buying a ranch near here,” Townie says proudly.”MISS!” Prayer and Gun shouts. “Oh, just wait a minute, will ya?” Dapple says, almost smiling at her remarkable rudeness. ” … well then, Blah-blah’s headquarters in Provo will blah blah blah about this. Well then, we’ll blah blah accommodations at one of the other blah blah blahs in town even if half the Shootin’ Blah blah blahs have to sleep in the vans!” “I’ll come up and change it in a few minutes,” Dapple says, because it’s clear Gaucho doesn’t recognize Townie Lee Docks, he doesn’t understand the tremendous meteor that has come screaming in from the outside world, come in screaming full of the outside world, and slammed dead-center into the motel counter, spreading its irresistible radiation, its charming chaos and its maddening aura of travel and freedom. It is a day to give thanks, Dapple thinks. “If something untoward should happen at whichever establishment wherein we find lodging,” Prayer and Gun sermonizes, “I will hold the Cozy Cowboy responsible.” The angry church elder has in fact decided to call the police. “You know Yetti LaMancha? He tried to sell me my own private island,” Townie says to Handsome Vegas, with whom she has apparently struck up a conversation. Dapple is mesmerized, basking in the small talk that is leaping like fountains between Townie Lee and Handsome Vegas. Dapple is sent aloft by the words, aloft and out of the lobby, into the outside world, sailing over a sparkling vastness. Gaucho looks stunned, like he’s about to pass out or at least, it appears so to Dapple. In reality, he’s now grown bored with the whole scene, even the alien, whom since she has not yet welcomed him into her spaceship he decides is probably just some lesser extraterrestrial, some lackey on a low-priority data collection mission. He has never heard of Townie Lee Docks. Furthermore: he wouldn’t be very troubled to learn he has not recognized one of the most famous actresses in the country. The Gravybranches, like most folks in Burrow Junction, don’t care for movies. Which is why the Old Hickory went out of business a few years ago. The owner told Dapple that he needed more people than just her and her mother to show up to keep the place going. Dapple Del Toboso then remembers the last movie she saw at the Old Hickory was the one where Townie Lee Docks played an airline stewardess who was afraid not to fly. “Are you listening to me?” Prayer and Gun growls. Dapple slides back down the counter. She is still lost in Townie Lee’s and Handsome Vegas’ lively discussion of the privileges and the pitfalls of owning private islands. Without a word, Dapple rips up Prayer and Gun’s credit card slip.”Oh, Yetti consulted me on your purchase,” Handsome Vegas then says. “I told him it would be difficult to get to any of the main Bahamian islands from there even by seaplane.”Prayer and Gun frowns when Dapple triumphantly hands him the shreds of his credit card slip and the motel manager’s card. “It even has an afterhours emergency number you can call,” Dapple tells him absently, “if you’ve been inconvenienced and want to complain.” Prayer and Gun buries Townie Lee Docks, Handsome Vegas, Dapple and Gaucho even poor, innocent Gaucho, who surely had no part in this wicked conspiracy buries them all with a defiant, holier-than-all-of-thou sneer as he and the Shootin’ Saint stride, slightly-tainted, from the lobby. “Maybe I’ll come for a drink,” Townie says to Handsome Vegas, suddenly making Dapple a little jealous. Townie turns and walks to the elevator, presses the button and is swallowed up. Handsome Vegas nods at Dapple Del Toboso and hurries out the automatic doors into the groping high plains darkness. Vail, Colorado


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