Robert Owen Co-op (2)

October, 2016 – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Up in Tamara’s room, after a nice ham-and-cheese sandwich from the kitchen, Jack Coulter in his role as Yonar of Iceland shakes his head sadly.

“No,” he says. “I never am finding Ymir now.”

The room is incredible; it has to be the best place in the house. A good part of it is the second-floor section of the house’s big round turret that was visible from the street, which makes a ten-foot semicircular area that kind of juts out from the rest of the room. Tamara has apparently seen fit to completely fill that turret part of the room with mattresses or something, over which she has spread oriental-looking sheets. It’s basically a ten foot diameter bed, which must be what she sleeps on since the only other furniture in the room is a—what do you call those fucking things?—a divan? And a couple of overstuffed chairs.

“But is OK,” Jack says, looking back at her before she gets the feeling that he’s—ahem—casing the joint. He smiles, and sets his next hook. “Tomorrow I go maybe to Colorado, find job there.”

It’s important to let the lady know that he’s no threat: he won’t be hanging around. A Mysterious Stranger Just Passing Through is much more tempting as a one-nighter than Some Fucking Bum Looking for a Handout.

Looking away from the girl, Jack appears to get an idea. He turns toward his battered shoulder bag that he left on a chair as he came in. He doesn’t want to speak for a moment, to let the wheels turn in—what’s her name?—in Tamara’s head. He rummages for a moment in the bag.

“Oh,” she says at last. “So soon?”

Another thing Jack learned long ago in the early years of his life on the road is that the words that a person speaks and the tone of voice that they speak in can convey totally different messages. This is not the first time he’s heard a girl say Gee too bad you’re leaving so soon with her words, while her tone says Thank God you’re going! And the whole time, the deeper meaning of the statement is Hey, big boy, let’s party. With his back to her, Jack grins.

And, wow! It only took her twenty seconds to figure out what a great setup he’s offering! College kids, Jack thinks, can be amazingly slow.

“I was saving, to give to Ymir,” he says, turning around holding his bag with one hand and gripping his little surprise inside it with the other. “But now, please,” he gives Tamara his best smile, “please, you take. Drink from Eeslant.”

Radiating innocence, Jack extracts from the canvas bag a full liter bottle of Icelandia vodka.

“Oh my god!” Tamara says, her eyes widening. “Is that stuff really from Iceland?

Jack blinks, looking down at the bottle.

Fuck! Fuck-fuckety-fuck and goddamn! It never even occurred to him that this shit has probably never been any closer to Iceland than he has. OK, but she doesn’t know that for sure. And she wants to believe. Oh, yes, she certainly does.

“Yaw, yaw!” he grins at her. “From Reykjavik! Is best kind! Please!” He puts down his bag so he can offer her the big bottle with both hands. Foreign guys are so polite.

And she does believe.

In fact, her eyes say quite a lot more than merely I believe.

“Well,” she smiles, “I think I do have a couple glasses up here still.”

Tamara goes to the little counter built in to one side of the room and turns back with two short water-glasses in her hand to find that Jack has taken a step closer to her. With a smile that would give a hard-on to a dead man, she hands him one of the glasses and takes the bottle.

“Will you show me how they drink this stuff in Iceland, Yonar?”

Looking into her eyes from close enough to sense the warmth of her body, Jack smiles back. “Yaw,” he says quietly. “Shore.”

But a thought strikes him, and he frowns.

“But,” he says hesitantly, “in America, there is ice? Yes? Just small one, like so big?” He holds two fingers apart to indicate an ice-cube’s size.

Tamara laughs.


Some time later, Tamara has brought out her little collection of joints. They are stored in a lacquered box that looks like it came from the frikking Ming Dynasty, and she has invited her new Icelandic friend Yonar to share a couple with her because she thinks they would “go great with this vodka.”

Jack has been forced to agree. It is by far the best weed he has ever smoked in his life. It’s so good that he wonders what the hell he’s actually been smoking, in those rare occasions riding the rails when he’s been able to score any. That shit is like dandelion greens compared to this stuff.

The last orange and red strata of the sun’s light have long since settled into the west, drifting below the horizon, making way for the warm night sky now visible through the antique windows of the turret-shaped part of Tamara’s glorious room.

Jack is seated on the cushioned floor, his back against the wall between two of the windows, his legs stretched out in front of him. Tamara is seated likewise, halfway around the curve of the room’s turret, with her legs crossed.

The room is lit now only by a lamp that is apparently made out of a big pink rock of some kind that glows from inside, and by starlight and moonlight and streetlight from outside filtered through thinning night leaves.

“What’s it like, Yonar?” Tamara asks, looking at Jack with dreamy eyes. “Living in Iceland. I’ve never been anywhere except Livonia and here.” The thought distresses her.

Jack takes a long moment to reply, hitting his joint first, and then the vodka again.

“It’s not cold,” he temporizes, “except in winter. Then cold, shore.”

Jack is struck by inspiration.

“But only sky is cold, then,” he says, grinning at his hostess. “Earth is hot. Volcanoes! And sometime in sky,” he gestures broadly, and a little dangerously, with his vodka toward the ceiling. “You can see the—” he frowns and looks at her as if for help. “What is word. Nightlights? Like green and red in sky?” He waves his hand and at once Tamara can see them, shimmering.

“Northern lights! You’ve seen them?”

“Ah, yaw! Shore!” Jack nods. “Sometime, every night seeing! And down below, lava coming from mountain. Cold light in sky,” he muses quietly, “hot light from earth.”

“Oh,” Tamara whispers, imagining.

“Then only I am wishing,” Jack says, looking out at the passionate landscape stretching far away, “that I am having a friend who can see with me.”

Bringing his gaze back to the dimly lit room, Jack sees that Tamara has moved closer to him. Close enough that she can now take the glass out of his hand and set it on the wide window ledge, where it will be out of the way.

“I can see it, Yonar,” she whispers. Tamara puts her warm hand on the back of his neck to draw him to her.

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