“I’ll give you two hundred.”
“Come on Les, it’s worth at least five.”
“Maybe back when people knew who you were.” He shrugged. “You say you want cash. All’s I got is two-fifty. Take it or leave it.”
I sighed. “Fine, just give me the money.”
Les opened the register and started counting bills. “What happened to you man? You used to be big. Now you’re walking around shirtless, and I hear from Gary you’ve been selling all your shit. I didn’t believe it, but now …”
He finished counting and gave me this look. It was the same one my character gave that old cowboy during the final shootout in Sunset on Santa Fe, only that one ended with me getting my head blown off. I always wondered what it’d be like to be on the other side of that exchange, but I’d pawned my .44 magnum a few days ago, so I just shoved the cash in my pocket and left.
The sun had turned my leather seats to tar, and they smeared against my skin as I peeled out of the parking lot. I hit the highway and rolled down the windows even though the AC was cranking full blast. There was something about this heat that I’d never been able to shake, like someone had been cooking me from the inside out for the past eight years, and I was getting to the point of being done.
When the noise got too much, I put the windows back up and turned on the radio. I don’t know why I bothered. All they ever talked about was the drought, “Worst we’ve ever seen … No end in sight … We’re burning in a fiery hell …” They never stop complaining. As if it’s some big surprise that it doesn’t rain in the desert. I was getting angry, which made me hot, so I turned off the radio and drove the rest of the way home in silence.
When Ma was alive she’d call my house the billion dollar bungalow just to piss me off. She thought it was hilarious ’cause with only seven bedrooms and six full baths, mine’s the smallest one on the block. She wasn’t the only one who found it funny either. I had to stop reading those trashy celebrity magazines after I moved in here to keep myself from spiraling into a pit of self deprecation. I guess that’s what a B actor gets if he wants to live next door to the big dogs. Still, the drought turned their grass just as brown as mine, even if it did take a little longer.
I pulled into my driveway and looped around to the side entrance, then laughed as I walked inside ’cause if someone saw me they would’ve thought I was trying and rob the place. Then I really got going ’cause if someone actually did try and rob the place, they’d have picked the one house in the neighborhood that had nothing worth taking. And by nothing worth taking, I literally mean nothing.
It all started just after the drought began clawing its way up the hill. Our view of the valley had been brown for so long that it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but when you live on top of the world, you begin to believe that nothing can touch you. Anyway, I started to get this weird feeling, and the next thing I know I’m selling off all my shit.
It wasn’t that I was strapped for cash. Lord knows that if all it took to get the weather to cooperate was a few bucks, the whole goddamn town would be underwater. No, this was something else. I remember waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I was suffocating. At first I thought it was the heat, so I turned up the AC. It got to the point where I had the thermostat set to fifty degrees, and I still wasn’t sleeping.
Then it dawned on me. I had fourteen dressers. Who the fuck needs fourteen dressers? So I pawned them. Got a good bit of money too. Apparently dressers owned by washed-up celebrities go for a lot. And you know what? I started sleeping again. So I kept pawning.
Halfway through the bedrooms, I had accumulated so much cash that I didn’t know where to put it. I went from room to room with a measuring tape, but the thought of stacking piles of money in my house seemed pretentious. It wasn’t until I was standing out on my patio, watching my last almond tree die, that it hit me.
Last summer I was forced to drain my pool due to a combination of water restrictions and not being buddy-buddy with the right city officials. It pissed me off seeing it empty all the time. Believe it or not, it was never my dream to own a big cement hole. But that afternoon, listening to the wind hiss in the dead grass, I realized I had the perfect spot to store my cash.
Okay, so I lied. I guess there is something worth taking, but technically it’s not in my house.
I added the money Les gave me, then sat down on the edge with my feet submerged. The bills ruffled as I kicked, and a few fluttered away on the breeze. That was all of it. My house was completely empty, and my pool completely full; seven feet in the deep end.
I haven’t bothered to count it. It feels petty. Just seeing that patch of green in my backyard is enough that I can breathe again, and that’s all I was after. Besides, you don’t count your blades of grass, or the water in your pool. At least, we never used to.