Road to Salvador's
I had to get to Fresno, fast. I fail to remember the exact reasons why, but it seemed to be of great urgency. However, shortly after starting my journey, I realized I was low on gas. It was no wonder, I was literally doing 180MPH south on 99. I went to the off ramp to exit the freeway, but was going so fast my car flew off the road, into the planter area, on a straight ahead coarse for the overpass.
I was surprisingly calm during this ordeal, and decide since the shocks in my Mustang were in need of servicing, it would be best if I returned to the paved road, (I had no problem with the collision, and imminent death that awaited me, but the thought of a costly car repair sent me into action… is there something wrong with my priorities?)
I returned to the ramp, only to find it became a dirt road midway through. It was one of those country roads, where 4x4 trucks have eaten away massive grooves, filled with water closer to the color of blood than soil. I followed this path for a while, in search of a gas station. Just when I was about ready to turn back, I saw a sign advertising an ARCO just ahead.
I proceeded further down this strange road, that was now surrounded by abandoned warehouses, and factories. I reached the station, only to find it abandoned as well, chain link fence, caped by Constantine wire surrounded the lot, broken windows in the attendant’s house revealed the glowing eyes of many sinister creatures, all watching me, all unblinking. As I returned my attention to the road, I noticed it coming to a sudden end, turning into a driveway for a modest sized house. As I drove closer, I saw a figure tending a fire, blazing from the hollow shell of a car.
I stopped, and asked this stranger where I might find another station. He was a filthy vagrant, with the look of mania in his eye. The fire he watched over was used to cook a wild boars head, rotating on a splint.
I paused when I saw this, and contemplated returning, but he had already noticed me.
Fearing for his meal, he grabbed the head from the fire, and began cradling it like a child. “You want some?” he slurred, “You can have some… (he then produced a switch-blade) I’ll even cut you off some of the good parts”.
He then began violently hacking and stabbing at the head, in a frenzy of motion.
I realized then, that he couldn’t be of any help to me.
As I was walking back, A voice called my attention. In the doorway of the house at the end of the road, a well dressed African gentleman was waiting.
“If you’re here for the tour, come on in, they’ve been waiting for us.”
He walked inside, and I, believing I would find little chance of a solution with the bum, decided to go in as well.
As I walked in, I was greeted by Mercedes, one of the artist Salvador’s three female assistants. She looked as if she had just gotten out from a very pleasing shower, by her happy demeanor, and the bathrobe she wore.
She announced to me, “The main showing won’t begin till later, refreshments will be served at that time, until then fell free to look around… Ok? Have fun now.”
Apparently the artist Salvador was having a showing of his latest work, inside his home / gallery. I decide to start my viewing with the east wing, for no other reason, than it being closest to me. As I opened the door, I was blinded by a wave of white light, but I felt compelled to walk forward.
As my eyes focused, I noticed a short table in the center of the room. On it was a naked brunette girl, no more than 20 years old. She looked very peaceful, curled up on the table, asleep, partially wrapped in a linen sheet.
I immediately thought I had made an error and had entered the wrong door. That I had somehow inadvertently walked in on one of the artist assistant’s bedrooms.
I tried to make my exit as quietly as possible. But my leather jacket made its usual unflattering noises. To this she awoke, I was expecting a scream, or some other hostile action to be directed at me for violating her personal space. I ducked slightly incase a flying object came my way.
To my surprise, she got up, stretched, and retrieved a robe from under the table; similar to the one Mercedes wore. With a cheery smile she said, “The gallery begins through that door, enjoy”. I was taken aback by her reaction, thankful it wasn’t what I had anticipated. Her name was Petra, as to why she was naked and in public view, left me rather perplexed.
I walked into the adjoining hallway and found the centerpiece of the show. It was a section decorated exactly how a bachelor would decorate his first apartment. Guest with flutes of Champaign commented on the arrangement of the cheap Ikea furniture. They exchanged theories as to the political statements made by the pyramid of coke cans on the end table. One began a critique on the subtle flowing curves found in the free standing halogen lamp.
“This is it?” I quietly announced “This is the culmination of the great Salvador’s work?” trying to cram as much sarcasm into my voice as I could.
At that moment the party fell silent, a dozen or so icy stares were given my way. Someone was coming towards me from behind, I turned just in time to see a stunning blond, wearing the same bath robe as the other two girls. Her name was Jordan, and unlike the other two, she didn’t smile.
She grabbed my arm in a vice like grip. “Mr. Salvador would like to converse with you.” She said in a monotone. Then with unnatural power she began leading (mostly just pulling) me to the artist private chambers.
The trip lasted several minuets, traversing corridors, hallways, stairways, and over head bridges. At one point we went thru the kitchen twice, (or maybe this house had two identical kitchens). Eventually we reached the final staircase, leading up to the attic.
It was a bare room of plywood, scented with saw dust. In the corner sitting at a small desk, listening to weather reports blaring out of an archaic radio, was a small bearded man. With out looking up, he spoke, “It seems you have a problem with my art, who ever you are. What exactly do you find troublesome in it?”
Jordan released me, the blood returned to my right arm. I took a moment to compose myself, then replied, “You’re a phony, all of your art comes out of thrift shops or mail order catalogues. In short, you’re a god damn Hack! Only thing is, is that all those people down there are appreciating the hell out of it, which means they’re even bigger hacks than you.”
Salvador sat up, and slowly walked towards me. Jordan, who had been as solid as a statue, backed against the wall, projecting a hint of terror.
I was becoming afraid myself, he stared intently at me for several moments, and then he spoke.
“Do you know how long!... I’ve waited to hear someone say that.”
All the other surprises in this house, this shouldn’t be any different.
“Uh… Excuse me?”
“Years Man!, Years!... Jordan, get his wallet.”
She had her hand in my pants and removed it, before he had finished giving the order.
“Well… Ryan, I’m Salvador, and Now… I’m Ryan, and your Salvador, how you like them apples?”
I was getting angry and confused, “What the hell’s going on?”
“Oh, so much to explain, but I have to go, right now, the wind's just about right… Here…” A mass of keys, and radio remotes clanged against the bare wood floor.
“That’s everything you need to control the house and the girls, sorry I don’t have time to explain it all, but you seem like a sharp guy, you’ll figure it out”
Then he shouted orders for his assistants.
“Jordan! Start the engine, Mercedes! Get my bags, Petra!... uh, Get your new boss a beer, he’ll need it!
He removed a plywood panel that led to a secret hole carved out to the roof. Anchored to a makeshift terrence was a crude hot air balloon. The balloon itself was a patchwork of quilts and bed sheets, treated with latex sealant. The gondola was the metal basket from a shopping cart; most of its structure was cut off with a blow torch. Jordan stood in the basket, igniting the engine, a modified propane heater.
“Ryan, I mean Salvador, I’m Ryan now, did you see that hobo on your way in?”
This name game from this strange man was pissing me off.
“Yeah, crazy guy out front, what about him?”
“Well, best I can figure he was the first Salvador, probably decades before I was even born, then one day he turns it over to someone else, then that guy turned it over to another guy, and somewhere around Salvador 3 or 4, that guy killed himself, and the next guy wandered in years later, probably wanting to call a tow truck or something, anyway, I’m like, Salvador 6 or 7, or wait no… I WAS Salvador 6 or 7… So that means you’re the new guy… Jordan! Is it ready?”
She nodded in acknowledgment.
“Sweetness… You know, I’ll miss the girls, well, maybe not that cold bitch, but definitely the other two, they’re just little angels, and devils in the sac... Hell, you’ll find that out tonight… Heh, heh heh…Anyway… Aw Shit!, where’s the camera?”
He darted past me, and unlatched a glass case above the small desk. Inside was a degree from some Art college I’ve never heard of, a Polaroid of him looking very confused, was tacked into the area where the recipitant’s picture should have gone.
In a single motion, he turned and snapped a shot of me.
Somewhat blind from the flash, I could make out him ripping his picture out of the case, and pinning mine into the slot.
“There!” He yelled in euphoria, “That seals the deal! I can go!” He faced me, with a crazed look in his eyes, “You better get down to the party Salvador, your guests are waiting….”
Mercedes appeared with a pair of carpet bags, fashioned out of real carpet. He simultaneously kissed her, and grabbed the bags.
He turned and waved goodbye to no one in particular, before jumping into the gondola. “Dude, if you only knew… you’d be so pissed right now”
I had enough of this
“What the hell are you talking about, what the hell is happening?… I just wanted some gas”
“And I just wanted to use the phone!” He said angrily.
His balloon rose slowly.
“See man, this place has like a Hotel California thing going on; you can’t leave till you replace the artist.”
He suddenly grew serious,
“Oh and believe me, you do not want to even try, till you have a replacement, I still have nightmares about the time I tried”
He floated further up.
“My theory is that the original Salvador made a deal with Lucifer, or something. Like he wanted to be a great artist, but he got trapped in this world he created. But one day he got out of it by transferring the contract to some one else… Sorry man, nothing personal, I bet someone will be along in twenty or thirty years. Till then, eat, drink, and regale in crappy art.”
His Balloon was now too far away to hear any more.
The three girls had assembled behind me, silently. Jordan was the first to speak, I had a feeling I had a feeling I’d grow less fond of her.
“The Party’s waiting for you, Mr. Salvador. Please, don’t make me have to drag you back.”