A cast of characters: A bear-ish, jovial Russian Olympic coach with a deaf daughter. A retired jazz vocalist matron, questioning if she’s still got it, on her way to give one last performance. A joint-toking jazz saxophone player (played by Jimmy Walker aka JJ on Good Times). A co-pilot widower of one year (played by George Kennedy). A pilot having a fling with a stewardess. An elderly woman who runs to the bathroom when nervous. A journalist with an arms dealer boyfriend. A fur-draped diva smuggling a lap dog on board a plane. A woman flying back home after finding a heart to transplant for her young, dying son.
Talk about character development. Or character backstory at least. 70’s movie style. The movie is “Concorde ’79”.
What a fascinating assortment of people. Rarely do I notice writing like that these days in screenplays. I liked that about the movie. Old movies in general have more focus on characters — even action or catastrophe movies — than your average movie today. That’s my impression at least.
That’s a digression, though.
What time is it? Man. I need to get up and get on the road. Have to take Leika out for a walk first, though. She is so ready to go, rearing on her hind legs and even jumping a little bit when she sees me put on my hat and pick up her leash. It’s nice out today. Sunny, clear sky but with a hint of chill in the wind. Perfect jacket weather.
Down the steps she irrigates her regular patch and then we start walking. Well, I try to walk. She stops every few yards to sniff in the grass for too long when I’m feeling impatient. I’m moderately patient today.
There’s a helicopter approaching the military base. I can’t see it because the trees are in the way. I can’t tell which way it’s coming from at first. Uusally with helicopters it’s either where it sounds like or directly opposite from where you think it is and you realize you’re tracking echo.
On the other side of Pole Rd. there’s a tall young man with black hair jogging in the opposite direction. A few joggers are out taking advantage of the mild temperatures. It’s a good day for it. I should be out there with them or on my bike.
I hear a honk and then see six Canadian geese in V formation clear the trees from across the road, the wetland preserve. They fly toward me, low overhead, silhouetted against a winter blue sky. I wonder what they’re saying when they honk back and forth like that. It means something. Animals make noise for a reason. They talk but in their own language and for their own non-anthropomorphic motives and drives. Chickens warn each other if a hawk or bird of prey is flying above them but not when a pigeon or chickadee flies above them. Chickadees chick-a-dee faster or slower, higher or lower, depending on their surroundings and potential threats. And they call differently but predictably for cats as opposed to other birds or raccoons. In other words, distinct calls for different animals. And so on.
We keep walking and further along across the road from the park entrance there are two pairs of black shoes neatly and symmetrically arranged next to the curb. Like they’re parked there. A pair of dress shoes and located between them, a pair of black Adidas with white stripes. Hmmm. Makes you think. Whowhatwherewhen?
We walk to the end of the sidewalk on this side of the road. It’ll be better to cross. Further up on the side of the road there’s a group of about five boys, ages seven to ten I’d guess, walking toward me even though there’s no sidewalk up there. And two more, straggling. Sidewalk’s on the other side, which is where I’m going. They’re loud, those boys, but something distracts them for a bit and they’re quiet for a few seconds.
Across the road. They see Leika and some of them verbally notice her. She’s a cool dog. Still a handsome young lady even though she’s an old geezer, thus the more frequent walks. As we’re walking, now on the other side of the road on the sidewalk, I see what the boys were distracted by. There’s a deer on their side of the road. It’s dead, I think. Laying on its side, muzzle on the outer yellow lane marker, eyes open.
When a car approaches and threatens a deer’s existence, they tend to jump or they tend to freeze. You would think that they’d just take off running and put some of that alluring grace to good use. Unfortunately, they haven’t had time as a species to learn that if you react to a vehicle (a “hrududu” in Rabbit according to “Watership Down”) the same way you react to a large predator you will die.
The loudest and frontmost of the boys yells back to one of the stragglers, “I dare you to step on it! I’ll give you a dollar if you step on it!”
The stragglers straggle more, inspecting the deer. Whenever they see something interesting they yell to the group ahead.
“%$#@! It’s eye just moved! Hey, there’s blood!”
Then one of the stragglers yells that he’ll kick it. I’m fighting every urge to tell them to leave it alone. In peace. He nudges it with his foot. It doesn’t move. Ah yes. Boys, young men, are to order and tranquility what high velocity bullets are to heart surgery.
I’m still looking, hoping that the boys don’t violate the dead or dying deer any longer. They’re almost ready to move on. I start walking again. I take about three steps before I notice something in my peripheral vision. On top of a street light is … something. Big. A bird? Black. Across the sidewalk on top of the uility pole there’s another. In the trees near that I count three more. Vultures.
They’re still. An older couple walks by and they notice the deer. They ask me if it’s dead. The man, ignoring Leika’s attempt to lick his hand, asks if the accident just happened. They ask the two stragglers first and then me. I don’t know. The woman says that they were just back by the pond and their son was jogging and called out to them to tell them that he saw four deer. They were wondering if this was one of them. The mother wanted to make sure that it was dead and not suffering.
I tell them that it probably wasn’t too long ago. Probably a few hours. But I don’t know, really. I point to the vultures. The couple still doesn’t notice them at first. I can’t take my eyes off of those big black shapes, long necks folded, absolutely still. They wait patiently or beyond patience.
We continue walking, Leika and I, after a few minutes. She walks fast. I can barely keep up. She’s trying to catch up to the couple in front of us. She considers them part of the pack or new friends and she trots quicker than I can walk to be able to walk with them. I don’t let her, though. I don’t want to bother them.
My neighbor, the guy who lives next to me but not across from me, is out jogging. I’m not sure if he recognizes me but we don’t speak. We pretty much never do except for when the area is flooded or there are fire engines outside the building. He worries about the place catching fire. He plays classical guitar and we did have a brief conversation once about a guitar amp I was carrying.
Leika and I walk to the military base entrance and then turn around to head back to the apartment.
The vultures are still there. They still haven’t moved. It’s eery walking under them. They’re waiting for calm, for silence, for stillness. Then they’ll eat. That’s what they do. So it goes.
We walk along and for a bit I walk backwards. I see if I can count any more vultures. There are two more than I thought there were over there in the trees. A total of seven. Not that they’d start in my presence but I don’t want to see it. Walk on. Let’s go, Leika.
We cross the street back to the apartment complex. The black Adidas with the white stripes are gone and the dress shoes are in disarray.
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The Hot Kid : A Novel
By Elmore Leonard
Release date: By 01 May, 2005