I met a girl today who had a dragon tattoo. She wanted to show it to me, but I was in no mood to play into that kind of Hollywood subterfuge. This girl also professed her sincere love for someone named Stieg Larsson.
After days of very little sleep, I had crashed and slept like somebody’s well-fed dog until late this morning. When I woke up I felt miserable, like the Ugly Spirit was descending upon me. Like wherever I drift off to when I sleep, I hadn’t brought all of it back when I woke up. When I went outside, nobody else seemed bothered, in fact, people were rather cheery this morning.
Nothing makes me feel more miserable than a thrift store (actually, I feel more miserable when I watch Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker speak into a microphone), and I thought if I’m feeling lousy this morning and armed with a head full of sleep, I might as well push it to the edge.
I went to the Goodwill store in Hollywood, on Vine. I tried on a used fedora and was admiring the hat in the mirror, and how it sat crooked on my head, when I heard a giggling from behind me. I twisted my body a little to use the tall piece of glass as a kind of rearview mirror. A girl, a female, a Hollywood type with unwashed strings of dirty blond hair, stood behind me pointing.
“Are you a detective?” she asked.
Not yet, I told her, but I have a brother who’s really good at sniffing out clues. But he has to get in the mood, otherwise clues pass him by. Detective work is tough work, I told her, especially when you’re doing it forty hours a week.
The girl removed the fedora from my head and placed it on her own head. “Do I look like a detective? Like I should be in the new upcoming David Fincher movie, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?”
I couldn’t handle this playfulness so late in the morning and on a day with such an ominous tone. You look like you need a shower, I said. But don’t let that hat get wet, unless you make sure it’s properly treated to withstand moisture. She giggled, and I was reminded of a field trip I took to a farm in third grade to see a swarming mass of randy pigs and piglets humping and eating the dirt. To say it plainly, the girl kind of oinked when she laughed, but she was in no way overweight.
“Do you know Stieg Larsson?” she asked me.
I know some Larsons, I told her, and I think they’re pretty good people. But I don’t know Stieg. They might, though.
“Ohmygod, you know Stieg’s family?” This girl was out of control. She’d probably been prowling the Hollywood scene all Friday night and still hadn’t gone to bed, even though it was 11am Saturday. She wore a shawl loosely clasped in the front, and I’m not sure she had anything on underneath. She wore skintight jeans with rips from ass to heel.
Listen, I said, I don’t know Stieg, but family’s a loose term. Most people are family somehow, otherwise people would get lonely. Kurt Vonnegut came up with a plan to endow everybody with a large group of family. Lonely No More, he called it. But nobody incorporated his plan. There was no money to be made by the politicians, so Lonely No More was dropped. That’s why this country is so spiritually destitute.
“Do you like the girl with the dragon tattoo?” she asked me.
I had tried to dodge her by dipping around the men’s jeans, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this town it’s that a guy can’t dodge an overzealous Hollywood girl. And in Hollywood, they’re all overzealous. I had taken a serious risk by going to the Goodwill store today, and now I was going to pay dearly for it. I’d be lucky if I could get back into my car without her.
I have a feeling, I told her, that you’re the girl with the dragon tattoo, and you’ve just asked me a trick question.
“Do you want to see it?”
I looked through the belts, searching for a deal. The deals in the Goodwill store are never advertised. You have to seek them out and know what you are looking for.
See what? I asked her.
“The dragon tattoo?”
Not particularly, I said, because I’m on assignment and I can’t be looking at well-placed tattoos on young female bodies. Not this morning, anyhow. But Stieg Larsson might. I’d bet money he would want to see your tattoo. That’s just the kind of guy Larsson was. Helluva lonely guy, I said, or so I’ve heard. He went around trying to get glimpses of tattoos on girls’ bodies.
She followed me to the knickknack section of the Goodwill store. I picked up an ashtray. I’d like to get a fancy one, I said, showing her the ashtray, but I’m afraid I’d feel inclined to use it. You’ve got to be careful when buying knickknacks in a thrift store.
She looked intrigued.
Because, I told her, all of these antiques and decorative household items were all owned by people, and many people have become strongly attached to many of these items. The only reason these ashtrays and porcelain tea pots and specialized picture frames are here is because their owner has died. But the attachment doesn’t just end when someone dies. Far from it. A few of these items, at least, have a ghost attached to them. When you take, for example, this ashtray home with you, whoever used it for forty-five years until he died has such a tremendous attachment to it that his spirit will follow the ashtray home with you. And then you’ve got a ghost. In your home. And then you’ve got to call Dr. Evelyn Paglini to cleanse your living quarters. And Paglini will ask you what the hell you were thinking buying some random ashtray from a Goodwill store and don’t you have any sense in your pretty little head?
“I could use a little action at home,” she said.
As long as you know what you’re in for, I told her. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you could buy something of Stieg Larsson’s and then you can live with his ghost.
“That would be the best thing that ever happened to me.”
You’re such an anti-heroine, I told her.
“Like Lisbeth Salander.”
Just like her, I said. I was suddenly overcome with all the misery that had been plaguing me since I’d gotten out of bed. Look, I shouted, it’s Stieg Larsson!
The girl turned so sharply that the fedora almost flipped off her head. I ran past the sales desk and out the door and into the laser beam sunshine. I had parked two blocks away and it was vital I get to the car with at least one block of distance between the girl with the dragon tattoo and myself.
I had run halfway into the parking lot (not nearly enough of a lead) when the girl burst out of the doorway. She still wore the fedora, but hadn’t paid for it. That was typical of these people, I thought, ripping off Goodwill stores whenever possible. But suddenly I knew that God was on my side, and what I’d been feeling wasn’t the Ugly Spirit, but the Holy Spirit. I had just misinterpreted the vibrations.
A mentally-handicapped Goodwill worker barged through the doorway. He shouted something that couldn’t be understood, but its tone was vicious. He too was sick of these people ripping off Goodwill stores. He looked like the Michelin man, except stuffed into a stained green polo shirt. He pushed the girl so violently that she flew into the side of a car. The fedora tipped off her head and rolled on its brim along the pavement. The worker was shouting what had to be obscenities in a language I couldn’t understand.
A Goodwill supervisor came outside and tried to hold him back, but he was out to make a point. He shouted in the girl’s face and pointed a finger at her nose. A crowd came to watch. That was my chance to bolt out of there and ditch the crazy girl. Besides, I didn’t want to get involved.
With any luck the LAPD would come squealing into the parking lot on two tires and instead of asking questions the policemen would start macing all of them. That’s how they do it in L.A. Any kind of scuttle going on, and if you happen to be within one hundred feet of the action, you’re likely to get maced. It’s like a game with the police these days. How many innocent bystanders can they get before the crowd disperses. Trying to establish some law and order in this town. That’s likely the excuse. It’s been the excuse all across America for a long time.
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