Everything was pitch black in the distance. It was early in the desert evening and it was still hot, it had been over 100 degrees in the shade that day. We sat on the curb by the roadhouse in the yellow glow of the solitary street lamp.
“Well, we wouldn’t have made it this last quarter if it wasn’t for the extra income I got from selling coke,” Lloyd was saying.
“What?! You’ve been selling coke? Where did you get money to buy it?” My mother exclaimed, she had been pacing around talking on her cell phone, in her jeans and leather jacket, while Lloyd and I sat, she put her flip phone back in her purse and looked hard at Lloyd, a piercing look she’d given me before and it always meant I was in trouble.
Lloyd was my mother’s right hand man for her legitimate business in town, but also he headed some of her less than savory enterprises. He was reasonably handsome, tall, lanky, with short, close cropped hair, in his mid thirties, always wore a pair of jeans, a pair of sandals, a t-shirt, and an unbuttoned flannel, and smoked Marlboro’s like a chimney. She’d also had an affair with him that had jump started her mid-life crisis and taken a mild mannered Christian stay-at-home mom and housewife down this dark path towards perdition. He turned out to be gay, and now had a younger boyfriend, Luke, who was new to adulthood that escaped his abusive father to become the third highest ranking member of my mother’s tiny empire that she’d carved out in this run down old mining town in the foothills at the edge of the desert.
“Well… you remember Angel right? Well, I ran into him and his brother José at the bar one night. We got plastered and went back to their place. Well, the coffee table was covered in powder, we did a few lines and Angel and José passed out. I figured they wouldn’t mind too much, I had a plastic grocery bag in the truck so I just scooped a whole bunch off the table into it and left. They didn’t even notice, we did the same thing the next week and I got another bag full…” Lloyd had kind of a deliberate, wry way of talking, especially when he told stories.
My mother looked disgusted. She’d never approved of drugs, using them or selling them, but Lloyd wasn’t always compliant with her wishes.
But, business was hard these days. Had been since she’d moved out there, rented a commercial property in a small shopping center and set up shop. In the first month the front window had been smashed in, and thieves made off with a couple of computers and monitors, sadly ones I’d refurbished and installed since I basically ran her IT operations. The alarm company had called my mom and the police. My mom showed up, but the police didn’t. The local sheriffs were corrupt, so the town was basically the wild west. My mom spent the night in the shop with a sleeping bag and a loaded shotgun to ward off any other looters.
Lloyd’s philosophies had made their impact on my mother. Basically, an eye for an eye. Someone screws you, you screw them right back, whether that is the government, ‘The Man’, a business, or any person. It was a convenient philosophy which could be used to rationalize any action, against anyone, just label them ‘corrupt’ or ‘fraudulent’, I mean, most businesses and governments were, right? Every month there was a smash and grab at my mother’s business. Lloyd took it into his own hands to deal with the culprits who he discovered were a couple of small time thieves, he always drove around with a loaded Smith & Wesson .45 automatic beneath his driver’s seat. He tried to reason with them, and when that failed, then one night got loaded full of booze and drove by their place and opened fire, emptying his clip. Luckily he didn’t hit anyone, but he drove off and was soon pursued by the cops and had to hide in the oil fields outside of town. My mom and I went to get him in the dead of night and take him back to his place, abandoning his truck. That’s how life was out there. My mother and her two henchmen ran the business and committed petty and more than petty crimes: stealing car stereos and occasional whole cars, vandalism, racketeering, fraud, generally avoided violent crimes except in a couple of extreme cases. She tried to keep it hidden from us kids. I usually only spent summer, some holidays, and spring break with her. I hated it out there, but Lloyd and I would have some good times, driving around in his truck and causing mischief, listening to Blink 182 (I hate Blink 182 to this day). He taught me to drive a manual transmission when I was 14, and how to shoot a pistol. He may have been a thug, but he seemed to be a boy at heart, always wanting to take an off-road joyride or play pranks on random people.
I know it drove my father nuts paying alimony to fund my mother’s lifestyle, he tried to have her proven to be an unfit mother on numerous occasions, with a small degree of success. Perhaps he was right, but I do feel she always loved me, despite numerous bad decisions.