The Night They Saw God in a Taco Bell

Summer. 1994. Ivy lifts the staple gun, presses it into the homemade poster to anchor it against the telephone poll. Smitty hands a photocopy to a guy passing by with a skateboard under his arm. “That’s the last one,” he says, raising his tattooed arms in a plea to the heavens.

    “People will come,” Ivy assures him, “It’s gonna be wicked.”

   “I don’t know, man,” he says, and Ivy winces at the implication that she’s just one of the guys. “Our first gig. It’s a huge deal, you know?”

   Ivy nods and places a hand on one hip, wishing like hell that Smitty would notice her short black skirt, her fishnet stockings. She thought she caught a vibe, the other day at band practice. Thought that Smitty’s liquid eyes held hers when she struck the first chord, lingering there as his voice poured into the microphone. She wants to tell him that she can’t stop thinking about him. Instead, she asks him what he wants to do now, at ten on a Friday night, when everybody who’s anybody is at the show of the year.

   “Wanna drop a few hits and go to Taco Bell, take our minds off things?”

   Ivy agrees. She doesn’t do drugs, however, she is a songwriter, infatuated with Jim Morrison and Patti Smith. Recently she’s been reading Hunter S. Thomson. Hallucinatory drugs, she figures, will make for great lyrics. Besides, she knows that tonight is tough for Smitty, because of The Ramones. His favorite band of all time comes as close as Toronto, and he can’t get a ticket.

   They head across the intersection and make a left past a string of strip malls, Smitty complaining that he isn’t seeing the Acid Eaters tour because he’s broke. The Ramones concert is happening without them, but Ivy doesn’t care, if it means she gets to hang out alone with Smitty all night.

   “So there’s this legend,” he tells her, hesitantly, “or, urban myth if you will, about The Ramones and Taco Bell.”

   Ivy laughs, surprised by the tone of reverence that has crept into Smitty’s voice.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

   “Well, it’s a known fact that Joey Ramone loves Mexican food, so where else would he eat when he’s on the road? There are whispers of more than one occasion when Joey himself has been seen here at our very own Taco Bell. After a show, he craves chili cheese burritos.”

   Smitty now resembles a starry eyed kid at Christmas. All Ivy knows about him is his mother died, and his Dad is a Catholic with a penchant for whiskey, womanizing, and asserting his superiority. That’s why Smitty lives in a basement apartment that he pays for with student welfare. She can’t blame him for getting caught up in this punk lore. It is, Ivy decides, kind of romantic.

  At Taco Bell, they lean against the stucco wall outside. “If they go on around 9:30, give or take,” Smitty says, “they’ll finish by 11 and hit the road. They can’t eat in Toronto, too much of a heat score. They’ll head south to the border, and the only small town that has a Taco Bell en route, is ours. They could be here by midnight.”

   Smitty lights a cigarette, holds it to Ivy’s lips. She inhales, reveling in the nearness of his hand to her face. He takes it back, drags deeply, luminous under the glow of the fluorescent Taco Bell sign. The scent of jalapeno cheddar wafts from inside as he rummages in the pocket of his low hanging jeans. He pulls out his wallet, revealing three hits pressed carefully between a folded piece of paper. “Stick out your tongue,” he instructs her, and she does what he says. He places the tiny square like a priest with the communion wafer. 

   The guy in the Taco Bell apron’s name tag says Bob, and he’s annoyed at their presence. Ivy can tell he has some kind of beef with Smitty. Smitty tells Bob to fuck off, and orders the sacred Joey Ramone favorite. Ivy gets three tacos and a pop. They have their choice of tables, seeing as the place is empty.

   By the time she’s trickling extra salsa over the tacos, delirious laughter kicks in. Smitty is listing his top ten Ramones songs. His voice softens and he pulls Ivy’s fingers away from her taco. Draws her closer, rambles through his song choices. “My number one right now,” he says, is “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.” Transfixed by the hair falling over his eyes, she reaches out to touch it.

   Then he is kissing her, and it tastes like the sun and the stars and burrito sauce, her body disintegrates into a billion molecules, the universe is his mouth, Oh God, she thinks.

    “Oh God,” she murmurs out loud, when their lips finally part. She breathes in his essence as they look into each other’s eyes and she believes that he sees into the depths of her very soul, but Bob is yelling at them and shaking his fists.

    “Get a room, losers!”

   Smitty hollers back. “Eat me, Bob!”

  “I’m serious, you two! We’re closing. Get out.”

   Ivy takes Smitty’s hand, holds it like some kind of rare treasure. Outside, they huddle on the curb. “We’re not leaving yet,” Smitty tells her, “there’s still hope.” Ivy falls into a trance for what seems like an eon, the black parking lot transmutes into a gateway to an inferno. Contemplating the broiling tar for some time, she becomes vaguely aware that a large black bus is rolling up, and it stops right in front of the entrance.

   And then four guys step onto the pavement, backlit from the lights of the rumbling bus.

   Ivy and Smitty stand up quickly but the ground falls out on either side of a tall, pale figure in a white t-shirt, a vision of the Lord hovering over the mouth of hell, flanked by three apostles. The figure approaches, flames licking his skin tight pants, shining hair spilling to his shoulders. Palms outstretched like a Messiah. “Oh God, Jesus Christ,” Smitty says, “It’s you.”

   Jesus looks from Smitty to Ivy. “Is he OK?” Ivy wonders the same thing herself, notices tears welling in Smitty’s eyes, follows the tiny drops as they slither down his cheekbones. Looks back to Jesus, bewildered because, if there’s one thing she knows, it’s that Jesus doesn’t have bangs.

Jesus shakes his head and Bob unlocks the door for him. 

     “Hey Joey,” Bob says.

   “Hey, man. Thanks for sticking around for us.” He gestures to Smitty and Ivy. “What’s up with these two?”

   Bob smirks. “I don’t know, I think they’re all fucked up on something.”

   Smitty’s hands are covering his face now, and Ivy is rubbing his back, his arms. She holds him for an eternity, time doesn’t exist, until the three apostles saunter out, laden with take-out bags and fistfuls of hot sauce packets. Jesus pauses to place something in her hand. She watches, awestruck, as the four get into the bus and drive off into the night.

   “Hey dorks, scram. Before I call the cops.” Bob points a finger at them. “And don’t tell anyone what you saw here tonight. You don’t want to be the ones that take Taco Bell away from Joey, do you?”

   “Bob, the secret’s safe with us. I swear it.” Smitty makes the sign of the cross and puts his finger to his lips.

   Bob locks the door, turns out the lights. Ivy is filled with a new serenity, melting into the idea that she and Smitty have shared a life altering experience.  Smitty though, can’t stop fidgeting, starts pacing. Practically pulls out his hair.

   “Do you realize what just happened?”

   “I gotta write this shit down,” she says, and rifles through her purse for the notebook she keeps there. Instead, she feels the crunch of something crumpled. Pulls it out, smooths the long white strip of paper, puzzled. “What’s this?”

    Smitty studies it intently.

   “It’s Joey Ramone’s goddamned Taco Bell receipt.”

   They stare at it in amazement. Smitty flips it over and nearly faints. There, written in blue pen, is a message. “Don’t do drugs!! Eat burritos instead. Love JR.” A heart drawn beside his initials with x’s and o’s.

   Smitty grabs her face and kisses her hard. “Ivy, this is a sign. A fucking revelation. And let me tell you something, it’s threefold.”

“What do you mean?”

   “Number one. When the universe sends you a legendary god on the eve of your first gig, it’s obviously a good omen. Number two. We have to heed the message. We should be writing songs. Practicing. Not wasting our time fucking around.

   “Agreed. And number three?”

 “Number three,” he says, laying a finger under her chin, “is that, Ivy, baby, me and you go together like nachos and cheese.”

Sara Dobbie is a writer from Southern Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Trampset, Bandit Fiction, Change Seven Magazine, and elsewhere. Stories are forthcoming from Knights Library Magazine and The Lumiere Review. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie

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