Bubba’s Coming Home from AC
hen the phone rang at my house, I almost didn’t answer it. I’d been getting a rash of telephone solicitation calls, even though my phone number is on the national no-call list. But answer it I did. “This is the operator,” a woman’s voice said. “We have a collect, person-to-person call from a Mr. Bubba Whartz from Sacramento, CA. Will you accept the charges?” You know, I almost said no, because Bubba Whartz knows I live alone, so calling person-to-person just costs me more money. But then I thought that Bubba could be in trouble and might need my help. I accepted the call, but I had a word or two for Bubba. “Listen, Bubba,” I said, “when you call me person-toperson it just costs me extra money. You know I live alone. Why do you do that?” “I have been out here in California for a while, so I don’t know what your social situation might be,” replied the live-aboard, live-alone sailor who was an America’s Cup wannabe reporter to boot. “You could have married Claudia Schiffer or Heidi Klum while I’ve been gone. You could have a woman of commercial virtue at your place this very moment; I don’t know. I just want to talk to you alone.” That left me an opportunity, and I took it. “Bubba, this is me. I am alone. Your wish is granted.” “The America’s Cup thing in San Francisco didn’t work out,” Bubba admitted. “I should have done more research on the press syndicate that sent me press credentials in care of The Blue Moon Bar. You know, the Pakistani-RussianIranian-Chinese-Kenyan-Sudanian international press conglomerate. Since you asked the last time we talked, I looked up the word ‘acronym’ and now understand a lot more than
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I did when I took the job in the first place.” “Did you ever get any money sent to you at the Mark Hopkins?” I asked. “The bill must have been huge.” “No,” said Bubba dimly, the luster gone from his voice. “The money never came, and I assume the bill at the Mark Hopkins was big, too. I checked out at 3 a.m.” I knew then that a rebate for his first-class, round-trip airfare, also from the press conglomerate, had evaporated, too, like water in a dish left on the floor of Death Valley. I didn’t ask about that. To have done so would have been cruel and unusual punishment. “This call came in from Sacramento. How did you get there? And when will you be coming back?” “I got there on a truck hauling nuclear waste materials from San Francisco to some place north of Las Vegas. The driver wouldn’t tell me where,” Bubba informed me. “How did you know it was nuclear, or, as George W. Bush used to say, ‘nucular’?” “It was written on the side of the tank the truck was hauling, but in very small letters to attract less attention,” Bubba explained. “How’s Sacramento?” I asked. “Actually, I am not in Sacramento. I am in a suburb, Citrus Heights. And I am staying with this good-looking woman I met in a 7-Eleven. She knows you and has that book you wrote about some of the things that have happened to me and my ferro-cement sloop, Right Guard. Her name is Lou, and she recognized me because I was wearing my red baseball cap, the one with the Peterbilt emblem on it,” Bubba replied. “I don’t know any woman around here by the name of Lou,” I declared. “Well, she sure knows you!” “How do you figure that?” I asked. “Let me ask you this,” Bubba said. “Did you ever play strip Frisbee with two attractive women on Easter Sunday in the front yard of a rented house on 59th Street in Bradenton, while people were driving by in their Sunday best to attend Easter church services? Ever?” “Well, there could have been a time…” “And did it get to the point where these two gorgeous women were left with but two articles of clothing on and you just one?” “I remember something…” “And did you watch Lou do strange things to the tiller of a sailboat you used to have while you had her, her