It was Sunday, January 22, 1989.
And every time I wonder if God is really watching out for me – keeping me from screwing up too irredeemably bad – I remember the events of this day, and sigh, and banish all doubts.
Because it was only through the grace of God that I didn’t end this day in jail.
After yesterday’s train-wreck, with my pan-addicted roommate Wyatt shooting up the house, I should have called the authorities. I should have sicced the cops on my erstwhile roommate.
But I took the hard way.
I woke up on Mark and Bill’s couch. I hadn’t slept much that night. Part of it was the adrenaline.
Part of it was the nagging doubts about the plan Bill and I had hatched for the day.
But it was my plan. And I was going to follow through.
I got on the phone with the Yellow Pages and called the Midway U-Haul as soon as it opened. They didn’t have one of the $20, 20 foot trucks in stock – but they DID have a thirty-footer they’d give me for the same price. Overkill for what I needed to haul, but I’d take it.
Like a lot of new converts to shooting, Bill had become very enthusiastic. He had the whole collection laid out in his room; the SKS, a Colt M1911 (his father’s, from the war), a Walther P38 (which his father had liberated from a German officer in the Teutoburger Wald), an Enfield Mark IV, and a Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum – a blued beauty with a five-inch barrel. We figured there could be one or more more of Wyatt’s drug dealer friends in the house when we got there; it paid, we thought, to be prepared.
I stuck the .22 into the pocket of my jacket, but packed the .45 and a couple of magazines as a holdout to keep under the seat of the truck. Bill loaded the .44 with hollowpoints, and stuffed it in a jacket with a very deep pocket.
We drove to Saint Paul and checked out the UHaul truck, and left my car parked out on the street. Bill and I very carefully transferred our jackets and their we-had-no-idea-how-illegal cargo into the truck (along with the .45, wrapped in a blanket) , and the three of us lumbered down University to the East Side – to Lafayette, up Tedesco past Morelli’s, up Payne to the Stroh’s brewery, and left on Minnehaha. Finally, I maneuvered the too-big truck gingerly up the too-narrow side street, and parked in front of the house.
Wyatt’s van was there.
No turning back now, I thought. Here goes nothing.
Bill stood behind me, checking out the windows as I unlocked the door and walked inside. The house reeked of dog crap, stale pot smoke and Wyatt’s usual burned cooking. Mookie the little black Chow whimpered, needing to go out, as Jack the Akita – who clearly didn’t need to anymore – slunk away.
But Wyatt seemed to be gone.
The nice thing about being a single, broke guy was that I didn’t have a lot of stuff. We took everything – a little dresser with my small, utilitarian collection of of clothes, my hanging wire and suit bag with my few “good” clothes, my table and little aluminum bookshelf and twin bed/mattress a couple of bags of extra stuff, my cello, and a couple of boxes of books – in less than an hour. Everything I owned in the world fit in one loose layer on the bottom of the huge truck, with plenty of room between items, and plenty more room to spare. I could have moved eight or ten of me that day.
Depressing, but convenient under the circumstances.
As I went through the kitchen on a last go-round, emptying all of my pathetic collection of utensils, plates and food together into a box, I briefly thought about “rescuing” Mookie, but I had no place to put her, and no indication that I’d find a place that’d take pets, much less stolen Chows. I swallowed the regret as fast as it had popped up, and went to work.
We drove away in under an hour, guns safely hidden and un-used.
We drove back to Minneapolis, unloaded my stuff at the band’s house, and took the truck back to Saint Paul. We picked up the car, and stashed the guns safely – and, finally, legally – in the trunk, and drove over to Henri’s bar for a beer and a pizza, the reward for helping me out in a jam. I picked up a “City Pages” on the way in, and looked at the “Rentals” section as we waited for the ‘za to come up.
I bypassed the “Roommates” column. Hell no, I thought, never again. It was gonna cost more, but I’d had enough.
And my eyes were drawn to a listing; one-bedroom upstairs duplex in Northeast Minneapolis. $300 a month.
I calculated my monthly income against my monthly outgo, took a deep breath, and circled it.
We drove back to Minneapolis again. I called the number. The apartment was still available, and I could take a look at it tomorrow at 10AM if I’d like. Until I found a place, Mark and Bill’s couch was going to be my home.
And then it was off to work. City Limits in Rosemount, again. Much as I wanted the night off, I needed to rack up the hours.
I stuck the .22 in the pocket of the tweed jacket. I didn’t know what kind of drug Wyatt and his friends were going to be on that night, but I figured if he was addled and impaired enough to blast holes in the ceiling at imaginary crack dealers, either he or his friends could get just as crazy about someone who knew everything about their little business disappearing.
In the years since then, I’ve pondered how lucky I was that day. Lucky the night before that Wyatt wasn’t awake and irrational and reaching for my loaded, chambered rifle when I burst into his room with my own loaded pistol. Lucky that neither he nor his “partners” or customers were around when we went to the house that day, with big attitudes and warped post-adolescent priorities and hollow-points. Lucky we didn’t get pulled over, strapped like the Barker kids. Lucky we didn’t all end up in jail.
I’d like to say that life bottomed out that day. In a way, it did; I’ve never done anything quite as dumb as that since then.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
And at least I learned something. I pondered, for the first time in two decades – whatever happened to Wyatt?
After almost two decades of not really thinking about this whole stupid chain of episodes, I googled Wyatt (which is, by the way, not his real name) when I first wrote this installment (back in March of 2008, as I recall). Putting the story together, Wyatt – the scion and only son of a mind-warpingly wealthy Connecticut/New York family, son of a Korea-era Navy UDT frogman who’d become a multimillionaire in the insurance business – was apparently arrested about two years ago, at age 41, for breaking into a liquor store in a major coastal city and stealing $300 worth of wine. He apparently then jumped bail, and was arrested months later on a “Failure to Appear” warrant.
I can’t say I was much surprised.