as cypress johnny made a left on to euclid ave he drove south thinking while listening to the two beer bottles quietly clinking together on the passenger side floor board. the fog got a little thicker as he continued driving south. by the time he reached mission blvd the dairy cow smell and the fog were even thicker. after the light changed he slowed his pace somewhat in deference to the fog.
when johnny reached francis st he made a right and headed west. when he stopped at san antionio and francis he was almost at his destination. he paused longer than normal because of the fog. driving slowly west he made a left onto cypress. cypress elementary school sat on the southeast corner of francis and cypress. the place and school from where cypress johnny took his name.
it had been nine months or maybe even a year since his last trip to cypress elementary school. this night wasn’t his first. it seemed that whenever he needed to think about something more than he normally would think on things he’d grab a couple of beers and head to the school late at night or early morning after work. cypress johnny would sit in the dark parking lot, drink the beers, and think.
that early morning was no different than any other of his trips to his old elementary school. though with the thick fog there was an even lesser chance of a cop out on patrol spotting him sitting there drinking and then asking cypress johnny some embarrassing questions. he rolled to a stop in one of the parking slots. set the parking brake then picked up one of the beers. he hoped it wouldn’t explode all over him and the car when he opened it. he got lucky when it didn’t. he took a long swig of the still cold beer letting the fine ale taste maneuver about his palette. johnny rolled his window down and took a deep breath of the chilly cow dung smell filled foggy air.
the area had changed considerably since his time at cypress elementary. back in the 50’s the area was still rural agriculture for the most part. the tract houses didn’t come until later. cypress johnny imagined his old days at cypress. a vivid image flashed through his mind. across the street to the north, armstrong nursery had a vast amount of land planted in their roses. during spring and summer the acreage was a huge sea of rose blooms of all colors. it was in a word, spectacular. they were gone now. tract homes in their stead.
cypress elementary that had once looked so large as a child looked much smaller today. smaller due to looking at the school with adult eyes and the fact it was hemmed in with homes instead of the once open space. there was even a high school a bit further to the west. it had been built on one of the last open tracts in the area. a product of responsible school board thinking buying the land cheap back when the homes started going up killing off three of the things that made the area a great place to live when cypress johnny was a kid. rural and agriculture. along with acre upon acre of those roses in full bloom six months of the year.
johnny finished his first beer and reached around on the floorboard for his second. he got lucky again when it didn’t explode all over him and the car. the night was quiet. the fog helped with that. no traffic. no cops. just the sound of music in johnny’s head. along with his thoughts. johnny reached down and hit the lever to move his seat back all the way. he settled deeper into the car seat and put his head on the headrest. he breathed in some more of the foggy air. he’d always loved that smell. and still did. growing up across the street from a dairy farm could do that to you.
cypress johnny drank his his beer and wondered what was going on with jerry powell and his biker friends. it could be any number of things. some benign. some malicious. he took another drink from the bottle and not long after he feel asleep. sitting alone in the cypress elementary school parking lot with the smell of dairy cows in the chilly damp fall air.
it was still dark when the cold foggy air woke johnny up a bit after 6am. he woke up shivering and it took a few seconds for him to figure out where he was and just what the hell was going on. after managing that he closed the window. then he dumped out the remaining beer. fired up his ride. and drove north to his home.
johnny lived a little west of euclid ave in downtown ontario in an old home that was probably built in the 30’s. a small two bedroom affair that some might call ‘in the craftsmen style’. johnny wasn’t sure about that. he liked the place because the area was still fairly quiet and there were a number of old stately shade trees that kept the temperature down a few degrees in the summer. the house wasn’t far from the railroad tracks. another plus in johnny’s mind. there was something very soothing about trains passing through in the night.
cypress johnny’s dad had bought the home in the early 80’s. his parents had moved out of the area after they retired and then moved back five or six years later. after buying the house his dad had fixed the place up and dad and mom lived there until they passed away. johnny took over the property and decided he’d live there as well. he dumped some more money into the house and made it even more comfortable. now it sparkled like a gem on the old shady street.
johnny parked the car in the old one car garage and walked across the backyard to the back door. after opening the door he shut off the alarm and decided to make a pot of coffee rather than going to bed for some more sleep. he needed to call julio in a little while and catch him before he began his day. johnny sat at the kitchen table listening to sports talk radio while he waited for the coffee to brew.
cypress johnny lived alone. he had been married years before but it had ended rather badly mostly due to him. a number of girlfriends over the years but nothing ever went anywhere. which was fine with him. there hadn’t been any children as well and that was probably a good thing. johnny didn’t want to answer to anybody these days. in particular someone younger than he was. there had been a dog and a couple of cats along the way but the prospect of seeing another pet being put down soured his desire for animal companionship. it was just to hard emotionally to deal with anymore.
the coffee was made and he poured a cup. he added some milk from the refrigerator then sat drinking it. after he finished he realized he had forgotten to pick up the newspaper. johnny went out front an picked it up off the damp lawn. removing it from the plastic wrap he glanced at the front page. nothing of real interest and no new local political scandals were revealed there. he went inside and tossed it on the couch. he’d read it later. maybe.
in the kitchen, he poured another cup of coffee while he waited for it to be late enough to call julio raval. the sports station did their top of the hour break and johnny listened once more to the mornings top story run down. college football. baseball playoffs. pro football. and nba crap. he turned off the radio and dialed julio’s number from memory.
the phone rang twice in his ear before it was answered by a gruff voice.
julio. cypress johnny.
hey, johnny. to what do i owe this early morning call? hopefully, jacks or better is still standing.
it was when i left earlier this morning. ah, look julio, i’m calling because we may have a situation brewing with the place.
situation? shit. i hate situations. spill it.