Limping delicately as if his boots are a couple of sizes too tight, so rockinghorse loaded on Juarez tequila he’d flunk a knee-walking test, Roy Jenson, one of the neo-Wild Bunch of characters and character actors that Sam Peckinpah has flushed out of the Hollywood woodwork to play the cutthroat band of thieves in his ultra-violent new thriller The Getaway, lurches against a red light into the rushing cabal of noonday traffic at Oregon Street and Missouri Avenue, a stone’s throw away from the Holiday Inn-Downtown (El Paso) where most of the film’s location troupe is quartered. Impervious to the abruptly bleating horns, the squall of brakes and drivers’ outraged yelps, Jenson, a barrel-gutted factory-second Forrest Tucker-type, stops dead in the center of the swirling traffic, squints up at the broiling late-April sun, blinks rapidly, and with agonizing deliberation puts on a pair of those mirrored wraparound shades that Vietnam chopper pilots wear on the Six O’Clock News every night. Then, hitching up his baggy-seated twill ranch pants and flashing an up-yours salute to the world at large, Jenson resumes his peristaltic cha-cha-cha to the opposite side of the street, where a startled onlooker, out on a stroll from the hotel, has stood riveted to the sidewalk watching the actor’s near-calamitous weave through volleys of cars slipstreaming close enough to Jenson’s body to lift his longish, graying topknot to a whipping boil.
“Hah,” Jenson snorts, dabbing at his damp temples with a crumpled red bandana as he hobbles up on the curb, jerking a thumb for the onlookers’ benefit at the tire-screeching melee in the street behind him. “Ony fuckin’ safe place in a fuckin’ war is to be dead, anyways.” Pursing his lips narrowly, Jenson looks the second man—a writer from San Francisco, as it happens—up and down, from English-cut black velvet jacket to faded bellbottoms to well-traveled Tony Lama boots. Expelling a long, warm rush of alcohol fumes, Jenson politely encircles the writer’s upper arm between thumb and forefinger and begins guiding him, firmly but gently, up the block toward a basement place called Miguel’s: “C’mon, doctor, you look real . . . innersting. I gotta headache and a hard-on both. Less you and me go get us a drank before I lose my fuckin’ high.”
The downstairs bar-restaurant is dim and quiet and pleasantly cool. A blonde waitress in a miniskirt fetches the two men’s drinks, and as she leans over the table to put the coasters in place, Jenson, without preamble, attempts to stick his tongue in her ear. Startled, horrified, the young girl recoils. “Aw, it’s aw-right, darlin’,” he assures her soothingly. “Listen here, lady — you gotta boy friend?” Keeping her distance, the girl stiffly nods yes. Jenson grins wolfishly: “Tell you what, then, hon—you tell that ugly sombitch to be down here at closin’ time tonight and I’ll blow his fuckin’ head off with a fuckin’ Thompson machine gun. Can you remember that?” Wordlessly, the girl scurries off white-faced, heel-and-toe, heel-and-toe. Jenson looks after her fondly: “Hot damn, she’s a real motor scooter, you know it? I purely love to give these little ol’ country girls somethin’ to remember me by. It’s a real thrill for ’em.”
Belching, Jenson drains off half his martini and helps himself to one of the writer’s cigarettes. Then he slaps his palm down on the table top with a crack like a rifle shot. Heads crane around all across the restaurant. “So you came down here to the fuckin’ El Paso del Norte to write a story about ol’ Sam Peckinpah, did you?” he sneers, striking a match with his thumbnail. “Sheeit. Big deal, haw-haw, boy.” Jenson pronounces the word “Baw-uh.” “Sheeit, Sam probly won’t even talk to you—who the fuck are you, anyways? Anyways, he just got shut of some lame-brained cunt from Esquire who spent ten days hangin’ around tellin’ him how great she was. Listen, baw-uh, would you care to arm rassle or knife-fight or somethin’?”
When the writer grinningly declines, Jenson grumbles unintelligibly to himself for a minute, stubs out his freshly-lit cigarette, then immediately lights another. “Listen, baw-uh—you wanna know the real honest-to-God goudge about ol’ Sam Peckinpah? I’ll just bet you do. Well, let me tell you—he’s a lowlife sorry sonofabitch, a mean, shifty-eyed backstabbin’ motherfucker—he’s shitty, he’s beautiful, he’s great, he’s a fuckin’ wizard and he’s also a saint. He’s a goddamn man, baw-uh. A goddamn natural man.”
Shaking his head as if there’s something rolling around loose inside it, Jenson takes off his mirrored shades and rubs his mucus-crusted eyes delicately with the tips of his fingers before going on: “You been to college, right, stud? Yeah, well, you must of — you look about smart enough to make change for a dollar. What outfit’d you say you worked for? Naw, I never heard of it. But looky here—you recollect how some of your college professors leaned toward under-learnin’ you and others toward over-learnin’ you? Well, ol’ Sam Pee will over-learn you every time — —every single friggin’ time . . . “
Poking at the dregs of his drink with a swizzle stick, his meaning obscure and his expression undecipherable, Jenson trails off to stony silence. Warily, the blonde waitress returns, but this time she’s careful to keep at arm’s length from him. “Y’all want anything else to drink?” she inquires in a small voice. “Damn right, you sexy motor scooter,” Jenson drawls, straightening up from his slump and putting on a boozy, lopsided grin. “How about you and me eelopin’? Right now, today—go get a clean toothbrush and your fastest walkin’ stick. Hell, I’m a married man with three kids, but I don’t give a rat’s ass about any of that if you don’t. Why, I’ll sell my $750,000 ranch in the San Fernando Valley and give you the whole bundle, and we can run off to Mexico and be cowboys or somethin’. And I promise not to gun down your boy friend, neither ——I’ll just maim him a little, maybe. Besides, my part’s done in the pitcher, and I’ve already turned in my machine gun to Property, anyways. How about it, hoss? You hot to trot?” “Aw, you don’t have no $750,000 ranch anywheres,” the girl scoffs scornfully. Jenson lumbers heavily to his feet, groping blindly for the check, fumbling in his wallet for a bill. “Naw, I don’t, darlin’,” he concedes in a thick weary voice. “Naw, lady, ‘deed I don’t.”
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