A loud sneeze sent a nose full of snot onto the steering wheel and the windshield. James held the phone away from the explosion; otherwise, it too would have been covered.
“Are you gonna be alright?” Sally snickered through the phone.
“Damn ragweed.” James looked around for a tissue. He also tried not to run his hand through the sticky mess on his steering wheel. “I’m either blowing my nose or snorting up salt water.”
He dug through the console for a napkin or any kind of paper. He found nothing to wipe his mess.
He clicked on the speaker button and dropped the phone on the passenger’s seat. He moved his left hand through the snot on the wheel. James shook his hand onto the floor and yelled into the phone.
“I don’t have time for this crap.” His pant leg was now covered. “Just email Mike the job, call my doctor, and find me some tissues.”
James turned his convertible onto Mullholland Highway and headed north. The other end of the line was silent.
“I’m in a hole,” he said. “I’ll pop out in a moment.”
The cell towers often dropped calls and Sally waited. She figured he would always call back.
The sun was shining through the dried yellow mucus on the windshield to create a rainbow on his dash. He looked at the light and ignored the bungalows and exclusive homes of Beachwood Canyon.
James turned a few more times up the winding road. He reached for the phone and heard static. Then a voice came through.
“He says he won’t do it this time.” Her voice sounded distant.
“What does that mean?” he shouted. “Of course, he’s going to do it. There’s no one else.”
“I think it will cost more this time.”
“It shouldn’t cost anything more than last time.” He looked at the screen. “The job hasn’t changed.” He slapped the phone on the wheel and turned the car to the right. He corrected before he clipped two bikers on their way to the Hollywood sign.
“Just email him again and make it clear,” James yelled.
He pulled into a far parking spot at Lake Hollywood Park and stopped the car.
James fell out of the car along with a stack of bent coffee cups. A wadded up napkin followed the empties and blew off toward the grass. He stumbled up grabbing the wad and ripped it apart. With the paper remains, he dabbed at the steering wheel.
“You still there?”
He heard a silent sigh.
“Good, we can iron this out.”
He explained how Mike had no excuse to refuse.
“It’s easy.” James talked with his arms. He waved his left hand in the air.
“He parks on the fifth floor under the camera.”
“No one will see him get out.”
“He takes the box with him and inches along the wall.”
“Why doesn’t the camera see him?” she said.
“It’s pointed out at the cars and not the wall.”
“Oh,” she said. He could tell she failed to see it.
“The camera points across the garage,” he explained. “It doesn’t see up close.”
He lost track of the next step. Honestly, this would go a lot easier if he could just do it himself.
“No one will see him coming,” he said, while pushing his finger toward the ground.
“I’m not sure everything will fit in the box,” she said.
“They came in the box.” James clinched his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Why is there a problem?”
“The canisters are too big and he can’t put his mask in the box with everything too,” she said.
“Just have him wear the mask and carry the box.”
A small boy and man passed him in the parking log carrying a kite. James looked up at the sky. A few clouds floated up from the ocean. It was a nice day for playing in the wind.
“Canisters?” he asked.
“They’re cupcakes, for crying out loud,” he shouted. “Just have him carry the cupcakes, wear his mask, and surprise her.”
“Cupcakes?” she asked.
“Yes, a dozen red velvet with the yellow baby bottle sugar decorations.” Sometimes she exasperated him.
“Do you think you can pass this on Sally?”
He heard dead silence on the other end of the phone and he wondered if she understood him. He raised his head and stared at the clouds. He shook his head dumbfounded. He wondered why everything with her required so much energy.
“Sally?” she asked.
She had to know her own name. Sometimes she drove him nuts. He looked around the park for a closer cell tower.
“Sally? James enunciated to make sure she heard him.
“This isn’t Sally.”
He pulled his phone away and then brought it back to his ear.
He heard a man in the background tell the woman to shut up. Then the phone went dead.