HARVEY AND LEON
Montana’s Interstate 13 stretched out straight-ahead and the
earth was flat all around. The late-afternoon sun beat down on the speeding El
Dorado as it made its way south. Inside the car, the steady hum of the engine
had a hypnotic affect on Harvey. He stared at the straightness in front of him
making only a few minor steering adjustments. After a while, he took his eyes
off the road and looked at himself in the rearview mirror. His head tilted
downward as he investigated the receding hairline. Harvey knew what being bald
meant and he wasn’t ready to bear that burden. He went to grab his soft-bristle
brush but realized it was out of reach.
“Um, Leon. Open that glove box and hand me my brush please.”
Harvey boomed. Leon awoke from his half sleep and paused for a moment as if he
had something important to say, but said nothing. After a short while of
silence, Harvey repeated “The brush...”
“Right.” Leon answered. He quickly opened the glove box and
pulled out the brush. “Here it is!” he proclaimed and handed it to Harvey.
“Thanks” said Harvey as he took the brush and began the delicate
comb-over. Leon moaned a little and drifted back towards the side window where
he could count the endless rows of passing sugar beets. It took a while, but
eventually his lanky body comfortably recoiled itself back into the deep bucket
Harvey looked over at Leon and decided to ask “You ever been to
Once again, Leon was startled and he sat up proper. “No.” He
said, trying to match Harvey’s loudness. “I been outside Montana only once, to
see my sister’s wedding in Idaho.”
“No kidding.” Harvey said with honest astonishment. He looked
over at Leon who was now staring out straight-ahead. Leon didn’t say anything
so Harvey continued, “Didn’t your father take you on vacations?”
“Nope. I never wanted to go.” Leon said. His energy started to
fade and his body began to slump again. He pulled out his big chrome sunglasses
from his shirt pocket and put them on his small face.
Harvey tossed the brush onto the enormous car dashboard. “You
never wanted to go? Why the hell not?” He asked.
“Papa always went to stupid places like Canada, and I never
wanted to go.” Leon whined. One of his hands began to stroke the thin hint of
hair around his mouth. “But sometimes I was in trouble and couldn’t go.”
“You know Leon, there’s a lot to see in the world.” Harvey
stated. “You’re a young man and you got money. There’s no reason for you to
stay in Shamrock.”
“There’s no reason for me to leave right now either.” Leon said
as a devilish grin crossed his face. “But I’ll leave Shamrock soon though, when
the time is right. I still have a lot to do there.”
Harvey grabbed the warm Tab Cola from between his thighs and
took a deep swig. After he belched, Harvey said “Well that’s your business.” He
belched again. “My business is this insurance convention in Dallas. We get to
show those big city fat cats what Shamrock Insurance is all about.” Harvey said
with a wince. It was hard for Harvey to sound sincere, especially when he was
Leon boldly stated “We both know the only reason I’m going is
because Papa wants me to learn the business, even though he knows I hate
insurance.” Leon’s voice almost became inaudible.
Harvey’s eyes grew large with emotion. “How can you ‘hate’ insurance.”
He said and then took a moment to regain a false sense of calmness. “I mean,
you can make good money selling insurance and making good money is something
you got to start thinking about.” Harvey recited. He remembered back to his
conversation with his boss, Mr. Peens.
“You’ll like him. He’s a good kid, a little lazy, but smart.”
Peens wheezed, while cleaning his fingernails.
“Since when did I become a babysitter?” Harvey asked with
Peens ignored him. “You got to use this trip to put a fire under
his ass. Make him want to work. Tell him about your years here and all the
freedom and the traveling.” Peens barked.
Harvey repeated the phrase ‘the freedom and the traveling’ in
his mind and smiled. Then he thought of how babies smile when they pass gas.
That made him smile more.
Peens continued, “And show him that insurance can be exciting,
even adventurous. Introduce him to all the fellows at the convention and maybe
even take him to one of those tasteful disco-techs. Just do whatever it takes
to make him want to be a part of Shamrock Insurance.”
“Sure, but does it have to be this trip? I mean, I’ve been
planning this for months and...” the phone suddenly rang and interrupted
As Mr. Peens reached for the phone, he first handed Harvey a set
of car keys. “Now takes these, the car is around back. You can pick up Leon at
my house, he’s waiting for you.” Mr. Peens said as he picked up the phone.
Harvey got up and mumbled as he made his way to the door.
“You remember what I said now.” Mr. Peens half-shouted as his hand covered the receiver.
Harvey remembered all right. He looked over at Leon
who was mouthing silent words to himself and said, “So I guess the first thing
we’ll do in Dallas is...”
Suddenly Leon started to grunt loudly. “We need to
stop soon Harvey.” He said. “I have to drink some water.”
“Okay. Well, the hotel your father reserved for us
is about a half hour from here. Think you can make it?” Harvey asked.
Leon grunted again. Harvey peeled his clenched
fingers from the steering wheel and turned on the radio. He twisted the dial to
the first station, it was playing an old Hank Snow song. Harvey hummed along
while Leon grimaced. They were almost there.
The sun dipped behind a distant hill, casting a
grainy sheet of light inside the car. Three miles later, they drove up to the
Blue Fern Motel, an off-teal structure with protruding extensions creating
three quarters of a square. Above the blistering roof was a neon light that
sporadically advertised the motel’s vacancy. Harvey parked below the sign and
said, “Now your father already paid for the room so you can just go in and get
Leon sighed and opened the car door. He seemed a
little unsure as he walked towards the motel lobby.
“Oh, and make sure we got a room with cable.” Harvey
shouted from the car. He pulled out the last cigarette from his pack and
nervously looked around for a liquor store. After lighting the cigarette,
Harvey got out of the car and began walking around. Just two blocks away, he
could see the glow of liquor store lights, which enabled him to enjoy his
cigarette more assuredly.
Leon bounced back from the motel lobby with unusual
exuberance. “We’re in the West Wing and we HAVE cable.” he proudly reported.
“Great” said Harvey. “Lets get settled in.”
They both grabbed their bags and made their way to
the West Wing. Inside, the room was covered with sickly green matted carpeting,
and on the walls hung action paintings of brave American pioneers. As soon as
they entered, Leon made his way to the bathroom and started drinking water from
the sink. “I was so thirsty” he gasped in between gulps.
Harvey put his suitcase down on the room’s only bed
and yelled “When you get done in there, go back to the lobby and get us another
“What’s that?” Leon asked upon reentering the room,
his face dripping with water.
Harvey started walking towards the door. “You’re
father only booked one bed so go to the lobby and get yourself one of those
“Oh” said Leon. “Could you do it. I just came from
there and it might be weird for me to go right back.”
Harvey opened his wallet and counted his dollars.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, I’m going down the street to that liquor store.
You want anything?” Harvey asked.
Leon looked a little nervous. “No, I’m fine, thanks.
So its normal to just ask for a cot?” he asked with genuine concern.
“Yes, now look.” Harvey said. “I’m going to have a
few drinks tonight and maybe watch some TV. Are you sure you don’t want
“Maybe a wine cooler.” Leon replied without much
“I’ll pick you up something.” Harvey said and turned
to leave the room. On his way out, he involuntarily turned the light off,
leaving Leon in the dark.
The inside of the liquor store was like all others
Harvey had seen. It was brightly lit and decorated with beer ads and posters of
happy women smoking thin cigarettes. Harvey’s eyes traveled past the quality
liquor and focused on the bottom shelf, where the plain labels were shelved. He
picked up a bottle of “Whiskey” and made his way to the register.
“Ugh, you’re a braver man than I am. I can’t touch
that rot gut.” The cashier said playfully.
Harvey ignored him. “And a pack of those GPC approved king sized.”
“Sure thing.” The cashier snapped. “Anything else?”
“Yeah, you don’t have any of those wine coolers, do you?” Harvey asked half-heartedly.
“In the back.” the cashier said with intentional vagueness.
Harvey shrugged, “Good to know.” He grabbed his bag and walked out the store.
By the time Harvey got back to the room, Leon had already set
up his cot and taken off most of his clothes. “They were totally cool about the
extra bed.” Leon said with relief. “They even wheeled it down here and
everything. Isn’t it neat?” He asked, like an excited boy.
“Yeah, it's great.” Harvey groaned as he put the bag down on
the nightstand. “I got something to drink.” he said as he pulled out the
whiskey bottle and threw it on the foot of the bed.
“Oh, did you get a wine cooler?” Leon asked.
Harvey unwrapped the pack of cigarettes and quickly pulled
one out. “Sorry, they didn’t have any.” He lied.
“That’s okay.” Leon admitted. “I don’t drink much anyway.”
Harvey shrugged and flicked open his matchbook. “So did they
charge us extra for the cot?” he asked while lighting the smoke.
“I don’t think so.” Leon said with a little worry. “They
didn’t say anything about extra charges.”
Harvey walked into the bathroom and came out with two
complimentary plastic cups. He sat down on the bed and put the cups next to the
bottle. Then he started taking off his shoes.
“You think I should call the office and ask about the extra
cot charges?” Leon asked.
“Forget it.” Harvey instructed. “It’s no big deal.” He
loosened his tie and leaned back against the headboard. “So what’s on the
tube?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” Leon answered. “I couldn’t find the remote.”
Harvey frowned. “Did you look in the drawer there?” he asked.
“Sometimes they hide the remote in the drawer.”
Leon got up from his cot and looked inside the drawer. His
underwear hung baggy on his tiny butt. “Nope, nothing in the drawer.” he
reported. “We should definitely have a remote. I’m calling the front desk.”
Leon walked to the phone and picked up the receiver.
“Hang up the phone, Leon.” Harvey insisted. “And
just go over there and turn on the TV.” He leaned forward and grabbed the two
plastic cups and the bottle from the foot of the bed.
Leon approached the TV set and studied the knobs for
a moment before pulling the one labeled power. The TV set popped on as
the image started out small and then stretched to fill the screen. It was a
Harvey opened the bottle and poured himself a
cupful. “You can leave it on that channel.” Harvey said while taking a big
drink. “Just turn it up a little.”
Leon studied the knobs again and finally adjusted
the volume. He plopped back onto his cot and the two stared at the TV in
silence. Harvey finished his first drink and belched a little. As he poured
himself a second, he noticed Leon looking at the bottle.
“There’s plenty for both of us, if you’re
interested.” Harvey said invitingly. He hated drinking alone and even Leon was
better than nobody.
Leon perked with excitement. “Well, okay.” he said.
“Usually I hate drinking, but it sounds fun tonight.” He stood up and dragged
the cot closer to Harvey’s bed.
Harvey unraveled the cellophane from the second
plastic cup and poured a shot. He handed it to Leon who smelled it first and
then dipped his tongue in it, causing him to wince from the taste.
“You have to drink it down fast.” Harvey advised.
Leon paused for a moment and looked almost
thoughtful. Then, in one spastic motion, he poured the whiskey down his throat
and started to cough. Harvey couldn’t help but chuckle.
“That was rough.” Leon gasped as he motioned for
Harvey to pour him another.
“They get easier.” Harvey said. He poured Leon
another shot and handed it to him. “But you still want to take it easy.” he
“Well, I got to catch up with you, don’t I?” Leon
asked rhetorically. He took the cup and quickly drank it down. The taste once
again overwhelmed him and he grimaced accordingly.
Harvey looked concerned. “Just don’t make yourself
sick.” he said and poured himself a third cup. “You got to know your limits.”
Leon grabbed the bottle and filled his cup to the
top. He took another huge gulp and then sat the cup down. After he regained his
composure, he said, “I know when to stop. As soon as I finish this cup, I’m
“Great.” said Harvey. “Make sure the cap on the
bottle is screwed tight.”
Leon started to chuckle.
“What’s so funny?” Harvey asked without taking his
eyes off the TV.
“Screwed tight.” Leon answered and started laughing
again. After a while, he continued “I guess this booze is starting to get to
me. I feel a little light in the head.”
Harvey got up to go to the bathroom. “Keep your eyes
on the TV and you won’t get sick.” he offered and then closed the bathroom door
behind him. Inside the bathroom, Harvey noticed the large mirrored shower
doors. He stood in front of them and watched as he slowly undid his belt
buckle. His pants dropped to the floor and he stepped out of them, his eyes
never leaving the mirror. He folded the pants, placed them neatly on the
counter and turned to the toilet. As he urinated, Harvey could hear Leon
laughing from the other room. He flushed the toilet and took one last look at himself
before opening the door. “Why are you still laughing?” Harvey asked as he
walked back to bed.
“I was watching television and they were talking
about how animals mate.” Leon sat up and his torso swayed a bit. His eyes were
barely open as he finished the last of his drink and threw the cup. He
continued, “That got me to wondering about making love to animals.” Leon
started to chuckle again. “I mean, if you had to make love to an animal, I mean
HAD to, what would you choose?” Leon asked.
Harvey sat down on the bed and looked at Leon with a
sour face. “What the hell kind of question is that?” he asked.
Leon ignored him and gazed blankly at the ceiling.
“If it was me, I’d probably pick a panther or something.” he said and laughed.
Harvey sat up and looked hard at Leon. “A panther.
For Christ’s sake Leon, don’t talk about that crap.”
“I just think they’re kind of black and slinky and
sexy don’t you think?” Leon asked, not noticing Harvey’s serious tone.
“An animal isn’t sexy Leon.” Harvey proclaimed with
“I know.” Leon whined. “I was just making fun cause
of the TV show.” His arm flopped off the bed and onto the floor.
Harvey started to lay back down. “Some joke Leon,
sex with animals. That’s sick.”
Leon pulled himself up and tried to look straight at
Harvey. “I don’t want to have sex with animals!” His voice became more hyper.
“I think about girls all the time.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Leon.” Harvey warned. He
cleared his throat and shifted until he was more comfortable.
Leon continued. “In fact, I’ve got my eye on Shirley
at the bike shop.” He smiled and his head wobbled.
Harvey turned over and once again looked at Leon.
“Shirley Picket? She’s a lesbian, Leon. And she’s over fifty!”
“I don’t care.” Leon quickly replied. “She’s done
with menopause so that means no condom for me. Besides, the woman oozes hot
cougar like sex.” He said and started to whoop.
Harvey shook his head. “You’re sick Leon. Dreaming
of cats and dykes is no good.” He slowly rolled over on his side and said, “I
think its best if we turn in now. We got to get up early tomorrow if we’re
going to make it to Dallas by evening.”
Leon didn’t say anything.
“Why don’t you turn off the TV and hit the lights.”
After a moment, Leon said, “Okay” and slowly stood
up. He stumbled towards the TV and fumbled with the knobs before turning it
“Don’t forget the light.” Harvey reminded.
Leon groaned and walked towards the light switch.
“Anything else, Harvey?” Leon asked snidely, while turning off the light. The
room became too dark for Leon and he tripped on his way back to the cot.
Just go to bed Leon.” Harvey muttered.
Leon crawled the rest of the way to the cot and
grunted as he turned over onto his back. He quickly fell sound asleep.
Harvey noticed the silence and was appreciative.
Maybe this trip wasn’t going to be so bad, he thought. His body relaxed as he
anticipated the convention. It will be good to see Bob and the boys, he
thought. Suddenly, the peaceful moment was interrupted by a single loud gurgle.
Harvey’s body jumped and rolled over to find Leon starting to snore.
At first, Harvey tried to ignore it but the snoring
got louder. Eventually, he shouted, “Leon, turn over. I’m trying to sleep.” but
nothing changed. He buried his ears in his pillow. It didn’t help. Finally,
Harvey got out of the bed and kicked the cot.
Leon moved a little and the snoring stopped. As
Harvey turned to go back to bed, Leon started to snore again. Harvey spun
around and grabbed Leon’s shoulders.
“Roll over on your side damn it.” Harvey shouted.
Leon rolled over and was quiet. Harvey stood there for a moment to make sure
Leon didn’t start to snore right away. Soon, Harvey was back in bed and his
body surrendered to the comforts of the mattress.
After a few minutes, Leon began to breathe heavily.
It was subtle at first, but Harvey could hear it clearly. It didn’t take long
for the breathing to grow into a full snore. Harvey’s eyes opened as he laid in
bed listening. He noticed how each snore became louder and more violent than
the one before, as if to spite him.
Harvey thought about getting up and kicking Leon’s
cot again. He also considered putting Leon in the bathtub, but decided against
both ideas. They were only short-term solutions, Harvey thought. Instead, he
resigned to listen to the snoring, hoping he could fall asleep anyway.
Ten minutes went by and Harvey remained wide-awake.
His frustration seemed to grow with each gargling snore. Finally, he decided to
take a walk. He quickly got dressed and slipped on his shoes. As he walked out
of the room, he murmured, “Bastard.” and slammed the door shut.
Outside the air was cold and piercing. Harvey walked
past the flickering motel sign and headed towards the liquor store. It was
closed, but still well lit. Once past the store, the street became very dark.
Harvey slowly walked down the middle of the street and enjoyed the quiet. His
eyelids grew very heavy, but he was still able to notice the bright structure
up ahead. Like a person on their deathbed, Harvey walked towards the light. He
heard the deep rumblings of a big engine approach him from behind and stepped
to the side of the road. An almost empty tourist bus roared by and eventually
stopped at the lighted structure. Realizing it was a bus station, Harvey
started to walk faster.
When he got to the station, Harvey went right to the
ticket office. He scanned the upcoming departures and noticed that a bus was
leaving for Boston in fifty minutes. A wave of excitement overcame him as he
turned around and began jogging back to the motel.
It wasn’t long before Harvey was sweaty and out of
breath. Despite his discomfort, he continued to run all the way to the motel.
As he walked towards the West Wing, he could already hear Leon’s snoring. He
opened the door and turned on the light.
“Come on Leon, wake up.” He said and closed the
door. Leon didn’t budge, and his snoring didn’t skip a beat. Harvey picked up
Leon’s clothes from the floor and placed them on the bed.
“Wake up Leon.” He repeated, while kicking the cot.
Leon murmured something, rolled over on his back,
and then was quiet. Soon, his breathing turned to snoring again. Harvey pulled
off Leon’s blanket. He grabbed Leon’s pants and began to dress him. As he hiked
the pants up Leon’s leg, a wallet fell out. Harvey opened it up and found over
one hundred dollars. He put the wallet in his own coat pocket and began to
button up Leon’s shirt.
Leon remained asleep while Harvey finished getting
him dressed. The snoring seemed to get louder, which inspired Harvey to move
even faster. He quickly left the room to go warm up the El Dorado. When he
returned, he picked up Leon and placed him in the passenger seat of the car.
Leon’s head titled back and the snoring began again. Harvey locked up the room
and hopped in the car.
Within minutes, they arrived at the bus terminal.
Harvey left Leon in the car as he ran to the ticket booth. He pulled out Leon’s
wallet and bought a one way ticket to Boston for sixty-five dollars. The clerk
informed him that the bus was already here and about to leave. Harvey hurried back
to the car and grabbed Leon.
“Leon, you have to wake up for me.” He pleaded as he
slapped Leon’s face.
Leon woke up long enough to ask, “Where am I?” and
then slowly passed out again.
“I need you to walk for me, Leon.” Harvey said. He
pulled Leon out of the car and propped him up against the hood. Harvey
repeated, “Stand up and walk for me, Leon.”
Leon started to slump, but Harvey held him up.
“We don’t have time for this.” Harvey said as he
grabbed Leon and started to quickly walk them both towards the departure
When the got to the bus, the driver looked strangely
at Harvey and asked “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s on strong mediation.” Harvey lied. He pulled
Leon up the steps and handed the bus ticket to the driver.
“He looks drunk to me.” The driver diagnosed, while
inspecting the ticket. “I don’t want him getting sick on my bus.”
Harvey walked Leon passed the empty seats and
towards the back of the bus. He sat Leon down and leaned him up against the
window. He thought about giving Leon back his wallet and then decided against
it. He walked to the front of the bus and assured, “Don’t worry. He won’t be
Harvey stepped off the bus and looked at Leon
through the window. Leon’s mouth was wide open and his head was beginning to
tilt back. Soon the snoring would begin Harvey thought.
With a loud hydraulic sigh, the doors closed and the
bus started to move. Harvey stood and watched until it drove out of sight. As
he stood in the empty bus station, his first worry was of looking for a new job
in Shamrock. Then he thought about the Dallas convention and how much fun it
was going to be without Leon.
While walking back to his car, Harvey imagined Leon
waking up alone in Boston and crying to his irate father over the phone. This
made him smile more than anything.