loyd Salas’ second novel What Now My Love (Grove Press, 1970; Arte Publico, 1994), a study both of character and society, written on a Eugene F. Saxton fellowship, follows the flight of three hippies, two men and a beautiful girl, on the run from San Francisco to Mexico after a narcotics bust in which a Federal agent is killed. “Miles is an ex-con turned college teacher, who lives the credo of Henley’s ‘Invictus.’ Sam is a dope jobber running on a mixture of Zen and methedrine. Carole is a beautiful nut with no apparent Weltanschaung at all, but with very long legs. (New York Times Book Review) What Now My Love was praised as “a little stunner” by the New York Times.
—Los Angeles Times
—Martin Levin, New York Times Book Review.
—San Francisco Examiner.
—San Francisco Chronicle
—Vallejo Times Herald
—UCLA Daily Bruin
“You want to help?” he asked, speaking to her in a familiar tone for the first time, probably because he was surprised that she’d volunteer, and when I saw how hard they were working to cap the stuff, I understood.
“Yeah,” she said and sat down in an empty chair to start helping, which really brought me down. I didn’t want to get hung up in any kind of acid factory, especially one that was only two blocks off Haight and three from the Drog Store and all the Hashbury happenings; one which could get busted down in a second. Yet I couldn’t bitch about it right away because she was playing her little broad game: making me cater to her for splitting on her a month before, but Reggie came hurrying into the kitchen after putting some album on the hi-fi and said, “Hey! That’s my chair!”
“Get another one,” Sam said. “She’s going to help,” and purposely kept his face turned away from me as the first latin, guitar chords of Herb Alpert’s “What Now My Love,” followed by his simple, swinging trumpet, came on in from the front room.
Reggie grumbled a little but he did it and got another saucer out of the cupboard, too, which was about the only dish up there, besides a big platter – all the rest of the dishes were piled, unwashed, in the dirty sink, which looked like a slop pail – then spooned a few tablespoons of acid into it from the big plastic bag, dumped some newspapers off a chair in the corner behind Sam, and sat down to cap.
It looked like a draggy job to me. They all had blue-stained fingers from dipping the capsules into the acid to fill them up, and Reggie missed twice before he got the short half of the capsule into the longer, sheathlike cover after dipping both halves into the acid to fill them up. He then tossed the full, closed cap into a big white bowl in the middle of the table next to the plastic bag. The bowl, with its white scalloped edges, had so many caps in it, maybe three or four thousand, looking as bright and craggy as coral rock, that it resembled a South Sea island shell.
But while I watched Reggie, the third guy with a beard watched me. He was a biker in a levi jacket without sleeves who glared at me like to show me that he could break me in half if wanted to and had the right to O.K. me being in the kitchen besides. He was a rugged looking cat, too, and seemed to take it for granted that he could whip all the hippies in the room and all at once besides. His cheekbones were sunburned to a chapped red color and wild, brown hair grew out of every part of his face and body, down from the beard into the dirty T shirt that he had on under the levi jacket, and from his matted shoulders clear down to the heavy knuckles of his hands …
Still I didn’t blame him for being uptight. The word went down Haight Street like the wind when somebody had a new stash of acid. There’d be pushers on every block, whispering the name of the new brand in your ear when you walked by, some big dealers giving away free samples, and the heat would be by in a few days at the latest. So he better be empty or clean by then or know everybody he sold personally or he’d be busted within a week. I didn’t want to be around when it happened either, but couldn’t leave because instead of making her buy so we could split, Carole got hungup on the capping and was having so much fun making the illegal dope scene that she teased Sam by pretending to lick the powder off her fingers. ..
Someone knocked on the front door in such a uniform manner that I got scared and listened carefully when Reggie went to answer it, then got more worried when he came back into the kitchen and said in a soft, secretive voice: “There’s a guy out there in a fancy Russian shirt who says the he used to cop from the same guy you did in San Diego, Sam. I’ve never seen him before, but he wants to buy a couple of grands’ worth. Should I let him in?”
I caught Carole’s eyes right away and jerked my head toward the front door and frowned so there wouldn’t be any doubt about what I wanted to do, but she crooked her lips in a pained way to put me down for being so rank and threw the cap she had just finished in the bowl, then rolled an empty cap between her fingers to keep from meeting my stare, which got me so mad, that when Sam said, “Let him in. That’s a lot of money,” I leaned over and said to her:
“Let’s get the fuck out of here right now. This place is getting red hot!
She turned on me then with drooping eyes as if pleading with me not to ruin the groovy ball we had been having for the last twenty-four hours, non-stop, but I insisted, saying “I’m going to split. Are you coming with me?”
But Reggie came back into the kitchen with the stranger and she used it as an excuse not to answer and I forgot all about her reply myself when I saw him. At first, I thought I had seen the fancy silk shirt around the street. It was such a brilliant pale blue and had such full sleeves trimmed with lace that nobody would forget it once he had seen it. But it was the guy’s round face and fuzzy, golden beard that set the bells ringing in my head. Then I remembered. He looked just like the cat who had set up about fifty surfing hippies the summer before down in Santa Cruz, and every guy in the crowd who was smoking grass in June was in jail by September.
But the guy looked at me too, instead of Sam or all the acid sitting in the middle of the table that he had come to buy, and I turned around to face the sink and pretended to search among the dirty dishes for something…
Keeping my face turned away from the guy…I side-stepped in a casual way, like I was just looking around the room, around the table to the dimly lighted hallway that led the length of the flat from the front room to some darkened back bedrooms and maybe some dark back stairs for me to leave by..because I was sure that the heat would be watching everybody who went in or out the front door and maybe even taking pictures with infrared film.
My crepe-soled floaters helped me move down the hall with hardly a sound … I passed the toilet and decided to take a piss, and unzipped my pants, glanced out the window ..and saw a gray, unmarked car with its lights off and several men inside pull up next to a row of plum trees on the corner of the little block. I zipped my pants up the with a streak of fear and started to run back down the hall, but checked myself at the toilet door and leaned back to look out the window again and make sure they were cops before I lost my head and panicked.
But sure enough, five men in plainclothes suits and hats got out of the car, closed the door quietly, and started walking toward the apartment house entrance, and I ran out of the toilet and down the hall, not worrying one bit about the noise I made…almost running into the agent in the bright blue shirt, who turned white and threw up his arms to protect himself when he saw me and got me so mad I shouted, “You fucking fink!” and brought up a right hook from my side that caught the guy right on the chin, clacked his teeth together and dropped him flat on his back in the middle of the floor with a heavy thump as I shouted, with my hands up and doubled, ready to fight anybody else who wanted to go to, including Hutch: “The narcos just pulled up in front of the house and are coming in,” then grabbed Carole’s hand, spilled the cap she was holding, jerked her, open-mouthed and round-eyed, out of her chair, and pulled her into a fast run down the hall after me as a wild, foot-scuffling, shrieking scramble to escape started in the other rooms.