Quire was raised in a red cowboy hat and grew up in a pair of yellow cowboy boots. The Hat & Boots was a hamburger stand on Marginal Way and a well-known Sunbreak City landmark in the heart of the industrial district. The Boots had toilets in the heels: Right Women, Left Men. Regulars called it, simply enough, the Hat. Cops liked to have coffee there as did the members of the Marginal Way Foursquare Pentecostal who came in Sunday afternoons with their large Thompson Chain Reference Bibles and argued about the Rapture: Pre, Post or Mid Tribulation. Pastor Ron had installed Harley, the dishwasher, an ex bum who had been hit by a train years before which incident, while knocking the wet bar from his brain, left him with a working vocabulary of “We’ve got to help the poor.”
Quire claims that he grew up in the left boot, along with his dog, Steve, a pointy-nosed Blue Heeler with one green and one yellow eye and a bluish yellow coat so hideously blotched that Quire’s mom thought his ugliness would fend off child predators.
“Jesus, that’s an ugly dog,” truck drivers would say.
“He’s from Zanzibar,” Dex would reply. The drivers would look thoughtful and not say anything.
Truckers liked the large gravel oval surrounding the Hat & Boots, good for turning their rigs around in. Next door south was Nordstrom Headstone with its display of marble and granite slabs, Grecian urns, cement eagles, naked angels, peeing putti and plaster saints, and to the north, Bunky’s Auto Wrecking. Behind the property an elbow of the Duwamish river bent and flowed gray and thick as spent motor oil after having descended the cold silvery headwaters of the Cascade mountains to stroll the Kent Valley where, seasoned with farm pesticides, it stewed through Sunbreak City’s industrial flats, past the airplane factory, the cement factory, the cardboard box factory, the bottle factory, the sawmill, the steel mill, past factories diapered in giant American flags (whilst spewing tiny wages), past the tugboat yard, where, widening out into the delta flats it glopped its remains into the salmon-pruned Puget Sound.
Quire had his own fridge and TV when he was five. That’s when he moved from his mother’s boot to his own boot, three stories of masonite plaster chicken wire mesh two by fours, yellow paint and shellac. Quire’s boot had the Men’s toilet in the heel. The square-toed tip, the shitkicker part, was the front door. The living room―where the ball of your foot goes, windowless and in his mother’s boot, the right boot, this actually smelled of old socks. Quire was fastidious. Everyone thought he was going to be a banker. As soon as he could add and subtract his mother had him doing the books, such as they were.
To this day when Quire puts on a right cowboy boot he imagines squishing some of the guys his mom brought home. Himself, he pictures down there, somewhere near the ball of the left big toe, where his bed was. The TV room would be above the ankle, just below the boot strap. There was even a little curtained window Quire would look out at night and watch the cars swish by. He imagined the cars full of handsome couples going out on the town someplace featuring glamorous women with bountiful chests and wide smiles, the kind of women that surrounded Jackie Gleason at the end of his Saturday night show. Afterwards, those couples returned to someplace called home where the mom and the dad were happy, where a light shone in the living room where dad ruffled the evening paper while he flopped his stocked feet and wiggled his toes on a hassock while mom baked something warm and sweet in the oven. The kind of mom that smiled when dad slapped her on the ass as he left in the morning with his hat cocked at a nifty angle. At the back of the boot above the heel was Quire’s bathroom and then a spiral staircase that led to the top.
Quire’s first toy was a guitar with no strings, a sunburst Stella, that Earl Jones, a Tar Heel truck driver with an elaborately swirled pompadour and a Hat regular, placed in his crib. “He’s a goddamn guitar player, Carol [Quire’s mom], can’t you goddamn see it? I goddamn well see it. It’s all over his goddamn tiny little goddamn face. He’ll be playing the goddamn guitar before you goddamn well know it.”
As a restaurant, the Hat did OK but in those days, after the country had won a great war, a restaurant in the form of a giant red cowboy hat and restrooms in the form of giant yellow cowboy boots was no big deal. Just down the highway there was a hamburger stand shaped like two giant teepees called – what else? – Twin Teepees as well as the Coon Chicken Shack, a restaurant cast as a giant Negro head with one popping white eye and the other covered with an eye patch, with a black top hat that doubled as a chimney and a wide open mouth you walked through to enter the restaurant. How about Andy’s Flying A gas stations with twin spitfires parked on the roof? Or a giant cup and saucer called Puck n’ Judy’s? Or Shirley Elefantine’s Tavern topped with a 20 foot high elephant carrying a veiled Indian princess cradling a sitar? Or Roan’s Plumming supply beaming its 30 foot neon toilet plunger?