Chapter 2 read by Jeremy
If you don't see the Media player above then click here to play in a separate window (or right-click and download)



-ÁMy pie! ÁMy pie!


I breathed like John Wayne breathed in ÒHondoÓ. I thought I was going to vomit.


Then I started eating more pie. My teeth couldnÕt get enough pie.


ÀDo my teeth know this pie?


I thought about that for a second before I started eating again.


If my teeth didnÕt know this pie, at least my clavicle did. My clavicle had once been a young Jewish boy dressed in white shoes. And the rest... well, the rest is pie.


-Hey, look -The pie was talking. I let my fingers travel all over it, but it didnÕt have white shoes and I didnÕt know the difference between meshugenah and rachmones - unless it was 5.


My dad suddenly lunged at me. It was a large lunge that left me feeling glad to be alive. That and the sun rising is always beautiful.


-You only got my shoe, Dad. My fingers still work.


The bad thing about it was that one second heÕs lunging at my shoes and the next second heÕs trying to break my fingers. ÁWhat a sombitch!


-YouÕre lucky you still have your fingers, Mike -Dad had a prosthetic palm that he used when he hit me upside the head-. ÀWhy do you think you still have them?


I didnÕt know what to say, but I tried anyway.


-Fuck you -I mumbled-. You creepy, corpulent piece of crap.


I obviously didnÕt want to hear any more of his shit. I wanted a prize for having the classiest escalator. I wanted bales of hay and cartons of collagen and I wanted them at my door. I wanted them at my door and I wanted to shake my rump, prepare a salad and take my escalator to La Ca–ada.


But me no buts. My old shoes are in the dryer and not on the escalator where they should be. Where no one has the gall to talk back to me.


Old Man Spellman walked in, decked-out like a jaded house plant. I had already stopped re-soling my shoes. Now I was re-Velcroing them.


-IÕd feel better if you leant me some charcoal.


You can always tell when Old Man Spellman has been smoking the wacky tabacky. First off, heÕs a general pain in the ass.


But this time he wasnÕt hissing. I donÕt think he was even breathing, at least I didnÕt hear him breathing.


Old man Spellman tended to be a bit emotional. His blue eyes were slowly becoming mandibles. His somnambulism was quickly becoming agitated, and his blatantly white bigotry was becoming agonizingly problematic. I shouldÕve kicked the shit out of him when we were playing pool.


-ÀHave you visited my misery lately? -He asked me.


Look what the door dragged in. Last week the door dragged in Stanley and a refrigerator repairman who had gotten off on the wrong escalator.


-ÀWhat do you do when you get off on the wrong coffin?


-Ummm... NO -Old Man Spellman said.


-ÁÓNOÓ is not an acceptable answer! -I exclaimed.


-ÁÓNOÓ was not meant for you! ÒNOÓ was meant for etiquette books like when you bring an enormous bag of tree bark to a party and ask everyone to pour dirt on it.


-Yes, yes. ThatÕs proper etiquette, like talking about the Spanish Inquisition with a Doonesbury character is etiquette -Old Man Spellman was frothing at the hand-. This much I know already, Mike. This much I know. And much more.


-ÀOh, yeah? ÀLike what?


-If I donÕt know what IÕm saying... -He started thinking I was interested in what he was saying. Old man Spellman had zeros for eyes-. Yes, thatÕs it. ÁThatÕs it! -He pushed the salt shaker all over his pie-. If I donÕt know what IÕm saying then the comic strip ÒDoonesburyÓ isnÕt ripped-off from the works of Hunter Thomas Aquinas.


He had pronounced the name as if it should hold some significance for me.


But I didnÕt know ÒDoonesburyÓ from my asshole.


Old Man Spellman shook his head.


-ÀDonÕt you know the history of ÒDoonesburyÓ? It was a really bad comic strip. It stunk up the joint. It talked when it shouldÕve been drawing, and it drew when it shouldÕve been talking. But the worst part was how it ripped-off Saint Hunter Thomas Aquinas with all that talk about cowboy dentists and souped-up dromedaries.


I made the sign of the cross.


-But thatÕs good, ÀisnÕt it? ItÕs just what old man Trudeau would want. Souped-up dromedaries getting their teeths yanked.


-Yes, itÕs also what your dad would want -Miserable Old man Spellman wouldnÕt know a Brilloª pad from a bag of Sternoª-. Ax me if I know anything about history.


It's possible that he would've blabbed for most of the night if I had axed that, but I was smart enough to know I didnÕt want to be a captive to his attention.


I told Old Man Spellman that he should manage a tire and feminine products store.


-ÀAnd the rest would be history?


Mr. Spellman smelled the irony.


-Great, now IÕm sure to be little more than nothing -He said. He hissed in a gesture that raised more questions than it did hands-. IÕll be the only old fossil in the firmament. IÕll be in heaven, but the person who should be in hell is Sir Thomas, because heÕs very bad. And IÕm predestined to wear bad shirts... Oh, the pain of being poor.


-ÀPoor? -That word moved up and down my spine like a bedbug. Bad shirts, that was something I couldnÕt imagine. But imagining was also something I couldnÕt imagine, except when IÕm dreaming up answers to the math tests. Then I can imagine my friend Pete telling everyone in the world that I loved Sara Medlow. And then, even worse, telling everyone that IÕm CarlyÕs brother.


At least everyone wearing a bad shirt.


But, ÀÓpoorÓ?


-IÕm being so clear, I could swear that IÕm on fire. ÀDonÕtcha think we should set the museum on fire?


Old man Spellman looked at me. He had Brilloª pads instead of eyes. I knew a bigot when one moved in front of me.


-How Ôbout we set your nose on fire instead, Àhow Ôbout that?


-How dare you threaten me like that, Mike. And to think, I was going to give you my secret recipe for baked Manatee. ÀWhat was I thinking? YouÕre not going to grow up to be preoccupied like your dad. And youÕre not going to grow up to be a sea urchin like Carly. If I had an arm for every enchilada IÕve...


I knew it was coming, so I looked out the window.


-ÀWhat are you watching? -Old Man Spellman was an ass as in uncle-. ÀThe detectives?


-ÀWhat are you talking about? ÀAre you comparing Julio Cesar Chavez to Cesar Chavez?


-ÁPerfect! -Chalk one up to the old guyÕs manhood.


-I is not preoccupied, Mr. Spellman -I told him-. I is an integer.


-And I... -Spellman froze in mid-spelling bee-. IÕm a protozoa. Mr. Protozoa, to you. ÀGet it?


-Got it.




There wasnÕt a slimier punk on the porch. There werenÕt two slimier punks with secret recipes for Manatee under glass. We had come to see each other as refrigerator repairman with secret recipes for camel.


We enjoyed each otherÕs company.




Dad didnÕt know what to do at this moment - or at any moment. He was like Jack Palance - always arriving when the coffeeÕs cold. Even when he was meeting with this or that robber baron, heÕd end up empty-handed. When he tried to object, theyÕd put tape over his mouth, and tell him to shut the fuck up.


Meanwhile, Dad would push money at him for a lap dance, but Old Man Spellman would just pull the tape tighter around DadÕs mouth. When Dad lost consciousness, theyÕd pull the tape off and then sit on him like a churro. When it came straight down to it, Dad didnÕt have much to say. But what he did say was enough to kill the living-dead. All of that, plus the costumes he wore, made me very nervous.


I had been eating Saltines all day, and I felt like a cold cup of coffee. I was all emotional and I didnÕt know how to shut up.


My poor fin dad and Old Man Spellman only wished they could tap into my cold coffee. They kicked me and put coins into me, but I wouldnÕt give them coffee. I wouldnÕt even breathe. Carly had to breathe for me.


So, I wasnÕt inclined to shut up, and I looked like a cup of dental coffee.


Actually, I looked more like a cup of embalming fluid. Paper and plastic.


-Paper -Carly said, as if she were suddenly disillusioned with me.


Dad sawed right through her.


-ItÕs not paper, Carly -He said-. And if it was, Àwould you shake hands with a paper bag?


-ÀMe? -Carly said, sending chills down everyoneÕs spines.


-ÀIs anyone else such a meathead? -Dad axed her.


-ÁNo way! -She responded. It was obvious she was being terrorized, but it was more like a funeral than any normal terrorizing.


A large coffee - no matter how cold - wasnÕt going to be enough. I thought that quizzing Carly on her parenthetical habits would be a misery worse than misery itself.


I knew that I was contradicting my own butt. I knew I was leaving and it was on a mango special and not an airplane. Wait a minute. ÀWhereÕs my large coffee? ÀD—nde est‡ mi cofre grande? In my brazen desperateness, I had started thinking in the language of the mountainous, paper peoples of Tiresius.


The paper people had been crushed under a media avalanche of torn bits of solid goo. I had come to their country to change the media, its brazenness and its fixation on dental hygiene.


-I believe that nothing exists -I told everyone.


This despite my deep belief in almost everything.


-ÁI think youÕre a grrrl! ÁI think youÕre a grrrl! ÁSucker!


I looked at Carly intending to call her a sucker and baracho the next time I saw her.


But now - or now - I had had enough.


And there was no lady jabbing me in the ear.

      -- on to chapter 3   or   back to Cab Driving --