Chapter 16 read by Ricky
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-Mike, Àhave you... have you... -Carly moved her head like she was ladling out millipedes to spiny-toed lizards. She looked like she knew what time it wasnÕt-. ÀHave you seen the movie, ÒSonatineÓ?


I couldnÕt believe sheÕd asked that. Nobody asks that.


I forgot what she axed.


-You think IÕm a sombitch, Àis that it? -I lifted the Ace of ♠, and then I lifted my head of eczema sores. I was one right-on meshugenah-. YouÕre a sombitch more than I am, Carly-. I had to admit it, I was the sombitch-. And, Àhow come youÕre wearing that putrid armor?


-I couldnÕt find a Brahma bull outfit -Now she had to admit it: I may be a sombitch, but she was a purple-sequined non-sequitur-. And after I heard that Old Man Spellman... Marzipan... whatever the fuck his name is... When I heard that he had killed Dad... Well, I just couldnÕt vote in another election...


-Dad isnÕt dead.


-Well, IÕm still not voting. And IÕm never opening another can, unless itÕs been converted into a bat - and that batÕd better come strapped with a fuckinÕ Pamperª.


-Thank you, Miss Non-Sequitur -I was so mad at the carnage her non-sequiturs had left in their wakes. It was like that Mickey Spillaine novel, Venice Is Mine, except, without the beach and sand and without the mine. Yet, despite the non-sequiturs and the novels, I was having a rico suave time.


I was busted, dejected and my Ace of ♠ had gone into hiding. I wanted to go into hiding. I wanted to be rested, my food digested, and my Ace of ♠ back up my sleeve. I also wanted a crayon pizza with entrails. Call me a suspicious and moody man, but I wasnÕt having fish for dinner again tonight.


-Go on, itÕs not easy being a cowboy with a sewer mouth.


And it wasnÕt easy being a sewer with a cowboy mouth. You just have to adjust the ladders and make believe youÕre Sir Thomas in flashy knight armor. Now DadÕll have to buy us all shiny suits of armor. I was toking on a carp when I found my Ace of ♠. It had been pushed down a ladder one time too many and was hosting a telethon for injured iguanas.


The Ace of ♠ went right up my sleeve, out the neck hole and into Sir ThomasÕs armor that was lying on the floor.


-IÕm sensing a seething comb-over, several meters away -I said and said with the enormous bust of Ezra Pound-. I canÕt believe that itÕs...


Whatever I couldnÕt believe it was was moving my ladder. The words that I needed to deal with this were ÒantÓ, ÒragÓ, ÒantÓ (again), and ÒEnronÓ. I could hear CarlyÕs piercing whine – it felt like I was being pounded on, and suffocated by, a lawn gnome.


I looked up at the genteel pile of crap formerly known as Sir Thomas - and flinched.


ÁIt was moving! Genteelly, but moving nonetheless.


The genteel remains stood up and spat on Carly, who whined even more piercingly as I reached for my Ace of ♠. The dead metal knew it hadnÕt seen an Ace of ♠ like mine before. An Ace of ♠ that would randomly wriggle out from under my sleeve to wreak havoc.


-ÁHeavens! -I said, suddenly doing my Quick Draw McGraw shtick. If my next words were ÒExit, stage rightÓ I knew IÕd be in trouble. I also knew that it was either that or stage left.


*           *           *


*           *           *


I lifted the Ace of ♠ like a blind man lifts, well, a playing card. But my playing card posed a profound question (besides the usual, ÀHave I lost my mind? and ÀWhat is your web address?). The question was one of sound and vision. ÀDo sound and vision play in the same league? ÀIs vision jealous because we donÕt mark speed in relation to the speed of vision? And, Àwas that last question a question or more of a furtive attempt to close down the readerÕs senses?


All I know is: after all this shit - IÕm going to the rodeo.


The Ace of ♠ tried to pierce Sir ThomasÕs armor, but his armor was even stronger than it was laughable. I raised the Ace of ♠ again and Sir Thomas saw it and raised me off the ground and slammed me into the guacamole dip.


-ÁMike! ÁJesus Christ! -Carly cried-. ÁCome on! ÁThat guacamole took me an hour to make!


I was looking for a towel when I realized I needed something more pernicious than the Ace of ♠ to pierce this jackassÕs hide. I needed more time. I needed The Cab Driving Terrier 2. Actually, I could just use a freaking cab driving terrier, period. Terriers are nuts enough - Àa cab driving terrier? - Áwhoo, baby! IÕll take terrier over metal any day.


-ÁMike! -CarlyÕs fingers were wrapped around my neck-. Mike, do something. ÁWeÕre about to become parrot food!


And then vulture food. Well, not if I had anything to haggle over.


I somnambulantly sliced at his metal carapace with my Ace of ♠, aiming for his hands.


-One, two...


I was counting his metal fingers to see if IÕd gotten any, when he hit me across the Nelson Mandela with the apartheid of his hand. It was a frozen rope-a-dope liqueur that would leave me QuasimotoÕd for days.


My first reaction was that hands are not cantaloupes. It resounded in my head like the Contras picking banjos, instead of pulling teeth out of the mouths of the elderly.


My second reaction was to wonder why nobody I knew played the banjo, or dressed up as the princess cowboy, or pulled teeth out of the mouths of the elderly.


My third reaction hit me like a massive fireball. It hit me like I was on the dole, poncing off local villains for the Krays. The pet salad alone sent me flying through the air. It sent my flotsam jetsaming through space, like Justin Timberlake trying on a cowboy hat at a PETA convention.


After I eviscerate this guy, IÕm gonna baste his ass in some metal soup. Then IÕm gonna slow-cook him in a mess of entrails that only PETA would call inhumane.


The gauntlet that had not been thrown yet was a little matter of manners. Carly had none. Mardren certainly had none. And now that reconstituted washer/dryer Sir Thomas was showing that he also had none.


He had the panache of petrified wood, and the grace of a gopher. When he peed he rusted himself. HeÕd send his armor out to be Martinizedª, but it always came back unimpressed and rusty.


Carly and I couldnÕt bear to look at Sir Thomas.


It was then that we ordered out for pizza.


Except we forgot to order enough for Sir Tommy.


Using a silicon penetrant, Sir Tom pushed and pushed and pulled on the Velcro¨ bands that held his armor together. As he pushed and pushed and pulled like the evil jackass he was, I saw the opportunity to knock him down, creating a domino effect that would have repercussions that are probably still repercussing as you read this.


I held the Ace of ♠ high over my head and threw it with my lizard-like hands. Immediately, I went back into my interior dialogue, which was playing Elliott SmithÕs refrain, ÒEverything means nothing to meÓ over and over and




The cascading, domino theory hadnÕt taken hold. All of my playing card abuse just made Sir Thomas madder. The air turned to gelatin and I passed out.


The cascading that wasnÕt happening wasnÕt anything like the cascading waves that hadnÕt pummeled the Spanish Armada. But there was also no cholera or typhoid and there certainly were no situation comedies on the telly.


And, despite my being unconscious, I was able to fire up the Folgersª and down a cup oÕ java.


Sir ThomasÕs eyes turned bright orange, and the blinding light from them woke me up. Thank God it wasnÕt a purple light - I wouldÕve run down to Chiapas with Mardren on a greyhound.


It was red. ÀDid I say ÒorangeÓ?


It was actually the color of red Sangria, if Sangria were magenta.


Sir Thomas didnÕt say a word. He just glared his orangey glare.


I lifted my Ace of ♠.


It was the same Ace of ♠ that had made its way up my sleeve and into my heart.

      -- on to chapter 17   or   back to Cab Driving --