Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 4

  Editor’s Note: Much to our relief and surprise, Terry and I found that Bubbles’ abode was quite pleasing and satisfactory. An older apartment that has seen better days but was still very cute and comfy. So we settled in, watched a pointless movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Janine Turner (people running about in the Alps or something, with horrible acting and extensive use of blue screens), and finally crawled into bed…

  Of course, lying down on a mattress does not necessarily mean that slumber is on its way. I have issues with getting to sleep. As in, even in my own house, everything must be exactly in order for me to drift off. And the slightest variance in my required parameters can lead to hours of tossing and turning and hatred of my life.

  End result, when I travel, I rarely sleep more than a few hours a night. It’s just my thing. I understand this, and I deal with it. Oh, and to top things off, I am unable to successfully… how shall I say this? Complete the natural process of recycling. Yes, this is by all means far too much information, but it’s imperative that you understand that when I’m out of my comfort zone, it all goes to hell. I can’t sleep, I can’t evacuate, and I cannot relax for the tiniest second. It’s a control issue, I suppose.

  So there I am, wide awake on a strange bed, while Terry is gently snoring beside me, and Bubbles is down the hall, providing melodious snoring harmony. It’s a symphony of nocturnal emissions. Only not the really exciting kind. Well, then. What to do?

  I snag my fancy phone from the nightstand. It’s one of those really multi-talented things they’ve come out with these days. It’s my understanding that it can actually solve hunger in the world, if I could only figure out the precise sequence of buttons to push. I’m nowhere near that level of achievement, but I have managed to download a Solitaire game. This shall be my salvation for the middle of the night.

  Two hours later, I theoretically owe Vegas my life savings. That worked out well. I throw the phone back on the nightstand and curse its existence. This doesn’t accomplish anything, but the venting of anger is always therapeutic at least on a subliminal level. The phone flops off the nightstand and slams onto the wood floor, the battery pack voluntarily disengaging from the device and skittering under the bed.

  Great. Because my personal disappointments with life haven’t been enough up to this point. Why should I be happy, right?

  Anyway, I turn off the light and force myself to lie perfectly still. If I don’t move, and think happy thoughts of, I don’t know, transcendence and salvation, I might be able to drift off. This does not immediately happen. I flip and flop and punch around on my pillow in a fruitless attempt to appease the gods. What can I offer to whatever celestial being might be out there? Just tell me. I will proffer the appropriate sacrifice.

  Days later, I actually begin to drift. There’s the slight dissociation that comes with the transition from wakeful agitation to blurry coma. I’m almost there, just this side of blessed dreamland. A few tiny more steps and I will no longer care.

  Suddenly, from the sounds of it, somebody is violently murdered right outside the window.

  Well, hell. Rude, right? Some people just don’t have any couth or concern for their neighbors. A person just can’t get a decent night’s sleep around here without machine-gun fire and death screams in the night.

  Still, I’m a little curious. Is there a lot of blood? Body parts strewn about? Signs of credit card debt? I decide that I can’t pass up this opportunity, since we’re so close to New Jersey. (What if it’s one of the Sopranos?) Besides, my touristy camera is right there, ready to take pictures of old buildings that no one else will ever look at.

  I cautiously approach the window, knowing that I’m on the second floor and most likely have time to scream and run if the killer is still out there, unsatisfied. I pluck a small portion of the curtain to the side, and peer into the darkness.

  Nothing. No bodies, no axes dripping blood, no signs whatsoever of a crime. Not even a carelessly tossed-aside cigarette butt. I’m actually slightly disappointed.

  And completely wide awake. Terrific. Now I’ve got to start the whole relaxation process all over again, with the added complication of not being one hundred percent convinced that I didn’t just overhear the latest exploits of the Almost-Fishtown Strangler.

  I sigh with overwhelming defeat and dismay, lay back down on the bed, and close my eyes. Two seconds later, Bubbles is bouncing on the bed while bright sunshine fills the room. “Coffee’s ready!”

  And so, apparently, is breakfast. Bubbles has thrown something together with eggs, chorizo, green chilies, tortillas and I’m not sure what else. It’s slightly mystifying but very tasty. A bit of showering and belching later, we’re piled in the car and headed out on our first full day of adventure. Smiles abound, because things haven’t gone wrong yet, and we still love each other.

  Destination: Atlantic City.

  It’s only a little over an hour away, according to Bubbles, our gracious host and cruise director. On the flip side, Bubbles tends to downplay things like time and distance so that we will be innocently sucked into doing whatever it is that she wants to do, because in the end, we WILL always do what Bubbles wants. It’s some kind of fundamental law, I’m sure.

  Next thing I know, we’re thundering down some highway. I had naively assumed that the tremendous velocity that Bubbles had achieved on the streets of Philly was at the max end of her speed skills. This was far from the truth. Out in the wide open spaces, Bubbles floored it along using a warp drive previously thought to be undeveloped on our planet.

  The trees along the highway were just a blur. Road-side buildings appeared and almost immediately disappeared at the same instant, like the buzzing of dive-bombing mosquitoes zipping past your ear but you don’t really see them.  We may have broken the sound barrier a few times, because there were moments when I couldn’t really hear anything at all. Or those may have been instances when I just passed about from the G-force pressure on my weakened body.

  (Police Officer Stanley, hidden in the special stand of trees where they watch for speeders, speaking to his buddy: “Hey Vern, you feel that? What the hell was it?

  Vern: “Musta been Bubbles again, making her weekly escape from Philly.”

  Stanley: “Oh, right, I heard about her. Never seen her, though.”

  Vern: “Nobody has, that’s problem. Just a cracking sound in the sky and then she’s gone.”

  Stanley: “Think we should try and catch her? Guys at the station will think we’re Da Bomb if we do.”

  Vern, eyeing his younger buddy with slight irritation at the boy’s ignorance: “Son, by the time we pull out of these here trees she’ll be in another country and protected by international law.”

  Stanley: “Oh. Mebbe you’re right. You gonna finish that donut?”)

  Anyway, we make it from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in what felt like 15 minutes. It probably wouldn’t have even taken that long if Bubbles and Terry hadn’t gotten into a short squabble about which Lady Gaga song is the best, thereby causing Bubbs to become slightly distracted and slow the car down to 80mph.

  As we squeal down an exit ramp, and round a corner on one wheel, music CD’s ricocheting all over the interior of the car, one of them nearly decapitating me, Bubbles informs us that we will be parking at Caesar’s Palace. This makes her happy for some unexplained reason. We don’t question her announcement, too busy making sure that we’re still alive and that the depressurization caused by reentering the Earth’s atmosphere hasn’t mussed our hair up too much.

  Caesar’s has a massive, multi-level parking garage, built to accommodate the billions of people that apparently flock to this establishment on a regular basis. Bubbles, however, doesn’t really believe that the parking structure belongs to Caesar’s. Instead, she considers the twisting levels to be her own private hunting ground.

  And woe to the innocent pedestrian or passing vehicle that doesn’t comprehend this arrangement. If you don’t cross in front of the car fast enough to satisfy her, she will run you down. If you take half a second too long making a decision about a potential parking space, she will run you down. And if you dare to even THINK about saying or doing something to express your dissatisfaction with her actions, she will sense the brainwaves emanating from your idiotic pea brain, and she will run you down.

  We race through the levels at roughly 300 miles an hour, shooting through gaps that we should never have survived, totally destroying speed bumps with the massive impact of the lumbering Bubbles Mobile, and causing entire families to scream in terror and voluntarily leap over the side of the building, because anything must be better than one more second spent in the exhaust-coated hands of Bubbles.

  By the time Bubbles finds a space to her satisfaction, and she has gutted the fool who tried to take said space without her permission, I am huddled in the floorboard of the back seat, crying hysterically, and clutching a crude crucifix fashioned out of sticky milkshake straws and strands of my own now-whitened hair.

  Bubbles grabs her purse, throws open her door, and steps out into the parking garage, the agonized screams and moans of her various victims filling the air of the many levels of cars. (Plans are already underway to start a telethon to raise money for the victims.) “Ready to go, boys?”

  I remain perfectly still. Perhaps if I don’t move, she will assume that I’m dead, another unintentional notch in her dipstick case. I hold my breath and wait, stifling a whimper.

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