Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 13

Editor’s Note: When last we met, I was standing outside a beer store in Philadelphia. Bubbles and Terry were inside the store, probably making friends with everybody, because they have that kind of skill. I had stayed in the parking lot, because I don’t want to make friends, and I don’t want that skill. Sadly, two members of one of those dreaded “parking lot gangs” were marching toward me in the murky dimness…

  I glanced around me, looking for random items lying about that could be used to, you know, kill these people if I didn’t like them. In my quick search, I only spied part of a discarded cheesesteak sandwich (such things are everywhere in this town) and what might have been a used condom. I really couldn’t fathom how either of these could be used in a violent manner, so I braced myself to perform the kung-fu moves I always imagined myself doing but had never actually learned.

  The duo came into full view, stopping a few feet away from me. Turns out it was a man and a woman, with that odd genetic resemblance indicating that their brother and daddy might be one and the same. This did not relax me.

  “Yo,” said the man. “Sup?”

  Okay, I can do street. I’ve watched “Oz” a time or two. “Just hangin’. My bitch and his bitch is in the sto, gettin’ some gin and juice.” (Which they actually were, so I wasn’t really lying. Just being stupid.)

  The woman spoke up. “How yo bitch gotta bitch?”

  The man decided he didn’t need help from Jack McFarlin, and gently shoved his companion into the side of a trash can. He looked back at me. “You gotta light?”

  Oh, that’s easy. “Sure.” I whipped out my slightly-salty lighter that had survived my romp through the ocean at Atlantic City. I held it poised before me.

  “You gotta cig, too?”

  I pondered this. Of course I had plenty. Bought with money I had earned from a job I went to every day. I had not taken the slacker route by sitting in a beer store parking lot and waiting for ignorant people to smoke in front of me and prove that they had nicotine supplies. Then again, I also was jobless and nearly homeless back in my day. It was not my place to judge. “Sure, man.” I held out my pack, fully expecting them to take the whole thing.

  Instead, he just took two, handing one to his sister/mother as she still leaned against the trashcan, not happy and fiddling with her trampy top. I lit them both. “Just two?”

  He exhaled. “Sure, man. Just waitin’ on a ride. Thanks.”

  They wandered back into the darkness.

  Times like this, you wonder. How do people get where they get? And how close am I to getting somewhere I don’t want to be?

  I finished my own cigarette, then plunked it in a half-empty beer bottle standing underneath a sign reading “Consumption of alcohol not allowed on premises.” Great. People in Philadelphia can read just about as well as people in Dallas. I hopped back in the Bubble Craft, and started scrounging around for my netbook.

  Just then, the door of the beer store slammed open, and Bubbles and Terry came trouncing out with their goodies. There was a brief flurry of activity as purchases were stored and secured, then Bubbles maneuvered her jetliner out onto the main road again.

  Once we were airborne, Bubbles finalized the rest of the evening’s agenda. “Should we get something to eat?”

  Oh. Well, I just wanted to drink until I was happy again (sue me) and food might cause a problem with that. Terry didn’t seem all that excited, either.

  But Bubbles was not to be dissuaded from whatever her agenda might be. She began throwing out dining options that were available in Philadelphia after ten o’clock on a Saturday night. As with any major metropolitan area, the variety of choices was rather expansive. And confusing. It’s so much easier when the only thing open is Taco Bell. I miss Oklahoma.

  Then Bubbles said something that immediately damned us into a locked progression of events. “How about we get some cheesesteaks and take them home?”

  Well, I’d already seen the tossed-aside remnants of such a sandwich at the beer store, so her words made some subconscious inner connection in my fried brain cells. After all, we were in Philly. Shouldn’t we partake of the namesake sandwich? I sealed our fate by stupidly saying: “That sounds great. Let’s go!”

  Terry made a small noise that roughly translated as “you are NOT touching me in an intimate manner until we leave this city.”

  Bubbles immediately whipped out her transponder and punched in the coordinates for our new destination. The rocket ship responded instantly, as we hurtled through the various urban roadways and exit ramps until we were in an older part of town. (Which I guess isn’t really saying much, since it’s Philly. Everything’s old. Everything.) Before I could properly focus, we were racing down streets originally intended for horse carts, not exhaust-belching, AC-deficient terror machines driven by a short, Hispanic woman fueled by the unquenchable desire to annihilate everything in her path. Bubbles did things with that car that would have made Mario Andretti make the sign of the cross, and then apologize to his sainted mother for everything he had ever done in his life.

  Swallowing nervously and trying to remain calm, I tentatively asked our Automotive Dominatrix where we might be headed.

  “To Pat’s, of course,” she responded, said with an air of total disbelief that I wasn’t intimately familiar with this destination.

  I wasn’t. “Pat’s?”

  Bubbles sighed, flipping on the windshield wipers so that they would displace the homeless person she had just hit and was now resting uncomfortably on the windshield. “Pat’s!” she barked.

  This did not make things clearer.

  I glanced at Terry. Are we going to die?

  He glanced back. I don’t think so. But maybe. Are we caught up on our insurance?

  Well, we were, but this knowledge did not prevent me from making a whimpering noise. I glanced at my netbook, nestled on the seat beside me. I hoped it had enough draft blog posts on it to fully explain the mysterious circumstances surrounding my sudden death during a quest for cheesesteaks. I wasn’t sure that it did.

  Bubbles suddenly slammed on the brakes, mashing my once-youthful face into the back of her seat. As I spat out something crusty that had adhered to her headrest, I slumped against the car door, my head hanging out the window that had been rolled down for days now. My weakened and battered eyes observed a surprisingly small establishment just across the intersection from us. Something had to be going on, because there were roughly 4,000 people milling about said venue.

  “We’re here!” said Bubbles, then punched it through the intersection and began honking at a couple who were just then heading to their car parked alongside the building. Apparently, in Philadelphia, thought transference was a necessary skill when it came to dining out. Bubbles did not understand why the couple was not racing to their car and relinquishing the parking space. Bubbles honked again.

  I quietly touched Terry on the shoulder. We had a good life, didn’t we?

  He nodded absently, waiting for a shotgun to be whipped out.

  The innocent couple finally figured out how to operate their car and drove off into the night. Bubbles instantly maneuvered the rocket ship into the vacated space. She slapped at some shut-down buttons on the ship’s control panel and then grabbed her purse. “Let’s go, bitches!”

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

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