Tag Archives: car

Car Hunting

copyright Joe Owens

copyright Joe Owens

My dad loved to show people around his trophy room, so when my college roommate came over for Thanksgiving, of course Dad gave him the tour.

“You’ve done a lot of hunting!” Kiefer said. I rolled my eyes. Don’t encourage him.

“Yep, I sure have,” my dad said, making a sweeping gesture to encompass all the license plates on the walls. “This here was from my first one. It was a ’68 Chevy Chevelle. I got it going down Route 46, not far from here. Single shot—bam!—right to the engine block. Damaged the body a bit but stopped it dead.”

“So you mostly go for sedans then?”

I tried giving Kiefer a warning look. My dad was going to talk for hours at this rate.

“I have tried all kinds.” Dad was beaming now. “When Bobby was little, we’d go out for hatchbacks. We tagged two in one day over in Breathitt County. We could only bring the fenders home, although of course Bobby liked to keep the spark plugs as souvenirs.” I blushed.

“Do you think I could give it a try?” Kiefer asked. My dad’s face lit up.

“Why sure! We’ll go grab you and Bobby some licenses and head out tomorrow. You haven’t tried car hunting until you’ve done it on Black Friday. You can use my SUV rifle.”

“Aren’t you a member of Greenpeace?” I whispered to Kiefer.

“This isn’t nature,” he said. “This is cars!” He and my dad high-fived and I knew that I’d lost him.


It Appears I Have a Zombie Car

Upon my word, I’m not sure how to say this but I believe I am the owner of a zombie car.

Braaaaaaaaaakes...braaaaaaakes.

Braaaaaaakesss…braaaaaaaakesss. [Source]

Don’t ask me how such a thing is possible; my mechanic Gregory had no idea what the matter was and I had to rely on the expertise of young Michael who runs the comic store and indie movie theater. He seemed to know all about it. At least he pretended to.

It all started a week ago with the accident. I was coming up Route 43, just north of Springersville. It was foggy and you know how the road curves left just over the river? Well, straight ahead is the gate for Granger’s scrap yard and I just missed the turn completely in the fog and plowed right into that chain-link gate with my 2002 Corolla. It was an honest mistake, I can assure you; no drink was involved. You can take an old woman’s word on that point.

Well, I ran through the gate and before I could even touch the brakes, I ran smack into the rusted hulk of some big, old truck. I was lucky not to set the airbag off. I was so shook up, I just reversed and drove on up the road. It wasn’t like there was much I could do there at that time of night.

It really hit me when I got home and I just started shaking. I checked the front of the car. It was a bit banged up and had rust all over it. I left it and went in for a nice strong cup of tea.

The next morning, the rust had spread all over it. I brought it into the shop and they got the rust off and repainted it, but the next day it was the same as before. And, when I went to put my groceries in the trunk, there was part of an engine block sitting in there. Imagine that! That really steamed my vegetables. I went and gave Gregory a piece of my mind. He gave it right back, with change, but while we were arguing, I saw Michael listening in and checking the car.

“I know what’s wrong,” he said. “You got a zombie car.”

“What’s that?” I snapped. I was not in the mood for foolishness.

“It’s just like a zombie person,” Michael said. “You have a lot of decay and it’s eating brains, or engines in this case.”

I was about to whack him over the head for being an idiot, but he was giving me more than Gregory had, so I didn’t. “How do you fix it then, if you’re so smart?” I asked.

“With zombies, you can’t fix it at all. Usually, you just shoot them in the head.”

“And what’s that with a car, the head gasket?” I asked, about to whack him anyway. “Good luck explaining that to the insurance company. ‘My car turned into a zombie so I shot it in the head gasket. Give me money.’ They’d laugh themselves silly.”

He shrugged. “Just saying.”

I drove home in my zombie car. Kids these days.

The problem was that it kept disappearing at night, sometimes coming home at dawn and sometimes not. I followed it once. It wasn’t hard, since it just sort of shambled along in first gear. I watched it pop its hood and eat the engine out of Dr. Patel’s Ferrari down the road. I would have stopped him but I didn’t know how and Dr. Patel always lets his dog crap in my yard anyway.

Finally I had enough. Not sure what to do, I drove it out to Thompson Road and parked it on the train tracks as the train was coming.

“Good bye, old boy,” I said. It seemed more effective than shooting it in the head gasket.

The train was almost on it and blowing its horn like an angry elephant, when suddenly my car put itself in reverse and backed off the tracks. The last I heard of it was a low, grumbling blast of its horn before it disappeared down the road.

I told the insurance company that it was stolen. It’s not technically a lie and even if it were, what was an old woman supposed to do?


My Son Eats Cars

car wreck

I came home from work to see a piece of metal sticking out from below the rhododendrons and my heart sank. I pulled it out and saw that it was a muffler, partially chewed. I’d had a long day at work and this was not what I wanted to deal with at the moment. But that’s what being a father is all about.

I found Lawrence in his room, lying on his bed. His eyes were red from crying and I felt so bad for him in that moment and so powerless. He’d been doing so well, I’d been so proud of him. I wasn’t mad, I just wanted to make everything better for him.

“Hey there,” I said, trying to keep my tone light.

He covered his face with his pillow, ashamed. “Dad, I did it again. I’m so sorry. I ate another car.”

“I know,” I said. “I saw the muffler. Come on, sit up.” He finally did and I gave him a hug, although inwardly I recoiled at the smell of motor oil on his breath. “What kind was it?” I asked.

“Does it matter?”

“I’m just curious.”

“It was Corolla,” he said finally, looking at the floor. “I was walking from the mall when I saw it there and, I don’t know, there was something about the look of the headlights that looked so inviting. The next thing I knew, I was chewing on the bumper. I should have given up then, but I knew I couldn’t hide the teeth marks and I was so ashamed and embarrassed, I just gave up and ate the whole thing.”

I gave him another hug. “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this phase. At least you’re off transport trucks, right? And you haven’t eaten a car in months. You’re doing really well.”

He looked up at me and my heart ached at the pain and confusion I saw in his eyes. “It’s just so hard,” he said. “I try, I really do.”

“I know,” I said. “Do you think it would help to get a couple old bicycles, or maybe a motorcycle now and then . . . ?” He looked down and shrugged.

I wanted to say more to comfort him but inwardly, I was dreading the upcoming battle: finding the owner, dealing with insurance companies, trying to explain the whole humiliating situation to unsympathetic insurance agents and police officers. Trying to make it all go away as quickly as possible and protect my boy as much as I could.

He was getting better, it was true, but for the first time, it occurred to me that maybe this was not a phase Lawrence would ever get through. Maybe he would struggle with eating cars his whole life. It was a scary thought, but I knew more than anything that I would love him, no matter what.

“Look,” I said slowly. “Your mother and I talked about this. I wasn’t sure about it before, but maybe I could talk to a scrap yard owner and see if you can go in there sometimes, if you get hungry. They’d be old cars, but it would be better than eating cars out of the parking lot while their owners are in shopping.”

Lawrence looked up and smiled. “You mean it? You’re not mad?”

“Well, this hasn’t been easy on any of us, but I love you and I’ll do what I can for you.”

My son eats cars. It’s not what I signed up for when I became a parent, but you don’t get to choose the challenges that come your way. Like everything else in life, we’ll take this one step at a time, together.


One Last Ride – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Indira Mukherjee

copyright Indira Mukherjee

One Last Ride

“Take your glaucoma medicine,” they said.

“Don’t overexert yourself,” they said.

I say, nuts to that! What golden future am I saving my strength for? I’m well over the hill and coasting fast towards the finish line, etched with a cold, hard epitaph. This is my car and I’ll take it for one last ride, damn it!

Only one good hip? Who cares! That’s one more than a cobra has and it’ll bite you in the ass if you don’t watch it. Don’t underestimate me just because I’m older than you.

Sirens. “Pull over!” they say.

Nuts to you, copper!

 


Ichiban the Great – Friday Fictioneers

It’s time for another Friday Fictioneers. I asked my wife what genre to write and she said, “romance”. So this is about as close as I get to romance. This story is dedicated to her.

copyright Beth Carter

copyright Beth Carter

Ichiban The Great

I told my wife I married her for her car. She laughed and called me an idiot.

Ichiban, as we called it, was dirty-diaper brown and shivered like a Floridian doing the Iditarod if you got it over 70 MPH. We lost the front bumper to a deer; the back one to a malicious fire hydrant. The hubcaps all took their leave at high speeds on various country highways.

Finally, we lost the roof to a firefighter trainee who Jaws-Of-Lifed it off, mistaking ours for the practice car. We just laughed and kissed. We had our convertible, top permanently down.

 


Why are we the size we are?

What an odd question. Also, what does it have to do with fiction? For me, at least, it’s important for world building. Right now, I’m creating a huge and detailed world, probably to set stories in later (I posted a map of one tiny section of it before). When making up completely new creatures, it is possible to change things that we think of as fundamental, like having limbs, or a central brain, or only existing in the physical world. Anything we can conceive of, we can create in a fictional world.

For instance, in my world there are intelligent creatures several inches high and other 350 feet high. I don’t have to explain how that’s possible, since it’s just fiction, but that got me thinking: why are we the size we are? Could we be just like we are now, except the size of ants, or the size of mountains? Here are my thoughts on the subject.

Why it would be harder to be bigger

giant

Being a little bigger is not that hard. Elephants are pretty big, although compared to the tallest living thing on earth, a 380-foot redwood, they’re tiny. Trees have it easier though, since they have a rigid cell structure, they go straight up, and they don’t move. But could we ever be that tall? One problem is the weight. We would need to have incredibly strong bones to hold ourselves up if we weighed 100 tons or so. A couple ways around this would be to be mostly gaseous, like balloon people, to live on a smaller planet with less gravity or have bodies built of some insanely strong material, like titanium-alloy lattice or something.

Another problem with being very large is the time it would takes nerve signals to travel to the extremities. From what I have found (correct me if I’m wrong), nerve impulses travel about 100 meters, or 330 feet per second. So, if we were 350 feet tall and stepped on a nail, it would take a whole second for us to realize it. That’s kind of hard thing to live with, always being one step behind the rest of your body. This could be overcome possibly by having some other way of sending nerve impulses or to have a diffused brain, or even several brains that could handle various parts of the body. In any case, we would have to be radically different in design if we were going to be super huge.

Why it would be harder to be smaller

Honey-I-Shrunk-the-Kids

If only we could ride ants and sleep in a Lego block

Well, how about being smaller? Could we be the size of ants and still be just as intelligent as we are now? The problem with being smaller is that we would have smaller brains. Perhaps if our brains worked differently, they could be much smaller, but as things are now, there is a reason why we are so much smarter than insects.

Another issues about getting very small is the loss of resolution. It’s like if you zoom in on a picture; at some point it will start to pixelate, because as the size of the whole picture gets closer to the size of the pixels, it is harder to show detail.

Resolution collage

One of my favorite mugs.

In the picture above, the number of pixels is huge, so even after zooming in three times, you can only just begin to see them. For living things, the things we are made of–atoms–are insanely small, so we would have to be pretty small before we started to lose complexity, but the point is, that we could not be just any size and still be intelligent human beings. Look at what a car looks like when it’s made of individual atoms, compared to a real car.

The molecular car image courtesy of Wired.

The molecular car image courtesy of Wired.

Yeah, there’s no comparison, in terms of complexity. In the same way, we could not be very tiny and still be us. At what size that loss of complexity would start, I’m not sure. If you have any idea, let me know.

So…that’s what I think about all day. I’m not an expert on this sort of thing; I just like to think about it. If you have any thoughts, please share them in the comments.


I Should Have Brought a Book

(The following story is true. Only the details have been changed because the real story wasn’t interesting enough.)

 

I really should have brought a book. Of course, now that I think about it, you should always have a book with you. Even a small volume about nineteenth-century Indonesian politics, written in Arabic is better than nothing. A book can save your life.

On the day when I realized this life-truth I was at the garage, getting my car looked at. It had been making a strange sound whenever I pushed on the gas pedal really hard, sort of like a bird being thrown against a wall: thump-squawk, thump-squawk. I tend to be a bit of an automotive hypochondriac but still I thought it best to get it checked out. They had magazines and a TV there. I won’t need a book, I thought.

The first hour was okay. I watched some inane political chatter on a news channel and read a fascinating article about the spread of the Andorran zap-beetle in a copy of National Geographic. Finally, they drove my car in and a few minutes later, I was called in for the obligatory here’s-what’s-wrong-and-how-much-you-owe consultation.

“We found the problem,” the mechanic said gravely. He had a compassionate look and a bedside manner that rivaled the best oncologists.

Please God, not the transmission, I pleaded silently. “What is it?” I asked aloud.

“There was a loose wire,” he said, holding his thumb and finger three inches apart. “We’ll have to tighten it up for you. Here, I wrote up an estimate.”

I looked at the paper he proffered and for a moment, my mind fogged over, unable to comprehend that the dizzying columns of numbers were supposed to represent money.

“Can I just tighten it up myself?” I asked, helplessly. I might as well have asked a doctor if I could do my own appendectomy and I got a similar patronizing smile.

“No, it takes a very specialized screwdriver. They’re pretty expensive.”

I looked down the estimate sheet again. $3526.43 for labor, $2450.01 for parts, $7209 total. Something didn’t seem right. “Why are there parts listed here?”

The mechanic glanced over at the sheet. “Oh, we didn’t have the special screwdriver either. I have a guy running out to buy it now.”

“Well, can I keep it when you’re done?”

He looked affronted. “No.”

“Oh. Well, alright then.” I tried to look business-like as I scanned the paper again and then signed my name at the bottom. “So when will it be ready?”

“About an hour, maybe three.”

“That sounds great. Thank you so much,” I said, wondering vaguely why I was being so obsequious.

I decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful day and suddenly it seemed like the only logical thing to do. The sun was shining brightly and the clouds were drifting lazily across the sky like anesthetized marshmallows. I crossed the road and followed a dirt road that wound back into the forest. After a couple hundred feet, the trees ended in a sea of high, yellowing grass. As I moved into it, I began to see the rusted, derelict shapes of abandoned machinery rising through the stems of brown vegetation. It was like stumbling into the hidden graveyard of elephantine John Deere creations.

The grass was over eight feet tall and I couldn’t see anything around me, so I decided to climb up on a rusty oil tank to get my bearings. I was just admiring the view when I heard a screeching, rending sound and the tank I was standing on collapsed. Before I could even think about catching myself, I had hit the bottom with a resounding clang and a sharp pain in both my feet.

The tank was completely dark except for the ragged hole I had punched in the top of it. I was just trying to think what to do when I heard a most terrifying voice coming from the darkness. It was raspy and a little squeaky, but what made it mind-bogglingly frightening was the fact that it wasn’t mine.

“Who are you?” the voice said and I almost jumped clear out of the hole again.

“Mother of mercy!” I shrieked, most embarrassingly. “You scared the daylights out of me! Okay, okay.” I put my hand on my chest and tried to calm my breathing. The voice had been quite close to me. “Don’t do that again. You don’t know how much of a fright you just gave me!”

There was a measured pause, like someone waiting patiently. “Are you done?” the voice said finally.

“Yeah, I’m done,” I said. “Just give a person some warning before you sneak up on them.”

“What do you want, me to bang a drum or something?” the voice replied sarcastically. “Say something like, ‘Excuse me, I’m about to speak? Commencing speaking in T minus 5, 4, 3—’”

“Who are you?” I interrupted.

“You can call me Pick,” the voice, evidently named Pick, replied. “Even though it’s dark in here for you, I can still see you fine. Pick sees you quite well. I happen to live here, you know. You might not care, but you just landed on my house. I was just coming home from work. Ten seconds later and I’d be jelly right now. Luckily I was fumbling for my keys.”

There was an expectant silence. “I’m glad I didn’t kill you,” I said at last, though I was having trouble mustering enthusiasm. “I actually didn’t mean to come down here at all, so I guess I’ll just be going now.”

“Ha! That’s what you think,” Pick said. “Actually I was also just bringing three thousand of my friends over for a party. They’re here as well.”

“Three thousand,” I said slowly, desperately trying to make my brain catch up and accept my current reality.

“Oh we’re here alright,” another voice off to my right said. “We just didn’t have anything to say before.” A swelling murmur rose and fell around me in the distressingly accurate way three thousand voices might sound.

There was another pause. “So . . .” I said after a moment, not sure why I felt compelled to keep the conversation going.

“So we’re going to kill you,” Pick snapped. “We’re all armed and now we’re very mad. See?” I felt a stabbing pain in my forearm, as if I’d been struck with a Lilliputian branding iron.

“Ouch!” I cried. “Quit it! That really hurts, you know.”

“Now you will die,” Pick said quietly. “Any last words?”

“I should have brought a book,” I mumbled bitterly.

To my extreme astonishment, a howl of fear and anger erupted in the darkness all around me. I looked around me, realized it was futile and then looked back to where Pick’s voice had come from. I held out my hands in a what-did-I-say gesture.

“You have uttered the accursed words,” Pick said and he sounded scared. “You have said the words from hell!”

“No I didn’t!” I protested. “All I said was—”

“Don’t say it! Don’t say it!” Pick screamed and the other voices all murmured in agreement. “How can you not know about the evilest, most diabolical words in the whole world?”

I thought for a moment. “I don’t know what to tell you. I just haven’t come across them before.”

“Really?” Pick’s whole demeanor changed instantly. “Oh, well in that case, let’s all sit down and I’ll tell you about it before we kill you. Come on, sit down. You’ve already demolished the house; crushing the wreckage to powder won’t make a lot of difference now.”

I sat down gingerly and heard a shuffling sound that I could only imagine came from three thousand tiny little people sitting cross-legged on the bottom of the oil drum around me.

“Long, long ago, there was a man named . . . well, actually I don’t remember his name, so let’s call him Jimmy,” Pick said from the darkness beside me. “So Jimmy is a plumber, right, but he doesn’t make a lot of money. One day he’s working and the devil comes to visit him. He offers Jimmy all the riches and power in the world, for free. Jimmy accepts the offer gladly.

“‘All you have to do is come to my office tonight and at midnight I’ll give you everything you could ever want.’ He gave Jimmy directions to his office and then left.

“Late that night, Jimmy followed the devil’s directions and went to a cave deep in the forest. He found the secret door and descended the seemingly endless staircase until he came to a small room. It was square with a few chairs and another door at one end. On it was a note that said, ‘Wait until midnight.’”

There was a clock on the wall that said 11:59, so Jimmy knew he was just in time. He sat and waited for a while but no one appeared. The clock still said 11:59. He started to look around the room to keep himself occupied. There was a coffee pot, but it was empty. A vending machine had cold drinks, but it only took drachmas. A TV on the far wall showed static and there was no remote. Jimmy picked up the only magazine there and found that it was all about mammograms and menopause.

“After a while more, he looked at the clock and saw it was still 11:59. Upon closer inspection, he saw that the hands were welded in place. He turned to leave but saw that the door had been slowly closing and was almost shut. The last words that were heard before the door slammed forever, the words that haunt our dreams, the words from hell: ‘ashudda bradda buk.’”

Pick fell silent. Suddenly I realized something. “Hey, you just said it yourself. I thought it was really bad.”

“I was just telling a story,” Pick said, a distinct note of defensiveness coming into his voice. “It’s not bad if you’re just repeating it. Anyway, now that you know the grievous evil you’ve committed, we’ll kill you for squashing my house. Come on, on your feet.”

“I should have brought a book,” I said, in a flat, experimental sort of way. Sure enough, there was a wave of screams and moans from all around. “I should have brought a book,” I said a little louder. I said it again and again until the whole oil drum was echoing with a cacophony of fear and outrage. Then with a sudden lurch, I leapt up and clawed my way out of the hole. It was a tricky maneuver, considering all the jagged, rusty sheet metal that was pointing down at me around the hole, but I dodged it all and escaped.

As soon as I was clear of the oil tank, I leapt off into space, hitting the ground running. From behind me, I could hear the buzz of small, angry things as Pick and three thousand of his closest friends followed me in hot pursuit. I weaved and dodged through the grass. They were getting closer.

I broke out the grass and sprinted down the dirt track, playing suicidal dodge-car as I crossed the road to the garage.

“Is the car ready yet?” I asked the man behind the counter, as I arrived sweating and panting.

“Oh, the Sonata? No, we haven’t touched it yet so it’ll still be a while. Hey, why don’t you take a walk? It’s a beautiful day out there.”

I really, really should have brought a book.


Good Idea, Bad Idea: Milk

Hello friends of blog, greetings from upper chamber of the Green-Walled Tower, where I’ve been busy with Nano for the last few days. It’s been going well and I just passed 12,000 words. Hopefully I can keep that momentum going and keep the story flowing.

Now, as Monty Python said, for something completely different:
Did you ever watch Animaniacs? It was a Warner Brothers cartoon in the 90’s that had a segment called Good Idea, Bad Idea. If you’ve never seen it, or want to watch it again, here’s the complete compilation of all of them.

Here a Good Idea, Bad Idea from my own life.

Buying milk:                                                                    good idea

Putting milk in the trunk:                                          okay idea

Forgetting about milk:                                                bad idea

Leaving milk in trunk for several months:         very bad idea

Discovering milk when it finally eats through its plastic container and then eats through the metal of the trunk and drips on the ground: very very bad idea

Yes, that actually happened. Early in our marriage, my wife and I went grocery shopping at night. We got home and said, “Didn’t we buy milk? Oh well, I guess not.” Literally months later, I noticed something white dripping on the ground. I opened to trunk to find the milk jug mostly empty, a hole in the bottom of it, and a hole in the bottom of the trunk. I guess we hadn’t opened our trunk much, since I’m sure we would have noticed the smell. So there you have it: in case you were wondering, milk can eat through a trunk.

 

(By the way, if you’re anywhere applicable, Happy Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night. Go burn something for me.)


The Taxi Driver

Jeff climbed out of the driving rain and into the taxi to find that the driver was a pigeon. A giant pigeon, in fact. He hesitated, debated getting out and then, in a dazed sort of way, gave the address.

“My God, I thought we’d never get a cab,” Jeff’s girlfriend, Katrina said, climbing in after him and shaking the water off her coat like a retriever. She hadn’t even looked up yet. Jeff nudged her and she looked up, gave a kind of strangled scream and then tried to cough to cover it up. It failed absurdly.

“That’s a pigeon,” she whispered through clenched teeth, as if Jeff couldn’t tell.

“What do you want me to do about it? I’m not going to go find you another cab in this weather.”

“What if it’s dirty? They’re called flying rats, you know.”

“Hey, don’t be specist,” Jeff said. The pigeon-driver honked at a jaywalker, pulled around a truck and turned left.

“Does it know where to go?” Katrina asked. Jeff noticed she was clutching his arm, like she was afraid of getting attacked.

“It seems to be going there,” he said. “It probably flies all around the city anyway. Probably it knows the city better than we do.” He hoped it wasn’t rude to say it. He didn’t want to be specist.

“Do you think it understands us?” Katrina whispered. Her voice was even softer.

“I told it where to go and it started going. Either it understands or it’s psychic.”

They stopped at a red light and the pigeon down-shifted. It was having a hard time doing it, having only wings and no hands. It managed, somehow. Jeff could not imagine it was comfortable.

“Why would a pigeon want to be taxi driver?” he wondered, still whispering.

“Who wants to be a taxi driver?” Katrina said. “Everyone’s gotta earn money to live.”

“Yeah, but why doesn’t it do something else?”

“Like what?”

“Like be a flying courier or something.”

She actually smacked him on the arm. “That is so specist of you! Saying that just because it’s a pigeon it has to do something with flying.”

“Well, why not? That’s what it’s good at, right?”

“Well, you’re good at doing dishes. You want to be a housekeeper?”

Jeff looked at the pigeon again. Its left wing was squashed against the door in an uncomfortable way. It could put it out the window, if it wasn’t raining so hard.

“Well, as long as it gets us home, that’s all I care about,” he said finally.

There was a pause. The rain drummed incessantly on the cab roof. The windshield was getting fogged up and the pigeon driver kept reaching up to wipe it off. The windshield was streaked with feather marks.

“You should talk to it,” Katrina said.

“Why? What would I say?”

“I don’t know, but you’re never going to have this chance again. How many pigeon taxi drivers could there be? Come on, ask it something.”

“I am not going to ask it anything. You ask it something, if you’re so interested. Anyway, it might not talk.”

“You said it understands. Why wouldn’t it talk?”

“It’s not the same. Look, I’m not going to talk to it. What would I say?”

“Ask it where it’s from. It’s not from here, I’m sure. Maybe it’s got a family back home, like a clutch of eggs and a wife pigeon or something.” Katrina sniffed. “I’m getting stuffed up. I think I’m allergic to it.”

“We’re almost home.”

She sniffed again. “Just ask it a question. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

“No. If you’ve been secretly studying Pigeon and want to give it a crack, be my guest. Otherwise, let it go.”

Katrina gave a small noise of exasperation but was silent until they got home. As soon as the car stopped in front of the building, she opened the door and bolted towards the front entrance, not even waiting for the umbrella.

Jeff looked at the meter: $8.50. The pigeon driver didn’t say anything, but Jeff could see it looking in the rearview mirror, waiting. He pulled out a ten.

“Thanks for the lift. Keep the change.”

The pigeon gave a deep cooing sound, like he’d heard from birds on the street, but deeper. It was such a common sound and yet so alien in that situation that Jeff lost his nerve. He dropped the bill into the front passenger seat and bolted out of the cab too. The cab drove away, turning the corner at the end of the block and disappearing from sight.

“I feel like we should say something to someone,” Jeff said as he joined Katrina in the front steps.

“Well, I guess being a taxi driver is okay,” she said. “Maybe if they become doctors.”


A Morning Cup of Danger

A wise man once said that danger is like a fine wine but to Brad it was more like strong coffee: it was a good way to wake up in the morning.

He had recently given up coffee for the same reason an alcoholic gives up keg stands or a gambler gives up Las Vegas: a total lack of moderation. He would drink four cups before work, six cups during work and another four to six cups after work. After a while, he got the impression that this was probably not the healthiest habit—something about the way his doctor kept shouting it at him.

Quitting coffee cold turkey was like eating a grenade: painful and messy. Three days later, Brad’s head pounded like a pile driver, and he felt drugged on the way to work.

“How have you been doing these days, post coffee?” Brad’s co-worker Terrence asked. Brad looked up hopefully; he had only heard the word “coffee”.

“Urghh…” he said finally.

“If you want to really wake up, you should ride in my carpool,” Terrence said. “Sid the janitor insists on driving most of the time, and riding with him is like taking a rollercoaster with no seatbelts. It’s scary, is what I’m saying.”

“Do you think I could?” Brad asked. “Ride in your carpool, I mean?”

Terrence stared at him. “I was just kidding, but yeah, if you really want to. There’s always room in that carpool. I think I hold the record for the longest anyone’s ridden with Sid, and that’s only been about a month. The crazy thing is, he has never had an accident—not even a fender bender or scratched paint. No one can figure it out. Still, not many people can take the intensity for long.”

Brad nodded. “I think I need this. Sign me up.”

The next day, they met at the train station. As usual, Sid was driving. He said he felt uncomfortable being a passenger.

“If you want the maximum effect, sit up front,” Terrence whispered. He jumped in the back seat before Brad could say anything.

Sid had a passion for tropical fish, and rarely talked about anything else. “Do you know anything about tropical fish?” he asked Brad as he whipped left out of the parking lot without checking traffic. He was already eating a donut with one hand, and pulling at the wheel with the other, weaving in and out of morning rush hour traffic without slowing or signaling.

“I’m thinking of getting some Kaudern’s cardinal fish. They start at about 25 bucks, so I probably can’t get more than three. Hold on.” Sid pulled out his phone and glanced at the screen, steering with his knees.

Brad saw the brakes lights of the Chevy Tahoe ahead of them go on, but Sid was still accelerating towards it, frowning at the phone and muttering something about a dentist appointment. At the last minute, he glanced up, dropped the phone on the floor and jerked the car to the right, just missing the Tahoe and cutting off a dump truck in the next lane. He reached down and felt around on the floor for the phone while the car drifted towards the shoulder, still doing 70 miles an hour. They hit the rumble strip just as Sid got the phone and he pulled the car back the other way, overcompensating and almost slamming into the car in the left lane. Brad braced for the rending screech of metal but there was nothing and Sid brought the car into their lane.

“Anyway,” he said in the same tedious tone, “the tank I have is a 64-gallon frameless aquarium with a hyper flow water pump …”

Brad felt like he was truly alive. This was the most alert he had been since giving up coffee. Twenty more minutes of tropical fish lecture and near-death incidents, they arrived at work with Brad awake and ready for the day.

“That was amazing!” Brad said to Terrence later in their office. “It’s like he’s a perfect balance of incompetence and luck. How does he do it, living on that knife edge between safety and utter annihilation all the time?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think you’ll be able to stand it very long,” Terrence said. “I’ll give you two weeks before it all starts to get to you.”

But it didn’t get to Brad. He rode with Sid every day and arrived at work, awake and ready to work. If anything, the effect of Sid’s insane driving dulled over time. Two months after he had started riding with Sid, Brad confessed this to Terrence.

“I don’t know, but it’s not the same anymore,” he said. “Like yesterday, when Sid hit that patch of ice going 90 miles an hour, did a complete spin in front of the snowblower and just missed going over the embankment into the river. Honestly, it didn’t do that much for me. I mean, yeah, it was dangerous and all, but where’s the thrill?”

Terrence laughed, a little uneasily. “Well, I suppose it could always be more dangerous.”

“Do you mean like drugging Sid or loosening up the bolts on his wheels?” Brad asked. “I thought of that, but getting up early and going by Sid’s house every morning—it seems like so much work.” Terrence gave a little nervous laugh and bolted out of Brad’s office.

Two days later, Brad got an envelope from his doctor. Inside were two pieces of paper. The first was a note that said: Your co-worker told me about your situation. I hope this helps.

The second paper was a prescription for one cup of coffee, taken (orally) every morning.

 

Epilogue

Brad stopped riding with Sid every day. He found that one cup of coffee was enough to keep him functional and employed. Every so often, he would ride with Sid for the same reason other people go to an amusement park. Sid never got in an accident, and later changed careers to become a demolition derby driver. He attained legendary status as the only driver in the history of the sport to never lose a car.


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