Joe Taylor






To begin with, the ride over here was . . . well, I really can’t say much about that because my driver’s head mesmerized me as would a translucent strawberry lollipop—so much so that when we stopped, I leaned to give him a kiss, one of those swank European two-cheekers, except I couldn’t reach his other cheek, since he refused to turn it and since I sat in the passenger’s seat. For his own part, as I disembarked he mystically managed to swat my rear end with a thwack I’m feeling yet—and most likely will never forget.

There would soon be thirteen of us, as I just mentioned, with my arrival capping some middling number, say six or seven. Surely it was lucky seven. Since the first six stood huddled in a circle, like a sheep I baaed over in hopes of joining them. They were gathered along the lips of an iron vulviform, perhaps an ancient oil derrick or water well that plunged into a verdant hillock. Scientists, I thought. Then I reconsidered:  maybe even alchemists . . . or farmers. Hoping for a cue, I glanced back for the driver, but he’d departed.

A creaking space formed between two of my new comrades, reminiscent of a carbon atom’s electron shell welcoming an electron with a sizzling energy jump. So I bonded. How I wish I could tell you about the breeze atop that hillock as I did. But there was none. I wistfully sniffed, this way and that, my nostrils huffing and expanding like bellows—then I gave up and searched for the rusty plowshare I’d espied when climbing upward. But there was none. The plowshare, I did mention it, didn’t I?

Finally, numbers eight through thirteen arrived. For lack of breeze, plowshare, or other directive to our activities, we speechlessly circled the vulviform, occasionally pointing at a spotted or imagined protuberance, all the while moving faster in a frantic game of snap-the-whip until one of us gasped, stutter-stopped and pointed, yanking our whole DNA (if you will) strand into a stumbling shambles. Stacking upon one another, we leaned ensemble until we could see that the sunken iron—derrick? well? gate?—edifice we stood over sported a huge rusty hinge twenty, thirty yards down. Had I mistaken it for the plow? But then, how could I have spotted—


This belch seemed to emanate from the iron, for it resonated wild and cold. At first it pleaded like a Greek waiter serving flaming dessert and offering a frantic toast for universal frivolity and tips. “Not a waiter, but a cheffess.” This comment arose from comrade number three, whose brows wriggled in a wise, classical fashion—Cheffess? I wondered at that word choice, but then the edifice herself rumbled and quaked, as if angry at being observed, angry and sickened at finding her circling observers so . . . uncertain? So irrelevant, at best. Herself? Why did I think that?


We scattered, tumbling down the hillock just in time to see a driver unloading a semi-trailer full of new, variegated automobiles. It was the lollipop man, so I waved. Of course he didn’t see me, for being translucent he was also blind. As the last car coasted freely down the trailer’s smooth hydraulic ramp, he tossed something that jangled against the arid ground; then he motored off. Since waving was useless, I sighed very loudly. He offered no response.


The edifice delivered another iron shudder. Fearing she might unhinge, we scooted toward the cars. Three of them—did I mention?—were those new, cutely humped VWs. Well, the pharaohs erected pyramids from slave labor, and the southeastern United States of America is still dotted with dry-rot plantation houses built the same way. At least Volkswagen is making reparations to the assembly-line slaves it appropriated during the Second War of the Petunias. Anyhow, one mustn’t hold grudges against corporations or flowering entities.

We’d trotted close enough to see that the driver had tossed down a gaggle of car keys. One of us dived, then glanced around shame-faced. Shame-faced or not, he’d pocketed one of those VW ignition keys. Several comrades huffed and puffed, but it was I who wound up with the third VW key. I’m not sure what attracted us to those little cars. I mean, there were two Mercedes, a Lincoln Town Car, an Audi, a Toyota, and others fancy enough, but it became clear from the developing fracas that we all desired one of the three bugs. I suppose that was it: their carapaces offered the homey exoskeletons we so needed.


Beside the keys lay a pile of guns. Surely I did mention that, didn’t I? Instead of parceling factoid directionals, I really must try to place the entirety of the full-blown facts before you at once, so you can form a rational judgment, perhaps even derive a categorical imperative or so. There was a pile of guns—loaded, too. I, with my third and last VW key, snatched up a Remington 12-gauge pump, serial number 77654A73-X, with a limited edition blond walnut stock depicting a proud and prancing stag, a nineteen-pointer. Teutonic in origin, judging from size and ferocity. Waving the shotgun in an ensorceling circle I ran for my new VW, an orange pumpkin of a dream car. Hearing shots behind me, I jerked off the safety and discharged a few shells, bruising my arm since I cradled the weapon stupidly. Then I was in my exoskeleton and off.

80 . . . 90 . . . 100. I couldn’t tell whether the speedometer was registering kilometers or miles—one more annoying factoid, but that’s not my fault, for the language thereupon speedo parsèd could not be. On the passenger seat I noted a copy of TIME or Der Spiegel. Whichever, I knew it would be replete with helpful, friendly facts. Just as I was thumbing it for a good read, I glanced up and saw a person in the middle of—no, I can’t really claim I was driving along a road or even a Roman Way. It was more like an arable field, something one might encounter between the Tigris and Euphrates. Seeing the ruffian trampling this laden field, my first instinct was to grip the steering wheel and push the gas pedal even deeper, but I swerved at the last instant. In my rear view, the bipedal creature grinned sardonically and either waved or shook his fist in a most Pleistocene manner. I noticed the same missing tooth, the same crippled arm as I’d contracted from the so-recent key-ring fracas. Did I mention that I was in nearly constant pain from that fight?

I’ve been driving over twenty-four hours since. Or maybe it’s years. The gauge doesn’t say. If I peer very hard into my mirror, I can espy the bipedal figure following me, lurching left then right, as if he’s searching out some runic clue. Sometimes, when the dust isn’t too bad, I open a window on my carapace and wave or even yell back at him. “Look under that rock! Climb that tree, why don’t you!”

The gas indicator has barely budged. There are apples I eat; they taste mostly of sour grapes. The newsmagazine has disappeared; I suppose it slipped onto the floorboard or behind the seat. That’s okay because I noticed my name on the subscriber label, though in moments of panic I can’t envision the expiration date. Still, news will come. Facts will arrive. Did I mention where I’m heading? One more lacunaical factoid, I fear. No matter, I’ll twist logical sense into it all before I get there.

I have to.


Copyright © 2004 Joe Taylor.  All Rights Reserved.


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