One night...

Anton M Miller

I decided to leave the city.
It no longer bothered me that somewhere in the boot of m car, a pair of short swords, a large revolver, a half page of acid and what had been a kilo of hash were thrown carelessly under some hastily packed clothes. No, the thing that worried me now was the overpowering fear of the dishevelled homeless man on the street that had watched me load my car. Something about his eyes I think.

And so here I was tearing along the highway, somewhere between the city and nowhere, on a journey of no real purpose. Armed to the teeth, doped to the eye balls and up to my neck in worries, my body seemed to be having more fun than I was. I attributed this to the fact that my pipe had finally run dry and I freed the steering wheel from my vice like grip to search the central console for something to refill it with.
If you're wondering why I was gripping the wheel so tight, you should try driving around here. Signs clearly say "Keep left unless overtaking". It makes a lot of sense to follow them.
But obviously people don't.

So when I come flying down the overtaking lane, doing just that at over one hundred and thirty kilometers an hour and find someone crawling along at ninety parallel to someone doing the same, it's a mite frustrating.
It's also why my pipe was prematurely empty. The perfect nuclear family drove past me in the opposite direction, and I waved at them with both hands, crowing "Look Ma! No hands!" as they flew past, 2.5 children staring at me with their television eyes.

I found a small bag of grass and shoved the bowl of my traditional black tobacco-pipe into the baggy and loaded it. The car slowly crawled over to the right and I grabbed the wheel with my teeth to guide it back while I continued loading the pipe. After a few minutes of this madness, I was satisfied that the pipe was full and regrasped the steering wheel, clamping the stem of the pipe between my incisors.
A few seconds of scrabbling in my pockets produced a small lighter and I aimed it at the bowl. A six-inch gout of flame rocketed down to the bowl as I sparked it, then ricocheted into my face.

"Dear God!", I yelped and dropped the lighter. I still had the presence of mind to keep a hold on the pipe and the shock had luckily made me inhale at the proper moment. Acrid smoke curled down to my lungs dangerously fast and my eyes watered. I croaked a small 'Amen', the smoke making my voice deep and gravelly.
And so, with bloodshot eyes, croaking voice and spinning head, I pulled into the next service station. The attendant watched me in either awe or horror as I stalked my way around the shop.
Perhaps my manner was unusual to him, I thought.
Or my clothing, I replied more assuredly. Black greatcoat over a Mandarin-collared cotton shirt of dubious origins and odd colouring, tattered black cargo pants and a pair of oxy cutting goggles with the shades flipped up holding back a wild mess of black hair.
I assume that I'm a fairly scary individual from the way people react.

The attendant doesn't speak to me as I load my prizes onto the counter, although maybe he does and I'm just imagining the whole silent treatment. Either way he is rushing, to get me away from him I guess, and he undercharges me. I thrust a fist holding three twenty-dollar notes at him and growl in the back of my throat,
"You have undercharged me shopkeep...I demand recompensation in the negative!"
Evidently he understands me and quickly scans the items through again, this time reaching what I read as the correct figure and gladly pay.
The anger I felt subsides, and it is only now that I realise how far I was willing to go to pay the right amount. I never seem to get great service from these places unless I walk there.

I gather up my new belongings, wobbling a little more than normal but definitely clearer in mind. I march out to the small car I have been controlling for the far has it been?
Even I don't know.
The car looks blue at the moment, but often appears green or some colour between the two. I have spent times just admiring those colours, but now is not one of those times.
Hobo or no, I have to get to somewhere safe as fast as possible - It's too dangerous to be driving in my current state.
I throw my shopping onto the back seat, close the door (I may be erratically hyperactive, but I care for my car) then jump in the front seat and floor it.
When the revs have died down, I apply the clutch, put the car in gear and floor it again. With a squeal and a burst of smoke, I'm off again.

Over an hour later, I'm back in the city, fearing the inevitable drive through the Central Business District.
All too soon it happens and I'm thrown into this mess of manic drivers and suicidal pedestrians.
Humans are not designed to drive in the city; I believe it makes them revert to the level of a panicked rodent. Stops and starts are erratic, corners are taken at wheel warping speeds. I can't say I'm any better, if anything I'm worse, but I always drive like that and have become somewhat accustomed to it.
When you combine this method of driving with the maddeningly complex and badly designed combination of one way streets, no turns and unexplained dead ends, it's odd that I'm yet to see evidence of an accident of any size in the city.

After looping around for the third time, I'm finally in the correct lane to mount the bridge and make my way on to the freeway. From the last twenty minutes of driving, I feel it is safe to assume that I am blessed.
ETA to the nearest safe haven is about twenty minutes, assuming I remember where to go.

No such luck it appears as I throw my car off the freeway and drop the anchors until I am cruising at a steady seventy clicks. I instead decide to head for home. The first light I face is green and I continue to cruise.
But then I am faced with a red light. I handle this new challenge remarkably well, considering that I'm still in the desperate throes of a stress induced stoner binge. A keep-clear zone is marked in front of me and I slow to a halt just before it.

"Good work, Mr Cat" I congratulate myself, just before my world is jolted left. An aging Holden forces it's way past me, over the keep-clear zone, over the traffic island in the middle of the four lane road, into the oncoming traffic then into the turning lane in front of me, my eventual target if there had been no other traffic to block me like I should have been blocking this interloper.
I catch a glance at the numberplate of this horrendous diabolus of a driver and it is burned into my memory to become a warcry of sorts:
"553 FOXTROT NOVEMBER INDIA! Prepare for a message from Tony!"

The light changes to green and 553 Foxtrot November India is off. I slam my car into gear and follow at high speed. My car slides a little as I round the corner at about sixty, indicator flashing, darts across the lanes at about seventy, opposite indicator flashing and is level at one hundred and twenty, no indicators, when I regain contact with Foxtrot November India. The hunt is on!

We race neck and neck down the road, then fly through a "turn left at any time". I trace close behind, not giving in to the impulse to flash my high beams like a lot of other drivers would do. More corners follow, a right, then another right, one more right, bringing us back onto the road where we first raced - they were leading me in circles! This called for drastic measures.
Taking a leaf from the book of Sun Tzu (“The Art of War” ) I dropped back, appearing to surrender. Foxtrot November India continued, leaving me behind. I stayed far enough back to disappear, but not enough to lose them.
That’s the good thing about grey/dark blue/dark green cars, they’re inconspicuous and blend into the road, making them perfect for car chases, making them the colour of choice for many FBI cars.
After a while of driving that was apparently designed to lose me, they assumed I was lost and pulled into a house. Already having turned off my lights, I pulled up slowly, cursing squeaky brakes aloud.

They didn’t notice me however and soon Foxtrot November India itself was alone. I crept up beside it in my own car and popped the boot. Reaching beneath the clothes, I located something long since forgotten, a modified nail gun. Beside this I found a simple bugle.
Putting the bugle to my lips, I trumpeted out the traditional fanfare to signify the fox was found. Giving a cry of “Tarantula!” I bounded over to Foxtrot November India and fired a quintet of four inch nails into the driver’s door. I was about to leave when I spotted the whitewall tyres.
“Expensive...” I hissed, before relieving the tyres of their strain with a few more nails.

And then, I left.

A short time later, I was home again. The homeless man was long gone, but I could sense that he would return at some unknown time to watch me again. I knew that I had to work fast. Tearing off a piece of acid soaked paper from the half page I had with me, I slipped it under my tongue and reloaded my pipe.
Once again, I nearly destroyed my cultivated facial hair with a burst of flame. I was ready to research now.

The acid began to take hold as I rummaged through the boxes of my belongings, searching for a clue to my plans for the night. Dark shapes pressed out from the walls and I beat them back with one hand while pouring myself into a box. The shapes were nearly unbearable and I was beginning to recognise some of them when I found it.
“Eureka chalky lay!” I yodelled and nearly tore the sheet as I lifted it dramatically from the box. The paper gave off a white light that forced the dark shapes back as I read it.
Forseeing the difficulty I was going to have tonight, I had written myself a letter, containing an address, then hidden them in the least obvious place to look.

Of course, I had found them in the nick of time! And now I had a party to get to, stoned on dope and wild on acid! It was time to set off.

As I stepped outside, my worst fears were realised - not only was the hobo back, but he had brought friends! Yelling in fear and anger, I dashed past them and flung myself into my car recklessly. The hobos quickly got out of my way and I drove off at speed. I only calmed down when they were far behind me.

I was struck with the notion of buying a bottle of alcohol. After all, this was a party I was going to. My car obliged and led me too the nearest drive-bottle-o.
Whoever came up with the idea of an alcohol shop you drive into was a genius. Also a fool.
We all know what happens to people who mix alcohol and automobiles. Same deal with drugs, but we all think ‘That will never be me’. Unfortunately, so do I, but that can’t be helped.

Climbing out with legs and arms well out of control I inspected the range available with wild eyes. One bottle in particular seemed to glow with inner light and I lifted it easily from it’s shelf.
“You better not be lying bottle, or I shall smite thee!”, I whispered to it.
The attendant eyed me warily then turned away again to adjust the bottles on the shelf behind him.

I sneak over to him and place the bottle silently on the counter, the cough lightly. He jumps and whirls around, apparently expecting an attack. I’m deeply hurt and tell him so.
“I’m deeply hurt,” I say, “Why do you treat me like this?”
“Are you going to buy that?” he replies, answering a question with a question, evidently hoping I wont notice. I sigh.
“Yes, I’m afraid so. Sorry.”
Money is exchanged and I own a bottle of Tequila.

I’m driving again, unsure of my destination, so I drive randomly. Sudden inspiration hits me and I pull out the paper I found.
Scribbled on the paper is the address and I immediately head to this strangely familiar location. My fuel tank is nearly empty and in a drugged interpretation of physics, I decide that driving faster and not stopping will use less fuel due to inertia.
I’m not worried about speed traps, I’m yet to be caught.

I arrive at the address less than an hour later and am shocked to see that the hobos are there already.
“Hardly surprising,” I mutter, “This is my house.”
I realise that I’m right. I’m having a party then it seems. I notice the hobos are remarkably clean in a dishevelled way that looks crafted. Many also carry bottles of alcohol.
Uni students I think. Of course.

I barge past them and into my house, luckily left unlocked so the party already started.
From here on, with a cry of “Lets sip the drugs of war!” my life gets interesting.

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