Wherever the Impala was, it wasn’t here. I figured that it was either A) still parked in front of the Barking Spider, or B) at whatever airport we had flown out of, or C) someplace else. Shouldn’t be too hard to track down unless it was at “B” or “C”. But that didn’t help me now. We needed some wheels.
Simon could actually help in this respect, which is one reason why I bring him along on these things. He doesn’t know anything important about cars – like which ones are cool, which ones are chick bait, etc. – but he does know some of the useful boring things; like how ignition systems work. That knowledge comes in pretty handy when you need to do things like hot-wiring.
He also knew how to open locked doors, but hell, I can do that. Only difference is that he picks the lock while I just throw a brick through the window. Sure, my way gets glass all over the seats, but it’s a lot faster. Since he was along though, I figured I’d let him do it his way. It’d give him a sense of worth and none of us would ruin our pants.
“How about that one?” I said, pointing to an older (but cherry) Corvette. “I’ve always wanted a ’68. Chrome bumpers, Candy Apple Red, and just look at that rear end. Bet we can score some real skank with that.”
Simon sucked his teeth in an exasperated way, which meant that he was getting ready to correct me on something. This usually pisses me off and I’ve been known to pop him one in the jaw when he did it, but with my hands full with Jimmy and my bag, he probably figured he was safe.
“It’s not a ’68, Dick, it’s a 1970,” he said.
“Yeah. The differences are ridiculously easy to spot.”
“Yes, really. I could maybe understand someone not noticing the squared exhaust ports or front parking lights, but you’d have to be blind not to see the egg-crate side vents or wheel flares behind all four tires. None of which were available in either ’68 or ‘69.”
“And GM has never offered Candy Apple Red as a stock color option for Corvettes – certainly not for the C3’s anyway. This would be Monza Red, unless it’s been repainted. And judging from the big block hood, this particular car has the optional 390 horse 454 with a 4-speed transmission and 10.25:1 compression ratio.”
“Well. Alright,” I said. “Is that good?”
“Depends on your definition of ‘good’. If it’s to go really, really fast and burn a shitload of hi-octane gasoline, then yes, it’s good.”
“Coolness,” I said nodding. “Let’s go then.”
“Uh, Dick,” Simon said, “There are three of us, and one of us happens to be taped to a surfboard. How do you expect us to all fit in this car?”
Just like Simon to ruin everything with realism.
I debated for a moment about just how much I really needed Jimmy along, but in the end, decided I couldn’t leave him. He’d never figure out how to get out of the parking garage.
“Alright, well, let’s find something else then,” I said, none too happy at having to pass up the ‘vette.
In the end, we narrowed it down to two potential vehicles; a Plymouth Voyager (Simon’s choice) or one of those new turbo Porsche SUV’s (my choice). Simon droned on endlessly about all of the logical merits of the minivan; plenty of room for all of us and our stuff, built-in cup holders and child safety seat, blah, blah, blah. I countered with the logical merits of the 450 HP Porsche, like having plenty of room for all of us and our stuff, scoring chicks, and having the ability to go 160 mph up a steep mountain path, should that ever be necessary.
In the end, I got tired of arguing with him and just settled it by throwing a brick through the window of the Porsche.
Simon wasn’t happy about it, but he set about sweeping the shattered glass off of the seat and getting the thing started anyway.
I shoehorned Jimmy into the back and placated Simon by telling him that we were doing the right thing. Whoever owned the minivan probably had a lot of kids and a single income; taking their van would be devastating. Not having any children or a single income himself, this seemed to really strike home with Simon.
As for the owner of the Porsche, well, come on, it’s a Porsche.
The handling of our newly acquired off road vehicle was a little squirrelly and took me a while to get used to. On the way down the spiral exit ramp, the rear end got away from me and I left some paint on the wall. Then, after paying our parking fee, I shot off the line too fast and grazed the barrier arm at the ticket booth before it got all the way up. Good thing it wasn’t my car or I would have been pissed.
After misreading the traffic signs and circling the airport three times, I decided to take matters into my own hands and just drive over the medians and embankments in the general direction I wanted to go. I’ll say this: although I sincerely doubt that any other Porsche SUV will ever have its tires actually touch dirt, they can rip up some sod if you need them too.
We headed up to Winter Land. Where I live. At least I think that’s where I live. Hard to tell sometimes. Everything down here is called Winter Something. Winter Springs, Winter Haven, Winter Park, Winter Etc. Drove me crazy. On more than one occasion I wound up sleeping in someone else’s house simply out of confusion. Never caused a problem though. People were pretty used to that kind of thing. It happened a lot.
I figured we’d crash at my house for a few hours and sort things out. Jimmy woke up on the way and had to pee, so we stopped off at a Mobil station, stripped the duct tape off him (there was some screaming involved here), and pointed him to the bathroom. We picked up some chips and beer while we were there too.
The frenetic pace of the past few days was starting to catch up with me and I was dragging hard when we finally turned onto my street. I’m a man of action as you are well aware, but even us worldly types get fazed sometimes, and I’ll admit that I was really looking forward to just being home for a while.
As I pulled up to my driveway, two things happened simultaneously; I suddenly remembered that I had indeed forgotten to turn off the coffee pot before I left, and I noticed a big smoking hole in the ground where my house used to be.
“Duuuuuude, bummer,” Jimmy said.
I sighed and felt my head loll forward as a feeling of utter dismay robbed my body of energy. I rarely do that – head lolling that is – but there are times when it is certainly understandable if not totally appropriate and I figured this was one of those times. Or the other.
Simon made an admirable attempt at legitimate consolation. “I’m truly sorry,” he said. “What a rotten time to have your house burn down.”
Idiot. Like there’s ever a good time to have your house burn down. But that wasn’t really what was wearing on me at the moment. Up until about 60 seconds ago, I wasn’t even aware that I had a house, so I didn’t feel a lot of loss. That’s what was wearing on me.
See, that’s the part about being a figment of someone’s imagination that’s the hardest to deal with. I find out about things the same time you do. I mean, let me ask you a question: what do you really know about me? Only what I’ve told you, right? You just automatically assume that what I’ve told you is only a small portion of my life. That there’s a whole lifetime of experiences that you don’t know about.
Problem is, there’s not. What I’ve told you about me is also all I know about me. My entire existence, all the things I do, all the people I know -my entire world – is all subject to the whims of someone else. They want to burn down my house – poof – it’s toast. They want me to punch someone – smack – I deck ‘em, even if I didn’t really want to. And I have no past at all. At least, not until someone makes it up for me.
Don’t believe me? Okay, watch this. My house for instance, the same one that had apparently just changed itself back into isolated components of the periodic table, had been really cool. From the outside, it was nothing special; just a single story ranch. But inside it had a definite masculine feel; lots of wood, an open kitchen with a bar, and a sunken den with a 42” plasma TV and surround sound. Comfortable furniture. Nice covered porch off the back with a built in grill, pool and hot tub.
Now, all that? Everything I just told you? It’s bullshit. I don’t mean that it’s not true – it is, now, and from the sound of it I’m really gonna miss the old place – but until just now, it didn’t exist. I didn’t know about any of those things until just this very moment. That’s my life. That’s how it works. I become aware of my world as it happens. And if someone hadn’t thought me up and taken the time to write this, I wouldn’t be here at all.
For a tough guy, that’s kind of a fragile existence.
I opened the glove compartment and after rummaging around for a few seconds uncovered a bottle of Xanax. Didn’t think the owner would mind my borrowing a few (at least not any more than he would at borrowing his car) so I popped a couple.
I sat back, evaluated the situation, and listened to Jimmy and Simon arguing over whether or not you’d die if you ate the stuff that was inside a Stretch Armstrong – Jimmy insisted you would – and started feeling better as the drugs kicked in.
By the way, I’m sorry for laying all that on you. Everybody’s got their own problems and last I checked you weren’t Dr. Phil. Hey, you either learn to overcome your obstacles or you learn to live with them, right? Besides, it could be worse. I mean, I may only be a figment of someone’s imagination, but at least someone did think of me.
“It won’t kill you,” I told Jimmy. “Do you really think anyone would be stupid enough to fill the inside of a children’s toy – one with a fairly delicate rubber covering I might add – with a toxic substance?”
“I told you! I told you!” Simon yelled, smug and triumphant.
“Oh, knock it off Simon,” I said. “We’ve got things to do.”
“Like what?” he replied.
“Like finding a place to crash for the night.”
“Well, we could get a hotel,” Simon offered.
“Hey, I know what,” said Jimmy. “Hold on.”
He opened the door, scrambled over to my mailbox, and after heaving and pulling for a few minutes was able to get it out of the ground. He ran with it down the street to the house next door, the one that belonged to the Mitchell’s, who were visiting relatives in Virginia. He struggled with their mailbox for a few minutes, and after finally yanking it up, stuck mine in the ground in its place, then put the Mitchell’s mailbox back where mine used to be. The switch complete, he jumped back into the car, grinning like a kid.
“Check it out man,” he said.
“Oh, that’s just stupid,” Simon said. “I mean, what? We’re already driving a stolen car, now were just going to move in next door, pretend that this is Dick’s house and that it was actually his neighbor’s house that burned down?”
“Hold on there, Simon,” I said. “This might work out just fine. I mean, I’ve always liked Bob & Janey’s house, and let’s face it, I’ve owned hammers that were smarter than they are. They might not notice.”
Simon didn’t like it, but hey, big surprise there. We parked the car and got our stuff out. I checked out my new digs, noticed that my yard looked a little shaggy, and made a mental note to fire my lawn service. It only takes one bad neighbor to ruin a good neighborhood.
I have to admit, it felt right, my new house. And when my old key unlocked the door, I knew that it was meant to be. Either that or I’ve been having an affair with Janey that was serious enough to warrant her giving me my own key. I didn’t think I was that much of a dirtbag to do something like that to my friend Bob, so the fact that my key fit the door must have simply just meant that this was supposed to be my house.
Don’t overanalyze things, that’s my motto. No wait, that’s not my motto at all; my motto is “deny everything.” Or is it . . . oh, nevermind.
We made ourselves at home (why wouldn’t we?), took showers and grilled some steaks. I discovered that not only did I have cable, but 12 premium channels too, and soon all three of us were relaxing in front of the tube watching Rocky IV and downing some cold beers. I felt better than I had in weeks. Clean shaven, well fed, relaxed. Life wasn’t so very bad at the moment.
I sure was going to miss that 42” plasma TV though.