Nicholas Ball SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron
“Road Trip” Part I by Nicholas “Me need credibility!” Ball
Bit before the story: Hey there! This is a naff little story I did so I could bug Ashrin out. It features Vachon (of ‘Queen Of Rain’ fame) and Jeremy (of RPG misfame) going on a road trip. Hence the name. I never got the reply to my email asking if Vach has a female or male voice, so I’ve assumed it’s sort of high/husky typical female voice for this nasty little piece of work. Apologies to Ashrin if I really screwed the char up, but, if it’s any compensation, well, I ripped a story of yours off as a joke. Actually, that doesn’t sound like compensation much at all. In fact, I think it’s another bad thing. Oops. Onto the story.
The kat leant against the semi-trailer at the dockyards, and hugged his jacket further around himself, to fight off the pre-dawn cold. It was that peculiar part of the day where you’re in the next day, but it’s still dark, as the sun hasn’t risen yet. That time when you don’t know if it’s really early or really late. The kat shivered, just as a fox stepped from the shadows.
The kat rushed forward and hugged the fox close to him.
“It’s so good to see you!”
“You know, we did speak on the phone last night, Jeremy. Are you ready?”
“Sure” Jeremy said. He released the fox, and picked up his bag.
“And you’re right to come along?”
“Yep. I’ve never been on one of these things before”
“Well, yes, but I meant how I’ve never been on a cargo run before”
“Oh, well, they’re pretty simple. You drive a bit, pick up some stuff, drive a bit more, then drop it off. Reckon you can handle it?”
“I’ll try” Jeremy replied, with all seriousness.
“Good. Hop in”
The kat opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. He set his bag on the floor, buckled his seat belt, and looked up.
“Wow. I never knew that these things were so high up”
“Do you mind if I play some music?” Vachon asked, as she started the semi.
“Me? No. What kind?”
Vachon put a cassette in the stereo player, and put the truck into gear.
The truck slowly turned, and set out on the main road.
“You know why you’re here?”
“Actually…no. I thought it was just like some sort of road trip”
“That’s exactly what it is. A road trip. It just gets a little lonely sometimes on these things, and I thought you might like to come and keep me company. That’s alright with you, isn’t it?”
“That’s fine. I like travelling”
Jeremy stared out the window at the pre-dusk skyline over MegaKat City.
“Do you do it much?”
“Travelling. Do you travel much?”
“Me? No. I used to. All the time”
“Really? Anywhere in particular?”
“All over the world. We used to go visit all of our relatives quite a bit. I’ve been to Scotland, England, Russia, Canada, Japan, Ireland, France and here. Haven’t gone anywhere recently. I haven’t been out of the city in the past 6 years. Except when I went to Anakata Island, and even then it was to try and stop Dark Kat from blowing it up”
“Sounds like you need a holiday”
“I really appreciate this. Thank you”
I initially offered Jeremy a job, as ‘Assistant Trucker’ or something, to have him come on a cargo run. But he was totally against that – turned out that he didn’t like the concept of me paying him. He doesn’t like to get money, I’ve learnt. Pretty funny, for a kat who spent 6 or so years living on Social Security and payments from his family’s trust fund, but maybe that’s why. Anyway, so I thought that I’d be going solo again, when he asked me if he ‘could come along, but not get paid. Like a holiday, a ‘road trip”. I said yes. And so me and Jeremy set out.
“GOODBYE, MEGAKAT CITY!”
“Goodbye, MegaKat City!”
“We haven’t left it yet, you know. That sign’s just for tourists”
“Oh. Tell me when we do leave”
There was a short pause, and Jeremy looked around the cabin of the semi for quite some time.
“You know, Dirk was once hit by one of these.”
“Dirk. He’s a friend of mine. I think. Once, he was hit by a semi trailer”
“Was he alright?”
“That’s the funny thing. He used to be a dangerous psychotic type of guy, who wanted to get revenge on Feral, but after he was hit by the semi, he was all normal and nice. I don’t get it. Maybe a semi trailer does the job of a good pre-frontal lobotomy”
“It doesn’t. Take it from someone who knows”
“Anyway, I think he’s all psycho again. Also, his shirts keep disappearing, so he walks around everywhere shirtless. I used to think that someone was hiding them as a prank, but now I’m starting to wonder if maybe he himself hides them, just so he can show off his muscles”
“He has muscles?”
“Huge ones. He’s like a huge lion. Looks a bit like one. I try not to get him mad”
“Do you compliment him on his muscles? He’d like that”
“He’d probably think I’m gay. If he doesn’t already”
“Are you gay?”
“Me? I don’t know. I sort of talked through it all a few weeks back with a friend. I’m hoping that I’m straight. How about you?”
“I’m a hermaphrodite, Jeremy. I can’t have sexual desires towards any members of my sex, because I don’t have a sex”
“It’s alright. I shouldn’t have phrased it like that. So, you got a girlfriend at the moment?”
“No, I’m not g-”
“Yes, Jeremy? You were saying?” Vachon remarked, looking up with interest.
“I’m not…gay” Jeremy said, staring into thin air.
“But how did-”
“Your subconscious holds alot more than you think – and you can’t see it’s there. Until you bring it up, say as a question in a conversation”
“So you’re saying that I knew that I wasn’t gay all along, and all this time I’ve just been..what..fooling myself?”
“Pretty much. Doesn’t it feel good?”
“I don’t know….so I’m straight then….”
Vachon gave Jeremy a sideways look, one that she kept for occasions when she wanted to look as sly as possible.
“We’ll have to test that later”
“I..what? Huh? Wait – You..you said..but..when I-”
“Come on, Jeremy, all scientific theories have to be tested, and retested, and retested and retes-”
“Tested?? But I..when…I…listen..I’m..when..I-”
“Oh, relax Jeremy. I’m only teasing. That is…unless you WANT me to test you, would you like that Jeremy? Would you like to be TESTED by me?”
“Next time I’m having a joke with you, I’ll have to hold my paw in the air like this, so you can tell”
“Would you? I’d appreciate i- what? Why are you looking at me like that?”
Vachon waggled her paw in the air.
“THAT was a joke, too. You’re not very good at noticing you’re being teased, are you?”
“…Never mind. And we’re leaving MegaKat City…….now.”
“Goodbye, MegaKat City!”
Okay, the first night was a bit confusing. As all first nights are.
“-So, there’s still one more evil you out there?”
Jeremy hugged his shins tighter to himself, to keep out the cold. Vachon looked up at him, through the fire.
“…Yes” Jeremy said eventually. “And he’s even more dangerous than the others”
“Really? Do tell. I thought they were all the same.”
“They ARE all the same, but the thing is, this one knows that he’s the last one left, and whereas the other me’s only wanted to kill me because they were evil, this one wants to off me more, because he think that I’m the one that killed all of his brethern. Look, I’m even talking like him now. That’s what he talks like. ‘Thou hast slain my brethern’ and stuff”
“Have you seen him?”
“Well, I thought I saw him at the shops the other day, but it probably wasn’t him. He sends me mail and phones me up, like all the others did, but he says badder things. I’m really afraid of him, and what he could do”
“But you haven’t told the others?”
“Your friends at the garage – the ones that helped you fight them in the Parking Lot”
“No..I haven’t told them. I don’t think I will”
“Why? They only want to help you”
“I know, I know. But the last time they..got involved…no, I can’t. I’ll be fine. He’ll spend alot of time planning his next move, and he only wants me, not the others”
Jeremy released his shins to hold his paws out to the campfire. Vachon saw this, and moved around to the other side of the fire, so she sat next to him.
“That’s better” she said, taking her new seat. “Now, I want you to promise me something”
“Yes?” Jeremy turned his head to look at her.
“When this bad you finally does come out of the woodwork, and he tells you to come along to his elaborate little James Bond death trap of his, I want you to let me know. Promise that”
“But I don’t think that you should-”
“Maybe I won’t. But I just need you to promise that to me. Please”
“Okay. I promise”
“Thank you” said Vachon. “Now, we should be getting off to bed”
“Yes, bed. Sleep. There’s only one actual bed, and that’s the cabin. So I thought we’d share. That’s fine, isn’t it?”
“Umm….I’ll tell you what. You take the cabin. I’ll sleep here”
“You’ll sleep here? I don’t think so. It’s freezing”
Jeremy let go of his shins and shook his blanket off.
“Look, I’m fine. I’ve got a blanket, and the fire’s warm. I’d like to sleep out here. You have the cabin”
“Good night, then. See you in the morning”
You should have seen Jeremy the next morning. I got out of the semi, and I saw that he was still asleep, but he had the cutest little smile on his face, so I crept over to get a closer look, and there he was, he looked like the mose peaceful little creature on earth. Looked like. I touched him to wake him up, and I found he was ice cold. I mean ICE COLD. I originally thought he was dead, but then he sat up and said ‘Good Morning’ to me, so I suppose he wasn’t. The fact was, he looked warm, but he wasn’t. Appearances can be deceptive. Mind you, I’d know about that. The next day was uneventful, but ended with another campfire in the woods type thingy….
“Once I called her by her real name – Dorothy, and she burnt all of my clothes. She even tried to burn the ones that I was wearing, but they were too wet, from the washing machine”
“You put clothes on directly from the washing machine? No wonder they were wet”
“No, I was already wearing them. She locked me in the washing machine until I said ‘Ace is perfect in all her strengths and wonderfullnessesses’”
“She locked you in the washing machine?!?”
“It’s not so bad after the first few times. It becomes a bit like a carnival ride, once you learn to hold your breath”
“….so I take it you call her Ace now”
“Yes”. Jeremy yawned, and stretched his arms out.
“My sentiments exactly. We’ve got an early start tomorrow. And tonight – you are sleeping with me. No if’s, no but’s”
“Nuh-uh-uh! The judge’s decision is final”
“Are you going to come quietly?”
“I might have to tie you up, if you’re like that”
“Eee! I..uh…umm…I haven’t..”
“Why are you so uptight? Look at you – you’re crimson!”
“I..I…I’ve never slept with anyone before” Jeremy muttered, and stared down at his paws.
“You’ve never slept with anyone before? What do you mean you’ve nev- Aww, not THAT! I meant sleep with me as in the sense that we would both SLEEP in the same place, together! I didn’t mean THAT. How could you think I meant…ah. I see that some of the things I said might have been a bit of a double entendre. Listen, relax. I don’t mean that. We are both going to SLEEP in the cabin tonight. When I found you this morning, you were almost frozen solid. Besides we’re in rattlesnake county. Now get in the cabin, before I resort to some of the more drastic means I have at my disposal”
Jeremy got into the cabin.
HIDE N SEEK
We were at the first motel, and it was one of those SLOW days. You know the type. It’s raining, there’s no good books around and nothing watchable on TV. You can’t eat or sleep, because you’re too bored to be hungry or tired. We were both bored out of our skulls, when Jeremy had an idea. He turns to me and says-
“How about some ‘Hide N Seek’?”
“You know – ‘Hide N Seek’. Where one person hides and the other person-”
“Seeks. Yeah. I know. Don’t you think that we’re a bit…BIG to play it?”
“That just makes it harder for the hider. Unless the hider can overcome the barrier of size”
“Hmm. What would be the rules?”
“Um. 5 minutes hiding time. The hider can use any means or methods possible to hide, but must remain within the room. By room, I mean all of our rooms – including the bedroom and bathroom”
“The seeker has 10 minutes to find the hider. If he, or she, can’t, then..um..”
“The seeker owes the hider”
“Owes the hider what?”
“Oh, right. Also, the hider can move about the room and change hiding places. That’s why there’s such a large time”
“Suits me fine. You hide first”
So I sit down and place my paws over my eyes. I count to 300. I felt so stupid, you know, because we’re playing a CHILD’S game, and I figured ‘Right, you’re going to find this guy within about 2 minutes’. I finished counting and I stood up. I look about the room, you know, slowly, because I’ve got a whole 10 minutes here, and I start to walk around. The first 2 minutes I’m just strolling around the place, you know, looking under a bed here, glancing behind a door there. No hurry. Soon it reaches 5 minutes, and I start to do it seriously. Every room I’m in I give a thorough turning over, and pretty soon I’ve searched everywhere – everywhere except the closet. So I walk up to the closet, and I’m about to touch the handle when I hear Jeremy – right behind me.
“I’m not in there”
I spin around, but I can’t see him. So I walk off and quickly go over everything again. Soon, my attention is drawn back to the closet. I reach to open it, as before, when:
“I’m not in there. Really”
This time I’m lightening quick – I manage to be in all 3 rooms at once, pretty much. If he had to come out of hiding to see me and say that, then he hid again within a split second. ‘This guy is FAST’ I thought. But then it strikes me – he IS in the closet. He’s like a ventriloquist or something. Who knows, maybe he’s got a microphone somewhere. It doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that I’ve caught him. With 2 minutes to spare. He’s a good hider, alright, but I’m a better seeker. I go to open the closet again:
“Look, I’m not in there”
“We’ll see about that”
I jerk the door open, and it’s empty. The closet is completely empty. Except for a note, which reads “Told you I wasn’t in here”. I look at the note, and I can’t believe it. THIS kat plans ahead. I have to read the note a third time, when I’m tapped on the shoulder. I turn around, and it’s him.
“Sorry. Time’s up. Do you want to hide now?”
“You? But where?”
“Where was I hiding?”
“Yes. I got your note, I thought you were-”
“I really shouldn’t tell you where I hid, who knows, maybe someday I’ll want to use that place again against you”
“I am NEVER going to play Hide N Seek again if this amount of stress is involved”
“Fine. I’ll tell you”
And he did. I don’t know how that kat comes up with it. I would NEVER consider gaff taping myself to the ceiling, mind you, I would never lock myself in a washing machine either, so maybe it’s just one of those things. Then, it was my turn to hide, and Jeremy was to seek. I swear, I would have NEVER thought Hide N Seek would be so challenging, and so fun. You see little children play it all the time, but you never hear people at parties suggest it as an after-dinner game. It’s always Charades or Celebrity Head. Never Hide N Seek. Anyway, I was trying to think of something devlish to do. I was considering hiding in the fridge, but that was a bit too obvious. Then I got it.
“298..299..300! Ready or not, here I come!” Jeremy stood up, and looked around the room. The first place he looked at was the ceiling, but he knew that Vachon wouldn’t be there. Vachon’s much cleverer than that. He walked from room to room, and quickly saw Vachon’s note. It was stuck on the door of the fridge. Jeremy searched inside and behind the fridge, before examining the note closer. It all looked so weird, and it took Jeremy a whole minute to realise that it was written in English, but backwards. He took the note and walked to the bathroom. He stood in the doorway, and held it up in front of the mirror. He stared at himself and the reflection of the note.
“Now you see me, now you don’t” it said.
Jeremy looked up, and saw from the reflection that Vachon was standing right behind him.
“What the -?” Jeremy spun around, but she was gone. He curiously looked through the adjacent rooms and turned back to the mirror. He held up the note.
“Now you see me, now you don’t” it proclaimed.
Again, Jeremy saw Vachon standing behind him, and again, after he spun around to face her, she was gone. Jeremy curiously turned to face the mirror, but only saw himself. He turned back to the room again, then shut his eyes. He gently walked through each of the rooms, tripping over chairs and beds, but walking around without relying on his eyes. He sniffed the air, his ear twitched, and he dived across the room, grabbing Vachon.
Jeremy opened his eyes, to see he was holding nothing. Then, Vachon materialised in his arms.
“But you still caught me. Clever you”
“You can let me go now. Unless that’s your wish”
“Huh? Excuse me?” Jeremy asked, letting go.
“Your wish. You caught me. Now, how would you like that favour?” “Oh, right. Hmmm…… I’ve got it. How about a- no. No.”
“No, what? What is it?” Vachon asked, genuinely interested.
“No, I can’t”
“Seriously. You caught me, fair and square. What?”
“Well…there’s something I’ve wanted for a long time now, and I’ve never really got up the courage to ask anyone, such as yourself, for one, but I, well, I know I’m straight and I’ve met she-kats, but none of them has ever given me a-”
“Ssh” Vachon whispered, putting a paw on his mouth. “I know what it is”. Vachon tilted Jeremy’s head gently to the right and gave him one of the most passionate kisses he would ever receive in his life.
I don’t think I overdid it at all. He’s a sweet guy, and I wanted to make his first time special for him. When I broke the 3 minute pash-with-Vach off, he was just sort of staring into outer space, with this little smile on his face. I have that effect on people, it seems.
“So, how was it for you?”
“..that was wonderful. Thank you”
“There you go. Now what’s so hard about asking for one of those?”
“I..uh..um..actually..I feel like a real..um..I shouldn’t say this.. because I don’t want to sound ingrateful..but..um..”
“I was only going to ask for a backrub” he mumbled.
“Yes. I..um…but I like yours better. Thank you. I’ll go make lunch”
And he went off to make lunch.
We had briefly stopped off in a little town called Hoboken, just to stretch our legs, get the circulation going, you know, when we met all of the villagers. Or rather, the villagers met us. And they were not happy to meet us. I don’t know what it was that made me think that – maybe the guns and noose were a dead giveaway. Anyway, so this mob surrounds us, and they’re waving fiery torches and those rake thingies from the Frankenstein movies, and yelling:
“Purge the Beast! Kill the Beast!”
And the like. Or if they had had their way, the dislike. I was used to this by now, I’d been spurned from my own share of groups, and magic-using hermaphroditic neuroradiologist foxes aren’t that accepted. Had the situation not been as grim, we probably would have cracked some jokes, you know:
Jeremy: The mob is turning ugly. Vachon: They had a head-start! <laughter>
But the situation was as grim as it was, and we were not having a pleasant time.
“Purge the Beast! Death! Death to the Beast! Yaa!!!”
Jeremy looks terrified, and… he does something I never thought he’d do. He makes a stand. Jeremy, the kat who was afraid of the ice-cream van and unicorns stands up to a bunch of armed, inraged, inbred Southerners, and he speaks his mind, regardless of the consequences. And I’ll tell you why he does it – because it’s what he believes is right, and right and wrong play tremendous roles in Jeremy’s life. Jeremy has offered his own body, his own life in some circumstances up to the cause of right – I have great trouble believing that Jer actually offered that werewolf Chris or whoever he was the chance of hurting him to any discernible level, if it would make him feel better. Not make him better. Make him FEEL better. And so Jeremy put his own self aside in the case of what he thought was the greater good. Jeremy often mentions how he’s a coward, and he’s not brave enough to do anything, but let me tell you, I was proud to know him when he stepped forward, and faced that crowd.
“Listen to yourselves! How can you say that? Beast? That’s a terrible word! How can you people say that about another creature, and look at yourselves in the mirror? How can you even consider being a kat if you won’t tolerate others, and differences? Sure, she looks different to all of you, she’s not a kat – but that’s what makes her SPECIAL. She’s special, you hear me? That is a very special fox, and I take great pleasure in announcing that I am that special fox’s FRIEND, and would willingly endure ANY hardship for such a good and special friend”
“You are not a friend of the Beast! Repent! Turn away from your false friendship!”
The kats started to throw rocks, and I formed a shield around me and Jeremy. The shield could withstand any attack that the Southerners could draw up, but I wasn’t sure that Jeremy could.
“The Beast has trapped that poor fox in his evil forcefield! We must free her!”
The Southerners hissed and attacked the shield with picks and the Frankenstein rakes. They kept it up for about an hour, and then turned away, grumbling, to find some religions artefacts to use in the hope of defeating the Beast. We took advantage of the time to get into our truck – which was left untouched – and get out of town. We drove for about an hour, when it suddenly hit me, and I realised what they were saying.
Jeremy was The Beast.
At one particular hotel, we came downstairs to the lobby one night to see why room service wasn’t coming to answer our calls. We found out. It turns out that the manager and bellboy were ‘busy’ playing cards. Whilst me and Jeremy froze in the room as the heater wasn’t working. It was real roach motel – the biggest vermin of all being the manager himself. He’d decided, in the interests of equality, to take a keen interest in me, and a keen disinterest in Jeremy.
“Hello?” Jeremy asked nervously.
“Bugger off, you little pipsqeak” the manager snapped.
It was the only hotel in town. You know, the type that can have the motto “We may be crap, but we’re all there is” and not suffer any losses in profits. That might in fact be their motto, actually. Well, they could put a sign up saying “You’re all a bunch of idiots! This hotel sucks!”, and they still wouldn’t suffer any losses. It’d be truth in advertising, too.
“What did they say?”
“They told me to..uh..get lost”
“Come on, we’re both going down there”
“Listen, Vach, don’t worry, I’m not really that cold at all-”
So we walk in on their card game. We tried to look dignified, but we were wearing our pyjamas for crying out loud, and we didn’t have the upper paw when we walked in there.
“Hey! I thought I told you to bug- oh, hello there, Madam. And how may I serve you?”
“You may serve us by getting a repairman up to that room of ours on the DOUBLE, and fixing that lousy heater”
“Aww, now don’t talk that way, honey”
“I am not ‘honey’. And don’t even THINK of touching me”
The manager drew his paw back, and put his cards down.
“Here, I’ll have someone sent up to your room right away” the manager said, reaching for a phone. The manager spoke briefly into the receiver, before hanging the phone up.
“I just had a word with the man – he says he’s very sorry, but he couldn’t possibly do it now – all of his tools are out on another job”
Jeremy stared at the phone. Was it just him, or wasn’t the thing even plugged in?
“Tell you what, in the meantime, why don’t you and me play some nice friendly poker”
“Thank you, I’d rather not”
“Now, now, no need to use that tone of voice, just because you’re no good at cards”
“What? I’m great at cards!”
“Sure you are, honey, sure you are”
“Fine. Deal me in. Jeremy – you’re playing, too”
“Sure, let the worm play. Besides, with 4, it gets…interesting”
I can’t believe how stupid I was into getting myself into that nightmare game of poker. I was a good player, don’t get me wrong, but I fell for that slimeball manager’s trap waaaaay too easily. Anyway, 2 hours later, we’ve been doing pretty okay, but we’re tired, and the manager has just had an idea on how to make it more…. ‘interesting’
“Relax, Jer. We can handle him. Sure – we’ll play strip poker. I was getting tired of winning all of your money”
“I’ll deal” the bellboy grinned, and dealt.
My cards were bad. BAD. So were Jeremy’s. We lost. Since we were only in our pyjama’s, Jeremy took off his top, and I took my ribbon off. It had never occured to me that I might actually have to show the disgusting manager and his lecherous bellboy my..my..it doesn’t bear thinking of. Now I was down to 2 pieces of clothing, and Jeremy to one. Next hand we lost, he’d be naked, and I’d have to..have to…God no. Anyway, so the next hand was dealt by the manager. I look at my cards again. If they were bad last time, they were disastrous this time.
I was wrong. My five new cards were disastrous. The 5 I had previously were somewhere between bad and disastrous – horrific?
“I’m out” the bellboy said.
“I’m out” Vachon said.
“Well, boy, it looks like it’s just you and me. Doesn’t it?”
“So, what’ll it be?”
Jeremy looked at his two new cards and up at Vachon.
“Are you wearing anything under that?”
Vachon looked briefly down at the top she was wearing.
“Oh boy!” – the bellboy rubbed his paws together.
The manager looked at his cards, and dealt himself 3 cards. He picked up his hand, and rearranged the cards. Jeremy looked back down at his pyjama pants then up at the table again. The manager had laid his cards down.
“3 Kings. Show ’em”
“Okay. I’ve got-” Jeremy began.
“I wasn’t talking to YOU”
The manager smiled at Vachon, and turned back to Jeremy.
“Go on, kid. Show your cards, if it makes you feel any better”
“Um, on one condition. After this hand, me and Vach get to go to bed, and won’t be hassled by you anymore”
“Deal. Though” the manager continued “you will have to make good on your bet. That is, sweetcakes here loses her top and you go naked. You’ll get your clothes back – after we have our fun. And it will be fun” he whispered, leaning further towards Vachon “I assure you. Show your cards kid”
“Ha! Take it off, honey”
Vachon sighed and reached for a sleeve.
“A pair of aces”
“Yeah, yeah. We care, kid. Now you get naked, too”
“And another pair of aces”
“Look, it – WHAT???”
The manager grabbed the cards.
“C’mon Vach, let’s go to bed”
Vach picked up their winnings, her ribbon and his pyjama top and hurried off after the kat.
EL SECRETO DEL CORAZON
Jeremy’s thirsty – too many extra spicy corn chips I think. Anyway, we pull into a Spanish/Mexican looking place. We edge into a cantina on the wrong side of town. I spot these guys –
And my first thought, embarassingly enough, is ‘That’s astute’. My second thought is ‘steer clear’. But what does Jeremy do?
“I like your hats!”
Everything goes very quiet. And I’m thinking, he’s dead. Find yourself another ‘road trip’ buddy, Vachon, ‘cos there won’t be enough left of this one to fill a diet enchilada. I’m scrabbling surrepticiously for my keys when I hear:
Everyone’s smiling. Then I catch some hushed, respectful whisper about ‘Senora Flora’ or something. Flowers? Margarine? More hushed voices. And then.
“I’ve got to go. I won’t be long, but you can’t come”
“There’s something I’ve got to do”
And he left. I was going to delve, you know, ask him some questions, but before I could draw a breath, he was a cloud of brown dust on the horizon. What is it with tomkats and big hats? I asked the barman where I could get some petrol, but suddenly noone spoke English anymore. The town was silent. I thought, what the hell, I’ll give him a few hours. He was gone 3 days. And, after that, after my sitting in that ‘Non spaka anglaise senorita’ place for all that time, he wouldn’t tell me a thing. Why not? Because, he said a) it was ‘El Secreto Del Corazon’ – a secret of the heart – and his silence was a matter of personal honour and great trust and faith and b) he’d been slamming mescal nonstop and didn’t actually remember much of it.
And what am I afraid of? – to quote the excellent novel ‘Catch 22’: “That crazy bastard may be the only sane one left”
THE MYSTERY OF JKLM
At one particular truckstop, we were playing the arcade machines. Neither of us did this much, but we both decided to do a bit of ‘Virtual Hitting’. ‘Virtual Hitter’ is one of those games where you’ve got a 3D character who’s only purpose in life is to hit the other 3D characters. I was playing some girly character named ‘Sheni’ or something. Jer had ‘Kobal’. We were doing some hitting and stuff, pretty uneventful game, anyway, then it asks us to enter our initials for the high score table. The way the high score table worked was actually kinda stupid. It looked like this:
ABCDEFGHI JKLMNOPQR STUVWXYZ<
And you’d put the cursor on the letter you wanted and hit the button. The letter would, like, shatter in a VERY dramatic way, and the cursor would automatically move onto the next letter. Most of the high scorers were listed as ‘ABCD’ – because they’d clearly just hit the button 4 times, just to bypass the high score table. That’s the other thing – after you used the letter, you couldn’t use it again. All the Bob’s and Otto’s of this country would have to settle for ‘BO’ or ‘OT’. Anyway, so I go to all the trouble of writing ‘VACH’ (you’re only allowed 4 letters), and I turn to Jeremy, to see what he’s going to do. Jer? Bend? Me? MacK? He taps the down button, so that the cursor starts a new line, then just hammers the fire button 4 times – leaving ‘JKLM’.
This puzzled me for DAYS. The point of just hammering out 4 consecutive letters was if you didn’t want to be, you know, up there as someone different. Thus, some person who didn’t care would have ‘ABCD’. But Jeremy has ‘JKLM’. Why go to the new line? Surely by standing out from the crowd you couldn’t pretend you didn’t care? Maybe he’s ashamed of the fact he ranked 37 out of 40 people. One particular memory of his that’s still fresh in me was when Abby took Jeremy by the arms, looked him in his eyes and said
“You should never, NEVER be ashamed of your accomplishments”
And he shouldn’t. From the way he’s acted recently, I’d say that he’s passed that phase – but then he does something like this. I couldn’t figure it out, and so whilst we were on the road, I mustered enough courage up to confront him with this.
“Why did you waste your letters?”
“At the arcade machine. 3 days back”
“In the high score table. You just thumped ‘JKLM’ out”
“Yes? JKLM. You did ‘VACH’, right?”
“That’s my point – *I* did VACH, because that’s me. I’m proud of myself. But you just did JKLM, and I want to know why”
“What do you mean ‘why’?”
“I want to know why you did ‘JKLM’, and not your initials or something.”
“JKLM are my initials”
“Jeremy Kafka Lachlan MacKatlitch. What are you on about?”
“Jeremy Kafka Lachlan MacKatlitch?”
“Yes. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing”. Vachon smiled to herself. And so the solution presents itself. But not before I make Jeremy think I’m dropping acid in my spare time. I’m the sane one. Really.
End of Part I
Check the oil, fill up the tank and buckle up, gang – Part II’s ready and waiting!
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