The Gypsy's Address
“Let’s draw back, Makin’,” instructed the Punc over his walkie. “We’re too light. No need to race. ‘Cause we’re gonna close their front door with what nature’s got to pour.”
Both slowed to a comfortable thirty miles an hour over the ice. The Punc gave Makin’ a wink through his driver window as she steered her truck alongside his. As before, he put on his goggles, then lowered his windshields with a switch. With sure calm he prepared his grenade launcher, then carefully estimated where would be the best seam between rock and snow rising two hundred feet above. Which happened to be a perfect distance of two miles ahead. He took aim, anticipating the sweet sound his weapon would make, pressed the trigger. . . K-K-K-KUSH! . . K-K-K-KUSH! . . then waited. He was beginning to think he’d miscalculated when he noticed a slight movement precisely where he’d aimed. He smiled. The target moved more. He smiled more. Then the entire ridge came crashing down.
Hatfield reached his shanty before McCoy had climbed to his own. He retrieved his rifle, leaning against a boulder just below his cabin, then knelt to aim. McCoy put out his hand to grab his Winchester leaning against the forward wall of his shack when Hatfield fired, drilling a hole into the wall four inches from McCoy’s hand.
“You’re gonna pay the price, McCoy, for not bein’ nice! I’m gonna chop up your bones and make me some dice!”
McCoy recoiled from the shattering wood, jumped down a few rock ledges with his rifle, then carefully aimed at Hatfield’s forehead, to center a third eye of lead. The shot that echoed over the valleys below plugged a leak in Hatfield’s roof made by a previous bullet, evidence of which was that melting snow stopped dripping into the bucket that Hatfield had placed on the floor of his cabin.
“I wouldn’t give a possum’s empty purse for the value of your verse!” McCoy politely answered, his voice following the echoes of rifle fire.
“Well, I’ll be prone to what is known, that the most is vanity-grown,” Penny said softly to himself upon watching the avalanche begin to cascade. If it covered the highway he and Strange would be trapped. It was insanity to hammer it over the ice even faster, chains or no chains. Nor did he know if ahead they should go, racing against the rushing snow. But it was insanity worse to suffer Makin’ and the Punc. Being a natural, Penny naturally preferred nature. He walkied his companion driving alongside his right: “Strange, we’ve gotta beat that avalanche.”
Something had been watching as well, the huge embankment of snow along the ridge now dropping: “Let’s drive.”
Both Penny and Something Strange had seen enough ice in their time that seventy miles an hour without chains had become customary. Being used to it was the reason they didn’t like it. Only dense fog equaled the respect that ice demanded. Neither had ever gotten used to fog. But when you do so many ten-hour stretches over ice it gets to be like regular road, only that there’s no room for error: the drives stay straight ahead. A day or night over ice tends to strain because the focus required tends to drain, which is what Penny and Strange were headed down if they didn’t beat that avalanche before it reached the road. The ripping shriek of chains increased to an even higher pitch as they raced side by side at more than a hundred miles an hour. One would think their jewelry would have burst, flying into the high bank of snow to their right. A wolf six miles away meanwhile perked an ear. It knew the thundering roar of avalanche in that cold and still frontier. But as Penny and Strange missiled into the future so fast as to leave no memory of the present, the screaming of their chains had not before occurred. A mile below, a flock of sparrows stirred and flew the other way. A bear two miles below budged in hibernation, where flakes of snow wrought in the wake would eventually settle silently. Strange didn’t know if they could win the race with the nearing avalanche. She’d think about it later if there was one. Now she but drove as never before. It was Penny who now held back, various factors giving him the advantage on ice. As their chains sawed ruts into the road, their California mirrors but inches from touching, they allowed no distraction. ‘Til Penny recognized that dead ahead meant broadsided and buried, if not pushed down the slope to their left to go sliding into the lake. But stopping meant the same, for now the entire ridge behind them now was quickly coming down.
“Kia,” said Penny to we, a little ruffled myself from the excitement – I just love these trips with Penny – “if there’s a hole between us and . . . that . . . take us where we can go.”
“Considering the mess we’re in, that’s a pretty tall order even for me,” say I to thee. “If it weren’t for the luck of a large hole nearby it definitely would be. Darn! I was really enjoying this. . . You ready? That blast of cold wind is going to shake you.”
“Back off, Strange! Kia’s takin’ us out!”
The strain on Penny to roll down the passenger window and drive at the same time was like benching weights on a bar which threatened to crack in half if waver. He watched us instantly disappear. Strange saw us fly out, spread our wings, then instantly disappear, carried by the wind up over her truck as she passed. They eased up a little so we could more quickly gain the lead. Snow now being sprayed by the avalanche, windshield wipers flapping furiously, Penny waited for us to reappear. Ready, my friends? This is called extreme trucking. Because the only hole around is in that lake forty feet beyond the ice. Veering left . .
“Follow me, Strange! We’re cross country!” Penny thought, not daring to take his hands off the wheel as he concentrated on not losing Kia through the roiling cloud of snow preceding the main body of the avalanche.
“I’m with you, Penny!” Strange said to herself. Alias was meanwhile covering Cuddly with her body beneath the sleeper bunk. The ruts on I-95 along the Northeast coast were nothing compared to what Penny and Strange instantly met as they left the highway. Kia flew them down to the lake as directly as possible. But the initial lean to the left was heart-stopping. It was all they could do to keep grip on their steering wheels as the bumps along the roller coaster tossed them about, only their safety belts preventing them from losing control altogether. The foot of the avalanche was now slipping beneath the rear wheels of Something’s trailer. She could barely see Penny forty feet ahead as the snow whipped in turmoil all about. Nothing in her truck stayed in place. Her head banged against the ceiling. She lost the wheel. She found it again. How she stayed behind Penny racing for the lake, barely able to see Kia himself, one can’t explain. You just do it. It seemed forever, but in an instant the throwing and banging ceased, followed by the sensation of sliding at breakneck speed. It was now not what she steered, but what she haddsteered, staying straight behind Penny. Now the avalanche was pushing her closer and closer to the rear of the truck in front of her. The massive wall of snow was overtaking her as Penny watched Kia disappear forty feet out over the water. He took a deep breathe as his rig slid off the ice and he disappeared the same, the rear of his trailer slightly splashing the surface of the lake. Something instantly followed, pushed by the avalanche into the hole where it could not go, only causing enormous waves as it filled the lake with an awesome force not for mortals to mess with.steered, staying straight behind Penny. Now the avalanche was pushing her closer and closer to the rear of the truck in front of her. The massive wall of snow was overtaking her as Penny watched Kia disappear forty feet out over the water. He took a deep breathe as his rig slid off the ice and he disappeared the same, the rear of his trailer slightly splashing the surface of the lake. Something instantly followed, pushed by the avalanche into the hole where it could not go, only causing enormous waves as it filled the lake with an awesome force not for mortals to mess with.
Again between worlds where all pended, on which the multiple worlds depended, Something Strange and Old Penny found themselves suspended. Strange didn’t have to hope Penny would give her a few minutes to recover. It wasn’t every day that Old Penny raced an avalanche cross country, risking getting buried alive, or took his whole rig for a dive. He might have been no stranger to speed, but now he quite questioned if he was alive. Only Cuddly’s heart was not beating hard, too, Alias panting beside him beneath the bunk like the engine of a speeding train. Penny’s arms hung weak at his sides as he took deep breaths, gazing through his windshield. He limply reached forward to turn off his windshield wipers. It took Strange a few minutes as well just to feel solid again, nigh oblivious to where she now was. She had not a word to say as she gradually recovered enough to run her hand through her hair, words buried deep beneath the wake of the ride. When she and Penny came to enough presence to think, the first that occurred was concern as to the condition of their trucks. No doubt at least a fender might have been bent were theirs not steel-reinforced. Perhaps you think it incredible that they barely saved themselves. But such occurs all the time. I’d posit you barely made it as a high school scholar, skipping class so easy to do. Likewise, however tall you are, you just made it from being smaller while, at the same time, just barely ceasing to grow taller. You likely barely pay your bills as well, which proves my point quite easily. So this Hollywood production is not so unique as it seems to be. But now Penny and Strange are in that situation, which not many humans can conceive and even fewer can believe, where it’s dangerous to stay very long. No telling what fate would bring if Alias, Strange or Cuddly uttered something wrong. To keep them all together Penny presently did some blinking, by which one could tell he was thinking, then spoke into his CB for Something to iterate:
“Let’s have a world where things go slow, ‘cause it’s tiring to always drive as fast as one can go!”
Meanwhile, Makin’ and the Punc idled their trucks before a great wall of snow: “Well, I’ll be a soaked crybaby moppin’ up my weepin’!” Makin’ CB’d the Punc. “They escaped through a hole!”
“Damn! When I catch that pair the ordeal they’ll feel will make every hair beg that it not be real. Where’s that hole? Can we get to it?”
Makin’ could see the location of the hole all too well on the screen before her. It wasn’t more than a mile and a half away. The only problem was the bank of the avalanche twenty feet high between.
“I’m not called Makin’ Wind for nothin’, Punc. Let me clear you a path. Back off so I can position.”
The Punc put his weapon in reverse. Makin’ wriggled her rig into place on the highway ‘til the screen atop her panel told her she was locked into the bull’s-eye. She stood from her seat, pulled down her overalls and great panty, then pushed the button that raised the tube that would feed fuel to her jets. She closed her eyes in heavenly bliss as she lowered her hams, adjusted to a perfect fit, then allowed herself a few sweet moments of indulgence.
“What’s taking so long?” the Punctuator inquired over the CB.
Makin’ abruptly opened her eyes, shook her head, gripped her steering wheel firmly, then turned purple as her cheeks puffed out and her Western Star blasted through the avalanche. Not three seconds and she disappeared into the hole, leaving behind an enormous cloud of snow crystals sparkling in the sun until it eventually settled. She’d virtually parted the Red Sea. The Punc was delighted to see that she’d ripped him a path down to the lake, her jets melting snow behind to widen the path. He still had snow to push through, and he needed thrust to make it over the water. So he backed up a good half mile, put it through the gears until his chains made a loud whine, then took the bumpiest ride of his life until he disappeared.
Hatfield stopped firing long enough to stand and make a taunting target of himself, pointing a finger at his puffed out chest: “Come on, McCoy! You couldn’t hit an ocean if you were aiming at the sea!” Ping! went an old spittoon on a trash heap of old cans just below him, which sent the bullet ricocheting through his hair. Hatfield touched his head, astonished. No blood was drawn, but Hatfield’s thermostat rose several degrees: “That’s cheatin’, McCoy! That ain’t right! The day I see you hang is the day I’ll thank the Lord for sight!”
McCoy leaned back against a boulder to reload his Winchester, shouting over a wall of stones, “Stop your noisy cryin’, Hatfield! It gives my head confusions! Or I’m gonna plug the whiny hole that’s the source of your effusions!” As he just then had to duck a bullet whizzing past, it became his responsibility to benevolently argue back in kind.
Because I didn’t count I know not how many fish swam by before Penny and Strange drove up from Lake Michigan onto the beach. Less would have been the hazard had they remained submerged, or so one might assume upon all the people who were running the other way to dive into the lake and swim away. Though beating the ground as fast as they could they sped along but slowly.
“At their speed I doubt they will, but it looks like there’s some race to win. As for me, I could use couple shots of gin,” Strange CB’d with a shiver up her spine, not used to being where she’d just been, where means of locomotion was less by foot than fin. Now scores of full-clad women and just as full-clothed men were running down to the ice-cold lake and slowly jumping in.
“I’m sure we’ll find a tavern near. . . Looks like swimming’s quite the pastime here,” Penny observed through his sweeping windshield wipers.
“If ask me, they’ve got caverns for skulls. One can’t swim well in shoes, and I see flakes of snow blowing in a cold wind. I wonder why bathing’s so pleasin’ in this climate so freezin’.” Which was Something’s way of making a sardine out of a whale, for there must have been some immanent danger, to judge by the people at a distant dock leaping into the water. One diver lit a cigarette in midair . . . before barely . . . making a splash . . . upon eventually . . . reaching the water. Strange looked over at Alias and Cuddly who both yawned.
“S . . . l . . . o . . . w,” mumbled the corpulent little porker, his eyelids drooping. Upon which he retreated back to the sleeper floor, laid on his back and went under, soon to snore.
Alias did her circle three times on the passenger seat, then sleepily settled: “Wake me if you hear thunder. You know it scares me,” she gruffled.
Once off the beach Penny and Strange found a concrete parking lot on which to bring their trucks to a halt. They stepped out, s . . . l . . . o . . . w . . . l . . . y, at least to them, because they had faster worlds in their memories.
“What’s all the noise about?” Penny looking in the direction of what sounded like big trucks mixed with public uproar.
“I don’t know. Let’s find out,” suggested Strange.
As they ambled back onto the sandy beach Penny shouted to a man running past, “Excuse me!” But the man didn’t stop, just kept running to the lake, jumped in and swam away.
“Sir, can you tell us . . .,” attempted Strange, waving her hand to no effect at another.
Penny tried to gain the attention of yet a third. To no avail, the runner insistent, if not desperate, to make the lake. So intent were all to join the fish that to stop one took means devilish, Penny putting out his foot to trip the next. Strange stepped back to avoid collision as the man slowly tumbled into the sand. Penny immediately went to his aid, offering his hand, then pulling him to his feet. Of less than average height, with blonde hair razored short over his eyeglasses, the man resembled somewhat the substitute author who wrote this tale where I’ve neglected this and that to tell. He brushed off his clothing with Something’s assistance.
“Thank you,” he politely greeted, naturally embarrassed.
“Good thing you weren’t sprinting very fast,” Penny replied. “Why are you running to the bay?”
“Is it a communal bathing day?” Strange further inquired.
The man squinted at them both through his glasses, puzzled: “Seems what thinking you do is meager. It’s not the lake for which I’m eager. This is Illinois, which tends truckers to annoy.”
“Ah, crap!” Penny exclaimed. “Not Illinois! At fifty-five we’ll drive nowhere forever!”
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