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The Gypsy's Address

“I need a good snore already,” Strange agreed.


“It’s faster to send goods by rail and swim there to meet them,” explained the trucker. But it gets worse: Hunt, Swift and Cursed [CRST to four wheelers] have formed an evil axis with ATA, DOT and insurance companies. Thousands are in the streets,” nodding his head in the direction of the tumult. “I worked for Covenant. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I had no choice. Now I’m in flight for sake of dear life, just as I knew I would be. I can’t take struggling to keep my eyes open in a mobile prison. But they won’t let you drive. So good riddance.”


“Though in ways dangerous, it’s for safety,” said Strange, to be ironic, adding, “or so’s the word that’s heard. Good fuel mileage, though, proves what’s heard to be a turd. My name’s Strange,” offering her hand.


“I’m sure. What is it?” the man inquired, shaking her hand.


“What is what?”


“Your name.”




“Did I miss something?” the man wondered to Penny.


“Right in front of you. Something Strange.”


The man bobbed his head left and right, looking over Something’s shoulders to see what Penny was talking about: “What?”


“You’re gonna swim off with the trout while it’s snowing?” Penny replied to change the subject.


“Why ask what you’re already knowing?”


“You could end up in cold storage,” responded Something, concerned.


“May be, if that’s where they keep the driver shortage. I’m sick to death of this crap.”


“That’s true. Penurious may be no worse than injurious,” knowing what truckers endured, no one curious as to all they daily fought to do without voice or voicing.


“Why don’t you swim in the buff?” Strange asked. “Could prevent you from drowning if you don’t freeze to death.”


“You mean naked?”


“Yes, if clothing to exclude means nude.”


“It is smartless to be so artless, lady. Besides, if I left my clothes here what would I wear when I got there?” Penny and Strange smiled as they gave each other a look.


“You’re a trucker, all right,” Old Penny affirmed, knowing trucking’s certain “mind” set.


“Better believe it,” the man smiled. Adding a Southern “I’m stupid” accent: “Had I a brain I’d think more quickly. But for a brain I ain’t heartsickly. Now, if you’ll excuse, I’ll be off.”


“Sure,” Penny offering his hand. “Say ‘hello’ for us to everyone you greet.”


“Add ‘bye’ to it and a round conversation we’ll have with all you meet,” Strange combined, also shaking the trucker’s hand.


“If I see any beauties I’ll add half a blink,” the trucker told Penny, “which comes, as I measure, to one full wink.”


“Great! Thank you. That shows thrift. When it comes to flirting you’ve got the gift.”


“As to Lake Michigan, I think I’ll now pursue it,” the man backing off, waving farewell.


“I guess that’s what they mean when they say ‘Just do it’,” Strange thought aloud, a smile showing she was perplexed as she watched their latest acquaintance run to the water’s edge and do a bit of splashing before front stroking off over the deep.


“In another million years how tell a trucker from an otter?” Penny wondered in return. “As for his trucking brain, I hope he ain’t forgot her,” with just a touch of twang.


Now toward the boisterous crowds they walked progressive, though, compared to our world, their gait seemed regressive, ‘cause in the lull where they were, if I may be so expressive, our breakneck strolling is excessive. A large banner reading ‘TRUCK RACE’ now offered suggestion to what Penny and Strange too long thought a question. Though it would sound to us like sloths in distress the drowsy roar of the crowds did some excitement profess, only at the tick tock of a clock somewhat less.


“Excuse me,” Penny contributed to the noise of the hundreds of truck racing fans as he led Strange through the crowd of bustling people toward a set of bleachers. Once they reached a good height they could see the powerful trucks below, hooked to trailers, lined up across the track. There was much lively revving of engines. Penny assumed the drivers were anticipating, any “instant” now, the dropping of the flag. An orange Schneider, its heroic driver in a helmet, was a little out front of the rest. Penny could see that one of its sponsors was ‘SOMINEX’ in big letters alongside the trailer.


“So when does the race start?” Penny shouted to an enthusiastic man standing to his right, shaking his fist in the air, its motion rubbery to Something’s perception.


“What?” the fan answered, perhaps unable to hear over the roar of the crowds which sounded, to us, like a 45 record played at album speed.


“The race!” Strange clarified. “When does the race start?”


“It’s clear that your brain has no power! They’ve been racing for more than an hour!” the man shouted back. Penny and Strange gave each other a smiling sidelong glance. For it appeared that the racing trucks were moving not at all.


“Slow world!” Penny remarked to her, noting the accomplishment of the world he’d described while in the hole.


“Schneider’s winning!” Strange again raised her voice to the man to Penny’s right.


“No ma’am! He’s losing! He’s a good ten feet ahead of the competition and nearly at the finish!”


“Who gets there last, wins!” Penny and Strange yelled at each other at the same time. Which explained why the track was only twenty feet long, the end of the driver’s 53’s never entering the race.


From a box above Penny’s head he could hear the voice of a radio sportscaster: “This is, indeed, a grueling event! We’re getting reports of Swift driving in his sleep! Covenant, as well, has reclined to better fall behind! . . What’s that? . . No! He’s reading a magazine! This same driver was disqualified from last year’s event for doing things obscene! Lack of action is leading to distraction for the drivers here today, folks! What a race! Always a great event! Whoa! What’s this? Werner so far in the lead it appears he’s nearly stalled! He’s been flagged! That’s it for Werner, folks! You’ve got to keep those wheels rolling to stay in this race! That leaves Hunt in the lead, now so fatigued it’s scaring even to me! They’re going for broke, folks! . .”


Though in the world where Strange and Penny found themselves such a race could blow the mind, just watching Hunt go down the freeway could be a burden and grind. Penny had had enough when he inquired of Strange, “Think that avalanche stopped them?”


“Let’s get back to the trucks! I don’t see how they could have made it here! But the more distance we make the less we have to fear! Every crime Earth knows to the Punctuator owes! Let’s not chance it!”


With that, Penny followed Strange down the bleachers. As they pushed through the crowd Penny bumped into his double:


“Well, hi there!” Penny tipping the brim his hat, then offering his hand. His double jerked back his head, frowning in astonishment, but shook his own hand before Penny continued on his way. Once they were free of the crowd, now walking along a row of Schneider babies – orange construction barrels to four wheelers – they were approached by a phalanx of officers bearing rifles who presently circled them.


“Halt!” shouted a voice, which Penny and Something did, high and dry with a moat of air twenty feet wide between them and the rifles surrounding them, aiming at their heads. “Introduce yourselves!” commanded the leader who was a dwarf, looking incredibly like the Punc but for his uniform and mustache.


“Old Penny!”


“Something Strange!”


“If earn my disfavor, lady, the lashing you’ll get you’ll not savor! Your name!”


“Something Strange!”


“Little makes me more inimical than identity too cryptical! With your name be more bold ‘fore I become uncontrolled!” The midget commander then cocked his rifle, pointing it at her head.


“If say it a third he still won’t get the word,” Penny whispered. “Be creative.”




“You are under arrest, Alice!” After which Penny and Strange were seized and bound in manacles.


“For what?” Old Penny naturally inquired.


“Speeding! I have you on radar at four miles per hour.”


“That’s ridiculous!” Strange said, aghast. “We’re not even driving!”


“It is posted very clear,” obliged the commander, pointing to a sign which read ‘2 MPH’. “Two miles per hour. I’ve a BOSE stereo to pay off, which means, period.”


“That’s absurd!” Penny exclaimed, now recognizing the Punctuator’s double, but for the mustache, and being, nigh unbelievably, on the safer side of the law.


“Stool!” the midget ordered, pointing to the ground. An officer rushed up, placed a portable stool before Penny’s feet, and pulled out its two steps. The uniformed menace ascended and coldly squinted into Penny’s eyes but three inches away, the brims of their hats touching: “Were I you,” the commander quietly spoke in a grainy voice meant to rub a raw wound, “I would quell the inspiration to lend me information. I am the law. You will find that it doesn’t assist to be a conversationalist. . . Take them!” shouting with a wave of his arm.


Now two officers to each side of both Penny and Strange marched them to a building several hundred feet away. Whence occurred one of the most beautiful melodies composed by Danny Elfman. For so slowly did they go, so gray the day, so solemn, that they may as well have been in a funeral procession. It seemed forever for them to reach the building where they were escorted inside, then down a winding stairwell into a dark dungeon lit with torches.


“S . . . l . . . o . . . w,” Strange remarked to herself, observing the medieval ambience. There were noises of wailing and the stench of feces. Water from Lake Michigan trickled down the crusty brick walls. Once at the bottom of the rock stairway, Penny and Strange were lead between two rows of cells of iron bars. They stopped. An officer in front jangled a ring of old bow and shank keys with simple bits and opened a cell. Our guests to this old new world were then shoved inside, the iron gate summarily clanked shut behind them. They stood to wipe themselves off as they looked about the dim atmosphere. There were perhaps thirty others in the cell with them, as many as in the other cells which lined the walls of the dungeon. A man screamed from deeper in the bowels.


“The rack,” said a voice familiar, but nigh invisible in the dark. Penny followed it and, behold, the Punctuator smiled up at him from a wooden plank for a seat. Strange felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and looked up to see Makin’ with “Kill” in a grimace worse than any tyrannosaur that had ever looked down on an herbivore caught unaware. “We haven’t been here ten minutes,” continued the Punc.


“I’m glad I waited,” Makin’ added, not taking her glare off Strange. “I was gettin’ ready to tear this cage down.”


Meanwhile there was a great commotion outside in the streets. Ambassadors of Swift and Hunt stepped out onto the fourth-story balcony of the same building with the dungeon beneath. Representatives from other trucking companies sat behind them. They waved triumphantly to the crowds below. Great banners hung from the walls to either side of the balconies. Planes in formation flew above to show the brute power of insurance companies. The balcony below Swift was occupied by the ATA, the DOT and various law enforcement officials, most of which had little notion as to trucking . Below them sat various brokers, dispatchers and shippers who used truck drivers to their convenience, making them the fall guys and whipping boys to their greater profit. All were anticipating the great ball they would attend that evening as Hunt held up his hands to quiet the multitude of truck drivers out in the streets:


“The coup is victorious!” he shouted out to the booing crowd. Now Hunt was joined by the governor of Illinois as they wrapped arms. There was, meanwhile, a great parade of mighty trucks on the avenue below. These were not work trucks. They had been gelded, being only just able to do the job, to the purpose of greater profits, and to please manipulative insurance company morons who knew nothing about trucking. The truck driver, doing an average fifteen-hour workday, would take up the slack:


Last to the truck stop. No parking left. Looks like another ramp tonight. Can’t change the logs to keep from having to drive like a corpse. But I’ll lie to make sure the company gets all the work it can out of me. Got to. I’m sixty miles short each day and it takes ten to do it. After the shipper diddling me around for five hours, the DOT another two – which was expensive for no fault of mine – another hour fueling and trying to slide tandems that won’t budge after every trick in the book. Another four getting the truck repaired. Now it’s 3 in the morning. Started at 7 AM. Guess I’ll start that time again. Company doesn’t like to change appointments. Barely climb the hills tomorrow. Do 500 miles of straight road in the middle of nowhere at 68 MPH, half conscious, half alive, giving half a damn. Try not to wind the engine going down. Avoid a head-on collision by two hundred feet ‘cause I’ve got no muscle to pass some leisure tour. Someone flip me off because it takes three miles of left lane to get past some senior See the USA. DOT says I’m illegal. I call it getting the job done with everyone and everything making it as difficult as they can. Hope I’ve got heat and lights when I get home. Forgot to pay the bill before I left last month. Guess that birthday card will be late, too. Damn. I couldn’t believe they asked me what truck color I wanted when I was so desperate that I took this job. I couldn’t care less about the stereo. Elementals first: a truck that’s a truck. Sure would make it easier. Might even give a damn if I was alive. Then they’ve got me dragging around a trailer with recruiting advertisements to make appear what’s not – what is left mum – to a lot of dupes.


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