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The Gypsy's Address

Meanwhile, Cuddly stood to his feet in Something’s sleeper and poked his head between the seats. He and Alias, in the passenger seat, muzzled noses and licked at each other.

 

“We’ve been too long at too much rest,” Alias softly arfed. “If you’ve got something to say get it off your chest.”

 

“Jail.”

 

“Ah, crap!” Alias gruffled. She slowly stood to her feet, shook head to tail, then barked, “Keep hid. I’ll be back as soon as can.” Pushing the button on the panel which opened the passenger door, she jumped out, then waited for it to shut and lock. She quickly trotted off as stealthily as a cat. If in our world Alias was as fast as a ghost, in the world where she was at she was even more invisible.

 

The Geiko gecko, meanwhile representing the unspoken insurance company trust, addressed the crowds from the third balcony: “Hear me, all good truck drivers and citizens of Illinois! Ours is an iota of space-time in an infinite nil! We want no more than all the money we can take! It’s like finding a four hundred, ninety-five dollar bill! It’s like stopping to pick up a penny every step you take!”

 

“Worthless!” roared the masses below, as more police in helmets arrived to maintain order.

 

In the murk of the dungeon all that the captives could see of one another was the glitter in their eyes from the torches high on the walls. The shrieking from the rack deeper in the bowels continued.

 

“He was four hours over on his logs,” explained a young man sitting next to Penny, speaking in a low voice so the guards couldn’t hear him.

 

“Mathematical error?” Penny inquired.

 

“Not that nonsensical alone in his case. He couldn’t say no to the company. How could he? He got held up by two accidents and a couple rush hour jams. If he’d had a truck he could have done it legal. Got pulled over at a weigh station for a missing mud flap. Company’s fault he tried to compensate with scratch, his punishment with no crime to match. He could well pay the rest of his life for what that DOT zombie has done to him.”

 

“When’s the last time you’ve seen home?” Penny giving the young man a looking over.

 

“Last month. Three days. Chores and errands. Forgot to do a few things in the rush. Everything there has gone to hell.”

 

“I’m a Knight driver,” whispered another, disheveled and filthy to Penny’s other side. “I didn’t know. No one told me. The only break I get from bored to death is anger from constant frustration. Took more than four years to learn indifference.”

 

“I’m a Werner driver,” said a young woman to the other side of the last. “Just six months. To hell with this scene. I pretty much know what’s on the surface. But what goes in the deep I can’t begin to utter. Meanwhile these big companies with thousands of trucks on the road have driven down the price of moving freight so low that the independents, the ones who really truck, face extinction.”

 

“The rest of you?” Strange asked in general, upon a moment’s silence. Makin’ stood close to her side to intimidate, blowing on her shoulder. She might have grabbed Strange by the neck and swept her up against the wall had the Punc not nodded to wait.

 

“Some of us have been constrained by an unspoken social order to drive trucks,” said a black woman from her bench in a dark corner. “I have a doctorate. But the means of putting it to work are denied in one way or another. So I’m earning a living destructively while I wait antiproductively, which is what trucking has been to me.”

 

“Some of us were caught running to the lake, to swim away to where anything else might be possible,” said another woman from another corner. “The only way you can do the abuse as a trucker is if you like it as a lifestyle. I’m just trying to pay the rent. Meanwhile I’ve got an apartment full of dead plants for lack of water.”

 

“I use grocery stores because truck stops offer nothing but junk food,” added a voice in the shadows.

 

“And bad beer,” offered yet another who added, “I miss my kids growing up.”

 

“Everything you’ve ever bought, built or done up to the point of jumping into a truck is destroyed by neglect,” continued someone sitting next to the last.

 

Penny and Strange looked at one another with expressions of concurrence. Then, laconically at once: “Jailbreak.”

 

Swift, meanwhile, was speaking to the crowd from the fourth balcony. “. . . Thanks to you we are omnipresent! The independents have been strangled, which makes my life more pleasant!”

 

The multitudes went into an uproar of booing. Several tried to climb the banners up the sides of the building to gain access to the balconies. Police beat them back to the ground with batons. On buildings roundabout were positioned snipers, in case of chaos wrought by all the whining gripers.

 

Meanwhile Cuddly maintained a state of vigilance which, by definition, could mean partially alarmed. You and I soared the sky far too high to be harmed, while watching cops below, teargas armed, form rows of shields to cordon off escape to the lake. All quite dramatic, though in slow motion. Swift continued, Elfman’s score somewhat subdued:

 

“We’re all the same! That’s reliance! The independents have lost all defiance!” waving his fist in triumphantly in the air. Hunt then whispered in Swift’s ear:

 

“Then we’re not ‘we’ as you imply when you say ‘we’re’. Please use the pronoun most proper, more at ‘I’.”

 

“’I’?”

 

“Yes. ‘I’. Who am Hunt.”

 

Alias, at any rate, was sniffing at the doorway of the jail with a heightened sense of smell, like her speed, nonpareil. She hid to side of the door behind a barrel. Once a cop appeared, opening the door to walk inside,  she slipped in behind, he unaware. She followed Something’s scent down the stairwell into the dungeon and quickly found the cell she was in. She gave a low bark and wagged her tail. Strange smiled as she walked to bars, squatted down and put through her hands to give Alias a brisk rub.

 

“My whip, Penny’s knife and the keys to these cells,” Something instructed with a whisper.

 

Alias was off in a flash, like a phantom retracing her path up the stairwell. Makin’ had been following Something’s every movement, standing close to block free motion. Strange had had all of that that she could bear. When she stood she intentionally stepped on Makin’s toe by accident. Makin’ instantly vised Strange by the ribs, lifted her in the air and slammed her against the bars of the cell.

 

“You feel those hands?” Makin’ snarled as she glared into Something’s eyes. “Not much would give me greater pleasure than to snap every rib, your heart and lungs to crush, your life thereat to measure.” Old Penny jumped up from his bench, ready to pounce.

 

“If you leave here at all,” Strange replied, “it won’t be without me.”

 

Makin’ gave the Punctuator and inquiring look. Now that Penny and Strange were here he could use them as his ticket out. Again he shook his head negative. Of a sudden Makin’ released Something grip to drop to her feet.

 

Hunt had taken his place at the microphone again on the fourth balcony outside. The crowd was in a roil as he introduced the representatives of various companies at the vanguard of making life on truckers hard: “Digby! Take this ribbon, and a bow!”

 

Digby bowed. But just as he rose a raw egg smashed against his chest to the other side of where Hunt had pinned the ribbon to his breast. Hunt was deterred but a moment. He chose to ignore it and went on as if nothing had happened:

 

“FFE! Receive this distinction for truckers who drive in reverie!” FFE stepped up to accept the ribbon to his lapel, then bowed before the noisy masses below. Then England proudly accepted recognition. But just as Hunt finished pinning a ribbon to Crete an overripe tomato smashed against the back of his head.

 

This was to become Hunt’s finest moment. For he then summoned such indifference –  the same as had become requisite to thousands of Hunt drivers if not explode with frustration – that a young journalist in the wings was to launch his career by his arousing descriptions of Hunt’s apathy in the next day’s edition of Illinois’ leading newspaper. This, while what left the lips of thousands of truckers on the streets below was the thundering chant, “To hell with it! To hell with it! To hell with it! . .”

 

Alias had found the keys to the cells in the dungeon atop a desk in a room opposite the door she had entered by. She’d also found Something’s whip and Penny’s knife in an open bin nearby, containing the various arms of the prisoners below, including the Punctuator’s sawed off shotgun and .45. Alias had knocked over a small wicker wastebasket to empty its contents, depositing, instead, the items Strange had told her to retrieve. But she had a nagging feeling that something was missing. She checked another bin containing articles of clothing:

 

“No. Not that,” thought she, then checked the next bin containing purses and wallets. “That’s it!” Alias jumped in, snatched Something’s and Penny’s wallets into her teeth, hopped out and dropped them into the wastebasket. Her hearing nonpareil as well, she sensed footsteps approaching from the hallway. She pushed the wastebasket beneath a low table next to a file cabinet and followed it. The footsteps stopped upon entering the room, where could be seen the previous contents of the wastebasket littering the floor. In her haste Alias had made a mistake, not concealing the litter where she was hiding now. She prepared to bolt as the footsteps approached the table she was under, then stopped again. She could see the trouser legs and shoes of the cop who stood but three feet in front of her, pouring a cup of coffee from the brewer above. “Go!” Alias thought, as it seemed the man took forever. He looked at the litter on the floor, shrugged his shoulders, then finally left. Alias waited for his footsteps to disappear down the hall before taking the wastebasket in her mouth, exiting the room and descending into the dungeon again.

 

Now the DOT was at the microphone on the fourth balcony. “. . . We’ll continue to let you know when you’re tired and when your not! We’ll continue to fine company drivers for faulty equipment instead of those who own it! When we tell you to park it we’ll do our best to make it Alaska instead of instructing your company to get you home! We’ll do our best to waste your time and money, and wear you out endeavoring in vain! Don’t think we’re here to prevent your companies from driving you to death! To make that safe is what we’re here to make appear, though what that seem is more the security of a government job than it is sincere!”

 

Then it was a needlepoint-by-numbers ATA expert on pointless rigmarole: “Thank you! Thank you! By making all worse for everyone we make it better for ourselves, straining at gnats! Some are born tedious, some achieve tediousness and some have tediousness thrust upon them! We are the importance and significance behind the curtain! As soon as a police car appears all immediately drive worse! As soon as a supervisor enters all instantly perform their jobs as if they, too, haven’t a clue! We hope to achieve the same results all day, everyday, everywhere, by interference and imposition! Who are brain-dead, body-dead and spirit-dead are safe! And easy to manipulate! Two hundred regulations by next month! Four hundred rules by the end of the year! God bless America! Land of the free!”

 

What not since the storming of the Bastille was beginning to brew in the bowels as Strange thanked Alias through the bars of her cell. The latter gave a low bark to explain that she was returning to Cuddly, then trotted off.

 

“Man on the rack,” Strange expressed as she handed Penny the ring of keys with his knife and wallet.

 

“I’ll be back shortly,” Penny assured the prisoners upon letting himself out of the cell, quietly shutting the iron gate again.

 

Strange stayed behind to let the others know that they weren’t being abandoned as Penny’s dark figure disappeared into the deeper recesses of the old prison. He entered a narrow passage which winded a hundred feet before he discovered the chamber in which a man was, indeed, stretched upon a rack. Moving into the room to cut the ropes, he was surprised by a cop. The latter went for the gun in the holster at his hip. But the gun went flying as Penny punched him in the throat first. The man staggered back and fell, unable to alert anyone with a yell, only clutching his throat as he coughed and gagged. Penny wrested the cop’s handcuffs from his belt and manacled him to a bar on the rack. Not thirty seconds passed before the victim was cut loose and in a fireman’s carry over Penny’s shoulders, out into the passage toward the cells where scores of truckers awaited freedom, if it came: there were, no doubt, spies in their midst. But no one cared. “Take this job and shove it!” had begun to circulate in low voices throughout the jail, sparked by the young man to whom Penny had first spoken, who had not such the attitude during four preceding years as a navy Seal.

 

When Old Penny reached the first cell on the way back to his own he spoke to those inside,” I need a team who’ll take this man with them,” nodding to the man he bore on his shoulders. Two presently volunteered and Penny found the correct key to open the cell door: “This injured man is the first behind me until we see sky,” he instructed. “We must do this orderly, quietly and all together.” The two volunteers took the tortured man from Penny’s shoulders and carried him between them. All moved patiently, silently, following Penny as he went down the rows of cells, allowing him to stop at each one to unlock its iron door. When he reached his own cell his notion of keeping Makin’ and the Punc locked up was quickly erased:

 

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