The Gypsy's Address
“We’re comin’ out, too, aren’t we, Penny?” said Makin’, standing on a bench above the other prisoners so Penny could see the two who hung at her sides with her choke hold around their necks.
This wasn’t the time to quarrel. He swung open the door to Strange. Together they led the scores of others, all quiet, up the stairwell to the entrance.
On the fourth balcony it was now Schneider’s turn to address the multitudes: “. . . Solomon, the wisest man on earth, once said that the words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, with many fish to be chased there by yachters . . .”
Old Penny opened the door and the jail began to drain of its prisoners, running every direction upon first breath of fresh air. About the moment Penny and Strange stepped outside Makin’ bulled her way out of the cell below, blocking those in the aisle behind so the Punctuator could proceed without hindrance from others eager to reach the stairs up to the exit. When the Punc reached the top he told Makin’ to wait for him outside, then entered the room across from the exit where Alias had found the keys. He climbed into the bin full of weapons and retrieved his own as the score by Danny Elfman changed to Johnny Kool by Brian Setzer. Makin’ didn’t carry ID or a wallet. But the Punc needed his, full of identities dubious, which he found upon climbing into the correct bin. He stepped out of the room with his .45 in his hand just as the commandant who had arrested Penny came around the corner to discover prisoners running out the exit. The commander and the Punc studied one another for a few seconds, standing fifteen feet apart. Here, of a sudden, the commander confronted himself, but for a black cowboy hat and no mustache. He was taken aback, yet reached for his gun upon the Punctuator slowly raising his. The Punc then calmly drilled a third eye into his own forehead. The bullet moved so slow that when the commander saw it coming he bobbed his head thrice, twice away, then back into its path. Out the door the Punc fled, where Makin’ was waiting.
“Horsey!” he instructed. Makin’ got down on her hands and knees. The Punc climbed atop her shoulders and grabbed her ears for reins: “Giddyap!” Makin’ stood to her feet and ran for their trucks, the Punctuator towering above the rest of the stampeding herd of liberated truckers.
A good portion of the prisoners had not fled outdoors, but had run amok throughout the upper stories of the dungeon below. Not a few had climbed the stairs to the balconies where the coup was being celebrated. There they wrestled the various officials to the railings, threatening to send them sailing out into the street where those below could finish them off as they would. By this time gunfire was sounding all about, albeit the damage that bullets could do in world so slow was compromised. Two burly truck drivers took the governor of Illinois by his arms and wrangled him to the railing:
“All right! All right!” he pleaded, looking out four balconies below: “We’ll raise the limit to sixty, only five less than for cars!”
“Too little too late!” one of the truckers answered before lifting the governor over the railing and sending him into the cheering crowds below. A freefall like that couldn’t mangle much in a world that unbearably slow. It put a good lump on the governor’s head, though.
“No! Stop!” Hunt attempted to stall as two men dragged him to the edge of the balcony: “Loose-leaf logs! I swear! Loose-leaf logs!”
The pair who held him looked at each other for a second, then with “Naw!” tossed him over the edge.
Now it was Swift facing the same fate: “Sixty-eight! I’ll raise the governors to sixty-eight!”
“You’ve got to be kidding!” said the trucker to his left, who then assisted one to his right in flinging Swift overboard.
The multitudes below were in an uproar of good cheer. The more champions of somnolence they were fed the less they cared to go to bed with a “May as well” said. Indeed, all the more lively they sped from emulating the dead, as attitudes rose from piss-poor to positive vigor instead.
Now it was the turn of one of the worst scoundrels of all, the Geiko gecko, sovereign of advertising blather: “OK! OK! No more lies and feigning!”
“No more advertising!” one of his captors demanded.
“We have to advertise! That’s what business is about! Products and services are only gimmicks!”
“Then you lie as to no more lies!” retorted the gecko’s other captor. They raised him atop the railing of the balcony and awaited the thumbs up or thumbs down from the crowd below: “Here’s one such a maw if it weren’t for back scratch with law he’d get no business at all!” his captor shouted out to the masses. Without exception every thumb pointed to the ground, as did the gecko of a sudden.
Now two truck drivers drug Schneider to the railing: “Please! No! All right! No more city limit to city limit, the rest gratis! I’ll pay hub! I’ll pay waiting more than four hours after appointments! I’ll even throw in forty dollars to lump paper! If you have to restack it!” Which sent him out into the atmosphere even faster.
Penny and Strange had nearly reached their trucks, a crowd of freed prisoners racing after. Penny suddenly stumbled and fell to his face. Strange stopped, turning about to see that he wasn’t moving. She retraced her steps, knelt, turned him over and placed his head on her lap. He spoke deliriously, his eyes closed, as people drew about in a circle:
“I wanna go home . . . “ Now Penny sat in his favorite chair, smoking a cigar on the front porch of his own cabin as he watched Hatfield and McCoy spat with Winchesters below him:
“McCoy!” Hatfield addressed with a shout before taking aim from behind a rock. “You better pray this ain’t your last day! For all your dark, rude way you’re gonna pay!” Upon which he immediately sent a bullet zinging past McCoy’s ear. McCoy could feel it pass, checked for blood, then cocked his rifle:
“Ain’t no one comin’ to your funeral, much less to shed a tear! Any do, they’ll stomp on your mound and mock if be sincere!” Which McCoy followed with a bullet that shattered an old wine jug on Hatfield’s back porch.
Thousands were in flight for Lake Michigan amidst tear gas and firing rifles. Makin’, with the Punc atop her shoulders, made her way through the tumultuous masses reveling about the sovereigns of sleepy time they’d caught from the balconies above, stringing them up in nets to dangle from the second-story balcony. The cells of the Bastille were filling with new occupants as someone in the gathering about Penny asked:
“What’s wrong with him?”
“ . . . I wanna go home . . . “
Strange cradled his head and tenderly brushed back his hair: “Penny, wake up.”
Old Penny presently began to drift in and out: “It don’t work! This damned cruise! Now I’ve gotta pedal it all the way to Syracuse!” Strange began to slap Penny’s cheeks to bring him around. But he kept fading in and out: ”It would be much more pragmatic if life weren’t so dramatic!”
“Has he lost his mind?” asked another in the crowd.
“I’d like eggs, a shot of milk, hash browns on the side,” Penny now said to a truck stop waitress with a nice wag in her stride. Strange shook his shoulders, but he emerged and submerged: “Is the reward for all one does but to eat, sleep and potty?”
“Penny!” Strange nearly shouted.
“He sounds tired, uninspired,” offered a third.
“I’m not driving anymore!” Penny now affirmed. “The price of fuel doubles troubles and my eyes get sore!”
“Is he sick?” asked yet another.
“I think he’s faint from hunger,” someone diagnosed. “Anyone here have a ham or a beer? A few ounces down his throat and he might reappear.”
“I’ve an old shoe, a wing from a dead seagull and a torn brassiere,” offered a voice trying to help.
“A lot of dead fish float beneath yonder pier,” suggested another.
Penny, however, eventually opened his eyes. The crowd cheered as he saw Strange break a smile: “Trucker’s nap?” she asked as Penny started to stand, then accepted his extended hand.
“A nice snore was in store.” He looked about, listening to the fury of gunfire and the celebrating roar of the multitudes: “We better get out of this scrap,” said he to Strange. “Thank you for your concern,” he told the others as he backed away with a wave. “You can’t sleep when if you have to. So you’ve gotta sleep when you have to. Does that make sense?”
“Thank you, Penny!” returned the others. “You, too, Strange! And that dog! It’s now a better atmosphere here!”
Suddenly a smoke bomb lobbed by a cop landed in their midst, releasing Grateful Dead’s Truckin’ with it. All immediately dispersed as Penny and Strange ran to their trucks. They removed the chains from their tractors in record time, then hammered it in what seemed the most peaceful, that is, rural, direction. But not before Makin’ and Punc had a lock on them, within eyesight behind. Makin’ and the Punc had driven up out of Lake Michigan to the other side of the prison than Penny and Strange. They had had to inch forward through the multitudes in riot before they could see Penny and Strange pulling onto a highway ramp farther off. This had given Punc time to load his grenade launcher. He fired as Penny entered the highway. But the world they were in was so slow that the grenade went only a hundred feet before plopping to the ground like a pigeon that had died in flight, exploding nowhere near its target. No message to convey in a more ballistic way, Makin’ and the Punc were reduced to but pursuit.
In a world that slow it was little help to leave Illinois. It took eighteen of our hours from Chicago to Atlanta, four through rush hour to reach the other side, then on to Florida. Being truckers, neither Penny nor Something were strangers to twenty-four hour days. But the going was so slow that to keep their eyes open only ten hours was tortuous. Makin’ couldn’t bear it. She walkied the Punc behind her:
“Dear God, Punc, I’ve gotta sleep. We aren’t driving with enough emphasis. To think McLane drivers do twenty-four hours of this, including hard labor, makes even me look like a wimp.”
“Pull up. You need a couple lines of cocaine.”
Strange was ready alike to complain when Penny talkied her: “We need another world, Strange. I can’t live this way, fighting to stay awake. What’s not living kills me – this I just can’t do.”
“That jam through Atlanta was at least something do. But now that were on the open road I’m nodding, too.”
“We need another world, Kia.”
Thank God! I thought he’d never ask! We’ve been clutching at this perch what seems forever. With this kind of fatigue it’ll take all we’ve got just to hop out the window. . . Whoa! . . This breeze is nice! Let’s move, ‘cause moving is life!
At about this time a roadblock had been set up on I-75, two officers directing traffic onto an alternate highway. Penny, Strange and the two they couldn’t shake had been listening to the CB, thus knew a wildfire across the interstate was the reason. But Kia kept flying down the big road. Penny, Strange, Makin’ and the Punc all went around the roadblock, continuing onward. Both cops shouted as Penny and his retinue ignored them. Both jumped into their cars, one to radio, the other flashing lights in pursuit. Penny tried to call his broker again. Strange tried to call the shipper. Nothing, as the cop sped around in front of Penny and tried to slow them down. The wildfire was but half a mile down the interstate, fast approaching with an oncoming wind. The cop had no choice but halt as all four outlaws sped past him. Penny kept his eyes on Kia as we disappeared into the flames. He had a gear to go since slowing down for the roadblock, shifted, then it started getting hot.
“That man is out of his mind,“ said Makin’ to the Punc, wearing her headgear.
“Yeah. Too bad we have to kill him. With guts like his on our side we could take a mint.”
Deeper into the flames Penny went, then disappeared, not slowing down in anticipation of the next world because he’d learned to trust that I know what I do. One by one the rest followed, and the world that took forever was over in a flash. Now all four were suspended in the false vacuum between worlds. The Punctuator pulled his pistol and aimed it through his passenger window at Penny. Everyone’s heart went drumming. No telling what could happen if the Punc fired a weapon where they were. Penny could see by the Punc’s glare that he just might be insane enough to do it. No one could say a word aloud. But each thought as loudly as possible:
“Don’t do it,” Penny earnestly advised. He’d never felt so tense, the suspense so intense.
“Dear God, that man has no sense,” thought Strange, watching the Punc draw a bead on Penny’s forehead.
“I hope you’re jokin’,” Makin’ motioned with her tongue, but dared not whisper.
For a full half minute the Punc kept his gun trained on Penny’s brow, then silently motioned his lips as if to say, “Boom!” as he motioned his pistol to imitate recoil. He gave Penny a few seconds of grin, then holstered his weapon. One could see from his movements that he was laughing inside. The suspense demanded sighs of relief and deep breathing from the others. But as even this was too dangerous they could only slump their shoulders and close their eyes.
“Let’s have a world from which all worlds to come is a toll-free call,“ said Penny slowly, “because paying the price no longer pleases me.”
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