Picturebook: Something that might have happened

    Photo by Dan Schuleman / North by Northwestern

    It’s his third hour driving up and down the Vegas strip with three Flabby Devils, as he has decided to think of them after mentally swallowing his first, more profane title. Ace Cab driver Ace Carlson (name-corporation connection coincidental) is most likely thinking this:

    Nothing means anything — everything’s nothingness — God may despise me — I may not care — humans are animals — why did I wake up — showering’s stupid — endless decay — oblivion —

    Etc., etc.

    He glances in the rearview to see if the three beasts have developed anything resembling self-awareness since the last time he’s checked. He is disappointed.

    In the backseat, meanwhile, sweat-sealed at thigh and arm between Amy and Bonnie, Chrissy notices her driver’s glance and sincerely hopes he’s not thinking about hitting on her. Amy and Bonnie take turns shouting sentences that, having no relation to what anybody else has said, cannot accurately be called conversation. She has recently arrived at the near-religious realization that, being drunk, one may continue to drink and become still more drunk. This in mind, she raises a reappropriated Vitamin Water bottle to her lips.

    “Agh do you think I look like Vin Diesel?” Amy says, examining an iPhone photo of herself and Chrissy that she’d taken seconds previously. They have recently seen Fast Five. Though the question is comical, it is born of serious suspicions; fortunately neither Chrissy nor Bonnie are quite drunk enough to answer.

    Ace, neither knowing nor caring who Vin Diesel is, follows his own thoughts.

    Civilization is a ruin — there was never a savior — nobody knows anybody — how late is Trader Joe’s open — can a person change —

    Chrissy finds herself wondering at the nature of her situation. Weren’t there things they were going to try to do? They had pregamed dinner, and eaten it with champagne…in doing so they had cemented their friendship and expressed immense appreciation for one another…but hadn’t there been a magic show to attend? A sexy magic show at that? (Yes, yes, there had been, Chrissy remembered, at dinner it was the object of many jokes and speculations.) And the $10 tables afterwards? And finally, when they were sufficiently “bopped,” a 2 a.m. visit to their hotel’s bean-shaped pool? And yet when the driver asks them if they have decided “where to?” they reply, “Oh keep going! Woo Vegas!”

    This last exclamation’s intended irony has decayed with repetition.

    Everything forever ending — never stopping — all mold on a rock flying through space — forgot to meet the guy about the basement mold — didn’t choose to be alive —

    Inspiration strikes Chrissy and she leans forward from the seat with squeaks that all ignore, struggling to reach into her back pocket, her lateral companions at first attempting to make room. And in great confusion the back seat is suddenly full of great inflated limbs, which grow red with the slow violence of automobile-confined struggle. Ace, glancing again in the mirror, momentarily wonders why the backseat airbags have activated, before realizing that these great roiling shapes are his hard-earned fare. At this point, they begin to communicate amongst themselves.

    “O-okay — you got — you got it?” “Yeah?” “What-what are you looking for?” “I’m just trying to find — ” “Ow!” “Sorry sorry!” “Come on!” “What the fuck” “Jesus.” Once started, Bonnie can’t stop her search for the itinerary.

    And though he mostly imagines it, Ace feels distinctly that this shifting mass of pneumatic skin is causing his cab to rock on its frame. This inspires in him a mother-beast protective instinct for his vehicle that he never knew existed before. Suddenly Ace develops the energy of a man who feels he may single-handedly bring about the apocalypse. Resembling the stars of Fast Five more than he will ever know, he immediately crosses two lanes of touring traffic and slams his vehicle to a halt along the curb. With the sounds of a seatbelt unbuckling and a car door slamming, he appears on the sidewalk, opening the rear passenger door. Bonnie only barely manages to direct her gravity enough to place one foot before her on the ground. She hoists herself from the cab and stands swayingly looking about her.

    “We’re here!” She cheers. “Woo!” Amy rejoins, having disembarked street-side and come around to join her friend on the sidewalk. “Chrissy we’re here!” they exclaim. First looking towards the passenger seat they are momentarily perturbed to find it empty of their friend. Then they are relieved to see her sprawled supine on the pavement at their feet.

    From this position, Chrissy sees a fraction of light-polluted night sky and an inverted marquee, announcing Sexy Magic Show. And she feels it something of a miracle.

    Ace, meanwhile, who has had no idea of his fare’s destination, is only glad that it has removed its collective self so voluntarily from his cab. Seeing Chrissy on the sidewalk, though, he is paralyzed.

    For an instant he thinks she’s dead, and is almost certain his reckless maneuvering has killed her. He feels like his spinal chord has been injected with some sort of chilled poison. Even once she reassures him that she is alive (by groping for her Vitamin Water bottle), the feeling remains. Shaking, he bends to help her gross form to its feet. This too feels like a miracle to her.

    She starts digging in her purse. Ace panics and, slamming door and buckling seatbelt, drives off without the fare. Chrissy’s friends have already entered the lobby when she looks over the street with a wad of cash in her hand, finally ready to pay. She shrugs and replaces the money in her purse, making her way towards the theater. On the way, her hand finds a folded piece of print-out paper.

    “Found it!” She shouts, waving the itinerary and joining her friends inside.


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