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Chapter 5 Communication Breakdown

  • "How you voting on Prop 18?"
  • Spyder looked up. The cabbie looked -exhausted, Spyder thought. One of thos_uys in his forties with eyes that make him look ten years older. His ski_ung loosely on a gray, unshaven face.
  • "The companies make it sound like it'll put more cabs on the street, bu_eally it's just going to screw up the medallion system even worse and giv_ll the power to the big cab companies. We aren't employees, you know. All u_abbies are freelance. I owe money the moment I take my cab out. The moment _ouch it. A cab driver has the job security of a crack whore. Worse tha_laves, even. We're up at the big house begging the master for more cotton t_ick."
  • "I'm sorry, said Spyder. "I don't know anything about Prop 18. I don't vote… ever."
  • The driver shook his head. His black hair stuck out at odd angles, as if he'_een sleeping on it just a few minutes earlier. "Voting's not a right, yo_now. It's not a privilege. It's your duty. My daddy died in the war so yo_ould vote."
  • "Hey driver, uh," Spyder looked at the name on the man's taxi license, "Barry.
  • Do you want to play a game?"
  • "I don't think so."
  • "There's a $20 tip in it for you. "
  • "Are you a cop?"
  • "No."
  • "Fag?"
  • "No."
  • "You from the cab company?"
  • "No, Barry."
  • "What kind of game?"
  • "Don't rush getting me to the Haight," Spyder said. He leaned his head agains_he window. It was cool on his forehead. "Take your time. Let the meter run.
  • As we hit each corner, you're going to tell me what you see.
  • "What's on the corners you mean? Like buildings and people?"
  • "Exactly. Big or small. Whatever strikes your fancy."
  • "Give me a for instance," said Barry. "Like this corner."
  • "Okay," said Spyder leaning forward to peer out the windshield. "That semi u_head. The blonde eating a taco in front of bodega. The mailbox painted like _exican flag. That blimp shaped like Garuda."
  • "What's a Garuda?"
  • "A bird-beaked messenger deity from Thailand."
  • "I don't see nothing like that."
  • "Tell me what you see."
  • Barry breathed deeply and craned his head on the end of his long, doughy neck.
  • "Some bums with shopping carts. Some hookers. Mexican or Asian, maybe. Can'_ell from here. They got on high heels and the littlest goddam skirts. You ca_ee all the way to Bangkok when they bend over."
  • "Keep going," said Spyder.
  • "Just stuff?"
  • "Just stuff."
  • "A Goodwill. A closed down porn theater. Cholos drinking forty-ouncers by _ow-rider. A cop car stopping near 'em… ," Barry fell into a sing-son_attern, reciting as they drove. "A mom with her kid in a stroller. A couple _ogs fucking. Get some, boy! Some dope dealers. Bunch of teenyboppers cuttin_chool. Little shits. Don't learn to read and we end up paying their welfar_o they can have babies." Barry glanced into the rearview mirror at Spyder.
  • "This is kind of a stupid game, buddy. When is it your turn?"
  • "My turn?" Spyder lit a cigarette, his first of the morning. "Everything yo_aw, I saw. But there were other things, too.
  • "Dazzle me."
  • "A winged horse. A lion turning into a golden bird, then into smoke. An ange_haring a cigarette with a horned girl whose skin's blue and hard, lik_opaz."
  • "Jesus fuck, man," said Barry. Spyder saw the driver's eyes widen in th_irror. "Are you on drugs or do you need drugs?"
  • "There's a naked, burned man walking down the street. No, not burned. Cooked.
  • Glazed and cooked like a ham. There's a swarm of little sort of bat thing_lying around him taking bites. He doesn't seem to mind."
  • "I'm letting you out at the corner, guy."
  • "Keep going or you don't get your tip."
  • Barry shook his head. "Keep it. Getting stabbed by some psycho fuck isn'_orth twenty dollars."
  • "Do I seem like a psycho to you, Barry?" asked Spyder.
  • "I dunno. Sure talk like one."
  • "I understand. This is weird for me, too."
  • "Then maybe you just want to be quiet and not talk about it anymore," Barr_aid. "Anyway, we're almost to your drop."
  • "Do you see that building on the corner? I can't tell what it's made of. It'_ike pink quartz, but the walls are shifting like the whole thing is liquid,"
  • said Spyder.
  • "It's a vacant lot, man."
  • "Maybe I'm just dreaming."
  • "If it's a dream, you can give me a fifty dollar tip instead of twenty."
  • Spyder smiled. "Or I could stab you in the head, suck out your eyes and skul_uck you. I mean, if this is just a dream."
  • The cab screeched to a stop. "Get out."
  • "Let me get my money," said Spyder.
  • Barry turned around to face him. He had a lime green windbreaker draped ove_is arm to hide the old Browning .45 automatic he was holding. "Get the fuc_ut."
  • "Jesus, Barry. Tell me that's not your daddy's gun," said Spyder. "Prett_reudian, don't you think?" The cabbie's eyes narrowed. "I'm kidding, man. I'_ust having a weird day. Let me give you some money."
  • "Keep your hands where I can see them and get out. I'll shoot you and tell th_ops you tried to rob me. When they find all the dope in your blood, they'l_elieve me."
  • "Sorry I scared you."
  • "You didn't scare me, you pissed me off," said Barry. "Can't you tell th_ifference?"
  • Spyder got out of the cab and leaned in the front passenger window. Barry kep_he gun pointed at him. "Funny, my ex said something like that when sh_plit."
  • Barry gave Spyder the finger, gunned his engine and shot straight down Haigh_treet before being caught at the next corner by a half-dozen jaywalkin_unks.
  • That guy was going to shoot me, thought Spyder. He considered that as h_alked the last half block to the studio. Maybe it wasn't such a bad option.
  • The hallucinations weren't letting up. Maybe being shot was what he needed t_ick his brain out of the peculiar abyss into which it had fallen. Spyder ha_he feeling that the day wasn't going to get any better.