by Georgina Bruce
Dead air. Static buzz itches around the old speakers in my cab. Then the dashboard clock flips all its green digits down to zero and with a crackle and a hiss, she’s there. Talking in that serious drawl of hers, saying,
it’s the bewitching hour, loners, and you’re listening to Miss Lonelyhearts, righteous professor of the one true path, doctor of voodoo, lover of women, slayer of the undead, and speaking of which, let me say it, loners: do not be afraid to take those manbie fuckers out. Just make sure they’re dead before you shoot. First up tonight I’m gonna play a song for Lola, who is somewhere out there in bedsit land. She wrote me about the dude she’s shacked up with who’s been twisting her loner-lobes with his dudely words of wisdom, such as – and I quote – ‘Hey fatty, you’re too fat, you fat pig.’ Hey, Lola, why not buy that man a thesaurus. Get the hardback copy and drop it on his head. I’ve got a little number here for you Lola, and all you chicks out there who got the same problem.
There’s a hollow thud as a needle drops onto vinyl, because Miss Lonelyhearts is all about the vinyl, and then Rebel Girl by Bikini Kill blasts out (rebel girl you are the queen of my world), and I wonder if this Lola chick is getting a kick out of it like I am, singing along and feeling the rise in my veins, when BLAM! the cab radio squeals.
“Zero seven oh, gotta pick up in the Jungle.” Mara’s voice has been roughened by years of smoking and dealing out the cabbing jobs over the radio. She sounds like a grizzly bear, but when you see her, in the tiny kiosk office with the phone in one hand and the radio in the other, and a joint hanging out the corner of her mouth, she’s like a kid. Real small and skinny, with a way pretty Afro do. “Passenger name Kiko, waiting outside the Hot Squeeze Burgers.”
“Got it,” I say, flip my orange light off, and make a U turn in the middle of the road. Bikini Kill are doing their thing again which makes me want to drive fast and aggressively, but I don’t, because I don’t need the smackdown when the cops pull me over and Mara has to spring me from the cells. Don’t give them an excuse, Mara always says, and she’s right. They don’t like the girl-cabbers, it makes their dicks wilt when they see us driving around like we got a right to. We don’t pick up dudes and we don’t deal with the undead, which is the same thing anyways, and for some asshole reason, that annoys the cops, who don’t like our health and safety policy. They say it’s discriminatory. Yeah, I guess. Considering that only males get this zombification virus, that any man can get it, at any time, and that when they get it, the first thing they want to do is eat some ladybrains, I figure it’s just common sense. And business is always good, because women want to go places at night, and nobody except us will take them. Leaving your house is an act of provocation, and as far as the cops are concerned, it says you’re cool with pretty much whatever happens to you. So the women we drive around all week are mostly workers: bar hostesses, dancers, prostituted women. Not that many chicks go out at night, unless they have to. But the weekend is different. It’s party time.
So I’m driving to the Concrete Jungle, which is a really infected area of town and I’m thinking this Kiko person ought to be waiting inside the Hot Squeeze if she had any sense, not standing around outside looking like someone’s idea of dinner or a hot date. Miss Lonelyhearts is giving us a riot grrrl medley, all on her own scratched vinyl, and I’m hoping tonight’s the night she’s going to play me some Janis Joplin, even though it never seems to be that night. I request it every week. Send her my letter, my same-old-shit tale of woe, and I tell her she’s the greatest, because she is, and I ask her for my song. She must get a lot of letters.
When I pull up in the parking lot outside the Hot Squeeze I’m not sure I needed to worry about Passenger Kiko. She is one tough looking girl. Her black hair sticks up from her head all over, and there’s black eyeliner smudged around her eyes, and red lipstick slashed across her mouth. She’s wearing a short skirt with stripey Alice tights that are dirty and ripped, and big boots with silver zips and toecaps, and leather pads on her knees and a too-big, battered leather jacket hugged around herself. She looks like someone’s idea of a very bad time.
I spring the door for her and she jumps in the backseat, then it’s full lockdown while I get the destination, check in with Mara, and pull out of the lot. Passenger Kiko is headed to the Strip. I’m guessing the comic-book gear is all in order for a night out in one of the Manga bars, not that I’ve ever been in one of those places myself. The real world is shitty enough without acting out somebody’s cartoon fuck fantasy for kicks. Still, she doesn’t quite look sexy enough to be cruising the Strip; she looks young enough, definitely, but she doesn’t look enough like a victim, and she’s wearing shoes she could actually run in, if she had to. They like their girls pretty beaten up over on the Strip: latexed and slashed; six inch heels, corsets, bruises all over. It’s the Strip, right? Cartoon sexbots and super-powered villains. So I’m curious about Passenger Kiko, and I twist up the volume on the radio to see if I can get a read on her when she cops a load of Miss Lonelyhearts, who’s saying,
a letter from a way troubled sister called Alyssa, who wrote me to say her lover turned up dead last week and told her to get a bikini wax. Loners, this is a dude whose own personal appearance features rotting flesh and maggots. But it’s Dude Rules, loners: chicks better look hot twenty-four-seven, but dudes can be out and out zoms and it makes no diff. So Alyssa’s all alone in her trailer of broken dreams, and she doesn’t know what she’ll do if her dead guy should come a-shuffling back. Girl, get some weapons, is my advice. If that dude comes back for you, you take him out. And don’t feel bad. This is for you, Alyssa, queen of the trailer park.
She drops the needle on a Mia Zapata number: a rare choice. I love this song.
I flick my eyes up to the mirror and see Passenger Kiko has got her groove on, too. She’s leaning back on the seat, arms by her side and she’s singing along. That’s another thing I love about Miss Lonelyhearts: she lets you know who’s on your side. Passenger Kiko catches me looking and grins, sits forward. We smile at each other, laughing at the connection between us. It’s that easy, sometimes.
“How’s it going back there, Passenger?”
She shrugs. “Poor Alyssa, huh?”
“I know her, actually. My sister went to her school. Her boyfriend’s a fucking douchebag, so Miss Lonelyhearts got that right.” She leans forward, grinning at me. She’s got a great smile, the kind that makes everyone else want to smile too. A real sweetie, this one, and suddenly I think the last thing I want to do is drop her off on the Strip on a Friday midnight. Even if she has got steel toecaps on her boots.
“So, what’s on at the Strip then?” I ask, trying to make it sound like cab-talk, like I don’t really care, because I’ve got a feeling that if she knew what I was thinking she’d be insulted. She’s not a child, I tell myself. Don’t talk down to her.
“My boyfriend’s a DJ,” she says. “He’s playing a set at the Best Friend bar tonight.”
I swear I just want to gather up this kid, brush her hair, and tuck her in bed with a cup of cocoa.
She leans forward, lowers her voice. “Hey. I heard all you girl-cabbers are lezzas,” she says. “Is it true?”
What a question, huh? I mean, I guess most of us are. Me, though, I’m not… I’m not anything. I just know I don’t like dudes. Seems to me they either want to fuck you or eat your brains, or both, and they don’t mind in what order. I’ve been single a long time. But then I think about Mara, and how she’s been single for a long time, too, and how we’ve been hanging out a lot lately, sharing after work margaritas and swapping records. Maybe I ought to stop that. I’m no good for her. Anyway, I don’t say any of that to the passenger. Just shrug.
“You ever done it with a dude?” she asks.
I take another look at her. Yeah she’s young, even younger than she looks, maybe.
“How old are you, Passenger?” I try to make my voice neutral, not judging her for this.
“Well, I’m thirty-seven. Do you think I could have stayed alive this long if I was doing it with men left, right and centre?”
“Good point.” She slumps back in her seat, nodding her head wisely.
You don’t get to live even thirteen years as a female without working out how dangerous dudes are. Even before they started getting all zommed out, it wasn’t exactly safe being in possession of a vagina, and these days, it’s practically a death sentence. Passenger Kiko knows all this, for sure. She frowns, like she’s thinking it through, and then she sits forward again. “Do you think Miss Lonelyhearts has ever done it with a dude?”
Huh. I shrug again. How the hell would I know? I guess not, but weirder shit happens at sea, or so they say. Then I get it. Why she’s asking.
“So, how about you, Passenger Kiko,” I say, letting her know I’m going to lay this heavy shit on her now. “You ever done it with a dude? This boyfriend of yours?”
She shakes her head. She won’t meet my eye. “No.”
I don’t say anything, just wait. You learn this stuff, driving a cab. You learn when to shut up and just wait for it. I turn the radio down. She’s quiet for a long time, and I just keep driving. It’s raining a little, and I’m stuck in traffic trying to get up onto the Strip, when she finally speaks again.
”I didn’t do it with anyone,” she says.
I let her words settle, nodding my head to let her know I heard her. “Right.”
“He’s not really my boyfriend. He just said he was, when he wanted to do stuff to me.”
Hell. Got to keep my face neutral, don’t react, even though this stuff makes me nauseous. I hold it down, and when I can speak again I say, as casual as I can manage, “You sure you want to go to the Strip tonight?”
She’s silent for a moment and I think I’ve crossed a line. Then she laughs. She properly giggles, like something is really tickling her, and it makes me laugh too.
“You want to see something cool?” she asks me.
I shrug. “Sure.”
Still smiling, she sits up straight and opens up her leather jacket. Crossed over her Hello Kitty bra are a couple of big fat rounds of ammo, and there are two black guns strapped to her sides. I sort of want to laugh, because the first word that comes into my head is ‘cute’. Then I get scared.
I stop the cab. We’re still on lockdown, but it’s the middle of the night and dark as hell outside, so I speak fast and with as much clarity as I can manage. “Passenger Kiko, I got to take you home now, or somewhere safe.” Her eyebrows raise up when I say ‘home’, and she looks down at her hands. I know I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s not my business. She’s thirteen, officially an adult. Besides, it’s against company policy. Even so, I keep talking. “I’m not taking you to the Strip,” I say. “I’ll take you somewhere else, anywhere else.”
She doesn’t speak for a while, and I don’t say anything more. I’m hoping that she’ll give me an address, someplace safe I can drive her. I won’t even charge her the fare. If I think she’s cute, those dudes on the Strip are going to eat her alive. Literally.
When Passenger Kiko speaks, it’s in a small, sad voice. “Don’t you think he deserves it?”
Deserves it? After five minutes of Kiko, I’m ready to punch the dude’s heart out for what he did to her. But I’ve got more sense. “I think you’ll get killed on the Strip tonight, is what I think.”
She falls into silence again. She’s been heading down this path for a while, I guess. Long enough to buy guns, come up with a plan. It’s gone too far. Maybe she needs an out. I’m not a religious person, but I think this constitutes a prayer.
Then she sighs. “Alright. Let’s go somewhere else.”
I stare at her, and she smiles. She’s brave, this girl. I realise I’ve been holding my breath, and I let it go with a big sigh, and then Kiko says, “Let’s go get Alyssa.”
And at the same time Miss Lonelyhearts’ voice comes on again,
I’ve gotta tell you, loners, those zomdudes will say anything to get you back, but it is all just dude bullshit. I’m talking to you now, Alyssa. I know you loved Dwayne, and you thought he loved you back, but that’s all over now, he’s dead and gone, and the next time you see him it’s not going to be a crazy sweet reunion. It’s going to be your brains on toast. More on this after a cool musical interlude.
Me and Passenger Kiko stare at each other.
“Alyssa? Trailer park Alyssa? Are you for real, Passenger?”
“Fucking hell, you think she’s going to see Dwayne off by herself? He’s horrible, you don’t know him.”
I pretend to think about it. Truth is, I’m feeling it, I can’t lie. I want to go and blast some mandead zombie dude to hell. I want to go grab Alyssa and put her in the back of my cab and drive her to a bar I know where she can drink a margarita in peace and Miss Lonelyhearts is playing on the surround sound. Also, I am remembering being thirteen. Perhaps Kiko is wondering what it’s like to be thirty-seven. Maybe we each feel like taking a chance on the other.
I flip on the two-way and say, “Zero seven oh, clear.”
Mara’s grizzly bear voice. “Gotcha.”
“Mara, can you free me up for half an hour? I’ve got an errand to run.”
I never ask her for anything, and she knows it, and so she comes back straightaway. “You got it, driver. Everything okay out there?”
“Yeah, thanks Mara. I’ll radio you soon as I’m done.” I don’t need to lie to her, but I don’t know how to explain what I’m doing here. I just really dig this passenger. I feel like helping her out.
Kiko is grinning and I start up the cab again. She clambers over into the front seat and I give her a look, meaning, what the hell are we doing, but she’s just laughing, so I pull out and turn into the main street and head away from town, opposite the flow of traffic, towards the trailer park. Neither of us say anything, just listen to the radio, which I turn up full blast, and for once I go over the speed limit, the adrenalin shooting round my veins and making my head spin.
The park’s on the very edge of town. It sprawls over a couple of miles of mostly scrubland and some churned up roads. I park the cab a few hundred yards from where we can see the first caravan and switch off the radio and all the lights. It’s dead quiet out here. I get my guns out from under my seat, which impresses Kiko no end.
“What?” I say, trying to look nonchalant as I load up ammunition. “I’m a cabbie. I need this shit.” Like you wouldn’t believe. Every night, we have to escape Mara from the kiosk with heavy weaponry, peel manbies off the cab, get rid of asshole dudes and dead guys who think they should ride in a girl-only taxi and get to prong the driver, too.
When I’m done loading up, I nod at Kiko and we both get out of the cab.
“Where’s Alyssa’s place, then?” I ask. She shrugs. Great. This is a hella stupid idea, I decide. The trailer park is big, and it’s not looked after by anyone, so it’s mostly dark and there are no real paths either. Lights burn behind thick plastic windows but don’t throw off enough illumination for us to see where we’re walking. There’s the smell of fried onions in the air, and here and there are lines of cold thin washing strung between the caravans. We wind our way through a labyrinthine tangle of caravans and sheds. I hope Kiko’s got a good sense of direction, because I’m starting to feel pretty lost. Stumbling around in the dark looking for zombies with a thirteen-year-old girl is not my idea of fun, although strangely, I am feeling kind of intrepid here. Brave, even.
Alyssa, queen of the trailer park, sitting on her step with a hot cup of shine in one hand and a sweet, mellow number in the other. She’s wearing a white dress, Dwayne’s favourite. And she’s thinking: it’s Friday night. Usually Dwayne’d be in a bar somewhere, listening to Elvis hits, getting wasted with his pals, probably hanging out with some hot cartoon chicks on the Strip, (but he always knew not to bring any of those girls back to your pad, right, Alyssa?), and Alyssa would be just kicking back, listening to the radio like all you other loners, smoking a doobie, waiting. Alyssa always felt kinda sad for the chicks who wrote me, and kinda happy that her Dwayne was one of the good guys. Hey, what do I keep telling you girls? There are no good guys anymore.
Thing is, nothing’s changed for Dwayne. He’s still going to be at some bar on the Strip tonight, drinking beers with his buddies. Except, instead of grabbing some manga-sexy teenager and banging her up against the wall round the back of the bar (‘cos that’s how Alyssa and Dwayne met, my sweet and gentle listeners), he’ll be bashing her head against the concrete until it breaks open and he can scoop out her brains.
I’m telling it like it is, Alyssa. Now would probably be a good time to go inside, bolt down the windows and get the axe from under the bed. Stay tuned, loners. This is the queen of fucking everything, your one true love, Miss Lonelyhearts, with your letters and requests.
We’re lost. Of course we are. What the hell am I doing, going on a rescue mission with a thirteen-year-old kid? I can’t see how we’re ever going to find Alyssa in this place, and Kiko doesn’t seem to have any better clues than me. It’s an endless junkyard, a maze of broken parts and jutting standpipes and the sad, corrugated metal shacks with carpet rolled out over the roof, next to the grey caravans with metal shutters over the doors, dogs sleeping underneath and cats furtively pawing in the rubbish. I don’t know how many people live here, but it’s got to be in the thousands.
So I grab Kiko’s hand and make her stop, and I start to whisper to her, saying come on, let’s get the hell out, when all of a sudden she puts her hand over my mouth, her eyes wide, and I hear what she hears. The screech of a cat, the clank of something metal rolling against aluminium siding, and shuffling feet. Dogdamn it.
We dash into the space between two caravans, and I put my arms round Kiko and hold her tight as I can. I’m holding my breath, making like a statue, and waiting. He comes closer; his shuffle is a sort of clomp, scrape, clomp, scrape, like he’s dragging one foot along behind him, and it’s punctuated by the sounds of whatever he’s walking over: empty cans, plastic bags, broken glass. As he gets closer, I realise that Kiko is vibrating nervously, like she’s going to leap out at him, guns blazing. But I hold on to her and stay her, and the manbie shuffles closer, until he’s right next to our hiding place, and then he stops and sniffs the air.
It’s too dark to get a good look at him, but easy enough to tell he’s one ugly zom. He’s big, too, at least six foot tall. He wears a miasma of sweat and blood and semen and stale cigarette smoke, and I want to puke, but I just hold myself steady, with my arms wrapped tight around Kiko, and the manbie lets out a great deep sigh. I hear his lungs rattle, all the loose parts shaking wetly inside him, and he then he starts with this low, guttural croon. It’s more or less tuneless, but I know the song. Love me tender, love me true. He shuffles off again, slowly, clomp, scrape, all my dreams fulfil.
I let go of Kiko and mouth a question at her. “Dwayne?”
Kiko shrugs, but she’s smiling. Like, an excited kind of smile, her eyes all lit up. It hits me that she thinks this is fun. Hey, maybe it is.
It’s hard to describe how painfully slowly the zomdudes walk. Gives you a false sense of security around them, like you forget how strong they are, and how violent, just because they’re slow and dumb. But they don’t need to be able to run and hunt; they can just hang out in bars, pick up girls, and go back to their wives when they get hungry again. So yeah, Dwayne’s walking real slow. Me and Kiko are following behind him, quiet as we can, crazy slowly so as not to catch up with the dude. Then Kiko starts imitating his limp, dragging her leg behind her and pulling a crazy, bug-eyed face at me in the dark. It’s so dumb and childish that it makes me giggle, and I pull a face back, and do a little zom dance to Dwayne’s back, which cracks her up. We giggle as quietly as we can. I can see Kiko’s body quaking, and occasionally little snorts and gasps come out, which start me off again. We laugh so hard and breathlessly that we half forget what we’re doing and nearly walk right into Dwayne’s back.
That brings me to my senses with a snap, and I pull Kiko back so she’s right next to me, in the cover of an awning.
He’s standing on the lip of a puddle of light. Inside the light, a caravan door is open, and a woman is dancing in a white dress, turning and twirling with her hands in the air. Her long braids are beaded red and white, and they bounce and fly around her head as she turns and jumps, in her bare feet. Patti Smith, Because the Night.
For a few surreal moments, it’s like we’re in some kind of musical. Alyssa is spinning around, braids flying, trailing white and red against the indigo night. She’s singing, in a high, whispery voice, harmonising with Patti Smith’s strong one: desire is hunger, is the fire I breathe, love is a banquet on which we feed; and a few feet away, there is Dwayne: love me tender, love me long, let me in your heart…
And soon Alyssa’s song ends, and as the music falls away, Dwayne’s croaking voice creeps out into the night: for it’s there that I belong, and we’ll never part.
Alyssa stands still, peers out into the darkness. “Who’s there? Dwayne?”
She looks small and defenceless in the yellow light, in her white dress, with her pretty braids hanging still, her bare feet. And I know she’s been waiting for him, that she’s been telling herself she’s just going to have one last dance then go inside, that she’s going to fetch a weapon, or hide out at a friend’s house, but all that was just stuff she told herself. Because, really, she was waiting for this. She’s all dressed up for it, in a white dress that’s going to get torn off her and bloodied, but she doesn’t understand that, she doesn’t believe it. Because Dwayne’s not like that, not really, not when you get to know him. It’s just that you don’t know him like she does. And she loves him.
And this is what you do for love.
And then Dwayne steps away from us and into the light, and Alyssa screams, and Kiko leaps up and smashes the butt of her gun into the top of Dwayne’s head and he turns around and kicks her away, so she thuds into the side of a caravan. And then he shuffles forward again, towards Alyssa, and I run over to Kiko, kneel down in the dirt next to her. I’ve fucking killed her, is what I’m thinking. Killed a passenger, and she’s only a kid, too.
But Alyssa is screaming and I realise that Kiko is shouting at me, and trying to push me out of her way so she can get up on her feet, and I roll aside, grabbing my gun on the way, but by the time I’m on my feet, Kiko is pulling the trigger and she’s blasted a huge hole inside Dwayne’s dead head. He turns around, dizzy and confused. Half his face has been blown away.
And then Alyssa runs to him, throws her arms round him. “Oh my god, oh baby, are you okay?”
He grins at her with what’s left of his face, his blackened tongue hanging out the side of his jaw. I can see the grey sludge that used to be his brains slipping down his face through the socket of his eye. He reaches towards Alyssa, grabs her hair at the top of her head, and lifts her clean off her feet, like she’s a rag doll, and she’s kicking and flailing about, and that’s when me and Kiko let loose with the firepower. We blast his arm off, and Alyssa falls to the ground, crumpling up, with his hand still in her hair.
Dwayne comes towards us, roaring with rage, and it’s just easy then. We decimate his mandead body, splattering the whole place with creepy little bits of zom, and when we’re done, and the dust settles around us, I become aware of Alyssa pulling on my arm, screaming, and trying to punch my face. I must have been holding her off, and now I pull her to me, try to hug her, but she breaks free and screams in my face.
“You bitch! You bitch, I fucking hate you!”
She still has Dwayne’s fist in her hair, and I grab her and hold her so she can’t move while Kiko uncurls the rotting fingers and throws the hand away. She screams at us the whole time. Cries. Some lady in the van next door comes out to her steps and screeches at us to shut the fuck up, and then Kiko walks up to Alyssa and slaps her around the face, which doesn’t do anything except make her even madder.
“Don’t,” I say. “Don’t be violent.”
Kiko looks like she’s going to bite my head off, but instead she turns to Alyssa and shouts in her face. “We saved your life! He was going to kill you!”
“You don’t know shit! He loved me.”
“He was going to eat you, you fucking stupid idiot.” She seems so young to me now, so full of simple rage and justice, an answer for everything, and a right for every wrong.
“He’s not like that,” Alyssa says. Like, why does no one believe her? She’s sick of telling people. “He wouldn’t. Not Dwayne. Not to me. He wouldn’t do that to me.” And then she sinks to her knees, holding onto her ruined white dress, screwing it up in her hands. Jilted on her wedding day. I can’t help feeling we’ve done her wrong.
But Kiko can’t give it up. She steps towards her, crouches down in front of her. “What did you write to Miss Lonelyhearts for if you thought he was such a fucking catch?”
Alyssa shakes her head. She doesn’t know, or she’s not saying.
“Hey,” I say, softly touching Kiko’s shoulder. Because not everything has an easy answer, I think. Maybe Alyssa just wanted someone to know that she was sad. “Let’s go,” I say.
We walk back to the cab in silence, and it seems easy coming back, making each turn and each step by instinct, hardly thinking. I keep wanting to say something to Kiko, but I don’t know what. I’ve let her down. I should have taken her home; damn, I don’t even know if she’s got a home. I’ve taken a kid out with me on a zombie takedown, like that’s an okay thing to do. Because what? I wanted to be her buddy? Wanted to show her that I can still kick ass? Should have never let her in the cab. Feeling sick with myself as we reach the line of caravans that lead up to where the cab’s parked.
Kiko gets in the back seat, and I lock us down tight. I’ve got to call in to Mara, but I need a minute, just breathing in the familiar smell of the leatherette and ersatz pine freshness inside the cab. Resting my head against the back of the seat. Then Kiko lightly punches my arm, gets all up in my face with that big grin of hers.
“Your sister didn’t go to school with Alyssa,” I say. “You lied.”
She shrugs. Like it’s no big deal. “I haven’t even got a sister. But I know plenty of girls like Alyssa,” she says.
“What did you get in my cab for? Did you plan this?”
That’s a fucked up question and as soon as the words leave my mouth, I regret asking it. I’m blaming her because it makes me feel better, that’s all.
But she’s too smart for me, anyway. She just smiles. “We did the right thing,” she says. “I’ve thought about it and it’s right. He was going to kill her and eat her brains. You know it, and I know it, and maybe one day Alyssa’ll work it out, too. If we hadn’t turned up, she’d be dead, and you can’t work anything out when you’re dead. Am I right?”
I shake my head, not meaning no, just that I’m not able to process it. Of course Kiko’s right. It’s not just right, it’s the only thing we can do. What choices have we got, people like us, if we want to live in this world, keep living, stay alive? The loners, the rebel girls, women like me and Mara. And Kiko?
I start the engine, check my mirror and the dashboard clock. “If we don’t move it, we’re gonna be someone’s dinner,” I say. This place is going to see some full-on zom action pretty soon. It’s getting to that time of night.
I pick up the radio. “Zero Seven Oh, I’m clear and reporting in.”
Mara comes right back at me, “Thanks driver, but I got nothing for ya. Come back to base and get me outta here? I could do with a margarita.”
“On my way,” I say. Then I catch Kiko’s eye in the mirror. “Where to, Passenger?”
“Fuck that shit,” says Kiko. “I’m no passenger.” She climbs over into the front of the cab, grins, and flicks on the radio. We’re just in time to catch the end of Miss Lonelyhearts, and her voice is soothing, just really floaty and nice, and she’s saying,
my dear loners, my gentle listeners, my fine warriors, amazons, cold hearted bitches and chicks who know what it is and where it’s at, that’s nearly all for tonight. We’ve just got time for one more letter before I sayonara on your asses, and it’s from a way lonely woman name of Judy. Hey Judy. Judy wrote me about her little girl lost, a same-old-shit tale of zomrape and murder in the city at the End of the World, and I know all you loners out there are gonna be raising your moonshine and margarita glasses to this chick, who just wanted to say she’s dealing, day by day, and she asks would I play a song for her. So here it is, Judy, especially for you, wherever you are. Stay safe, be well armed, and keep on trucking. This is Miss Lonelyhearts, the utterly righteous, sending love to all you loners out there. Till next time, I’m out.
The echoing drop of a needle on vinyl, and after a few scratchy seconds, music fills the cab. I can’t look at Kiko, except out of the corner of my eye, because I don’t want her to see my face. I say, “Hey Kiko, you ever had a margarita?”
“What’s a margarita?” she asks, shooting me that unstoppable grin of hers.
“Huh,” I say. And I turn the music up, full blast, so I can drink in every note of Janis’s voice, singing when a woman gets lonely, and I’m sort of crying and laughing at the same time, as we drive to Mara’s rescue and a jug full of margaritas in a friendly bar someplace.More stories like this by topic: Women authors