Hamilcar Ball the Flea Market Kings (intro)

1 taiwan warning sign snakes and hornets

Apparently, according to information superhighway sources, Oscar Wilde once said something to the effect of: the true artist takes no notice whatsoever of the public, the public to him are non-existent. Well, who couldn’t love such a gutsy and irreverent idealism? Hamilcar Ball loved the idea since he was in high school and could grasp that worrying about what the neighbors had to say was horribly debilitating. Wilde was also apparently famous for saying, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Which, if you get right down to it, seems to impart the opposite rumination.
Hamilcar Ball rested his head in the palms of his hands. His old man had been a history major with an antiquities minor at UNC Pen-Broke. He had always wanted Hamilcar to go to Pen-Broke too, but as Hamilcar liked to say, his pen broke. Hamilcar did eventually go to Pen-Broke but accomplished so little he often denied having ever gone.
Hamilcar’s old man grew up in a little town nearby called Carthage. But his old man, Hamilcar’s grandfather, grew up in a tiny town further north called Habama. It’s not pronounced like you might think because it’s actually made up of the first two letters of three prominent family names: Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Ball, his obstinate and bossy neighbor Haywood, and their wealthy, but curiously overtly social, celebrator of all possible celebrations, Marshall. Marshall was said to be very dark-skinned in the summer, and often held parties that focused on the use of lights or colorful powders tossed about. Folks thought Marshall was just a bit touched, especially when he grumbled unintelligible syllables under his breath. In those days, however, everyone was polite enough to only wonder. Marshall enjoyed everything from births to weddings, and even often funded local funerals as well. Many Balls are buried up on the property still owned by the Marshall family. It’s said that when Hamilcar’s great-grandfather was told one day—while visiting the big city of Raleigh—that his pal Marshall was a Hindu, he hauled back and punched the dude in the face.
Haywood was constantly one of those organizing forces arranging himself to the top of the chain of command. At least, so say the Balls. Haywood ran for many offices he himself created: head of committees for everything from proper barn erection and road maintenance to pig weed control. He was always a self-appointed coordinator of ‘mule day’ parades, and mainly saw his duty as approving decisions that he did not seem to realize were already instituted. He generally did not win any of the official public offices as tiny town social systems have a way of shunting down on the overtly ambitious.
It wasn’t until long after Marshall and Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Rutherford had passed away that it was made clear that Marshall’s name had actually been Maaheshivari which meant “Power of Shiva”. And that he was indeed a Bengali who’d been the unusual beneficiary of a British officer named McGee whom Maaheshivari had rescued one night from a drunken street beating on the outskirts of Kolkata (a place improbably called North Dumb-dumb), brutally administered by a band of thuggees who had not quite understood that the British were supposed to be their superiors.
As with most such stories, the details related to a lady the British officer had roundly fallen for and his dream-state preoccupation with her damned near resulted in the loss of his life. As it turned out not only did he survive with the help of “Marshall” but he managed to smuggle the lady, and Marshall out of West Bengal and to America where, another branch of his family had managed to set up shop on the Outer Banks of North Carolina pretending to chase pirates and basically taking advantage of tourists themselves. Why Marshall was so ready to leave his home was another story, but suffice it to say the promise of the offerings of the West were impossible to refuse.
When Hamilcar was fourteen he had lunch at the Carthage McDonald’s with his dad, Rutherford Ball the Third. It was a hot summer day. Hamilcar could smell the cut fields, and watched the tractors hauling huge dangerous-looking steel farm equipment up and down the main drag. He imagined that he was somehow returning home from a long campaign against Rome. Things his dad’s obsession with the ancient world had taught him. Hamilcar imagined the city folk turning out to greet him along Route 24. His old man joshed him waving his arm out and saying, “Son, one day all this will be yours!” and he laughed as we went into the McDonald’s. But Hamilcar wasn’t kidding, he wanted it. And that’s when father told son this entire story. He asked Hamilcar never to repeat it to Mother. Mom’s a Marshall, you see, and in the summer, her skin darkens up to a nice caramel color. Hamilcar’s skin does not, it just burns raw like he’s been flogged.
Hamilcar’s head felt heavy on his palms as he tried to stay awake and running his tiny vintage record shop in the flea market at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh. Saturday and Sunday were the main days, but a number of the regular businesses ran during the week too. It wasn’t much, but it was his. He generally didn’t make enough to even pay the rent on the stall, and most of the time he found himself helping out at the key-cutting and mower blade sharpening hut, and avoiding prolonged argument with Aaron the bookseller.
Aaron LaPlante was a self-professed anarchist, a three hundred pound, fish-lipped hater of all human beings, especially his ex-wife whom many of his rails were bent toward, each of her missions twisted into stupidity and horror by him. The ex- had become his example for all things wrong with the world. Aaron had unfortunately located adjacent to Hamilcar’s record shop, and so Hamilcar was faced with Aaron on a nearly daily basis.
Aaron kept stacks of catalogs of “real spy” outfitters by his laptop. He talked relentlessly of breaking into ATM machines (Did you know, that if you request a large sum of money, and then just remove the center of it, leaving the top and bottom bills, but not touching those, the ATM will assume no one took the funds, and it will pull them back in, showing that you did not receive the funds when in fact you took all but 40 dollars!)
Aaron had purchased a flexi-light and a tiny camera on a wire made by Castlehouse Enterprises which allowed him to dream of going inside the ATM machine from his car like a surgeon, and extracting funds (somehow). Most of the time he merely tried to get the camera under skirts of the ladies who irregularly browsed his dog-eared romance novels or vintage fashion magazine collection. Then he’d share these images with a reluctant Hamilcar. Aside from being just grossly sophomoric in their appeal, they were usually technically inept photos too boot. Lady’s undies were blurred, and the meat of their thighs glowing like the moon. When occasionally, Aaron managed to get a clear shot of a nice behind it was, of course, lacking in any kind of context or sensuality. Aaron seemed to enjoy most the idea that he was duping these women somehow. He giggled gleefully at Hamilcar’s rue.
“Too bad you only get those fuckin’ hippies,” he chuckled wheezily. Aaron was always out of breath.
Hamilcar regularly wondered how the ladies didn’t notice his operations (his fat, puffing ass squatting like Hanno the Great on the other side of a bookshelf from them, fishing his wire camera through the Sci-fi section (Lem to Moore), and under the dress of the object d’amor) can only be explained by the fact that they 1, just didn’t care, or 2, couldn’t imagine anything so juvenile was going on.
Still, Aaron always saved field guides for Hamilcar. He also ended up with a great many small toys he displayed in his nook, across his counter and in the faux window space that made his stall look as though you were passing an old-fashioned sidewalk shop. A plastic ship resided along the bottom of one of the windows in it two batmen stood on the forecastle–one a full-sized Batman, the other a somewhat smaller Batman. Hamilcar occasionally amused no one but himself with the piratical story of the full-sized and diminutive batmen. . . .

Setting the Record Straight: On the Road’s Terry Tells All

bears

He did not meet me on a bus, and my name was not Terry. There is no son named Johnny. There was a boy who spent a lot of time hanging around me, little Diego, the son of my friend Juanita, but he wasn’t around so much. You know, we were not just out in the cotton fields daydreaming about someday meeting a handsome fellow, getting married, and having children. We were not just doing that. Mostly we were thinking about the money to be shared out, the three dollars or so we were afforded a day, the stinking canvas tents and hay-tick beds, the long hours and bad backs. I was lucky to be so short. I will not pretend that I didn’t daydream most days away. What else can one do but stare at the sun, sing songs until your head aches, and kill mosquitoes? I didn’t even wear shoes back then, when you work there’s no point.
There is a technique to picking cotton, you learn it fast, but you perfect it slowly. You pick the whole boll. You don’t try to pull the cotton from the boll on the plant. If you break the whole boll from the plant you can just pop the cotton out of it in your hand pinching the boll. That’s it.
Every day is the same until the season ends, and then, of course, we move around a bit finishing up the season at the short-handed farms for a little more money to take back with us. I especially like the vineyards. After that we’re bussed back across the boarder, where we sign up again for next year, waiting out the winter, taking care of all the children our friends had while we were gone.
So there was that season Jack arrived. He wasn’t the first boy who fell on our camp and thought he’d discovered a paradise for a runaway, as there were so many of us teenagers, and some of us were pretty if I do say so myself, caramelized by the sun, but not yet turned to old lady leather. I had thick lips, but not so purple as some. We still had the fat of babyhood on our bones, were still tender, good for the pot—that’s my dad’s joke. Jack arrived, bottle in hand, a sheepish look on his mug, handsome but defeated. The car left him behind, his friend gone with the car. I don’t know what he told you. I never read that famous book of his. They told me it was all lies anyway, gringo machismo.
Jack came in and saw me, he smelled terrible. We work in the field all stinking day. I sweat like ice melting in the sun, but he stunk of something so acid that he was hard to be close to. He was handsome and I was flattered he gazed at me so much. Lupita and Juanita teased me endlessly about this lazy, drunk gringo who sat on the edge of the dried fields singing incomprehensible songs with his bottle and chain-smoking. Then he’d move to the next field with us as we dragged our long bags. He did not get on the trucks as I expected. He stayed, staring but maybe not seeing. He offered us cigarettes at least. Some of the ladies took them, but I didn’t, and he disappeared.
Then the men would return, and the ladies would all go off, and we girls would bunch up and some of us would smoke but mostly we’d just eat and kill mosquitoes and tell stupid stories about ghosts and evil men and murder. We wondered aloud about the weird gringo no one could see now, where did he go? We washed in foot tubs. We were in bed as soon as it got dark, said prayers, looked at our pictures, and we slept like the dead, deep in the ground.
Some men had found Jack, my brother Ramone one of them. I never once heard Ramone say “mañana” in any manner to suggest shirking. We never put the plant or stones in the bags to make them heavier. We never cheated, we always worked hard. Anyway a good scale-man knows how much a bag weighs just by sight.
Jack was entertaining. He taught everyone dance steps, and passed out cigarettes, his shirt sleeves rolled up on his slender arms. We fed him and he made us laugh. He wasn’t so tall, but still much taller than any of us. Every so often he’d stop and squint into the horizon as if expecting something to arrive, like a dog awaiting its master. When nothing appeared he went back to his charming us. One of the men, I think it was Pablo, started to explain to him that all the women were spoken for. This was a lie. I was not married, though I had been in a relationship with a fellow named Jose for a while. I was not interested in Jose any more. But Pablo wanted to act like every lady belonged to him somehow. Later I found out that Pablo had women all over, and the girls had a million stories about Jose too. Anyway, Jack was afraid that Jose might come for him, and Jack started to show how strong he was, did some push-ups, talked about having been in the Navy or something during the war, talked about American football and showed some tackling. But Jose wasn’t coming, and we all just had fun teasing him. And laughing at his antics. Suddenly he began talking to me. The party was breaking up, it was time for work and I looked away and tried not to meet his face. We got our bags and dragged them out into the fields. It was dirty work. When we got to the field to pick I remember Jack stayed close to me, he followed me, when I pulled. He got a few plants ahead and pulled, he got cut, and bled. The plants aren’t pleasant. He kept smiling and waving his arms, helping me, but after an hour or so he was exhausted and he lay on his back in the dirt. “Loco gringo,” I said softly, and he grinned up at me. Some money will come, he said, and he’d give me some he said. He made it sound like he was going to make me rich.
When you read his book, I didn’t, but when you do he’ll tell you that I begged him to stay, that I offered him grapes and love, that I would somehow house him and Ramone together with me, and that I told him I loved him, and wanted to stay with him. But I can’t imagine it. I didn’t need his stink, and him sleeping on top of me in my bed in my tent.
We knew Jack was an obvious hustler and while he and Ramone did get drunk a bit, it wasn’t like he says. We did have some fun in the beginning. Especially when we went round to my friend Tomas’s place. Tomas had more money. I never understood back then how it was, but later I realized it was because he grew and sold marijuana secretly. Then much later I also realized he was pimping some of the girls to the gringo townies. The prettiest ones were at his house in Sabinal. At any rate he could throw a party. It didn’t take Jack long to find it, the marijuana and the whores. From then on it was rare that Jack was back in our tents. He begged me to stay with him on Tomas’s sofa, or if I refused he’d try to get me to sleep with him in the old truck Tomas was perpetually fixing.
I think that maybe Jack thought the rest of Tomas’s friends were my brothers too. For that matter he might have thought Juanita’s mother was my mother, and maybe he thought Tomas’s old father—also a drunk—was somehow my father. For all I know maybe he thought everyone he met in Sabinal was related to me. I certainly didn’t say that. Why would I? He clearly thought Juanita’s kid was my kid, and no matter how many times I tried to explain to him that I was just an adopted big sister, he continually played house with us like Jaunita’s kid was our child. But Diego wasn’t around so much, like I said. It was cute, but I thought Jack was a little bit stupid.
They told me he wrote this story about us, as though we were this little family, as though he were my lover, as though a teenaged Mexican girl working in the cotton fields to get her momma some money for our home back in Gomez, was going to be in love with this silly drunk gringo. Even if he’d met me on a bus, and my name was Terry, does it make any sense to you? What kind of world would that have been? Does he think we were all just waiting for a ridiculous drunk gringo to come save us?
You want to know if we made love, and if he was sweet to me. I honestly don’t remember much. We had little choice but to be intimate in those tents but honestly it didn’t make much of an impression. He was usually so drunk—where did he get all the wine?—that he was asleep as soon as forward motion stopped. Sometimes he was even drunk in the field. Someone said that he claimed to pick fifty pounds of cotton. He never. I promise you, he couldn’t.
When he left I did my best to be sad for him. I remembered how I felt when my friend Omar left from the neighborhood back in Gomez. I tried to recall that feeling, but inside all I was thinking was, goodbye you ridiculous gringo, go have a good life. He told me to come to New York. Sure! I laughed. Right after I bring my momma the money, I’ll take a train or something. He acted like it was a kind of promise. Damn, right! He said. You come to New York! He hugged me again, kissed me sloppily and then I walked away. I don’t remember looking back. Truth was he couldn’t have stayed, he couldn’t do the work, and we weren’t going to keep taking care of him. That son-of-a-bitch sure could put away the wine I can tell you that. He tried to set himself up a place to live in the vineyard, but that didn’t work out. No one really needed him around and he drank and ate everything in sight.
That’s really all there is to tell. I hope that’s alright.

Hamilcar Ball a little history (excerpt: work in progress)

amanita persicinus sm bw

Hamilcar’s old man grew up in a little town nearby called Carthage. But his old man, Hamilcar’s grandfather, grew up in a tiny town further north called Habama. It’s not pronounced like you might think because it’s actually made up of the first two letters of three prominent family names: Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Ball, his obstinate and bossy neighbor Haywood, and their wealthy, but curiously overtly social, collector of broken farm machinery Marshall. Marshall was said to be very dark-skinned in the summer, and often held parties that focused on the use of lights or colorful powders tossed about.

Folks thought Marshall was just a bit touched, especially when he grumbled unintelligible syllables under his breath, but in those days everyone was polite enough. Marshall enjoyed celebrating everything from births to weddings, and often funded local funerals as well. Many Balls are buried up on the property still owned by the Marshall family.

It’s said that when Hamilcar’s great-grandfather was told one day—while visiting the big city of Raleigh—that his pal Marshall was a Hindu, he hauled back and punched the poor fellow square in the face.

Haywood was constantly one of those organizing forces arranging himself to the top of the chain of command. At least, so say the Balls. Haywood ran for many offices he himself created. Head of committees for everything from proper barn erection and road maintenance to pig weed control. He was always a self-appointed coordinator of ‘mule day’ parades, and mainly saw his duty as approving decisions that he did not seem to realize were already instituted. He generally did not win any of the official public offices as tiny town social systems have a way of shunting down on the overtly ambitious.

It wasn’t until long after Marshall and Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Rutherford had passed away that it was made clear that Marshall’s name had actually been Maaheshivari which meant “Power of Shiva”. And that he was indeed a Bengali who’d been the unusual beneficiary of a British officer the former Maaheshivari had saved one night from a drunken street beating on the outskirts of Kolkata (a place improbably called North Dumb-dumb). This violent interval was being brutally administered by a band of thuggees who had not quite understood that the British were supposed to be their superiors.
As with most such stories, the details related to a lady the British officer had roundly fallen for and his dream-state preoccupation with her damned near resulted in the loss of his life. As it turned out not only did he survive with the help of “Marshall” but the officer managed to smuggle the lady and Marshall out of West Bengal and to America where, another branch of his family had managed to set up shop in red-mud, rural North Carolina.

Ninja-sky and Penny run into Rebecca (excerpt work in progress)

rail crossing raleigh sm

While Rebecca created ribbon bows for bouquets behind the counter, the door opened up and two kids came in, a lanky girl with close-cropped, blonde hair, and well, if it wasn’t Ninja-sky . . . it was indeed Ninja-sky, looking very confused and red-faced, with his delightful cousin who bounced with every step in her sneakers. They appeared to be fresh from school.
Ninja-sky stared at Rebecca frozen in place while Penny cooed and touched damned near every flower and plant in the shop.
“Hey, Peter, wanna introduce me to your friend?” Rebecca smiled brightly, and did not hold back on the “gotcha”.
“Uh, Yeah, it’s my cousin, Pen—”
“I’m Penny.” She extended her hand and Rebecca accepted her warmly, “You two know each other?”
“Sure do! We go way back! Don’t we, Pete?”
“Sure,” Ninja-sky kinda darted his eyes out the window and then down to the floor, and then back to Rebecca’s face, whom he had trouble focusing on due to his many masturbatory fantasies that involved her. It was hard to imagine she wasn’t aware of it, and of course, the recent car use. He burned.
“I’m his cousin, from Lexington, staying here for a little while, while my mom dries out,” Penny shook Rebecca’s hand amicably.
“What brings you kids in?” Rebecca said, fully comprehending the entire story, “you need flowers?”
“Yeah we’re doing a fall break festival, we need some stuff, we have a budget,” she fished out a scrap of paper from her uber tight jeans.
“Oh Great! So Pete here is in charge of some festivities at school?” Rebecca grinned big.
“Pfff, not him, me!” Penny laughed.
Ninja-sky turned his back to them, watched out the glass front of the shop. The sky was turning a mean gray, and the evening was an hour earlier now. He didn’t listen much to the ladies working out the details of the flowers for the Saturday night festivities, garlands, fall leaf motifs, some pseudo-Halloween, agricultural vegetable stacking.
“Peter, take these for Penny,” Rebecca had sneaked up on him while Penny signed a receipt and now forced flowers into his hand, a small bouquet of orange roses and purple pom-pom looking things.
“What?” he recoiled a bit, but weakly accepted the flowers.
Rebecca smiled closely at him, “It’s OK, everything’s OK.”
Now Ninja-sky was plenty freaked out. What was OK? And why was it OK? Did she know he’d stolen her car? Did she know everything? Ninja-sky could smell her, she smelled amazing, her hands brushed his and everything that was terrible about his life seemed exaggerated by her amazing presence, it was like having a goddess touch you, and then having to go back to cows rasping at your work clothes with their giant tongues.
“Why?” was all he blurted.
And then Penelope was behind him, “Are those for me!” she downright squealed.
“Here,” he said blandly and jammed them into her stomach, “c’mon.”
“Oh thank you!” She said cheerfully, grabbing the flowers and smiling and waving at Rebecca as they left.
Rebecca laughed heartily into her hand, “Oh my god.”

Ninja-sky and Penelope On the Road (excerpt Flea Market Kings)

dirtyroadncsu

After Ninja-sky failed to talk his friend Howard (the Duck) into giving over the keys to his folk’s spare Volvo, he settled on another plan. He decided to borrow Rebecca’s old Pontiac Transport. It was a terrible idea, and he knew he was asking for a lot of trouble, but Rebecca didn’t use the car very much—he didn’t know about the new flower shop job—just a weekly visit to the grocery, and to mom’s. There was a good chance, he surmised, that he could be gone and back before anyone even knew the car was missing. The computer had said about seven and a half hours to Lexington and he double that figure and presumed he’d be back early enough to slide the car under the tree in the driveway before noon. As far as he could tell the car was flat out ignored most of the time.
A side benefit to grabbing Rebecca’s keys, using his flash mode, was that there was a GPS unit in the car. Ninja-sky was fairly certain he couldn’t find his way across town and back without one telling him each turn to take. When he rolled up in the minivan, parked at the end of the cement walk leading to the front door, and Penelope darted out of the house in flip flops and her usual skinny pants and jumped in beside him as if it were the most regular thing, he felt himself greatly expanded. His head swam with what he usually thought of as his silly cousin’s affection. She beamed at him, hugged him, pecked his cheek. She clutched a little slip of paper with the address she smartly started plugging into the Tom Tom unit as Ninja-sky rolled smoothly away.
She popped the Stones CD out of the player.
“You didn’t bring anything?” Ninja-sky quizzed her.
“What do I need? I’ve got the money, and we’re going to get my stuff.” Her grin shunt down any of his usual protestations, snacks, or a change of shoes, or . . . well it’s not like he brought anything.
Penny played the license plate game, pointed out each cow, if billboards were along the road, she read each one out loud. She thoroughly seemed to be enjoying herself and Ninja-sky continued to sink into a worry spiral.
They burned through a tank of gas before they got much past Winston-Salem. For some reason the GPS kept having them get off the highway, go a few miles on backroads, and get back on the highway. After this happened four or five times, Ninja-sky could take no more and pulling over, he reset the GPS to make sure his cousin had not asked for a scenic tour of Mayberry.
“I didn’t! I said fastest route!” she protested loudly, she had her long, bare feet up on the dashboard and was leaning back in the Transport seat, toying with her phone.
“Get your feet off the damned dashboard, you’re not a little girl!” he growled at her, surprising himself with his testiness.
“If I were little I couldn’t reach,” she joked, soothing his crabbiness with a big smile. She pulled her knees to her chest and picked some of the cracking nail polish off one of her toes and dropped her feet to the floor.
“This is a loaner, you know, I don’t wanna mess it up,” he hadn’t told her that he’d stolen it. She thought he was borrowing his friend’s spare family car.
“C’mon let’s just stop someplace I have to pee,” she moaned.
He sighed deeply and admitted to himself that the all night drive may have been over-reaching his abilities. The computer had said a little over seven hours for the trip, but at two A.M. it was hard to think of more road time in this darkening country side.
“Can we find a town? It’s a little scary out here, like a horror movie,” she wasn’t smiling.
“Yeah we need gas anyway,” he moped.
They found their way in to Mount Airy, gassed up, ate at the Sonic Burger, used the filthy facilities, and then, at the Lowe’s supermarket, grabbed a few items for car camping: cheap toothbrushes, a large bottle of water, a hairbrush, a fleece blanket, and a bag of Skittles all paid for with Penny’s plastic. Ninja-sky didn’t say anything, he just accepted the toothbrush.
Ninja-sky parked the minivan at the far end of the parking lot under a row of crepe myrtles and, intending only to snooze for a little bit, fell dead asleep. He awoke from a dream about cops and sirens, to Penny snoring. Her snores amazed him a bit, they were nearly as rich and vibrant as his father’s, resonating about the car.
Ninja-sky opened the door, noticed the business briskly going on at the supermarket and stood up stretching. He saw a police car slowly cruise up the cross street, the officer sipping his coffee, completely uninterested in him. He farted a few steps away from the car.
“Hey! Wake up!” he said, jumping back into the driver’s seat and callously waking Penny from a mid-snore.
“What? Are we there?” she said, rubbing her eyes and dropping the fleece off her lap, where she had her thighs wrapped around the large bottle of water and toothbrush as if protecting it from thieves. She’d also pushed her pants off her hips.
“How come your pants are off?” he said aghast.
“I was hot, OK?” she shook her head and yanked them back up over her pink panties.
Ninja-sky got a good and delightful look at her perfect creamy rump.
“What time is it?” she cutely curled up on the seat again.
He checked his inexpensive flip-phone, “It’s eight-thirty already! Fuck! I expected to have this damned thing back before noon!”
“Can’t I just sleep some more? I’m not driving,” she curled into a ball. Her chin on her knees, her eyes, seemingly huge, were closed.
He slammed the door shut and started the engine. He half considered ending the trip, just turning around and going back, but, it was already done. The die had been cast, he thought, it won’t be any easier answering what we did this morning or this afternoon. He yanked up the GPS and turning it on waited for the satellites to be acquired.
“How far is it to Lexington?” he burped softly, he wanted something to eat to settle his stomach.
The girl ignored him, fluttering her long lashes.
His resolve bottomed out when it came back with a little over five hours to Lexington. Five hours! That’s twelve hours still! he thought to himself, still simply adding the travel back time and wholly underestimating time needed for rest and refuel. But, looking at Penny, he somehow convinced himself it’d be OK, that the gambit would still work, or at least Rebecca would fail to report the car missing, for a while. He desperately did not want to disappoint Penny. He felt like any kind of manliness he’d built in the last ten hours was worth incredible cache.
He rolled the Transport out to Route 52, where the cop had gone by, and in a few minutes, while Penny finally roused herself awake, picked up Route 77 which would get them most of the way to Lexington.
“I’m hungry,” she pouted.
“Eat the skittles,” he grumped and fumbled with the radio, settling for the classic rock.
“We need some real food. There!” Penny pointed as a sign for gas, food, and lodging whipped past them.
“Penny! We can’t stop every five fucking minutes! We wasted a ton of time!”
“What’s the big deal? I just wanna get a coffee and something from a Dunkin Donuts or something.”
“We need to do better on time, we’re killing a lot of time, we only got a little time. We gotta get back!”
“Which way are we going? Are you sure you’re going the right way?” she suddenly took an interest in the navigation, looked at the GPS possibly convinced he was bailing out on the trip.
“Yes we’re going the right way.”
“No one is going to miss us,” she said dropping the GPS back on the console. “they think we’re at at school and going to a game tonight,” she smiled, having thought up the game date excuse herself and needing Peter for her escort.
Ninja-sky hadn’t heard the game date part of the plan before, “What game?”
“Tonight’s game, I told them that we’d be going to the Trojan’s game tonight.”
“Why the hell’d you do that? I don’t go to games!” he got rather shrill.
“It gave us more time, and I do go to games, and you’re coming with me!” She smiled that I’m-a-good-influence-on-you smile.
“I don’t think we should just keep stopping every time a town rolls by.”
“I’m not asking you to! Ugh! Am I asking you to do that? I am not! I just want breakfast. Normal people eat breakfast.”
He found argument futile and acquiesced as they crossed the Virginia boarder. They didn’t find a Dunkin’ Donuts but were able to get some breakfast in a Fancy Gap convenience store.
“OK, now that you got your damned coffee, can you let me just drive this thing.”
“Look at this!” she dangled a keychain with a small plastic mountain on it, across the base it read: Fancy Gap, Va. “Fancy Gap! it’s so cute!”
“Yeah, OK, are you ready to get the rest of this done now?”
“Yup!” she smiled and put her lanky left arm around his waist as they approached the van.
Ninja-sky glanced around the little crossroads with remarkable unease, but not a soul seemed interested in them. Penny pecked him on the cheek as she circled the car and both got into the car like they were some young couple, pulled out like a young couple, and got back on the route as if it were the most natural thing. Ninja-sky kept being amazed that things were so easy. The dingy white Transport was such an innocuous, seemingly invisible, vehicle. No one looked at them.
Two and a half hours later, during which time Penny talked nonstop about her friend Gail who expected her to take a jazz dance class with her, and while Penny was not adverse to this, she was not fond of several of the very well described bitches who would be in the class, . . . they gassed the minivan up in Charleston, West Virginia, got some more snacks and got back on the highway. The scenery was breathtaking. Many low green mountains heaped on the horizon, something Ninja-sky was unused to.
Then Penny told him all about her favorite television shows, and especially filled him in on every plot detail of a new cable series called Pangolin that features a superhero, though he’s a different superhero, not like the rest, like The Torpedo, or Howler, or Cervantes in which they just have some kind of power, like electric shocks, blisteringly loud bellowing, or amazing verbal skills. No. Instead Pangolin is a full on character who already secretly runs the world from his shadow cabinet and is a scientist, and also a revered artist, plus, Penny thinks, he may also be controlling the populace through clever, hooky, popular songs, he’s like a song-writer-producer and there seems to be a connection between people’s mood and the music they consume, . . . do you think that’s true? Oh and he has this girlfriend that he is the most spectacularly devoted lover to, he takes such amazing care of her, and she has no idea what he’s doing, ha! She’s kind of a sweet twit. And they live in this great apartment, very funky, in some, it turns out, imaginary district of London where everyone is freaking amazing, they’re all poets, designers, doctors, you know, people who really make the world better, every one of them! . . .
Finally, in the evening, they came into Lexington’s outskirts, and after a few minutes of the voice in the GPS abstractly zeroing Ninja-sky’s driving in an ever-decreasing circular manner, they found Penny’s road. She was beyond exited, actually clapped her hands as they pulled into her driveway. Inside the house they simultaneously used the bathrooms.
Ninja-sky sat on the sofa and stared out the window. Penny thumped around in her bedroom. He’d rather forgotten the purpose of the trip, which, on the outside of it was just a big sloppy favor to Penny, but, there were some curious and titillating side benefits that he didn’t want to examine too carefully. Penny, he allowed, was actually in charge of this little relationship. He really didn’t have much to say about it. She came, she saw, she played damsel-in-distress for him and helped him with his homework. It now started to feel really crazy to have driven all the way to take her home, three states away, in a stolen car no less. He tried to push the fear that welled in his belly as the expected problems of the return posed before him. Certainly, Rebecca now knew her car was missing. And soon enough, the game-date these two supposed sibling-like kids would be on would be expected to be over. He checked his watch, he calculated.
“Close your eyes,” Penny called playfully from the hall.
He did so with a sigh, “OK.”
He felt the air rush as she ran past him, “OK! Open them!”
He opened and she posed before him in her favorite dress and huge blocky shoes. It had straps over the shoulders, was black and lacy. She’d quickly thrown some make-up on and swished her hips back and forth. The dress was above the knees and a bit extravagant, but Ninja-sky could not help it, he liked it, despite all his concerns this was why he’d brought her all this way. There was little to be done about the raging desire in his abdomen.
“You wanna tie me up?” she said, turning and smiling over her shoulder with outstanding gleam in her eyes.
“We gotta get going,” he protested.
“No! No-no!” she said, coming toward him, attempting to silence his worry.
She slid onto his lap, wrapped herself around him, “I’m almost ready, my stuff is almost packed!”
“We gotta get the car back, it’s gonna be reported—” but he cut himself off.
Penny was too busy to notice his admission of car theft. She stroked his hair, perched on his thighs, her legs spread, and gave him a few exploratory kisses near his mouth, nothing very serious though.
“Penny, we really gotta go, let’s get this together, I need to get back, they’re gonna freak out.”
“Oh shit, I’ll text them, say we went out to a party, nothing to worry about,” she kissed him again, this time she let her lips linger on his cheek, and unable to take any more, he pulled her to him, and sucked at her lips.
He pushed her down onto the sofa, shoved the skirt of her dress up, pressed his mouth into her slender neck and squeezed her in his large hands. She gasped in his ear. She smelled a little funky. No doubt he did too, but this distracted him, they both needed a shower.
“We need to get a move on,” he mumbled as he pressed his hips against her pelvis.
“Oh c’mon! Just play with me!” she pulled at him, aimed kisses at his mouth. He aimed his mouth at her smooth, ivory neck, wanting to mar that perfection. He could not express this urge, and it frightened him some. The paleness of that slender connection to her lithe body, the trace of tendons as she tipped her chin back and allowed him to have her throat. He wanted, in his most anxiety-ridden, animalistic, lust-thrill, to kill her with a beast’s bite. He groaned as he rode against her thigh, she pushed back up into him.
“Crocodile,” she panted as he mouthed her neck trying to take it all into his mouth.
“Yes!” he said, pulling her tightly to him, but daring not explicitly reveal his more thrilling eros.
“Eeek!” she cried and laughed as he began biting her more greedily, and in turn she humped against him and bit her lower lip. She tried to get her legs around him, tried to get him to hump more directly, but he suddenly pulled back.
“Sorry!” he said wiping his mouth.
“For what? C’mon!” and then softly, “Don’t you want to come?” She smiled so big Ninja-sky was briefly reminded of a jack-o-lantern.
She rose up between his legs, pushed him to his back and reaching down, using her elegant hands, she rubbed against his crotch vigorously, the hard-on pup-tenting his jeans dramatically. He climaxed powerfully as she smiled at him.
“Yes! There! That’s better!” she laughed and lay on him.
He knew she was going to ask if he liked it, if he liked her, if she was good, and he disapproved of this kind of survey. It annoyed him, and he wanted to flee as soon as the riveting pulsation of pleasure ebbed out of him. But instead he held her tightly listening to hear her heart pounding.
He loved her helpless little frame, loved her neck in his mouth, but feared what it might mean. He worried about his animal rape desires—and—perhaps it should be more importantly worried about—this was his cousin. This wasn’t just a matter of feeling bad about wanting to own and dominate a pretty girl, this was taboo, gross backwoods taboo.
“You’re such a monster!” she laughed in his chest.
“Oh god, I’m a mess now,” he sounded awfully distressed.
“Was I good?” she asked with evident vulnerability, exercising her feet in the air, knees bent, her shoes having dropped off in the play.
He panted, “Penny, we gotta get moving. I stole that car.”
“What?! What are you talking about?” she pressed herself up.
“I stole it! I took it from the neighbors. I thought we’d be back ages ago. I didn’t think she’d even notice.”
“What the fuck, Pete! I thought you said you had a car, a loaner.”
“I didn’t get it! I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“Jeesus, you can’t drive four hundred miles each way in a day!”
“I didn’t know it’d be that bad!”
“Are you fucking kidding! OK OK hang on.” she slid off of him, straightened herself up.
“I wanted to do it for you,” he said sobbing.
“OK, OK, relax, we’ll be OK.” She patted his head. “Lemme text the adults, tell them we’re fine, and we’ll hit the road. Fuck. What the hell when we get back? Are there gonna be cops?” she stood, gathered her shoes.
“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s possible she won’t even know, she might not need the car today.” He sat up and rubbed his face.
Penny made a sound like a semi braking.
“I gotta clean up,” he said and wiped his eyes.
“Take a shower,” she slapped his arm.
“I just need—”
“C’mon,” she said and pulled him to his feet and pushed him toward the shower. She took off the dress, she wiggled out of her panties and dropped them. It seemed like candy wrappers to him, there she was, his naked perfect damsel, as white as a glow-stick.
He undid his jeans and felt terrible remorse about this whole thing, his acne, his skinny-ass limbs, his soft belly, his scars, his ugliness.
“C’mon!” she jerked his pants down and helped him with his shirt.
In the shower, she washed him and then turned around and pressed her behind against his hips and took his hands and helped him wash her. Then she shampooed his hair.
He was amazed at her poise, “How do you know how to do all this?”
“What?” she fluttered her eyelashes in the spray of the shower, “Do what? Take a shower?”
“I’ve never taken a shower with someone,” he shook his head, his locks dripping.
“Me either,” she smiled and threw her arms around him and they kissed in the hot stream, he hogging most of the water against his back. He squeezed her small ass, something he was fast falling into a deep love of. Even her tiny boobs had become something more than just cute.
“Throw those whitey-tighties away, you’re a man now, you’re going commando!” she grinned as they toweled off.
He winced.
“Just kidding,” she resigned, “I’ll get you a pair. There’s still some stuff left from my dad around here.”
And soon enough, they were packed into the Transport again.
“If we drive right through, I mean, just stop for gas . . . you gas, I’ll get drinks . . . we could be back before midnight, that’s not so bad, just a late night out,” she grinned.
“Right, and if Rebecca didn’t leave her house today, but just stayed in with her baby . . . ”
“Maybe there’s no cops.”
Her phone rang.
“Fuck.” he said.
“We’re out of range, they can leave a message,” she said checking the number.
Then his phone rang.
“You texted them already?”
“Yeah, I told them we’d be late, not how late though. I’ll send a few as the night goes on, just to settle their nerves, no worries, go to bed, we’ll be in late. That kind of thing.” She smiled.
“That works?”
“Worked on my mom,” she patted his leg.
Ninja-sky got the car out onto the main strip again. Penelope punched the directions back to Garner into the Tom-Tom.
“Whatever happens,” she said, stuffing a wad of green paper into Ninja-sky’s hand, “thank you for doing this for me. It’s the greatest thing, the most amazing thing.”
“What’s this,” he opened his hand and a bunch of bills unraveled.
“Just some emergency cash I’ve been hanging onto.
“You’re paying me?” he said, looking askance.
“I want you to have it. I want to make this worth your while.”
Ninja-sky never had emergency money, never knew how to hang on to anything, it looked like a few hundred dollars, though he jammed it into a pocket without counting.
After a few minutes of fiddling with the radio, and checking her texts she suddenly said, “Do you believe in God?”
Ninja-sky shot her a disturbed look, “Naa.”
“Really? So nothing? You don’t think there’s anything?”
“What do you want me to say? I don’t think there’s any of that god-stuff going on, I think people are nuts.”
“Everyone who believes in God is nuts?” she shook her head. “Really?”
“Really,” he looked at her, “why?”
“I mean the fact that we’re together, that we got this car, this great day,” she waved her arms, “you don’t think it’s anything?”
Ninja-sky looked around as he handled the Transport around a bend and shrugged.
“Really?” she said again. She leaned back, putting her feet up on the dashboard, and he smiled.