Clever. I'm still going with clever. But still unsure as to *why*.
And unrelated to that:
The Human Condition: Fit the First
My fingers twitch at the radio dial. Flick my eyes to the road, and fiddling becomes fumbling. I should have the stations memorized, long as I've had this car, but I used to be able to just *look*. Who cared if I ploughed into the median or a deer or a busload of Baptists? As long as I didn't get my head chopped off, it was pretty much a win-win situation; either I found a good beat, or I made my own entertainment. Now...
Now I put both hands back on the wheel as a semi passes me on the right, honking loudly because the Dodge is swerving toward his lane. I flip him off anyway, out of habit and pride, then click the turn signal on and pull into the right lane like I meant to do it all along. Stab the search button and leave the station playing golden oldies -- from the eighties. God, I'm ancient. I've never felt old before, not even when I hit my hundredth birthday, but 'Land Down Under' as a tune from the vault makes me want to start shoving the whippersnappers out of the way of my walking frame.
It's not the radio station I care about anyhow -- just wanted something to do with my hands. If I gave a damn about the music, there's a case full of Jagger and Dylan and Bowie and Queen, even a scratchy bootleg of 'Never Mind the Bollocks,' stuffed under the passenger seat. I'd just have to stop the car -- cos' I'm not digging round under there with my foot on the gas and risking a grille full of dead Baptists, thank you -- and pull it out.
Do that, though, and I'll have to look at the letter on the seat again. With the car in park and my hands free to pull it out from under the Coke bottle and the pretzel bag and unfold it; smooth it out and hold it close to my nose, and read it again. Which is the whole bloody point of having something *else* to do with my fingers.
They're twitching for a cig, but there's none in the car. No sign that I've ever had the habit, besides the pattern the fingers fall into, index crooked up and rubbing against the middle knuckle. Ashtray's empty, clean, except for a chewing gum wrapper and a crumpled Amoco receipt with the gas station attendant's phone number written on it.
Pretty girl, somewhere too many miles ago, smooth blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, trifle on the thin side... Yeah. Too much like Herself, and I've played that game already. Don't see how a living copy would be any better than a silicon one, or Harm in a stolen sweater, especially when the real thing's waiting at the end of the highway. Maybe. 'Sides, that Pennsylvania Dutch accent would've put me off; at least Harm sounded like she came from the same coast.
Semi's slowing down in front of me, and I have to jam on the brake to stop from skidding into it. Squeal and rubber, and was I really looking out the window thinking about how long it's been since I've seen Harmony Kendall? Wondering if she made it through, where she ended up? All this light rock must be rotting my brains. Enough so I follow the truck without thinking, off the road and into the rest stop. I do manage to take the right fork to get to the carpark, and not the weigh-in station, but after that, I'm pretty much useless. Car's stopped, don't need to scan out the windshield to make sure I don't hit the side of the building I'm parked in front of, and my hands are free.
I give in. I reach under the warm bottle of soda and the stale pretzels from three states back, and pull the letter out. My unwelcome hitchhiker, riding from New York to California in the passenger seat, distracting me with its presence and making me stop to accomodate its needs more often than if it were a seventy year old tramp with a bladder condition. Needs me to read it, this thing does. Over and over. That's all I can think, since *I* don't need to read it. *I've* had it memorized since I hit Indianapolis. Reached for it when the traffic clogged up at the south split to I-65, and realized I knew the words by heart already.
So why did I have to reach for it again in Springfield? St. Louis? Tulsa? Why am I squinting at it now, at a rest stop half an hour away from Sunnydale, under the dim light from the pole outside because I've never had the overhead one fixed properly? Why, when I know what it says?
"Spike -- whatever you think of me, whatever I've done to you in the past, it doesn't matter now. It can't. I need you to come, need your help. Nothing will ever be the same again, not for me, not for you, not for any of us."
I toss it down on the seat, and glare into the rear-view mirror. "Too fucking right," I hear myself growl. My reflection bares his teeth at me. He's got a nice set of pearlies, but they're not very sharp.
Fit the Second.