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Bimbo man

I’ll admit, I was a little high — residue from an edible I’d edibled that morning, but it was three-ish in the afternoon and I was 98% levelheaded, walking the neighborhood like I do every day unless it rains or snows or I just don’t wanna.

I was walking toward the Volleyball Bar. That's not its name, but it has a sandlot volleyball set-up behind the parking lot, so everyone calls it that. It's weird, I know, but I am not making this up, and it's about to get weirder. 

There was this guy — normal-looking white man, 30 or so, longish hair but not a longhair — standing at the bus stop in front of the Volleyball Bar. He wasn’t waiting for a bus, though. He was facing the wrong way, and never looked over his shoulder to see if a bus was coming.

I’d been approaching him on my walk for a block, and all the time he’d been eyeballing me. Panhandler, was my first thought, but I don’t hate panhandlers. Sometimes I give ‘em some change, if I have a quarter and they have a clever patter or a good made-up story. 

As I came within talking distance, he said something I hadn’t expected.

“Can you tell me how to get to Montpelier?” Except he said Mont-pelleyah. If this was an opening line for a spare change story, I thought, it might be a good one.

I said, “In France, or in Vermont?”

“Vermont, I think.”

“Montpelier, Vermont is a long ways from Madison, Wisconsin,” I said, pronouncing Montpelier less Frenchified and more like I imagine a Vermonter would say it. “Never been there, but it’s on the map. Do you have a map, or GPS?”

“No.”

I looked at this guy, and a few thoughts lackadaisically wandered through my mind. First, if he’s going to ask for money, Montpelier is an inefficient opening gambit. Whatever happened to, ‘Hey, mister, I’m sorry to bug you but…”? My second thought, though, and I remember this clearly, was, What is this guy, a space alien? He’s in Wisconsin, wants to get to Vermont, and he doesn’t have a map?

“Do you even have a car?” I asked, skeptically.

He said nothing, but pointed at a Bimbo bread truck in the Volleyball Bar’s parking lot.

A likely story, mate. The bread company doesn’t send drivers out without maps or GPS, and bread from Wisconsin would be stale by the time it's trucked to Vermont.

“When did you steal the truck?” was my perfectly logical follow-up question.

“I — bought it,” he said, with a curiously long lag between the first and second word.

“The hell you did,” I said, cheerfully, “but I’m enjoying this. You bought a bread van, to drive it from Wisconsin to Vermont, and you don’t know how to get there?”

“That's right.”

“You’re not good at lying, stranger. The first rule is, make it plausible.”

“There are rules?” He asked the question very sincerely, and that’s the moment my mindset shifted from, Get this over with and keep walking home, to, What’s this guy really about? I leaned on the wall of the Volleyball Bar.

“Tell you what,” I said. “If you cut the crap and tell the truth, I’ll look up what interstate goes to Vermont.”

He studied me like algebra he didn’t understand. 

“Lying is not in my nature,” he said, meekly. “I will tell you the truth.”

Now it was me, stumped by algebra. He didn’t say any more, and I was still wondering how this was going to turn into a plea for a dollar or two, so I didn’t say anything either, and it got boring.

Finally I said, “What planet are you from, dude?” That was going to be my walk-away line.

“Zalfrasis,” he said immediately, before I’d even taken a step, so I didn’t.

I’ve read some science fiction, seen all the good sci-fi movies, and in space alien stories there’s sometimes a scene where the Earthers meet an alien in disguise. It's not something I often thought about, but while watching Starman many years back, I’d decided that if I ever met a space alien, I’d listen to what he, she, or it said. I’d at least consider it, and be polite. If I was some alien’s first Earther, darn it, I’d try to make a good impression.

"Zalfrasis is your planet?” If this is all a setup, I thought, might as well make myself a good punchline. "Just want to make sure I have it right."

“Yes. As you said, I was not good at lying.” A very sincere line reading, if this was a ruse. 

“And where is Zalfrasis?”

He paused. Gotcha, I thought. “The stellar points would be unfamiliar to you,” he said.

“Yeah, reckon that’s true,” I said, “same as a space alien might not know his way around once he gets here.” Touché. I was going to parry and thrust, for a while, at least. “So tell me, visitor from Zalfrasis, why didn’t you land in Vermont?”

“I think you’d say I made a 'wrong turn',” he said. “I’m ‘vacationing’. Coming to this planet was not difficult, but I have minimal data on local geography.”

“That makes perfect sense," I lied. "Do you have paperwork for the bread truck? Do you have a driver’s license and insurance? Do you have money for expenses? Such things are required here.”

“I can create whatever documents are needed.”

“Yeah?” I said. “Show me the truck's title.” Here’s the test, I thought, because as space aliens come and go, he hadn’t been impressive yet. So far, he could've just as likely been a 30-something white mental defective.

He walked toward the bread truck, and I walked behind him, allowing plenty of distance for safety and skepticism, and looking both ways for anyone who might be hiding and ready to jump me. He slid the truck’s door open, leaned inside, while I stayed ten feet back. I heard the sound of a glove box opening, and a very slight whooshing sound.

He walked toward me, carrying a black plastic folder, from which he took what appeared to be the vehicle’s title. He handed it to me, I looked it over, and it seemed legit. ‘Certificate of Title,’ it said at the top, with a barcode and signatures at the bottom, and every rectangle between filled out as expected, with make and model and serial number, etc. Of course, I’m not a cop, and I wouldn’t know a real vehicle title from a decent fake.

Returning the title or fake title, I said, “Got a driver’s license?”

He put the title back in the folder, reached into his pants pocket, and brought out a wallet that looked new and empty, like a gift wallet that hadn’t been moved into yet. When he opened it, the license was the only thing I glimpsed, as he slid it out and handed it to me.

It looked right but wasn’t. It had the expected unflattering photo, and date of birth and height and weight, and the guy’s listed name was John Smith, which seemed a bit cliché. When I tilted it, it even showed the slight holographic seal that licenses have, which is supposed to make faking one more difficult. It was very good work, but with one obvious mistake — it was thin like tin foil, instead of credit-card thickness, like a driver’s license is supposed to be. 

“Nice try, 'John Smith',” I said. “Fake.”

“What’s wrong with it?” he said, surprised, or putting on a good show of surprised.

“It’s paper thin,” I said, but even as I said it I noticed it wasn’t paper. Even laminated paper would bend, and this fake ID didn’t bend even a little, like a real driver’s license would. 

“How thick should it be?” he asked, and I showed him my hand, with about the right distance between my forefinger and thumb. Immediately I felt the fake license bulging, and it became the right thickness. I thought again of the promise I’d made myself while watching Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. I hadn’t even liked Starman all that much, but it made me a believer in front of the Volleyball Bar. 

“It should be bendable, but not by much,” I said.

“Like this?” he said, and it became slightly bendable, sorta like a driver’s license.

I nodded, and asked, “What’s your real name, 'John Smith'?”

He said about eleven syllables, but it started with something like "Ahn."

“Hello, Ahn," I said. "My name is Chet.”

“Hello, Chet.”

“Ahn," I said, "’John Smith’ is every man’s favorite fake name.”

He frowned and said, “What would you suggest?”

“Hmm.” As I thought it over, I walked to the bread truck, and cautiously poked my head inside. It looked like the inside of a bread truck. There were no flashing buttons or unexpected equipment. And there was no bread. The shelves were empty.

“Ahn sounds a little like Andy, and to avoid the obvious I’d suggest S-M-Y-T-H-E instead of the ordinary Smith.” I was still holding his fake license, and it tingled a little, and I knew when I looked at it again, it would say ANDY SMYTHE instead of JOHN SMITH, and it did. “Uh, Andrew, not Andy,” I said, and it changed to ANDRU. I corrected the spelling, and it corrected the spelling.

“Do you know how to drive the truck?” I asked him.

“I piloted it from Zalfrasis to Earth,” he said, “and I’ve researched how to ‘drive’ on your roads, but I haven’t done any ‘driving’ yet.”

“It can travel through space?”

“Not in this shape, but yes,” said Ahn, and I wanted to know more about this guy on vacation in a Bimbo truck from another world.

“I’ll drive,” I said. “We can get a map at a gas station.”

He smiled, which looked like something he was new at.

We both got into the truck, me behind the wheel. “We need to stop at my house,” I said, “just to get a change of clothes. After that, Vermont, here we come.”

 10/11/2021

itsdougholland.com 

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6 comments:

  1. Reminds me of Miller at the end of Repo Man.

    What's going on with Something Blue? Not much, I'd reckin. That's OK, but I hope you comtinue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heck if I know either. It's probably finished.

      Delete
    2. I'm so embarrassed. Looking at my comment, I misspelled "reckon" and "continue." Yet I have the utter BALLS to correct your typos?

      Delete
    3. Comments fall under the email or social-media rules of grammar and punctuation, don't they? Which are none.

      Delete
  2. I liked this. Whenever I see those syfy movies or Dr Who I always want to go along. Dream come true.

    ReplyDelete

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