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Book 2 – Chapter 2 – This Con Ain’t Big Enough For All Of Us – Part 1

I packed my harness, just in case, and waited downstairs in the morning light. Simon was later than I had hoped. The morning commuters were cruising the streets by the time he arrived. Trisha followed him out of the car to help with my bags.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “I forgot my hair dryer on the way out.”

“And your face cream. And your boots,” Simon said, after her. He slung my garment bag over his shoulder with a huff.

The trunk had enough space for the bags, but my suitcase had to ride in the back seat with me. Trisha had to slide her seat up to fit it in.

Simon tossed a roll of quarters in the cupholder for tolls, and we were off. His dashboard said it was fifty-two degrees outside but we all had our T-shirts on, and Trisha was the only one with jeans, not shorts. Traveling was sweaty, exhausting work and there was no point in dressing up for it.

“So where are you staying?” Simon asked as we waited for the Davis Square lights to make up their mind.

“With me,” Trisha said. She stretched her arms out and her joints cracked.

“Don’t you have four people in your room already?” he said.

“We’ll get a cot,” she said, “Or she can sleep on the floor. You don’t mind, do you?”

I slumped my head over the suitcase and began to nod off. “Nope,” I said.

I did end up dozing once we were on the highway. Back roads have too much starting and stopping, but on the highway, it might as well have been a train ride. Simon had his mix of James and Judybats-style college rock on the stereo while Trisha buried her nose in a book with print too small for a bouncing car trip.

I had the absolute pleasure of falling asleep in Massachusetts and waking up in New York, on the elevated road that passed through the city. The concrete slabs weren’t fitted together and bumped the car at the beat of the marching song from the stormtroopers in the Wizard of Oz. We were off the Washington Bridge tunnel when I started paying attention in time to see the last of the grungy apartment towers fill up half the sky on the riverbank. They faded off and were replaced by the gigantic oil drums of New Jersey. Trisha handed me a bag of trail mix with M&Ms and I traded her a water bottle from a six-pack wedged beside my suitcase. I passed one to Simon as well.

“Are you sure you don’t need someone to take over driving?” Trisha said.

“Uh uh,” Simon said and cracked open the bottle with his teeth. “It’s easier if I don’t stop.”

We did pullover at the next rest stop; this brown rat hole under the highway so packed we almost didn’t find a spot to park. Trisha and I weren’t sure he was taking the exit for our benefit, and when we were out, our suspicions were confirmed as he hightailed it to the bathroom.

We stocked up on enough snacks for the trip, the convention and the ride home again. I checked the vending machines for sparkly fox stickers, but came up empty. Simon put a quarter in the Galaga machine and barely lasted a round. Trisha waited in line at the Quiznos, just before every cook except one left on their lunch break.

It was good to be out of Boston. I saw the sky could be open, horizon-to-horizon, without the glut of trees and triple-deckers that defined my image of “home.” While we were on-route to Philadelphia, I had nothing left in Boston that I was expected to go to. The air was dirtier at the rest stop and everybody’s cars had out-of-state plates on them. If I was left there, I would have had no idea where to spend the night. I could imagine the three of us holding onto each other and screaming while Simon’s car barreled off one side of a sandy ravine and landed safely on the other, the staple of every American road trip.

When we were on the highway again, Trisha managed to sneak some Talking Heads in Simon’s CD player which, while I tolerated the Judybats, were a very welcome relief. “Slippery People” had a great driving groove, and “This Must Be The Place” made me want to weep.

“Who’s the guest of honor this year?” I said, leaning between the front seats, “Anyone I know?”

“Which one?” Trisha said, “Art, writing or music?”

“The big one,” I said, “Writing.”

“Arthur Conroy,” Simon said, “He did the ‘World Thief’s Lament.’”

Trisha blew up on hearing the name. “I’m sorry,” she said, “Is the fandom made up of fucking retards? He’s an uninspired misogynist prick who wrote one book out of forty with a talking raccoon in it. My old shrink writes patient’s diagnoses with fewer issues in them.”

“People like his books,” Simon said.

“I know, and people grew up masturbating to them along with ‘Tailchaser’s Song,’” Trisha said, “Am I the only sane one here?”

“Nope,” I said, “I tried to get through ‘Lament.’ I made it up to the scene when he introduced his first female character and then I said, ‘I’m done.’”

“His early stuff isn’t that bad,” Simon said.

Trish and I spoke together. “Yes, it is,” we said.

I continued. “But come on. I never go to those ‘Guest of Honor’ panels anyway. And Simon, you’re so whipped, you wouldn’t leave your hotel room if Chet didn’t want you to.”

“Here’s hoping,” Simon said.

“I don’t know,” Trish said, “I’m just afraid I’ll blow up over some crack about Conroy, and then the only person who will agree with me will be some anime junkie who came by themselves and make me sound even crazier than I am.”

“Do what I do. Chew gum,” I said.

“Did we get any at the pit stop?” she said.

“I’m glad I’m going with you guys,” Simon said, “Let’s do this every year.”

Categories: Book 2 - How Cheryl Lost Her Tail, Chapter 2 - This Con Ain’t Big Enough For All Of Us.

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