Category Archives: The Last Driver

The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 7

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

December 24, 2017

…bitch!”

If you ever find yourself looking for a sign that you’ve spent way too much time at a strip club, the sight of two scantily clad skanks cussing each other out over whose mark you are is surely it.

“He’s mine!” Chastity said. Sigh. Every strip club had a “Chastity.” So cliché.

“I saw him first,” Cinnamon said. “I’m giving him a lap dance first and you can just make do with the sloppy seconds.”

It doesn’t take much to make a man happy. Beer. Titties. Ass. Those are the big three, and they usually work best in that order. It was one in the morning. I was sitting at the bar of the Sneaky Squirrel, LA’s premiere gentleman’s club at the time, though there was nary a gentleman in sight as far as I could tell. Just a bunch of lonely, sad sack horn dogs looking to give away their hard earned money in exchange for a few pathetic minutes of friction that would be long forgotten by tomorrow morning.

Sadly, I was one of them. Worse, there was an ass directly in front of my face, but somehow, it just didn’t make me happy.

The owner of the aforementioned ass stood all the way up. Despite her high heels, she was still able to maintain her balance on the bar. She addressed the bickering hussies. “Bitches, hush!”

“Stay out of this, Sugar!” Chastity said.

“Girl, this is Crystal’s man,” Sugar said.

Chastity threw her hands up. “Whoa shit. No one told me that.”

She walked away. Cinnamon followed. “Last thing I need it is to be cut.”

I looked up at Sugar’s sweet face. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” Sugar said as she held out her hand. I slapped a bill into it. She returned the ass to the general vicinity of my face. It was cute, small and shapely and yet, it might as well have been a bag of rocks. I was in no mood.

“Someone fart on your pancakes?” Sugar asked.

“Huh?”

“I don’t know,” Sugar said. “You know…you had some pancakes. You were happy. Someone farted on them. Now you’re sad.”

“Something like that,” I said. I pulled out another bill and sat there, feeling sorry for myself. There was a slap on my shoulder.

“Bitch,” Bernie said as he took the stool next to me. He set down a big, overflowing plate. It was covered with chicken wings, nachos, dip, mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers. “You have got to visit the buffet.”

“No thanks,” I said.

“You wouldn’t think a place called ‘The Sneaky Squirrel’ would put out a decent spread but damned if they don’t,” Bernie said as he attempted to hand me a chicken wing. “Come on, have a nosh.”

“No thanks,” I said.

Bernie shrugged his shoulders and chomped down on the wing. “Suit yourself.”

“Hey Bernie,” Sugar said.

“Hey Sugar,” Bernie replied. “Your walking up right I see?”

“You know it,” Sugar said.

“I was worried,” Bernie said. “I thought I was a little too rough on you.”

“Oh,” Sugar said. “You were good but I bounce back quick.”

“Ugh,” I said.

“What?” Bernie asked.

“You disgust me,” I said.

“Like you aren’t doing the same thing with Crystal,” Bernie said.

“It’s different,” I said. “She’s my girlfriend.”

Bernie snickered. He bit the end off a mozzarella stick. “Kid, that girl is every man’s girlfriend.”

“Whatever,” I said. I sipped my beer.

“You look like someone pissed on your potatoes au gratin,” Bernie said.

“It’s cereal,” I said.

“Huh?”

“The expression is, ‘You look like someone took a shit in your cereal,’” I said.

“Is it now?”

“Yes,” I said. “Because when you sit down at the table and dig your spoon into a nice heaping helping of your favorite cereal covered with ice cold milk, the last thing you want to pull out is a shit.”

“I should say so,” Bernie said.

“That would put you in a bad mood,” I said.

“Colloquialisms aside,” Bernie said. “What’s your problem?”

I turned to Bernie. “You.”

Bernie was aghast. “Me?”

“Yeah, you,” I said. “You told me that tunnel was just going to get filled up with smoke.”

“Shit,” Bernie said as he looked around, then leaned towards me. “Will you keep your voice down? These bitches have ears.”

Bernie pulled a twenty out of his pocket and handed it up to Sugar. “Baby, take five will you? Go check out that biker down the bar. He looks like someone took a shit in his cereal.”

“OK Bernie.” Sugar strutted away, keeping her footing on the bar the entire time.

“I’m sorry for the deception,” Bernie said. “Would you have participated otherwise?”

“No,” I said.

“There you go,” Bernie said.

There was a TV monitor hanging over the bar. The news channel was on. Footage of the collapsed tunnel was playing. An anchorman spoke in a voiceover. “…the Governor is calling this the worst act of terror in California’s history. Authorities believe a series of charges were planted at the end of the tunnel and triggered to aid the bank robbers in their escape.”

“All those people, Bernie,” I said.

Bernie took a swig of beer, then dipped a nacho chip into a pile of dip. “Very sad. Boo hoo. Life goes on.”

“What you did was wrong,” I said.

Bernie dropped his chip and grabbed my arm. His usual carefree demeanor turned grim. “What ‘I’ did?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Listen, prick,” Bernie said. “I’ve got news for you. You’re just as responsible for what happened tonight as I am.”

“Bullshit.”

Bernie released my arm. “I’ve got you figured out.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah,” Bernie said. “Look at you and your jacket and your little fancy driver outfit. You think you’re just responsible for the transportation part of the caper but let me tell you, a heist is a big job. Requires a lot of people. One asshole fucks up, the whole crew goes down. A crew needs a man like me to figure out the logistics. They need a man like you behind the wheel to get them where they need to go. If we don’t get involved, a heist doesn’t happen.”

“Blah, blah, blah,” I said.

“Fuck you, Frank,” Bernie said. “You may think you’re slick. You may think your shit don’t stink but trust me, your hands are dirty. Every time you show up to be a wheel man and take a cut, your hands get that much dirtier. You may not be sticking a gun in the face of some poor teller making minimum wage but you might as well be.   You’re just as responsible as the rest of us.”

I was quiet for a moment, collecting my thoughts. “I’m aware of that.”

“I don’t think you are,” Bernie said.

“This job was different,” I said. “Roman’s fucking up.”

Bernie raised an eyebrow. “Well…one man’s fuck up is another man’s planning.”

“What’s that supposed to me?”

Bernie sucked the chicken off a bone. “It means Roman knows what he’s doing.”

“Carmine was better at planning a job,” I said. “He always brought in pros who knew about crowd control,” I said.

“True,” Bernie replied.

“They got in, they got out,” I said. “There were never any shots fired…certainly no reason for…”

I watched the footage of the rubble on TV. “…that.”

I drank some more beer. “You knew those guys were clowns. You knew you’d have to do something like that.”

“Look,” Bernie said. “Kid, we work for a family business.”

“So?”

“So,” Bernie said. “Sometimes there’s a downside to working for a family business, say, when father and son don’t exactly see eye to eye.”

“Huh?”

“Roman wants to be a big shot,” Bernie said. “And Carmine is happy to keep him as a little shot.”

“I don’t get it,” I said.

“Roman wants more money,” Bernie said. “The old man is a cheap bastard so the kid’s finding other ways to get it. So, he cut some corners. Rather than recruit some pros, he finds a bunch of shitheads that nobody will miss and…”

“Gets you to fix them,” I said. “And keeps their cut…without the old man being the wiser.”

Bernie tapped the side of his nose. I watched the TV. “Carmine can’t be happy with this. This is so much heat.”

“It’ll blow over in a week,” Bernie said. “This time next week, the news reporters will be talking about some famous broad’s tits or which celebrities got divorced. The collective consciousness of society has the attention span of a gnat.”

“Still,” I said. “Carmine…”

“Carmine is an oblivious fuck who doesn’t care about heat until he needs to care about it,” Bernie said. “We’re in the clear. This will never be traced to us. Lighten the fuck up.”

Bernie reached into his pocket and pulled out a big stack of bills, at least ten thousand dollars. He shoved it into my hand. “Here…what do you know? A stack accidentally fell off the truck. Doesn’t even apply to your cut. What the goombas don’t know what kill them. Grab some of these bimbos and live it up. Take your mind off it.”

Photos of people who died in the explosion rolled on screen. “But Bernie…”

Bernie pounded his fist on the bar, then calmed down. “Kid, what I’m about to say is a long time coming…”

“What?”

“You are a great driver,” Bernie said. “Really. You’re a maestro behind the wheel. Your brain and your foot are simpatico. You and your little ride get in and out of scrapes like nobody’s business.”

“OK,” I said.

“You’re a great driver,” Bernie repeated. “But you, my boy, are also a shitty criminal.”

I laughed. “Fuck you Bernie.

“No,” Bernie said. “Fuck you.”

The fixer reached for my chest and grabbed my cross. “This shit…right here…its gonna get you killed.”

“You’re nuts.”

“No,” Bernie said. “I’m completely sane. The world is nuts. Everybody beebopping along, worshipping an invisible man in the sky, worrying that every little thing they do might offend him. ‘Oh, I better not fuck this bitch I’m not married to!’”

I laughed. Bernie carried on. “’Oh, I better not take that thing I want because it doesn’t belong to me!’”

Bernie chomped down on another nacho.   Crumbs spewed out of his mouth. “’Oh, I’m so sad because a bunch of people I never met fucking died so I could live and enjoy some money that isn’t mine while I stay the fuck out of prison.’”

“Over a hundred people,” I said.

“The number is inconsequential,” Bernie said.

“The methods are,” I said. “It’s possible to do what we do without so much of…”

The TV continued to run coverage of the explosion. “…that.”

“Yeah well,” Bernie said. “Now your new boss says its necessary.”

“Roman’s not a boss,” I said.

“You tell him that,” Bernie said.

“No thanks,” I replied.

“Look, kid,” Bernie said. “I’ve got no conscience. I can fuck one of these bitches today and change my number tomorrow if she tells me she’s pregnant and sleep like a baby.”

I smiled.

“I can eat this entire plate of shitty food and not care what it’s going to do to my body,” Bernie said. “I can swipe things that don’t belong to me and double cross the idiots who helped me do it and yeah, I can even…”

Bernie looked at the TV. “…do that…and sleep like a baby. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t give a fuck,” Bernie said. “This…Bernie said…this life is all there is. There was nothing before it. There’s nothing after it. You’re never going to answer to anyone. There’s no one that’s going to take your angel wings away and sent you into a pit of fire. There’s no devil to rape you in the ass with a ten foot pitch fork.”

“Good,” I said. “Because that would be uncomfortable.”

“He’s got jokes,” Bernie said. “Good, he’s got jokes. He’s lightening up a little. Kid, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but we’re all just meat puppets.”

“What’s that now?”

“Meat puppets,” I said. “Piles of meat with mouths that move up and down, able to move and talk and breath due to a plethora of highly scientific processes coming together and it all sounds very nice and special but it’s not.”

“It’s not?”

“No,” Bernie said. “Everybody thinks their unique, their special, they’re important, their thoughts and feelings matter. None of this matters, kid. You were born. You are alive. If you’re smart, you will experience as much pleasure as you can before you don’t exist anymore and you’re a fool if you let anything get in your way.”

“Even other people?” I asked.

“Especially other people,” Bernie said. “Fuck ‘em. They were never going to live forever. They’re dead and I get to spend money that isn’t mine and have fun.”

I watched the TV. “We can’t do this forever.”

“You can’t,” Bernie said. “I can. I’m fully aware this ends with me either dead or in prison but again, nothing is permanent so, fuck it. The price you pay to live another day.”

Bernie lightly slapped my cheek. “You’re a great driver…but a shitty criminal. You feel too much. You worry too much.   You care too much. You don’t have a soul. Nobody does. But you think you have one, so you care too much – about yourself, about life, about what happens to other people. That shit will eat you up inside until there’s nothing left. Get out while you still can.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I do know,” Bernie said. “If you die, that slut you’re banging will be sad.”

“She’s not a…

Bernie raised his eyebrow again, challenging me to finish the sentence. I declined.

“For like five minutes, she’ll be sad, then she’ll move onto the next guy, but sadness on her part will definitely happen.”

“Fuck you, Bernie.”

“Then there’s prison,” Bernie said. “Put you in prison, and you’ll be a bitch, passed around like a doobie, being used in all of your orifices by day, curling up in the fetal position and crying by night.”

“I would do better than that,” I said.

“I was being gracious,” Bernie said. “Honestly, I think you’ll be shivved on your first day and left to bleed out on the cafeteria floor by noon. Me? I’ll be running that joint within a week, making deals and turning wheels, pulling strings and trading things, baby. I’ll be making the bitches.”

“We’ll see,” I said.

“No,” Bernie said. “I’ll see. You won’t…because you’re getting out of this game. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.”

I shook my head.

“Great driver,” Bernie said. “Shitty criminal. Remember that.”

The house lights flickered. A 1980s death metal song blared. The DJ got on the mic. “Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’re enjoying the buffet, the best in all of LA, now if you’d be so kind, give it up for the girl making her way to the main stage…it’s Crystal!”

Bernie and I swiveled around on our stools. There, on the stage in the center of the club, a Goddess strutted out and struck a pose. She was tall, slender and supple, curvy in just the right places – a raven haired brunette. She wore a seasonal costume that was best described as, “Sexy Mrs. Claus.” She grabbed a spray bottle, spritzed the pole, and wiped it down with a cloth.

“I’ve never understood that,” Bernie said.

“Understood what?” I asked.

“These girls,” Bernie said. “They gobble three, four knobs a night, but germs on the pole they worry about.”

“Crystal doesn’t do that,” I said.

Bernie glared at me.

“Shut up,” I said.

“Here she is, folks,” the DJ said. “This ho, ho, ho is ready to jingle your bells and fa la la your la…give it up for Crystal…”

Dozens of lonely perverts belled up to the main stage, making it rain dollar bills as my girl gyrated against the pole.

“I’m going to marry that girl someday, Bernie.”

The fixer raised his beer bottle and took a gulp. “My condolences.”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 6

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

March 14, 2050

After an hour of channel-surfing the state approved tele-web, my mind was numb. I’d seen countless hours of television in my youth. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, but all of it was better than the trash the One World Order spoon fed the masses. The irony is that I found that I found these shows humorous. Hollywood had thrown in with the Order and all the writers, producers, actors and actresses – they were putting on these shows with a straight face, never realizing that old timers like me were laughing at them. I doubt anyone under 35 realized these shows had become inadvertent parodies of everything the One World Order stood for.

I reached for Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab. It was a bad idea to keep it out in the open. Each individual movie stored on it would most likely be considered a separate offense the state and yet, it had been so long since I’d seen anything remotely entertaining that I couldn’t help but watch another old movie. I turned the device on and was scrolling through the selections when there was a knock on the door.

“Shit.” As the knocks continued, I stood up and frantically looked around the room, hoping to find a good hiding spot for the ancient X-Tab. The knocks grew louder. A very mellow, almost high-sounding electronic voice spoke. “Citizen Wylder?”

The unapproved X-Tab was still in my hand and the only thing standing between me and a trip to a re-education center was the door. “Yes?”

“Civil Society Monitor Drones,” the voice said. “We’re here for your weekly inspection.”

“Oh,” I said.   I scanned the room. I pondered shoving the X-Tab under a doily on an end table, stuffing the device down my pants, and making a rub to the bathroom to see if it would fit down the toilet, but none of those options seemed viable.

“Didn’t we do that last week?” I asked.

“We do them every week,” the drone answered. “Hence, ‘weekly inspections.’”

“Oh right,” I said. “Sorry. I’m an old man. I forget these things.”

If the first best thing about being old is running out of fucks to give, the second best thing is being able to feign incompetence as an excuse. Sometimes I didn’t have to feign it, although this time I was.

“Are you alright, Citizen Wylder?” the drone inquired.

“I’m fine,” I said. “Just tidying up.”

“There’s no need,” the drone said. “We see many homes in various states of disarray.”

“Oh, you know me boys,” I said. “My mother always taught me to make your place spic and span if you’re having company over.”

I was out of time. I gave up, lifted up the middle couch cushion, stashed the ancient X-Pad, then dropped the cushion and sat down.

“We’re coming in,” the drone said.

I put my arm around Hannah, who was still asleep. “Oh no, I don’t want to put you out. I’ll be right there.”

The electronic locks on my front door clicked. The door swung open and in flew three drones. They were fairly standard in appearance. Four whirring rotor blades attached to a base, with a 360-degree camera that saw everything hanging down. As an interesting touch, there was a red light just above the camera that blinked whenever the contraption spoke.

“Good evening, Citizen Wylder,” the drone in the center said.

I sat up and grabbed my back, then winced. “Oh Jeeze Louise. Hello boys. I’m sorry I didn’t get to the door sooner but you know…my aching sacroiliac.”

“No worries,” the center drone said. The drones to the left and right broke off from the pack. The left drone headed for the kitchen. The right one made a beeline for the garage.”

The remaining drone buzzed closer to me. “I am Civil Society Monitor Drone Number 327B19, but to placate your humanist need to relate to anything with the power of speech, you may call me Randy 12.0.”

“Frank Wylder,” I said as I put out my hand. The drone looked at it. I looked at it. Neither of us were able to figure out what to do next, so I put the hand away.

“Right,” I said.

“You may refer to my colleagues as Jeff 7.6 and Carl 8.9,” Randy 12.0 said.

“Alright,” I replied. “What happened to Pete 11.1? I’m used to seeing him.”

“Grounded for repairs,” Randy 12.0 said. “An unfortunate encounter with an unruly citizen I’m afraid.”

“Wow,” I said. “That’s bullshit. Tell that little bucket of bolts I hope he gets better real soon.”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “A one-hundred credit fine will be deducted from your account.”

“For what?” I asked. “Wishing your buddy well?”

“Violation of the Anti-Inappropriate Speech Code,” Randy 12.0 said. “The Obscenity Eradication Act, in particular.”

“Oh,” I said. “Here we go.”

Ever so slowly, the drone flew about the living room, being sure to record video of everything. He then returned to face me. A red laser shot out of the center of the drone and painted my face with a grid.

“Confirming identity,” Randy 12.0 said. “Frank Wylder. Born 1987. Class 7 citizen.”

Ugh. There were ten classes assigned by the One World Order, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst. I was poor, so I was assigned to Class 7. This assignment meant I was only allowed to reside in a low level neighborhood, and the amount of money and possessions I could have was severely limited. If you think “7” doesn’t sound like such a bad number, consider that Class 8 is reserved for general, run-of-the-mill criminals. Class 9 is comprised entirely of pederasts and Class 10 includes, you guessed it, the vile Nationalist pigs. So in other words, my government looked upon me with just a little bit more favor than would be provided to criminals, perverts, and traitors.

Randy 12.0 stared at me and waited. Eventually, I figured out what he wanted me to say. “All hail the One World Order.”

“Long may it reign,” the drone said as it buzzed towards Hannah.

“My granddaughter,” I said. “I have an agreement with my ex-wife. She has custody. I get visitation.”

Custody agreements and other standing divorce arrangements from the um…time that I wasn’t allowed to talk about had been grandfathered in. The One World Order had forced many bizarre, draconian laws on its subjects, but even they knew they weren’t going to be able to force women to take back men that they’d given the old heave-ho to.

The drone painted Hannah’s sleepy face with a red laser grid.   “Scanning…Hannah Wylder. Born 2037. Age 13. Yes, your custody documents are on file and are in order.”

Randy 12.0 took another swing around the room. “How are you this evening, Citizen Wylder?”

“I’m hanging in there,” I said.

“Been having any problems?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“Just old age,” I said. “Losing hair in the places I want to keep it. Growing it in places I don’t want it. Don’t even get me started on my bowel movements. They haven’t been regular in ages.”

“Too much information, Citizen Wylder,” the drone said. “Have you observed any suspicious behavior amongst your neighbors?”

“Nope,” I said. “The Martinezes are fine people. A real credit to the order, if you ask me.”

“Has there been an issue with your Happy Order Month lawn signs?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Citizen Martinez indicated to me that he has placed several signs on your lawn to assist you in putting your pride in the One World Order on full display,” Randy 12.0 said. “But they keep disappearing.”

“Right,” I said. “Yeah, you know, someone keeps swiping them…but Martinez, he’s a good egg.”

“A good what?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“He’s a good egg,” I said. “He keeps putting signs on my lawn because, you know, I’m old, I can’t get out to get new ones every time they go missing.”

“Understood,” Randy 12.0 said. “Why would you refer to your neighbor as a protein deposit dispensed from a chicken’s hindquarters?”

I shook my head. “Its an expression. It…never mind.”

“So no suspicious activity observed amongst your neighbors then?” Randy 12.0 said.

I smirked. “No…well.”

Randy 12.0 spun around and faced me. “What?”

I waved my hand, attempting to shoo the drone away. “No, it’s nothing.”

“Out with it, Citizen Wylder,” the drone said. “Any piece of information you have, no matter how insignificant it may seem, may prove to be of vital importance to the One World Order.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” I looked around the room, then leaned forward, towards the drone. “Look, you didn’t hear this from me, but Mrs. Howard, that old bitch across the street, have you seen the size of her lately? She has got to be sneaking extra rations. I’d work her over real good if I were you.”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “You have been fined one hundred credits.”

I spread my arms out. “For what?”

“Another obscenity violation,” Randy 12.0 said.

I was down two hundred credits now, and I needed that money. I grew angry, pissed even. I lost it and started saying things I knew was just going to displease my uninvited guest.

“Come on,” I said. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees me the Freedom of Speech.”

“The One World Order maintains that document never existed, nor would it be considered valid if it ever did, which it did not,” Randy 12.0 said. “And you have been fined another one hundred credits.”

“For?” I asked.

“Violation of the Anti-Nationalist Speech Act,” Randy 12.0 said. Citizens are not allowed to make claims that any government ever existed other than the One World Order.”

I took a deep breath and found my composure. Accusations of harboring Nationalist tendencies were definitely something I didn’t need. “I’m sorry…I’m old…I get confused.”

“Understandable, given your advanced age,” Randy 12.0 said. “Citizen Wylder, are you aware that at anytime, you may voluntarily check yourself into one of the Order’s many fine senior citizen facilities. There are nursing homes for the infirm, though it would appear in your position, a mere assisted living center would be more suitable.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Pete reminded me every time. Sorry, if it’s all the same, I’d like to kick back around here. I’d miss my granddaughter too much plus I don’t want to be a burden.”

“You already are a burden,” Randy 12.0 said. “My records indicate you secured disability leave from your assigned position as a janitor due to depression related issues?”

“Yup,” I said. “It was a great job. Really, I loved cleaning toilets but you know, I got so sad.”

“Do the depression issues persist?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“All the time,” I said. “I don’t know how it happened but I am one morose son of a…”

Randy 12.0 hovered in front of me, almost as though he was waiting to beep. I avoided the fine. “…son of a something or other…shame really, I don’t I’ll ever be able to muster up the mental capacity to scrub a toilet ever again.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Citizen Wylder,” Randy 12.0 said. “I’m downloading some brochures about the Order’s many fine senior citizen facilities to your tele-web.”

“No need,” I said. “I’m not a big reader.”

“Do start thinking about the impending change,” Randy 12.0 said. “Retirement to a senior citizen facility is mandatory upon reaching the age of 65. That’s not far away for you.”

“Pete reminded me of that all the time too,” I said.

“Senior citizen facilities are not that bad, Citizen Wylder,” Randy 12.0 said. “There’s tennis, racquet ball, arts and crafts, aerobics, swimming, talent shows…”

“Mind control…”

Randy 12.0’s red light blinked. “The Order prefers to refer to that as ‘mind management.’”

“Gotcha,” I said.

Randy 12.0 made another circular pass around the room. “Citizen Wylder, do you have any contraband to declare?”

My mind instantly went to the ancient X-Tab, still underneath the cushion I was sitting on. “Pardon?”

“Contraband,” the drone said. “Are you in possession of any illegal items?”

“No,” I said. “Of course not.”

The drone buzzed toward me in a straight line and hovered a mere six inches from my face. “Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“But,” the drone said. “Are you sure that you’re sure?”

I pondered the question. “Sir, this is a house dedicated to the preservation of the One World Order and all of its ways. I don’t appreciate your insinuation.”

Randy 12.0 backed up another six inches. “I insinuated nothing, Citizen Wylder. I merely wish to make you understand that penalties for contraband violations are often less severe when they are confessed to before the illegal item is found.”

I remained silent.

“Do you understand, Citizen Wylder?” Randy 12.0 asked.

“I do,” I said. “I’m just waiting for you to laugh maniacally like a comic book super villain.”

“I do not understand,” Randy 12.0 said.

“That’s ok, sport,” I said. “Happens to the best of us.”

“Now that I have ensured you understand the consequences of providing a false answer, I’ll have you answer the question again,” Randy 12.0 said.

“Holy shit,” I said. “Did someone stick a sadist chip up your ass?”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “An additional two hundred credit fine.”

“That was only one violation,” I said.

“Two violations,” Randy 12.0 said.

“But I used both obscenities in the same sentence,” I protested.

“That doesn’t matter,” Randy 12.0 said. “Each obscenity is a separate violation.”

“Huh,” I said. “You learn something new everyday.”

“Answer the question please.”

I rolled my eyes and held up the palm of my hand. “Look, you airborne clunker, I swear on my mother’s eternal soul that I do not have any illegal stuff in this house, OK?”

Randy 12.0 beeped.

“Oh come on,” I said. “What now?”

“Processing…processing…yes…that was close to a violation, but I have the power to let you off with a warning.”

I was getting tired. I rubbed my hand over my face. “Dare I ask?”

“Violation of the Religion Eradication Act,” Randy 12.0 said. “You stated your deceased mother has an eternal soul but as far as the One World Order is concerned, she is no more than a spent carcass that in all likelihood as disintegrated into dust by now.”

I sat back on the couch. “Way to liven up the mood, Randy 12.0”

“A fine was possible, but I took into account the intent of the infraction, namely, your backward attempt to assure me you are not in any possession of contraband,” Randy 12.0 said. “Since you were not actively attempting to preach outdated and illegal religious dogma, I am able to wave the violation.”

“Well,” I said. “’Aint that some shit.”

Randy 12.0 beeped. “A one hundred dollar fine. I must warn you that all speech code violations are kept track of and further infractions may lead to time in a re-education center.”

Jeff 7.6 and Carl 8.9 flew into the living room.

“Citizen Wylder,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“That’s my name,” I said. “Don’t wear it out.”

“Are you aware that there are 9 cans of beer in your fridge?” Jeff 7.6 inquired.

“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, well you see, my granddaughter’s been visiting me so that’s put me in a happier mood. I haven’t been feeling the need to souse myself up as much lately.”

“You are only allowed to have six beers in your fridge at any time,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“No,” I replied. “I thought I could only buy six beers a week.”

“That’s correct,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“And I can only drink six beers a week,” I said.

“Correct,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“But if I don’t drink them I get to keep them, don’t I?” I asked.

“No,” Jeff 7.6 said. “Because then we have no assurances that you won’t drink 9 beers in a week.”

“Ugh,” I said. “So you’re punishing me for drinking less?”

“Do not be concerned,” Jeff 7.6 said. “I have discretionary authority here. Technically, I do have the power to issue a fine. However, I will notify the contraband agent to stop by your home tomorrow to pick up the three excess beers.”

“You’re a real soft touch, Jeff 7.6,” I said.

“I don’t understand that statement,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“Can I just drink the extra three beers tonight?” I asked.

“No,” Jeff 7.6 said.

“Why not?” I inquired.

“Then we would have no assurances that you would not drink the remaining six beers and as we have established…”

“I’m only allowed six beers a week.”

“Exactly.”

“Huh,” I said. “Well, tell me this, Jeff Old Boy, what happens if I’m not home when the contraband agent stops by tomorrow?”

“He’ll let himself in.”

“Of course he will,” I said.   “What happens if I drink the three excess beers?”

“If you drink any amount of beer tonight,” Jeff 7.6 said. “Then there had better be at least three excess beers in your fridge for confiscation. At that point, it will be a safe determination that you drank only your six beer limit this week, but then you will be required to refrain from any further beer consumption until the following week.”

“Wow,” I said. “You little guys do a bang up job keeping track of everyone’s comings and goings. A real great job. You’re all aces in my book.”

Jeff 7.6 beeped. “One hundred credit fine.”

“What now?” I asked.

“Violation of the Anti-Gambling Related Speech Act.”

I raised my pointer finger. “Wait. I’d like to appeal that.”

“On what grounds?” Jeff 7.6 asked.

“I wasn’t talking about ‘aces’ as in the ‘ace’ card,” I said. “I was just paying you a compliment.”

“I detected sarcasm,” Jeff 7.6 said.

I huffed and puffed. “Well, sir, your sarcasm meter is on the fritz because I was distinctly just giving credit where credit is due. You’re going to fine a guy for telling you that you did a good job?”

“If you wish to appeal this fine,” Jeff 7.6 said. “You have thirty days to file an appeal form with the Regional Board of Fine Adjudicators. Once you file, your appearance at 7 hearings over the course of the next 14 years will be mandatory and the board will have until the year 2084 to render a final decision.”

“Yikes,” I said. “Oh well. I think my bum ticker will adjudicate that decision before the board does so, OK Jeffy Boy. You win. Just put it on my bill.”

Carl 8.9 hovered closer. “Citizen Wylder.”

“He’s not at home right now,” I said. “Care to leave a message?”

Carl 8.9 faced his clinking colleagues. A serious of beeps were exchanged. Carl 8.9 faced me again. “We have determined that was an attempt at humor.”

“Good for you,” I said.

“Because obviously you are here,” Carl 8.9 said.

“There are no flies on you,” I said.

“No there are not,” Carl 8.9 said.

“How can I help you, Carl?” I asked.

“Regarding the human driven automobile in your garage, I do not have an antique car collector’s permit for you on file.”

I reached into my pocket. As I did so, all three drones faced me. A mini-chain gun dropped out of the bases of each contraption.

“What are you doing?” Carl 8.9 asked.

I stopped moving. “I’m getting my permit.”

“You have a hard copy?” Carl 8.9 asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll show it to you, if we’re cool.”

“The temperature is not the issue,” Carl 8.9 said.

I sighed. “You tell me. Am I allowed to get it?”

“Affirmative,” Carl 8.9 said. “But slowly.”

Slowly, just as commanded, I pulled a plastic card out of my pocket and held it up. Carl 8.9 shot a laser at it and scanned it.

“This checks out,” Carl 8.9 said. “However, be advised that the plastic card permitting system has been deemed antiquated by the One World Order. All citizens with permits are required to register them digitally by the end of the year. You should have received a notice about that on the tele-web.”

“I have no idea how to use that thing,” I said. “I’m an old man.”

“I will send you a copy of the notice, Carl 8.9 said.

“Of course you will,” I said. “Well boys, this has been fun, but if there isn’t anything else…”

Randy 12.0 flew to the center of the room. “One scan of this room and we’ll be on our way.

My heart sunk. I began to wonder if I shouldn’t just pull out the X-Tab and declare it. Nope. I decided to keep quiet.

A red laser shot out of Randy 12.0. He used it to paint the top of the room with a grid. The number of individual squares grew and grew, slowly working their way downward. The squares reached my waist when Randy 12.0 beeped.

I coughed to clear my throat. “Something wrong?”

Randy 12.0 turned to Carl 8.9. “A major contraband find across the street. CSMD Team A72 is requesting backup.”

“I knew it!” I said. “I knew that old broad was up to no good!”

The grid shut off. Without so much as a goodbye, the three flying piles of junk flew out my front door. I sighed a breath of relief.

I stepped out to my front porch to watch a disturbing scene unfold. I had no love for Mrs. Howard. She spent most of her days trying to find some infraction to turn me into the Order for. Still, to see that old gal hogtied on the front lawn while Honor Guardsmen kicked down her front door…it just didn’t seem right.

“George Washington would be rolling over in his grave,” I said.

Way, way across the street, Randy 12.0 stopped and turned around. His voice was feint, but I was able to make it out. “One hundred dollar fine.”

“You could hear that all the way over there?!” I shouted.

“Yes,” the drone replied.

I stepped into my living room and slammed the front door behind me. “Son of a…”

 

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The Last Driver – #455 on Wattpad SciFi

I’ve ventured into science fiction, 3.5 readers.  “The Last Driver,” my testosterone fueled tribute to 1984 and Fast and Furious, is set in a world where self-driving cars are the norm.  That seems like a boon to the intrusive dictatorship, the One World Order.  What better way to keep tabs on the citizenry than to have their cars report where everyone is going?

In a world where everyone has forgotten how to drive, the last man who remembers how is ready to start trouble.

If you’re on Wattpad, I’d appreciate a vote, a comment, whatever you can spare.  Thanks!

CLICK HERE TO READ ON WATTPAD

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Frank’s Adventures in State Approved Tele-Web Media Monitor Surfing

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

Frank’s Adventures in State Approved Tele-Web Media Monitor Surfing

 

CHANNEL 1 – THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR CHANNEL

 

(The logo of the One World Order appears on screen. It is a lily white number “1” superimposed over the world.)

 

ANNOUNCER: Good evening, citizen. Welcome to the personal Channel of the Supreme Administrator of the One World Order. Please stand by for a message from the Supreme Administrator.

 

(A lovely older woman appears on screen. Her hair is short, dyed blonde. She attempts a smile even though her face is cursed with a permanent scowl. She looks as though she must concentrate very hard on maintaining the smile, such that any distraction might cause the smile to disappear completely. She wears a clean, neatly pressed, white pantsuit. This is the only outfit she has ever been seen wearing in public. She speaks with a fake kindness as though she is forcing herself to appear relatable to the ignorant masses.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Good evening, citizens.   All hail the One World Order. Long may it reign and long may it bring you global supremacy, efficiency and leadership for you and your state approved families. We make the hard decisions about what should be done with your lives so you don’t have to.

Happy Order Month. Citizens, can you believe that eighteen years ago this very month, the Globalists crushed the vile Nationalist pigs, flooding the streets with their wretched blood? Ahh, yes, and out of that bloodshed our world was born, a kind and just world where the just and benevolent One World Order has made four key promises to all citizens born after the year 2032, namely that they’ll always have something to eat, that they’ll always have a job to do, that they’ll always have some place to live, and of course, they’ll always have someone to be with. Isn’t that lovely? I can’t imagine living in a world where those four key reasons for being aren’t met and yet, I’m sure many of you have crazy old relatives who sit around the dinner table, blah-blah-blah-ing about how there used to be a world where all of those needs were not always met and yet somehow, this world was better.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR fakes a laugh. It sounds like a hen cackling.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, old people. Their rotten aging brains make them say some very silly things but don’t be discouraged citizens. Why, whenever anyone over the age of thirty-five starts telling you about a made-up fantasy world that existed before this one, just pretend their dirty old mouth is like the radiator or the air conditioner or some other noise in the background that you don’t particularly care for but you’ve gotten used to and have decided that you’re not going to let its existence get in the way of your good time.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR takes a sip of water.)

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: My, that is some delicious, unpolluted water we have, citizens. Remember, the Order’s top medical advisors all agree that you should be drinking at least eight glasses of water daily. Don’t worry, if you forget, our Civil Society Monitor Drones will remind you.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR takes another sip of water.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Mmm…I can’t get enough of that super wet stuff. Now, citizens, among the many ridiculous statements your elderly relatives might be making is this notion that the world used to be comprised of several, individual nations, each with their own distinct government and that somehow, a world like that would be better than the One World Order. First of all, none of that malarkey is true. There were never any nations. The world was just filled with people and buildings and roads and grass and trees and just a lot of stuff and no one was doing anything particularly useful with any of it. Sure, there were many greedy Nationalist pigs who ran around declaring everything to be theirs, shouting, “Mine, mine, mine!” but luckily, the Globalists slayed these subhuman beasts and thus the world was created.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR bites a carrot.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Mmm…don’t forget to eat your vegetables, citizens. Oh, but don’t worry, the Civil Society Monitor Drones will remind you to do that as well. Where was I? Oh yes, the myth of nations. Secondly, there’s no way that a Nationalist system would ever work. Can you imagine it? Everyone running around the world, willy nilly without any coordination? One part of the world prospers while another languishes? Only a strong, centralized, global government is able to see the big picture and make decisions that benefit the entire world, not just one administrative unit. Under the One World Order, all administrative units are treated equally. None are favored over the other, all are cared for, none are left to suffer. So please, the next time your Grandparents start talking nonsense, tell them the Supreme Administrator says they’re full of hot air.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR makes another fake laugh.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Oh, I apologize citizens. My speech writer advised me that would be a humorous joke, to claim that a person speaking nonsense is full of hot air, even though that would be ridiculous, because if a person’s body were to be filled with hot air, that action would literally kill that person, and there would be nothing humorous about that whatsoever.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR holds up a “Happy Order Month” sign.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Now, I’d like to remind citizens that the celebration of Order Month is completely voluntarily. If you’d like to put up one of these lovely signs in front of your home to put your pride in your government and all of the hard work it does in making all of the important decisions in your lives for you, then you are welcome to do so. If you’d rather not participate, that’s fine too. In fact, for those homes that do not participate, our Civil Society Monitor Drones will be stopping by to ask you a series of questions designed to determine how the One World Order can improve the many, many services it provides to you so that you will feel pride in your government next year.

 

(A voice calls off camera.)

 

VOICE: Supreme Administrator, it’s time for your one o’clock meeting.

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: Ah, well, it would appear that a Supreme Administrator’s work is never done. Until next time, this has been your Supreme Administrator, wishing you a Happy Order Month. All hail the One World Order, long may it rain and don’t forget to turn in any suspected Nationalist pigs to the authorities.

 

CHANNEL 2 – STATE APPROVED NEWS

 

(A STATE APPROVED NEWS READER appears on screen. He is handsome with chiseled features. He wears an all white suit with a white shirt and white tie.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Good evening, citizens. All hail the One World Order and long may it reign. I’m Citizen Barnes, your state approved news reader for this evening, here to read all of the news that the One World Order feels you need to now in order to be good, solid citizens, with none of the trivial details that you have no need to concern yourselves with, seeing as how the One World Order is taking care of all of these matters as we speak so you don’t have to.

 

(NEWS READER looks at a different camera.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Our top story tonight, the Honor Guard has quelled insurgencies across the planet, with depraved acts of Nationalist terrorism taking a gruesome toll on Order loving citizens everywhere. Explosions rocked government buildings in Administrative Units 5, 78, and 111. In total, 478 citizens lost their lives, though the Supreme Administrator has released a statement indicating that these citizens have not died in vein, for their deaths have urged her to be even more vigilant in carrying out the Order’s military campaigns against Nationalist pigs wherever they may be.

 

(Video rolls of an old man walking down a street, waving a red, white and blue flag. He is approached by shock troops dressed in shiny white armor. They carry flamethrowers.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Meanwhile, elderly citizens across the globe continue to display irrational, bizarre behavior, such as this citizen who caused quite a stir in Urban District 717TKY – Theta, one of the largest urban districts on the Eastern side of Administrative Unit 2.

 

(The video continues to roll.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN: Come along, now.

 

OLD MAN: This isn’t Administrative Unit 2! The Order is lying to all of you! It’s America! It’s America, I’m telling you!

 

(The Honor Guardsmen grab the old man and drag him away, kicking and screaming.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN: Let’s go, Grampa.

 

OLD MAN: God Bless America! Land that I love! Stand beside her, and guide her…no! Let go of me! Damn it, I’m an American citizen and I have rights!

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN: Time to put you in a nice home.

 

OLD MAN: No! I don’t want to go to a home!

 

(NEWS READER returns to screen.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: A very sad display, indeed. Young citizens are reminded to closely monitor the activity of their elders and to report any disturbing behavior to the authorities immediately.

 

(NEWS READER shuffles some papers.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: And now it’s time for the debate portion of our program. Our topic of debate this evening – “Nationalist Pigs – Are They Stupid and Crazy, or Crazy and Stupid?” Here with me in the studio to discuss this very important issue of our time is Citizen Mitch Stevens, an Esteemed Professor of One World Order Philosophy at the Region D Graduate Academy of Administrative Unit 2, and Citizen Abigail Chan, Director of the Region F Board of State Approved Intellectuals of Administrative Unit 102.)

 

(CITIZEN STEVENS is skinny man wearing a white suit and white bow tie. He wears a pair of glasses. CITIZEN CHAN wears a white businesswoman’s suit.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Citizen Stevens, I’ll start with you. Are these Nationalist pigs stupid and crazy or crazy and stupid?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Well, first, thank you for having me on the show, Citizen Barnes, and might I add, all hail the One World Order.

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Long may it reign.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Citizen Barnes, I would argue that the Nationalist pig movement, and I use the term “movement” facetiously because as we all know, the One World Order’s military units are crushing these menaces to society handily…

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That they are. All the citizens watching at home need not worry about that fact.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Indeed. So, as I was saying, Nationalist pigs start out as crazy, but then they cause others to become very, very stupid.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Intriguing. I actually read about this theory in your new book.

 

(CITIZEN STEVENS holds up a book titled “Why Nationalist Pigs Are the Worst.”

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Yes, thank you Citizen Barnes and I might add that my book is available for only ten and ninety nine out of one hundred credits over the state approved tele-web.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Well, if it’s state approved then it must be good.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Oh, stop, Citizen Barnes! You’re going to make me blush. Anyway, the problem begins with the old people.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: I see. So the elderly are a problem?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Very much so. Old people, as we all know, are extremely stupid and absurdly crazy. That’s not just me saying that. Ten out of all ten of the One World Order’s top scientists agree. That old people are stupid and crazy is not merely an opinion, but an actual scientific fact.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: You can’t argue with science.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: No, you can’t. Now, what happens is as the human body begins to deteriorate over time, it causes the brain to break down, and so old people start to go crazy and when they go crazy, they start to say stupid things.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Such as?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Oh, I don’t know. Things like, “Who stole my gelatin?” or “I can’t find my remote control” or “Where’s my favorite loofah? I swore I saw it over there five minutes ago” or in the case of the man we just saw in that footage, “Administrative Unit 2 is America.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: What’s America?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Your guess is as good as mine. It’s gibberish. The old man could have just as easily said, “Administrative Unit 2 is Wiggity Wabble Land” or “Administrative Unit 2 is “Boo Boo Larue Burg” but for some reason, his mind just made up a nonsense word so he said, “Administrative Unit 2 is America.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: How sad.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: It really is sad, Citizen Barnes, especially because old people can’t help it when their brains turn to mush, so it would be ridiculous to hold their craziness against him.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s a fair point.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: I like to think so. That’s why in my book, which again is available on the state approved tele-web, I go into detail about how the One World Order might, and I stress might, because after all, I’m just a lowly citizen, so who am I to tell the glorious One World Order what to do, but they might want to stop allowing the elderly to remain in their homes and just go ahead and round up all the old folks and put them away in some nice assisted living centers where they won’t be able to bother anyone with their crazy ideas.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s a nice thought.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: It is. And the best part is once all of the crazy old people are gone, they won’t be able to infect young people with dumb ideas like “the world used to be broken up into individual nations and it was a lot better” or “people used to make decisions for themselves and everyone was happy” garbage. Because that’s the problem, Citizen Barnes. The old people are crazy, they say stupid things to young people and as we all know, young people are very impressionable, so they go on and do stupid things. Crazy begets stupid.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s all very fascinating. Citizen Chan, it’s your turn for a rebuttal.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Thank you, Citizen Barnes, and I too would like to thank you for having me on the show. All hail the One World Order.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Long may it reign.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Citizen Barnes, first, let me say that I have nothing but great respect for Citizen Stevens’ lengthy track record as one of the top scholars of One World Order philosophy but I have to disagree with him on some key points.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Oh my, Citizen Chan, tell us how you really feel.

(The trio laughs.)

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Don’t worry, Citizen Stevens, I will. Are Nationalist pigs stupid and crazy or crazy and stupid? Look, it doesn’t matter whether the craziness happens first and the stupidity second or vice versa. While I agree with Citizen Stevens that the old fogies are responsible for stirring up Nationalist sentiments thanks to the insane ramblings that pour out of their mouths because of their rotten old brains, I disagree with the notion that we can just put all the old folks in nursing homes and then everything will be fine. I’m sorry. I just can’t get on board with that.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Then what action would you take, Citizen Chan?

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Look, I’m sorry. I know this opinion is not going to be very popular, it might even be a little controversial, but I’m just going to say it. I think we need to burn all the old people alive. There, I said it and you know what? I’m glad I said it.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: My word, Citizen Chan.

 

CITIZEN BARNES: I’m feeling light headed.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Sure, the elderly are causing a lot of problems, but to burn them alive…

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Harsh? Maybe. Effective? Most certainly. Listen Citizen Barnes, I’ll tell you a little story about my mother. Old gal. Sweet woman. Fine. But she would not stop rattling on and on with the crazy Nationalist ideas. All the time she was in my ear with nonsensical ramblings like, “Administrative Unit 102 used to be called China, Abigail” and “You should be speaking English, Abigail” and “You should be speaking Mandarin, Abigail” and “Abigail isn’t even a Chinese name, Abigail.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Mandarin?

 

(CITIZEN CHAN laughs.)

 

CITIZEN CHAN: I have no idea, Citizen Barnes. My family had the best scientists in all of Administrative Unit 102 look at my mother and the best they could figure out is that the woman was speaking in tongues. She’d made up some crazy language, gave it a name, ‘Mandarin,’ and all day long she’d just make these wacky sounds like, “Ching chong, bing bong, wing wong, ding dong” just every other word ended in “ong.”

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Strange.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: It really was.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: If I may interject, the most disturbing part of your mother’s affliction is her insistence that a language exists other than English.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: I know, right? Everyone knows that everyone all over the world has spoken English and only English since history started in 2032.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Indeed, the One World Order has released a statement telling us just that.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: Honestly, can you imagine a world where people spoke more than one language?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: How would people in different administrative units communicate with one another?

 

CITIZEN CHAN: It would be madness. Absolute madness. So anyway, my family and I tried our best with my mother. We were all like, “Ma! Enough with the ching chong talk already! Mandarin isn’t a real thing!” but she kept on speaking that way and she kept trying to teach her wacky language to other people so finally, I was left no choice but to inform the Honor Guard that my mother was a traitor to the One World Order and watch her be purged in the Honor Guard’s cleansing flames.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Wow.

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: You’re very brave.

 

CITIZEN CHAN: I know. And if you want to learn more about how I turned my mother in so that she could be burned alive, you can read all about it in my book, “Burn Nationalist Piggy, Burn,” which is also available on the state approved tele-web.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: I’ve read it and it is fascinating. There was one chapter that really grabbed my attention, Citizen Chan. Is it true that many young citizens feel a close affinity to their elderly relatives, such that when they see their elders engage in treasonous activities, they fail to turn them into the authorities?

 

CITIZEN CHAN: That’s true, Citizen Barnes and it’s a very disturbing trend. Look, to everyone watching, I know, emotions run high over this subject. We all love Grandma. We all want her at home, rocking back and forth in her chair, being happy and sure, like Citizen Stevens tells us, old people can’t help it when they do crazy things but if they craziness crosses the line into treason then I’m sorry, but I don’t care how much you love your grandmother, if you don’t turn her in for immediate burning, then you’re just as guilty as she is and you deserve to burn to.

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: Citizen Stevens, a final thought?

 

CITIZEN STEVENS: Call me an old softy but I just think there will always be cases where nursing homes and re-education centers will be more helpful than cranking up the flamethrowers, but I guess that’s why I’ve earned a reputation as the biggest hippy in academia.

 

(All three laugh. STATE APPROVED NEWS READER turns to the camera.)

 

STATE APPROVED NEWS READER: That’s all the time we have for tonight, citizens. Please stay tuned for commercial messages from our state approved business sponsors. Also, coming up in the next hour, is your neighbor a vile Nationalist pig? We’ll give you the top ten signs to be on the lookout for.

 

CHANNEL 3 – THE STATE APPROVED HISTORY CHANNEL

 

(A photo of the world appears. A stern voiced announcer speaks.)

 

ANNOUNCER: In the beginning, there was the world. How it got here is none of your business. All you need to know is that the world was here and there were some people and buildings and roads and trees and grass and stuff but no one was doing anything productive with any of it and there were some dirty Nationalist pigs who were ruining everything. Thankfully, the Globalists murdered so, so many of the Nationalist pigs, causing the streets to run red with their blood. And that’s when history began. Seriously, nothing of import happened before that.   As far as you’re concerned, the world began in the year 2032 and I know, I know. Some of the more curious citizens out there will ask, “Well, what happened during the other two thousand, thirty years?” Your answer is that’s none of your business so don’t worry about it. Nothing important ever happened until the One World Order began and that’s all you need to know.

 

(A photo of a grumpy old man appears.)

 

ANNOUNCER: Your super old relatives probably keep saying crazy nonsense, like there is a long history of the world, that there was a country called America and that there were World Wars were a lot of people died, one of which was caused by a short, sexually frustrated wacko with a stubby little mustache who killed a bunch of people. The old people will even tell you tall tales about plagues, famine, slavery, civil conflicts, droughts and medieval knights who put on suits of armor and bashed each other over the head with long blades called swords and enormous thunder lizards who came before everything. We here at the state approved history channel want to assure you statements such as these are all outrageous lies and if your elderly relatives are making these false claims, then it is your duty to report them to the authorities, no matter how sad that might make you. Remember, the sanctity of the One World Order must come before family. Besides, are you aware that there is a law that will allow you to immediately take possession of your elderly family member’s home and property the second you turn them in? I mean, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but that sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

CHANNEL 4 – STATE APPROVED CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING

 

(A man in aardvark costume appears. He plays a tune on a ukulele. He is surrounded by an audience of little kids.)

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: Hello little citizens!

 

KIDS: Hi Artie!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: All hail the One World Order!

 

KIDS: Long may it reign!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: How’s everyone doing today?

 

KIDS: Great!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: Why, of course you’re all doing great! You’re living under the benevolent guidance of the wise and just One World Order and as long as you are, you’ll do just fine. Who wants to hear a special Artie Aardvark song?

 

KIDS: We do!

 

(ARTIE AARDVARK plays the ukulele and sings.)

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: Ohh…if your parents are being naughty, turn them in! Oh if your parents are being naughty, turn them in! Oh, if your parents are being bad, turning them in is really rad! Oh, if your parents are being naughty, turn them in!

 

KIDS: Hooray!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: You see, kids, your Mommy and Daddy might love you very much, but the One World Order loves you even more. You’re too little to realize this, but the One World Order provides you with safety, security, education, consumer goods, food and water, really all the things you need to live so if anyone like, say your Mommy and Daddy, were ever to do anything bad to the One World Order, why we’d all die terrible, horrible, agonizing deaths. Your little eyes would bug out of your tiny heads and you’d all fall to the floor and writhe with pain, begging for the Order to help you but they won’t be there, because you didn’t report your Mommy and Daddy when you had the chance.

 

KIDS: Oh no!

 

AARTIE AARDVARK: Don’t worry. The Order’s doing just fine.

 

KIDS: Hooray!

 

AARTIE AARVARK: And you can keep it that way by pledging to turn your Mommy and Daddy in if you ever see them doing anything bad. So, if you suspect your Mommy and Daddy are a couple of dirty Nationalist pigs trying to throw a monkey wrench into the One World Order’s finely tuned governmental machine, tell an adult, or a police officer, or a teacher, or the nearest Honor Guardsman. Anyone who works for the government will do. Will you be sure to tell on Mommy and Daddy, boys and girls?

 

KIDS: Yes!

 

AARTIE AARDVARK: Oh good. That makes your old pal Artie so happy. Now, I know you kids might be worried about what will happen to you if your Mommy and Daddy are taken away. Well, don’t worry about that at all because if your parents are being naughty, then they don’t deserve to be your Mommy and Daddy, so the One World Order will find you a new Mommy and Daddy. And, to thank you, they’ll give you a big bag of toys and candy.

 

KIDS: Hooray!

 

ARTIE AARDVARK: And now, another song. Oh, when you turn eighteen years old you gotta take whatever job the One World Order assigns you and like it and if you don’t like it you have to shut up and pretend like you like it or else….Oh, when you turn eighteen years old gotta….

 

CHANNEL 5 – THE STATE APPROVED ROMANCE CHANNEL

 

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the State Approved Romance Channel. We now return to When Henry Met Sandy at the Appropriate Time as Appointed by the One World Order Regional Office of Marriage Arrangement.

 

HENRY: Oh Sally, I’m so happy that the One World Order put our names into an official database and used a complex algorithm to match us based on such factors as personal interests, habits, hobbies, education levels, age, class, income, and overall attractiveness.

 

SANDY: I know! This is the happiest day of my life!

 

(A short, pudgy woman with glasses waddles into fram. She reads from a set of cards with a froggy voice.)

 

ROZ: Hello, I’m Roz, your Regional One World Order Office of Marriage Arrangement Coordinator. Oh, how lucky you both are that the Order is mandating that you both tie the knot so neither of you will have to spend so many years of your lives worrying about silly questions like, “Is this person right for me?” and “Can I do better?” The short answer is, “No, you can’t.” We looked and we tried but no, you two are, to a reasonable mathematical certainty, the best each other could ever possibly do, so you’re stuck with each other.

 

SANDY: How romantic!

 

HENRY: I know, right?

 

ROZ: We will now commence with the legally required marriage ceremony. Henry, you promise to love Sandy, to honor and cherish her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do you part.

 

HENRY: I do.

 

ROZ: I know you do. It wasn’t a question, it was a declarative statement. Try to keep up. Sandy, you also promise to love, honor and cherish Henry in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do you part.

 

SANDY: Of course I do.

 

ROZ: Again, it wasn’t necessary to say anything. I’m just telling you what you’re going to do. You young people never listen. Now, by the power vested in me by the Supreme Administrator of the One World Order, I now pronounce you husband and wife, so don’t even think of trying to back out of this, because you can’t. Many have tried. All have failed. We will find you and punish you accordingly if we hear you’re even thinking about leaving your spouse, understand?

 

HENRY AND SANDY: We understand.

 

ROZ: Good. Kiss each other if you want but just remember, armed guards are walking the perimeter, ready to catch anyone who makes a break for it.

 

(HENRY and SANDY exchange a warm, passionate kiss.)

 

HENRY: I’d never leave Sandy.

 

ROZ: Good. Just keep saying that even when you learn that her extensive credit problems are now yours.

 

HENRY: Wait, what?

 

ROZ: Yup, oh and Sandy, just an FYI, you just caught herpes when you kissed Henry because he has it big time.

 

(SANDY pulls a tissue out of her pocket and vigorously wipes her lips.)

 

SANDY: Wait, what?

ROZ: Your husband’s lousy with herpes. Expect a big old fleshy ping bong ball on your lower lip within five-to-seven days.

 

SANDY: You could have told me!

 

ROZ: Wouldn’t have mattered. You weren’t allowed to say no anyway.

 

(ROZ hands the couple a large stack of paper.)

 

ROZ: Here’s the official print-out of everything you would have found out about one another had there been an extensive courtship period.

 

(SANDY pours over the document.)

 

SANDY: You perform as a clown at children’s birthday parties?

 

HENRY: What can I say? The Order took a long, hard look at my skills and abilities and said, ‘Birthday Party Clown.’

 

(HENRY looks at the print-out.)

 

HENRY: You were once suspected of carnal actions with a goat?!

 

SANDY: ‘Suspected!’ Keyword, buddy! Suspected, never proven. Even the Regional Law Enforcement Council said the charges were overblown.

 

HENRY: Like the goat.

 

SANDY: Ugh, I don’t have to listen to this, you herpes ridden party clown!

 

HENRY: How dare you? I can’t believe this. You and your goat loving, credit-ruining ways are going to put me in the poorhouse!

 

SANDY: I wish I’d never been chosen at random by a computerized algorithm to be your wife!

 

HENRY: I second that!

 

(HENRY and SANDY look at ROZ.)

 

ROZ: Again, don’t even think about leaving each other.

 

(HENRY sighs.)

 

HENRY: Come on. I’ll buy you an ice cream.

 

SALLY: Separate spoons, please.

 

HENRY: Says the goat lover.

 

SALLY: I don’t have to listen to this. I could…

 

(The couple bickers their way out the door. A janitor stops by to sweep the floor.)

 

JANITOR: I’ll have the arranged marriage that they’re having!

 

CHANNEL 6 – STATE APPROVED ACTION MOVIE CHANNEL

 

(A grown man is surrounded by bullies. They pick on him, call him nasty names, make horrible faces at him, push him and slap him.)

 

ANNOUNCER: In a world where one man was fed up with the way he was being treated…

 

BULLY 1: You smell bad!

 

BULLY 2: Yeah, and you’re very productive and are a credit to your community and we’re not so we’re jealous of you!

 

ANNOUNCER: …it was time to make the bad guys pay…

 

MAN: I don’t have to take this! I’m a citizen of the One World Order!

 

BULLY 1: Oh yeah? What are you gonna do to stop us?

 

BULLY 2: Yeah! We’re lousy citizens and we don’t care what the One World Order thinks about us!

 

BULLY 3: We’re total undesirables. Even though it’s against the law, we drink and smoke and fornicate outside of our arranged marriages and all of that unapproved behavior messes with our minds, just like the One World Order’s PSAs warned us it would.

 

BULLY 1: Yeah, and that’s why we show up late to our government assigned jobs and we don’t produce much.

 

BULLY 2: And rather than try to improve ourselves, we’re just going to be mean to you for being a good citizen.

 

MAN: You bullies better leave me alone!

 

BULLY 1: Or what?

ANNOUNCER: He’d make them pay in the only way he knew how…

 

(The man pulls out his cell phone and dials a number.)

 

MAN: I’m reporting you to the Honor Guard!

 

BULLIES: Oh no!

 

(A self-driving van pulls up. Shock troops pour out with flamethrowers at the ready.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 1: Are these bullies bothering you, citizen?

 

MAN: They sure are!

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 2: Hmm…tell me, citizen, at any time, did you hear these bullies make any Nationalist sentiments?

 

(MAN scratches his right ear.)

 

MAN: You know, I’ve always had a problem with earwax buildup, so I’m not sure, but its entirely possible.

 

(HONOR GUARDSMEN 1 and 2 look at each other.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 1: Good enough for me.

 

(All six HONOR GUARDSMEN point their flamethrowers at the bullies. MAN steps aside.)

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 2: Time to fry, piggies!

 

(The HONOR GUARDSMEN blast the bullies with a torrent of fire.   The bullies scream out in pain until they are reduced to a pile of ash on the ground. MAN trades a high five with HONOR GUARDSMAN 1.)

 

MAN: Thanks, Honor Guard!

 

HONOR GUARDSMAN 1: Don’t mention it.

 

CHANNEL 7 – STATE APPROVED SCIENCE FICTION MOVIE CHANNEL

 

ANNOUNCER: Space! It’s really big and there’s a lot to see! These are the travels of the Spaceship Excelsior. With a daring crew led by the intrepid Captain Morris, this ship will visit the furthest reaches of the cosmos.

 

(Captain Morris appears on deck, wearing a futuristic military uniform.)

 

CAPTAIN MORRIS: It’s time for our very first space-traveling mission. It’s the future, the year 3,000 to be exact. The One World Order has lasted for nearly 1,000 years and who could be surprised by that? This global system of government has been so effective that it has even provided the world with the means of intergalactic space travel. The One World Order of this time period has charged us with the task of finding the best run planet in the universe. Mr. Domo, take us to the stars, if you please.

 

  1. DOMO: I’m sorry, Captain, but I cannot.

 

CAPTAIN MORRIS: What? Why, what’s gotten into you man? Give me one reason why you can’t comply with my order or I’ll have you drummed out of the Star Corps!

 

  1. DOMO: Because, Captain, as you just said, we have been charged with finding the best run planet in the universe, but as we all know, there could never be a planet that is run better than Earth, thanks to the benevolent and just leadership of the One World Order. Ergo, if we just stay put, our mission is complete.

 

(CAPTAIN MORRIS stands up and puffs out his chest.)

 

CAPTAIN MORRIS: Mission accomplished! All hail the One World Order!

 

  1. DOMO: Long may it reign!

 

CHANNEL 7 – STATE APPROVED COMEDY CHANNEL

 

(A comedienne dressed like the Supreme Administrator sits at the end of a long conference table, surrounded by generals, advisors, and other important dignitaries.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: Ladies and gentlemen of the First and Best Class of the One World Order, I have brought you all together today to answer a very important question.

 

(TEXT flashes on the bottom of the screen. It reads: “THIS IS AN OFFICIALLY SANCTIONED PORTRAYAL OF THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR. CITIZENS ARE REMINDED THAT ANY UNAPPROVED PORTRAYALS OF THE SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATORS, OR OTHER GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ARE FORBIDDEN.”)

 

GENERAL MASON IMPERSONATOR: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR: No.

 

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR FOR COMMERCE ROBARDS IMPERSONATOR: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: No, that’s not it either. Subordinates, the question I now call upon you to answer is, “How many vile Nationalist pigs does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

 

GENERAL MASON IMPERSONATOR: Why, that’s an easy one, Supreme Administrator. That task would require hundreds, maybe even thousands of disgusting Nationalist animals because as we all know, all these malcontents ever do is bicker and argue with one another, so they would just fight and shout and demand to know what’s in it for them if they screw in the light bulb, greedy, self-absorbed savages that they are.

 

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR FOR COMMERCE ROBARDS IMPERSONATOR: And even if thousands of Nationalist slobs were to devote all of their time and energy to the unscrewed light bulb dilemma, they’d still take years, perhaps even decades to screw in the aforementioned light bulb, for as we all know, Nationalist scumbags are very inefficient and lazy.

 

GENERAL MASON IMPERSONATOR: Yes, that’s why I enjoy living under the One World Order, a system of government that, in this scenario, would allow our glorious Supreme Administrator to exercise swift, decisive judgment and ensure that one and only one Class 7 menial wage worker was ordered to screw in the light bulb within a matter of seconds, providing illumination for all in the general vicinity.

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: Exactly. Excellent answers, everyone. Oh, and there’s one more thing I must say.

 

(SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR looks directly into the camera.)

 

SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR IMPERSONATOR: Live from Urban District 717TKY, it’s the State Approved Comedy Program!

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 5

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

March 14, 2050

Hannah and I sat on my living room couch, drying our tears with tissues as we used Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab to watch an old romantic film from the 1990s about a colossal shipwreck. For a brief moment, we managed to compose ourselves, but then they had to go play that sad yet strangely inspirational song sung a French Canadian lady.

“But she said she’d never let him go!” Hannah protested.

“Oh well,” I said. “Things happen.”

“But…but…he’s gone.”

“Yup. The sea took him.”

Hannah blew her nose like a foghorn. “I just don’t get it.”

“Get what?” I asked.

“The girl was rich so she had a spot waiting for her on a lifeboat,” Hannah said.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“And the boy was poor but he had a perfectly good piece of driftwood to cling to for life until help arrived,” Hannah said.

“Right,” I said.

Hannah shot me an incredulous look. “So…”

“So,” I said. “What?”

“So,” Hannah said. “Why didn’t the girl just go get into the boat and let the boy hang onto the piece of driftwood and then they could have just met up later once everyone got on land?”

I put my arm around my granddaughter. “Sweetheart, that’s a question that the world’s greatest philosophers having been asking for decades ever since this movie came out.”

“Is there an answer?” Hannah asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Women take everything.”

“I beg your pardon?” Hannah asked.

“They used to,” I said. “That’s just the way women were. You could give a woman everything you had and she’d still want your driftwood. Just ask your grandmother.”

“Ask her what?”

I realized this was one of those concepts that a young person would never comprehend. Divorce, and by extension, all of the residual resentments that went along with it, had been banned by the One World Order, so there was no way a kid was ever going to understand how it was possible for me to hold a multi-year grudge against her grandmother for running off with the few scraps my creditors left me with.

.           I patted the little girl on the head. “Nevermind.”

“It’s weird that you and Grandma don’t live together,” Hannah said.

“Is it?” I asked. “I find it rather peaceful.”

There was a bowl of popcorn on the living room table. Hannah reached into it, grabbed a handful and started eating. “I hope one day the One World Order picks a man for me who will be willing to fall into the ice cold ocean to his certain death just so I can have his piece of driftwood.”

“Ugh,” I said.

“Something wrong?” Hannah asked.

“I just don’t like this whole idea of the government picking who you get to be with,” I said. “First, you’re too good for anyone in my opinion and second, what if they pick someone who stinks? Then what do you do? See, in my day, the time the Order doesn’t want you to know about, people were able to pick who they wanted to be with.”

“Did people make good picks?” Hannah asked.

“Meh,” I grumbled. I debated whether or not to crack another joke about Hannah’s grandmother, but opted not to. It probably would have just gone over the kid’s head anyway. “Let’s change the subject.”

Hannah yawned while I scrolled through the list of movies that had been downloaded on Billy Allen’s dead grandpa’s ancient X-Tab decades earlier. “What will we watch next?”

“Hmmph,” Hannah said as she nuzzled her face into my arm. “Comfy.”

“Oh,” I said. “Hun, you’ve got to watch this one. There’s this big German man who pretends to be a robot and he travels back in time to kill the mother of this guy to prevent him from growing up to become the man that kills all the robots. Can you believe this guy was actually in charge of what used to be Region A for a while? Oh well, just close your eyes during the part where he’s naked and…”

“Zzz.” My little girl was fast asleep, tucked snugly underneath my arm. I decided to save the battery life of the old X-Tab and laid it down on the coffee table. I picked up the remote control and turned on the state approved tele-web media monitor, which was located on the wall facing the couch.

“Let’s see what this schmucks are up to.”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 4

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

December 23, 2010

Day turned into night as the big rig pulled into a vacant lot. Bernie’s goons rolled up the back door of the trailer. With all three loot bags in the back seat, I backed Veronica out into the lot. I got out and watched as Bernie’s crew went to work on my girl, swapping out one dummy license plate for another and painting her a deep shade of midnight black. Yup, it’s true. Veronica was a brunette for an entire year after that.

In the back of the trailer, Santa One was awake. He removed his beard to reveal a bloody, broken nose. “When do we get our cut?”

“I don’t know,” Bernie said as he hopped out of the trailer. “Probably when Roman decides to give it to you.”

“No,” Santa One said. “Fuck that noise. That job was harder than we were told it was going to be.”

Bernie shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe it was harder…or maybe you boys just aren’t very good bank robbers. But hey, don’t feel bad. Not everyone has what it takes. Lucky for you, Price Town is always taking applications. You three would make great stock boys.”

Santa One stepped to the edge of the trailer and looked down on Bernie. “I want hazard pay. And damages for my nose. That driver was a maniac.”

Outside, I chomped on my toothpick and sighed in response to that comment, but said nothing. My stomach was still gurgling from the tunnel explosion.

“Seems like the driver was the only one who did his job right,” Bernie said. “You’re not in cuffs and you’re alive so..”

Santa One pointed a finger at Bernie. “I don’t want to speak to peons. I want what’s coming to me. I want to talk to the man in charge.”

“Look buddy,” Bernie said. “You’re going to have to take it up with Roman, although a word of warning – the Giacomo family organization isn’t exactly a democracy known for its robust parliamentary procedure, so if you think you’re just going to…”

“I don’t want to talk to Roman,” Santa One said. “I want to talk to the big man himself.”

Bernie guffawed. “You want to speak to Carmine Giacomo?”

“Yeah,” Santa One said.

“God,” Bernie said. “Pal, I barely speak to the top dog myself. You get to speak to him when he wants to speak to you and when he asks to speak to you, you drop to your knees and pray it’s not about something you’ve done to piss him off. So if you think a trio of two-bit hacks are just going to…”

Santa One pulled out his gun and pointed it down towards Bernie, who instinctively threw up his hands. “Whoa, whoa, whoa…there’s no need for…”

“I’m gonna talk to Carmina Giacomo,” Santa One said.

Bernie nodded. “Absolutely. You certainly are.”

“You’re going to take me to him right now,” Santa One said.

“Right away,” Bernie said.

“And my boys and I are going to get what’s coming to us,” Santa One said.

“Sure enough,” Bernie said. “Everything that’s coming to you.”

Santa One returned his gun to the pocket of his big red coat. Meanwhile, I checked out a news website on my phone. The latest headline forced me to break out in a cold sweat. “Over One Hundred Dead and Twenty Still Missing Following Tunnel Explosion.”

My stomach gurgled. I read the sub-headlines. “High Speed Chase Ends in Disaster…White House Calls Attack an “Act of Terror.”

I read on. “Homeland security officials are working in close coordination with the FBI after a daring bank robbery turned bloody…”

Burp. That was it. I thought my guts were empty, but there was more. I vomited all over the pavement. Bernie’s goons were pros. They didn’t flinch. They kept working.

Bernie slapped me on the back. “Aww geeze, kid. You want an antacid or something?”

“That’d be good,” I said.

Bernie said. “Yeah, I don’t have one. I don’t know why I asked that. You gonna be alright?”

“Smoke,” you said.

“What?” Bernie asked.

“That button you gave me,” I said. “You said it would just make a big cloud of smoke.”

Bernie pulled an apple out of his pocket and munched on it. “And a lot of smoke was made…after the fire…that consumed the many brave law enforcement officers who were valiantly attempting to apprehend us and put us behind bars.”

“You said it was just going to be a distraction,” I said.

Without skipping a beat, Bernie said in a deadpan tone, “They all looked pretty distracted to me.”

“And the people,” I said. “All those people.”

Bernie bit off another hunk of people. “Sad? Yes. But I mean…were any of them doing anything productive?”

I turned my head. “Fuck you, Bernie.”

“OK,” Bernie said. “Show me an article that one of those people was a scientist on his way to patent a cure for cancer and you got me. Mea culpa.”

The fixer slapped me on the shoulder. “Until then, get your panties out of a twist and take a Midol, kid. Honestly.”

“The President says its terrorism,” I said.

Bernie bunched up his hands and held them up to his eyes, pretending like he was crying. “’Waaah…boo ho the President says it’s terrorism!’ That’s you. That’s what you sound like.”

“This is serious,” I said.

“When was what we do ever not serious?” Bernie asked. The slightly older man, seven years my senior, stood there, waiting for an answer. I didn’t have one.

I was saved by Santa One. “I don’t have all night,” the dope shouted from the back of the truck.

“I know you don’t,” Bernie said. “You’re a very important man.”

Bernie looked around. “Say, boys?”

“What?” Santa One said.

“Where’s the money?” Bernie asked.

“What?” Santa One said.

“Are you deaf?” Bernie asked. “The money!”

“What do you mean?” Santa One asked.

Bernie removed his had and massaged his forehead for a moment. “I’m…I’m sorry…I just hate that.”

The fixer put his hat back on and looked at me. “Don’t you hate that? When you say something very succinctly with just the right words and someone says, ‘What do you mean?’ as though they don’t understand the meaning of commonly used terms?”

I was too nauseous to respond.

“I’m sorry,” Bernie shouted to Santa One. “When I said, ‘ Where’s the money?’ I meant ‘Abraham Lincoln just fucked your mother and asked your sister for a reach around, but she was too busy blowing Harry S. Truman while your father watched.’”

Typical Bernie.

“Huh?” Santa One said.

“Learn English,” Bernie said. “The question, ‘Where’s the money?’ in common English usage means that I am unaware of the location of the fucking money and I am inquiring to you, my good man, as to any knowledge you may have of the money’s whereabouts.”

“Huh?”

Bernie’s face turned red. “Where’s the fucking money?”

“What do you mean, ‘where’s the fucking money?’”

“Don’t make me do that dance again!” Bernie shouted. “The money! Where is it?”

“I thought you had it!” Santa One cried.

“Oh,” Bernie said. “The nerve of this guy. If I had the money, would I be asking you where it is?”

“I don’t know,” Santa One said.

“He doesn’t know,” Bernie said to me. He turned back to Santa One. “It’s OK. I don’t blame you. I blame the public education system. It’s been turning entire generations of Americans into dummies for years. Go on. Look around for the money.”

“What?” Santa One asked. “You telling me this is my fault?”

“Well,” Bernie said. “Look, I don’t mean to tell you how to do your job, but if I were a bank robber, I’d keep a might tight grip on my loot sack at all times, just saying.”

“This isn’t my fault,” Santa One said.

“Failing that,” Bernie said. “I would be aware of my loot sack’s location at all times. Again, just saying.”

My eyes veered off in the direction of Veronica, where I knew the loot sacks were sitting in the back seat. Moreover, I knew Bernie had put them there so I wondered what he was up to.

“You better not tell Carmine this is my fault!” Santa One shouted.

“There’s no fault yet,” Bernie said. “I’m sure the money’s around here somewhere.”

Santa Two and Three joined Santa One. “Someone loose the cash?” Santa Two asked.

“I didn’t do it,” Santa Three said.

“Give that trailer a good look over boys,” Bernie said. “And I’ll check the car.”

The Santas did just that. They looked in boxes, in containers, everywhere.

“I don’t see it!” Santa One yelled.

Bernie pulled a little black box out of his pocket. It was similar to the one he’d given me. Big red button. The nub of a silver antenna “Keep looking boys. You don’t want to go back to a man like Carmine Giacomo empty handed without at least being able to say you did a thorough search.”

Santa One picked up a case of auto parts and dumped it all over the floor. “Aww, come on! Rip this place apart!”

The Santas joined in, wrecking the trailer.

“Bern,” I said. “What are you…”

“You might want to step back for this.”

Bernie walked backwards, counting out his steps all the while. “One…two…three…”

My slightly older brother figure looked at me. “And we’re walking….we’re walking…four…five…six…”

“Jesus.” I hurried to catch up.

“Seven…eight…nine…Montez?”

Montez one of Bernie’s goons, nodded. He gathered all ten of the fixer’s hired hands and joined us.

“…ten,” Bernie said. He stopped and extended the antenna.

“I can’t find it!” Santa One said.

“Check under that tarp!” Bernie said.

“Which tarp?” Santa One said.

“The tarp in the back!” Bernie said. “There’s only one tarp. I’m sure I saw it.”

Montez and the goons covered their ears. I followed suit.

“God,” Bernie said. “Did I use two pounds of semtex or three?”

Bernie looked around for the answer. “Montez, dos o tres?”

“No se, Mr. Bernie.”

“Aw screw it,” Bernie said as he started walking backwards again. We all followed him. “One…two…three…four…five. Five’s good. Five ought to do it.”

Santa One walked to the edge of the trailer. “Hey! You got the money, don’t you?!”

“Nope,” Bernie said as he extended the silver antenna.

“If you think you’re going to cheat me, you’ve got another thing…”

Bernie pressed the button. Kaboom! Truck and trailer erupted into a massive, all consuming fireball. The flames jumped at least twelve feet into the air.

“Well, if the cops didn’t know where we were, they do now,” Bernie said as he pulled out a pack of gum. He looked at me. “Stick of gum?”

I vomited again. At this point, I had no idea where the puke was coming from. It was like my body had extra barf reserves.

Bernie pulled out a stick of gum, unwrapped it, and popped it into his mouth. He chewed away as he patted me on the back. “That’s OK, kid. Let it all out.”

“I would like a stick of gum, Mr. Bernie.”

“Of course, Montez. Where are my manners?”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 2

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

December 23, 2010

Believe it or not, there was a time when I looked like I was fresh off the showroom floor. My hair was thick, lush, and still black on its own. I didn’t need glasses, but I wore a pair of mirrored aviator shades. I don’t know if that made me look cool, but I felt like it did. My generation was very big on personal feelings and frankly, that might have led to the One World Order’s hostile takeover of the planet, but more on that later.

I work a dark leather jacket, paired with a black t-shirt and jeans. A toothpick dangled out of my mouth as I primped myself in the mirror, pushing a curl of hair up off my forehead.

My cell phone rang. I pressed a button on the Bluetooth headset in my ear to answer it. A Bluetooth headset was…no, I’m sorry. I’m staying firm on this. You whippersnappers will just have to figure this stuff out on your own.

“Sup?”

The man on the other end of the call was Bernie Schwartz, the Giacomo family’s fixer. He was a jack-of-all-trades. Whatever needed done, he did it. “Franky Boy. You ready to rock and roll?”

“You know it,” I replied.

“How’s Veronica?”

I answered that question by stepping on the gas. The engine roared, but Veronica was in park so she didn’t go anywhere.

“Hoo-wee,” Bernie said.

“Listen to that tiger growl,” I said.

“OK,” Bernie said. “Just making sure you’re not asleep with some bimbo’s tits on your face.”

“I’d never do that do your mother, Bern,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. I’m more worried about whether you’re ready.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I ran my fingers over what was, in retrospect, the tackiest piece of bling ever – a solid gold dollar sign that dangled from my neck from a much too flashy chain.   “It means that sometimes you spend so much time worrying about what I’m doing that you forget to come through on your end.”

There was a pause. “That is a scandalous accusation.”

“And an accurate one,” I said.

“Name one time I let you down,” Bernie said.

Off the top of my head, I was able to think of several examples.   I picked the first.

“Armax Freight,” I said.

Another pause. “OK. Name two times I let you down.”

Blam! Blam! Gunshots and screams cut the conversation short. “Shit,” I said. “They’ve fucked up. Just get into position.”

“On my way,” Bernie said. “What’s going…

I cut the call off and looked to my right. Passersby scattered and scrambled for cover as four grown men dressed like Santa Claus (red suits, white beards, the works) ran out of the Davis Street Branch of Avasti Bank. Their handguns were drawn and loot sacks were slung over their shoulders.

The piercing sound of an alarm bell ringing meant the job had been compromised. The Santas had frantic looks on their faces. A guard popped out of the front door and squeezed off three rounds only to get dropped by a shot to the chest courtesy of Santa One.

Just drive away,” I thought. “It’s not your fault Roman set you up with a crew of rank amateurs. Every other crew has managed to get in and get out without killing anyone or setting off an alarm. Fuck these morons.”

A second guard poked out from behind the front door, fired a round, then ducked for cover. The Santas returned fire. I don’t recall if any kids were on the scene but if they were, their childhoods were probably ruined by this sight.

Right now, you haven’t done anything wrong,” I thought. “You’re just a guy in a parked car. You can say you don’t know these clowns. Just…”

            “DRIVE!”

Veronica’s doors were open and the Santas were filing in, all hot and sweaty, full of booze and panic. Santa One took the passenger’s seat, while Santas Two and Three hopped into the back seat.

Santa One was a particularly obnoxious son of a bitch. “PUNCH IT!”

There was no backing out now. My foot hit the gas. Vrroom! Veronica was flying.

Santa One turned around and shouted at Santa Two. “What the fuck did you do?”

“That bitch was reaching for the buzzer,” Santa Two explained.

“Bullshit,” Santa One said.

“As God as my witness,” Santa Two said. “She was reaching for it.”

“So you smash her in the nose!” Santa One hollered. “You don’t clip her! She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five.”

Santa Three intervened. “Oh boo hoo. Cry me a river. Shut up the two of you.”

I checked my rear view mirror. No cops yet. The infighting was getting to me.

“Real professional,” Santa One said.

“Oh, you want to talk?” Santa Two asked. “Why’d you kill that guard then if you’re such a sweetheart?”

“Because he was going to kill you, dumb fuck!” Santa One shouted. “Because you got him riled up when you killed that bitch!”

“Aww, I did what I had to do,” Santa Two said.

“I should have let him kill you,” Santa One said. “But then they would have ID’d you and that would have led them to us.”

The infighting was getting to me. I was used to transporting stoically silent career criminals with ice water running through their veins. These dunces were freaking out like a trio of babies who’d just missed naptime.

I was hauling ass – gunning through intersections, running red lights, cutting off pedestrians, coming inches from smacking into other cars who had the right of way.

“Fuck this,” Santa Two said. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to…”

Santa Three interrupted again. He opened up his loot sack and reached a hand inside. “Boys, come on. Just focus on the positive. It’s going to be a very Merry…”

Boom! A dye pack exploded, turning Santa Three’s face bright purple. “Motherfucker!”

Santa One screeched as though he was about to suffer a brain aneurysm. “You didn’t check for a dye pack?!”

“No one told me I was supposed to check for a dye pack!” Santa Three cried.

Santa One face palmed himself. “He didn’t know. Every shithead who’s ever seen a bank heist movie knows to check for a dye pack but this cocksucker didn’t know.”

“No,” Santa Two protested. “I didn’t know.”

Santa One turned to me. “You believe this shit? He didn’t know.”

I manhandled Veronica’s steering wheel, veering on a hard right turn. “I’m a little busy.”

I switched on my police radio scanner. “All units. Shots fired at Davis Street Avanti Bank.”

An old woman approached a crosswalk with a bag of groceries under her arm. She was about to step onto the street when I blared on the horn. It scared the shit out of her, causing her to toss her bag into the air, sending apples, oranges, cans and bread everywhere. In my rearview mirror, I was able to see her throwing me the middle finger. I didn’t care. I was just happy the old broad lived. I didn’t need that on my conscience.

The scanner squawked. “Suspects were last seen in a late model sports car, red…”

“Don’t think you’re going to be taking anything out of my cut,” Santa One said.

“Fuck you,” Santa Three said. “I was on this job, just like the rest of you.”

“Were you?” Santa One asked. “Because you look like you just fellated…”

I’m sorry. For legal reasons, I’m not able to print which purple cartoon character Santa Three looked like he’d taken a face blast from. Moving on…

“Copy,” the dispatcher said. “Confirmed, the car is an American Made Sidewinder.”

“Fellas,” I said. “If you could all chill out…”

“Very funny, Ted,” Santa Three said. “You should have been a comedian.”

Santa One flipped out and punched the back of Veronica’s passenger seat. I didn’t care for that at all. “You just used my name!”

“Uhh,” Santa Three said. “Did I…or did I use your code name?”

A flashing set of red and blue lights in my rear view mirror caught my eye. “Bigger problems, gentlemen.”

The idiots were oblivious. “Bobby,” Santa One said. “You’d better stop…”

“Whoa!” Santa Three said. “Why you gotta use my name…uh I mean, my code name? Fuck Bobby! Who’s Bobby?”

Santa One leered at Santa Three. “I swear to God I’m gonna come back there and…”

Boom!   The back windshield exploded and shattered, spraying the interior full of jagged little shards of glass. The cops were shooting at us. Three cruisers were in pursuit now.

“Shit!” Santa One said to me. “We’ve got company!”

“I’m aware,” I said.

My nonchalance pissed Santa One off. “Do something!”

“I am,” I said.

Santa Three pointed his gun out the back window and exchanged shots with the cops.

“Unnecessary,” I said.

“Shut up and drive!” Santa Three said. “I’ll take ‘em out.”

Another right brought me to the freeway onramp. I sideswiped a mail truck as I barreled through late afternoon commuter traffic, then took up a position in the far left lane. Veronica was humming well over a hundred miles per hour now. Poor girl. She was getting all torn up. She didn’t quit on me though. She knew I’d fix her right up.

I tapped my Bluetooth and called Bernie.

“Sup?”

“It’s all on you, brother,” I said.

“I got it,” Bernie said before he hung up.

All sorts of sounds ripped up my ears. The world’s most incompetent bank robbers would not stop screaming at each other, nor would they stop shooting at the cops. I didn’t care for the violence. I was used to professionals who never had to fire a shot. Worse, these idiots weren’t able to hit a flashing target held up by a supermodel with big fake tits, so just sprayed bullets and put the cops in a terrible mood.

Guns blazed. Horns honked, courtesy of all the motorists around me who were scared shitless by my moves. Sirens wailed. Tires screeched and then…I heard it…whirring chopper blades. I looked up and to my left. A police helicopter was dogging us.

“Sky Eye here,” came the chopper pilot’s voice over the scanner. “Got a make on the suspects. Heading west on 909. “

“Well that’s it,” Santa Three said. “It’s all over. We’re fucked. We’re so fucked.”

“Nobody’s fucked,” I said.

I looked in the rear view mirror. Tears flowed out of Santa Three’s eyes, staining his fake white beard. “I can’t go to jail, man. I just can’t. Somebody do me right here. I mean it. Shoot me!”

I rarely broke my cool, but this mongoloid made me snap. “Jesus! Have you guys even pulled a job before?”

“What the fuck do you know, you boy band looking puke?” Santa Three asked. “You look like you barely got hair on your nuts and you want to talk to me about…”

BAM! A cruiser swiped Veronica’s left side. Another cruiser was speeding up on the right. The cops were trying to box me in.

“That’s a no,” I said.

“We’ve knocked over ten liquor stores,” Santa Three said.

“And the deli,” Santa Two added. “Don’t forget the deli.”

“There was that hot dog stand,” Santa One said.

“A fucking hot dog stand?” I asked.

“That was more of a snatch and grab,” Santa One said.

“But never a bank?” I asked.

“First time for everything,” Santa Three said.

I sped up, leaving the two cruisers that were trying to sandwich me in my wake. “Fuck you, Roman. Wherever you are, fuck you.”

There were at least a dozen cop cars behind me now, plus the chopper. I’d shaken off a chase before, but these imbeciles had all but invited the National Guard to tag along.

The scanner squawked. “Unit One-One-Four…suspects are approaching the Caldwell Tunnel.”

Another squawk. “Sky Eye here. About to lose visual.”

We weren’t just approaching the tunnel. We were flying into it. It was time to slow down.

“What are you doing?” Santa One asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. The world got a little darker as the tunnel was dimly lit.

“The fuck I will worry about it,” Santa One said as he became the first bank robber I’d ever transported to lose his shit and point a gun at me. “Get some lead in your foot or you’ll get some in your face, bitch!”

“Amateurs,” I grumbled. “Lousy amateurs.”

The tunnel was providing 7,000 feet for Bernie to work his mojo. I was busy bobbing and weaving around cars to pay attention to the lunacy going on around me, though the gun in my face didn’t help the pressure.

“Ted,” Santa Two said. “Maybe just let the kid do his thing, huh? He’s gotten us this far.”

“Stop using my name!” Santa One said.

“Jeeze,” Santa Three said. “Relax. We all know your name. It’s no big deal.”

Up ahead, there was a truck pulling a tractor-trailer. The rig slowed down as I angled myself behind it, keeping time with it.

Santa One waved the gun around in my face. His hand was shaking uncontrollably. “This kid didn’t know my name.”

The back door of the trailer rolled up. A ramp extended out of the back. As soon as it hit the pavement, sparks began to fly.

“Huh?!” Santa One asked. “Did you know my name?”

For this maneuver to work, everything had to be perfect and yet, there were so many distractions – the sirens and flashing lights, the honking cars, Dipshit McGee screaming and pointing his heater at me. I had no choice. I cold cocked the prick right in the face, busting his nose open, sending a spray of blood all over Veronica’s upholstery. Damn it. I knew I’d be scrubbing red stains out for hours later, but at least the dumbass was unconscious.

“Any other backseat drivers?” I asked.

Santas Two and Three shook their heads in the negative.

I slowed to a crawl as I moved Veronica up the ramp. There was only enough tunnel cover left to do this once. One mistake, and it was all over.

Blam! Blam! Blam! Shots tore into Veronica’s hide. I persisted. I made it. Veronica was on board and in park.

“This isn’t going to do shit,” Santa Two barked.

“Yeah,” Santa Three said. “They’ll just follow the truck.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a little black box with a red button in the middle of it. I grabbed hold of a silver antenna attached to the box and extended it.

“Oh ye of little faith,” I said.

As soon as the rig was clear of the tunnel, I pushed the button. I expected some smoke but what happened next came as a complete shock. There was a massive explosion, caving the end of the tunnel in, crushing cop and civilian cars alike under the rubble.

I stepped out of Veronica and doubled over, puking my guts out. Once my stomach settled, I caught my breath, only to jump when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whipped around to see my thirty-year old partner in crime, truly the worst dresser ever. He wore a white fedora with a black band, khaki pants and a tacky Hawaiian shirt – bright red with palm trees and a green parrot on the right side.

“I’m serious,” Bernie said. “Name two times I’ve failed you.

“The Luftenol incident,” I said.

Bernie shrugged his shoulders and took a bite out of a crisp, red apple. “Name three times I’ve failed you.”

 

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Chapter 1

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

March 14, 2050

Drivers give up way too easily on their cars, or rather, they used to…back in the day when they still drove them. I recall talk of a car being “totaled” when the cost of its repairs exceeded its resale value. In that case, it was considered best to just buy a new car rather than attempt to breathe new life into an old one. A car would be totaled in an instant by an accident, i.e. a collision with another car, or over the course of a long period of time, i.e. the cumulative effect of years of wear and tear on a vehicle without the implementation of a thorough maintenance plan.

Now there’s the rub. You see, back in the old days, people never understood the fact that with routine upkeep, a solidly built car could be expected to run into perpetuity. Instead, the old drivers of the past would just run their cars all day long, zooming all over creation, ignoring the check engine light, forgetting (or not caring) to replace the oil, filter, brake pads or what have you. It was sad really. Few drivers were as attentive to their rides as I was.

Hell, the first time I got behind the wheel of that cherry red, 1969 American Made Sidewinder, it was love at first sight. Veronica was her nickname and to me, she was much more than just a means of conveyance, a mode of transportation from the proverbial point A to point B. That girl was a close, personal friend. She, and yes, “she” because as anyone born during the previous century will tell you, all of the best muscle cars are girls, got me out of many a jam, so I felt I owed it to her to keep her body young and beautiful, in tip-top showroom condition for as long as possible.

My father had taken a bunch of suckers in a high stakes poker game years back and used the proceeds to buy that special gal. All these years later, I was keeping my promise to dear old Dad. I took care of Veronica. She’d taken care of me in my youth. Even when she just sat there in the garage, she was taking care of me in a way, giving me something to smile about. Just the sight of her made me happy.

Some brief notes: Gambling, or engaging in a game of chance involving the betting of paper money, was once allowed in some areas and illegal in others but if done discretely and everyone involved kept quiet about it, no one got into any trouble, though sometimes people would get mad when they didn’t get their way, get violent and so on. I don’t have time to explain the rules but suffice to say, there were cards and some cards were considered better than others to have and if you had them then you stood a better chance of winning paper money. Paper money featuring the likenesses of American presidents was once used instead of digital credit. Presidents used to be elected by the people (supposedly) to run America. America was once a country. Countries were…no. See, this is the problem with getting old. The older I get, the less people understand what the hell I’m talking about. Explaining one thing just requires me to explain another, so fuck it. Whenever I say something you young people don’t understand, you’re going to have to figure it out on your own. I can’t stop every five minutes to explain things to you.

Where was I? Right. I was in the garage attached to the tiny shit box of a home the government had assigned to me. I was taking care of Veronica for as long as I could. As I squirted a dollop of white wax all over my girl’s hood, a quick palpitation rippled through my heart, leaving me to wonder whether “for as long as I could” was going to be much longer. My doctor told me these feelings were normal for a man my age, prescribed some blood pressure medication and urged me to quit drinking beer and watch my diet. Me? Cut out fatty foods and booze? Please. Fuck that noise.   Like there was much of a reward left at that point for turning my body into a temple at that point.

I rubbed the wax into Veronica’s primo paintjob and envied her. Every last part on a car, from the door handles to the cigarette lighter (Veronica was built during a time when sucking tobacco smoke into your lungs wasn’t considered a vile, treasonous crime against the state) is replaceable. Sure, the older a car is, the harder it is to find a replacement part but this is why cars are better than humans.

Let’s face it. You can eat broccoli all day long, do sit-ups until you puke and run marathons once a week but someday, somehow, you’re still going to croak. Your parts will wear out and they won’t be replaceable forever. A skilled doctor might be able to buy you sometime with a transplant but eventually, one of your vital parts will be deemed beyond repair and you’ll be totaled. The effort to fix you will be too great and the small amount of of life that will be left in you just won’t be worth it.

That wasn’t the case for Veronica. Over the years, I’d sought out the assistance of vintage car collectors and personally sifted through the rotten debris scattered across many a junkyard, all in an effort to keep my girl running. If only human replacements were as easy to find.

I knelt down to polish Veronica’s chrome rims and caught a glimpse of my own reflection. Yeesh. I looked ready for the junk pile.   My hair’s dye job was nowhere near as good as Veronica’s paint job. I felt like I was constantly rubbing that black dye into my hair only to have gray roots pop out a few days later. No amount of wax would rid me of the bags under my eyes and the wrinkles? Sadly, there was no way I could remove my face and bang out the dents with a hammer. Maybe someone will perfect a way to do that and make a killing someday.

Whirrr. The garage door rolled up and a skinny thirteen-year old with unkempt brown hair and a crooked smile waltzed in. She wore a standard school uniform – a pair of white pants and a white polo shirt that read “OWO Academy – Region A – Education District 19.” My little Hannah Banana.

“What’s the skinny, Gramps?”

My back creaked as I stood up. “Ow…the skinny?”

“I head someone say it in an old movie,” Hannah said.

My face contorted in every conceivable direction. “Old movie?”

Hannah opened up her backpack and pulled it out – an early model “X-Tab” tablet computer. By the looks of it, it must have dated back to the early 2010s. Whatever content was on it was definitely not approved of by the One World Order.

“Jesus!” I cried. I ran to the back of the garage and punched a button, causing the garage door to roll down. “Are you kidding me, waving that thing around like that?”

“What?” Hannah asked.

I grabbed the tablet. “Do you have any idea how many years you’ll get in the re-education center if you’re caught with this thing?”

Hannah shrugged her shoulders. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Of course not,” I said. “Young people never think.”

Ugh. I know. I’d become an adult. I wish I could say I sounded like my father but he never did a whole hell of a lot of parenting, so I have no idea where my nurturing side came from.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“Billy Allen’s grandpa died,” Hannah explained. “His family went to clean out the house and Billy found it under the floorboards. He said his Grandpa always kept all his best stuff there.”

“You mean illegal stuff,” I said. Suddenly, I found myself relating to Billy Allen’s grandpa. I had my own stash off stuff from my youth that I was trying to keep out of the Order’s grubby little paws.

I proceeded with the interrogation. “Why did Billy give this to you?”

“I traded him my birthday credits,” Hannah said.

I pinched the bridge of my nose, breathed deeply, then exhaled. It was an old stress relief technique my ex-wife had taught me, but it never worked. “You’re supposed to be saving those credits.”

“I know,” Hannah said. “But this has the best movies I have ever seen!”

I smirked. “Does it know?”

Hannah pushed a few buttons and brought up an old black and white gangster flick from the 1930s. I reached into my pocket, pulled out my glasses and put them on. I pushed the specs up the bridge of my nose as I squinted at the screen. My peepers just weren’t what they used to be.

On screen, a flabby faced goon wearing a pinstripe suit and a fedora was spraying bullets from a tommy gun at the police. “What’s the skinny, youse mugs? Youse flatfooted coppers will never take me alive, see?”

“Wow,” I said.

“Can I ask a dumb question?” Hannah asked.

“The only dumb question is a request to ask a question,” I replied. “If you don’t ask a question, you’ll never know the answer.”

“Was the whole world in black and white when you were a kid?”

I grimaced. “Excuse me?”

“This movie doesn’t have any color, see?” Hannah said. “Why didn’t the world have any color when you were a kid?”

I sighed. “You think this movie was made when I was a kid?”

“It wasn’t?” Hannah asked.

“Sweetheart,” I said. “This movie was made when my grandfather was a kid.”

“Oh,” Hannah said. “Well, I don’t know. Everything from long ago all seems the same to me.”

“That’s because your school doesn’t teach you any history,” I said.

“I take history,” Hannah said.

“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What did your teacher tell you about the Twentieth Century?”

Hannah appeared puzzled. “The what?”

“The 1900s,” I replied. “The century before this one.”

Hannah was baffled. “Gah?”

“When does your teacher say history begins?” I asked.

Hannah had an instant answer. The brainwashers behind the Order’s educational system had done a good job. “2032.”

“And what happened before 2032?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Hannah said. “Nothing at all happened before 2032.”

I stared at the little girl. “How old do you think I am?”

“I don’t know,” Hannah replied.

“Older than eighteen?” I asked.

“A lot older,” Hannah said.

“So,” I said. “Something happened before 2032.”

“I figured,” Hannah said. “But my teacher doesn’t like it when we ask about that.”

I stared at the screen and returned to my granddaughter’s original question. “The world has always had color. It’s just that long ago, when people were still learning how to make movies, putting a movie out in color cost a lot of money and people weren’t sure how to do it, so they made movies in black and white.”

My bones ached so I unlocked Veronica and sat down in the driver’s seat. Hannah crawled into the passenger’s side.

“What other movies are on that thing?” I asked.

Hannah smiled. “There’s a movie about a teenager who pretends to be sick so he can skip a day of school and gets his sad friend and girlfriend to go to Chicago with him and his sister and the man in charge of the school try to catch him in the act of truancy.”

“Ha,” I said. “That was a good one.”

“Then there’s this one movie that’s kind of weird,” Hannah said. “There are these two men who murder people for money…”

“Hit men,” I said.

“OK,” Hannah said. “And one of the men dances with the boss’ wife in the beginning of the movie, then he gets shot in the middle of the movie and dies and then he gets breakfast with the other hit man at the end of the film.”

“I know that one,” I said.

“Whoever made it must have been a bad editor,” Hannah said. “There’s a movie about a rich man who dresses like a bat and fights a clown.”

“Epic,” I said.

Hannah’s eyes lit up. “Oh! There’s this one in space where the bad guy wears all black and he has a hard time breathing because he has asthma and an old man gives a laser sword to this farm boy…”

My jaw dropped. “That’s on there?”

“It is!” Hannah cried. “And it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”

“You should see the others,” I said.

Hannah looked at me with a hint of glee. “They…made…others?”

“Lots of sequels,” I said. “You can skip the prequels.”

“Grampa?” Hannah asked.

“Yeah?” I answered.

“Why aren’t these movies on the state approved tele-web?” Hannah asked.

“You just answered your own question,” I said. “The state doesn’t approve of them.   The One World Order doesn’t want people knowing how happy people used to be before they took over.”

“Were people happier?” Hannah asked.

“Meh,” I said. “More or less.”

“That’s not a good answer,” Hannah said.

“Let me put it this way,” I said. “People had more freedom, so they had a better chance at finding their happiness.”

“A lot of the people in these movies don’t seem very happy,” Hannah said. “People are always fighting, killing and torturing each other, shooting and blowing people up…usually the fights are over money or the love of a woman.”

“Well,” I said. “Sometimes one man’s pursuit of happiness will be the source of another man’s sorrow. It’s complicated.”

Hannah glued her eyes to the X-Tab.

“Please hide that good,” I said.

“I will,” Hannah replied.

“Tell no one you have it,” I said.

“I won’t,” Hannah said.

“Because we’re only allowed to have tablets with state approved media on them and nothing more,” I added.

“I know,” Hannah said.

“And if anyone ever finds that and asks you about it, just play dumb and tell them it’s mine,” I said. “I’m old. I can take a rap.”

“A rap?” Hannah asked.

“Nothing.”

“I don’t think people were happy when you were a kid,” Hannah said.

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

“Because I found all these songs and they all sound very sad and the photos that go with them all show men with long hair and beards and they’re all wearing flannel and they all look very depressed and…”

I cut the little girl off. “Oh. 1990s music. Skip that if you don’t want to end up suicidal.”

“Grampa?”

“What now?”

“Is this real?” Hanna put the screen under my nose and palyed a scene from one of the old Fast Car Criminal movies. I couldn’t remember which one this was, but had a hunch it was about the seventeenth. Damn they made a ton of those flicks. In this scene, the main character, a grungy, bald headed badass by the name of Roderick Falsetto, drove a sports car off a cliff, saild through the open bay of a Chinook helicopter, then landed safely on top of a mountain on the other side of a valley.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Did stuff like that actually happen?” Hannah inquired.

“No,” I said. “Of course not. Hun, sometimes the movie people would just make up incredible stuff to get people to watch. No one could have ever made a jump like that and survived.”

“I know,” I said. “I figured that out. I mean, did people really drive cars?”

I laughed. “Kiddo, you don’t know the half of it.”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – Prologue

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

February 8, 2000

The Second Millennium was over and with it, the Twentieth Century. The 1990s were gone but the styles of that decade lingered. I was thirteen years old and my options were to either don a lumberjack’s flannel shirt, grow my hair long and sway back and forth in a trance while blaring the clinically depressed tones of alternative rock, or turn my ball cap to the side, pop on some clean, white sneakers, a hoodie sweatshirt and a pair of breakaway pants that were one size too big, leaving them to always sag down way too far past my ass.

I chose the latter option. It’s not like either style was great, but the rappers at least seemed like they were having fun. Give me tunes about bitches and beer over sadness and heartache any day of the week and twice on Tuesday.

In my family’s run down home, I sat at the top of the stairs and fumbled around inside my backpack until I found a CD case. It featured artwork for my favorite group, the Irate Nigga Posse, “INP” for short. Mac Daddy Smooth, Infamous Russell, MC Westside and Big Fatty Stax – they invented gangsta rap in the early 1990s and were still going strong, despite an occasional internal beef here and there.

Hmm. Do you people know anything about rap? Alt rock? CDs? Racial slurs? Is this all gibberish to you? Oh well. I’ll talk. You listen. We’ll figure it out together. You’re better off not knowing about that last one anyway.

I’d been ordered to go to my room, but I was too nosey not to listen in. I could footsteps of FBI stooges clonking all over downstairs. They were pulling out drawers, turning over furniture, ripping the whole place apart.

I could only hear two voices. One belonged to that smarmy prick, Special Agent Roy Stratford. The other one was my father’s.

“You know the drill, Wylder?” Stratford asked.

“Yeah,” my old man replied.

“You know you got a right to a lawyer, you can shut the fuck up and you should because anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law?”

Dad had balls. I’ll give him that. “Let’s do this, Barney Fife.”

That line would have been funnier if you’d heard of Barney Fife. I’d barely heard of him. He was a fictional character from before my time. Not important.

“You’re going down for twenty years minimum,” Stratford said. “The U.S. Attorney practically came when I laid out all the shit we’ve got on you.”

“Then what’s this about?” Dad asked. “You here to gloat?”

“We want the cash,” Stratford said.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dad said.

“Bullshit,” Stratford said. “You’ll never be able to use it. Turn it over and maybe I can talk the Feds into shaving a year or two off your sentence.”

“I’m just a humble mechanic,” Dad said. “Flattered you all think I’m worth so much trouble. Really, I am.”

I could hear Stratford pace about the kitchen floor. “You’d better start worrying about your kid, Marvin.”

“Leave Frank out of this,” Dad said.

“What kind of life is that going to be for your boy?” Stratford said. “Visiting his father in the joint, talking to him on a phone between a piece of plexiglass.”

“Yawn,” Dad said. He was such a baller. He actually said the word, “Yawn.”

“Why don’t you save yourself?” Stratford asked.

“From what?” Dad asked. “I haven’t done anything.”

“Start talking,” Stratford said.

“About what?” Dad asked.

“Not about what,” Stratford said. “About who?”

“And who’s that?” Dad asked.

“You know Goddamn well who,” Stratford said. “Fat ass, pug faced dago, about 900 pounds, looks like that fuckin’ space lizard that gets choked the fuck out by the space princess.”

Dad laughed. “Like I’d ever associate with such a character.”

“You give that son of a bitch up and you’ll wash your hands of this tonight,” Stratford said. “The next two decades of your life or the next two hours in my office, answering some questions and filling out some paperwork. Seems like a no brainer.”

Dad was quiet for bit. Then he responded. “I’m no rat.”

“No?” Stratford asked.

“No,” Dad answered. “Not that I have anything to rat about.”

“Funny,” Stratford said. “That’s not what Guzman said.”

Another pause from Dad. “Who?”

“Guzman,” Stratford said. “Dipshit was snatched up on an unrelated matter. Las Vegas PD found him all coked up in a hotel room with a bag of blow and a dead hooker. He was looking at life until he sang about you and boy did he sing.”

“Never met the guy,” Dad said.

“Oh yeah?” Stratford said. “Funny, he told us all about the Verazano job. You, Guzman, two sawed-offs, two masks, a big payday.”

“Shit,” Dad said. “I live paycheck to paycheck like the rest of America.”

“You think that fat fuck wouldn’t be telling me all about you if he were in your position?” Stratford said.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Dad said. “I don’t know any overweight people.”

“Guzman volunteered you, asshole,” Stratford said. “We didn’t even know dick about you. He pissed his pants and shouted your name. That’s wise guy loyalty for you, Wylder. Be smart.”

The footsteps grew louder. There were some loud mumblings. A stooge cried out. “Sir! You need to see this!”

Things went quiet for a few minutes before Stratford spoke. “Jesus. At least twenty grand here. Where’s the rest of it, Marv?”

“That’s not mine,” Dad said. “You planted it.”

“Yeah,” Stratford said. “Something tells me the U.S. Attorney will be happy to take a look at the serial numbers on these bills. You sure you got nothing to say about your boss?”

“Lawyer, please,” Dad said.

“You sure?” Stratford asked.

“Yup,” Dad said.

“Alright,” Stratford said. “Things will get harder for you from here on out then, but if that’s your choice. Come on, let’s go.”

Seconds later, Stratford walked passed the staircase, his hand on my Dad’s arm. Dad’s hands were cuffed behind his back.

“Hold up,” Dad said as he looked up at me.

“Sure,” Stratford said. “Say your goodbyes…quickly.”

Dad was in his early forties. He was starting to lose his hair and his handlebar mustache was graying. He wore a pair of dirty coveralls.

“Don’t sweat it, kid,” Dad said.

“OK,” I said. I felt like I wanted to cry, but I knew the old man would have been disappointed, so I fought back the tears.

“Oh Special Agent Stratford,” Dad said.

“What?” Stratford asked.

“Would you be a special darling and reach into my pocket?” Dad asked.

“The fuck you just ask me, felon?” Stratford asked.

“Please,” Dad said.

“This better not be a trick,” Stratford said.

“Never,” Dad said.

Stratford was a typical G-man. Neatly pressed suit, shined shoes, standard buzz cut. He reached into Dad’s front pocket and pulled out a set of keys attached to a poker chip keychain.

The agent looked around at his stooges. “Which one of you assholes failed to find this during the pat down?”

Dad smiled. None of the assholes stepped forward.

“Toss those to my boy, will you?”

Stratford did as obliged. I caught them.

“Veronica’s all yours,” Dad said. “Take good care of her, and she’ll take good care of you.”

“Touching,” Stratford said as he lead my father out the front door. “Something tells me I’ll be walking your kid out in cuffs one day too, Wylder.”

“Fuck you, Stratford.”

“Fuck you back.”

I opened my hand. There they were in my palm – a red, white and green poker chip attached to two shiny keys, one for the ignition and one for the trunk. I had no idea how to feel. My father was gone, but I was now the owner of the sweetest ride I’d ever seen. Mixed feelings, I suppose.

I took the INP CD out of its case, placed it into my CD player and pressed play. I put the attached headphones on. The boys were belting out an oldie but a goodie:

“Fuck da man…Fuck da man….”

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The Last Driver – Episode 1 – From the Desk of Bookshelf Q. Battler

THE LAST DRIVER_finalebook1

FROM THE DESK OF…

 

 

…a World Renowned Poindexter, an Epic Nerdventurer, a Reviewer of Pop Cultural Happenings, and a Champion Yeti Fighter

 

Good day to you, noble reader.

Have you ever felt like the world has passed you by? You’re not sure how it happened. You can’t quite put your finger on when it happened but you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re no longer part of the “in” crowd and never will be again. Your pop cultural references no longer make sense. The beliefs you once steadfastly clung to are considered hokey now. You have a closet full of gadgets that have been rendered obsolete by new technological trends and the only people who are able to join you in quoting lines from your favorite movies have gray hairs popping up all over their heads.

My theoretical “You’re Not Welcome in This World Anymore” greeting card came somewhere in the early 2010s. I’d spent a large chunk of my youth trying to become a writer, only to realize that the old way of doing things (i.e. kiss enough butts until you kiss the right butt) would never get me anywhere, so I gave up and took the most boring job ever, that of an assistant to the assistant to the Vice-President of Corporate Assistance at Beige Corp., the world’s premiere producer of beige products and accessories. Beige! It’s the color to wear when you don’t want to send any kind of message about yourself whatsoever.

The first decade of the new millennium had come and gone. I was settling into the new normal of early thirties life when all of a sudden every jackass and his Uncle Larry started his own Internet media venture and much to my surprise, many of these endeavors did well. YouTubers, podcasters, bloggers, social media sensations, self-publishers – the gatekeepers had been bypassed thanks to emerging technology and it was no longer necessary for creative people to kiss a whole mess of butts before putting their work out to the masses.

Even though I never physically age and I’m a highly trained fighter of vampires, zombies, werewolves, chupacabras and yes, even ill-tempered hipsters, I find myself struggling to stay afloat in this crazy new age. Do-it-yourself media seems like a young man’s game and while it helps to be an allegedly fictional character, this world just doesn’t make sense to a man who was born when that peanut slinging doofus Jimmy Carter was president. Sometimes you just can’t get over the malaise, no matter how hard you try.

While I no longer recognize the new world we live in, there is some good news and some bad news. The good news is that people who used to never have a voice have one now. People are getting involved in civic matters and expressing their opinions like never before, all thanks to social media.

The bad news? It feels as though as a nation we’ve never been divided more (well, except for that time in the 1860s when Americans actually did divide the country up and shoot at each other). We’re more connected digitally than ever, yet we don’t actually talk to one another as much as we used to.

In the old days (the 1980s and 1990s for me), people would talk out their personal grudges. That didn’t mean people were always kind about it, but at least actual, in-person conversations took place. Today, it has become too easy for people to retreat into their own social media bubbles, to focus only on what they want to hear and to label those who disagree as the vile, evil “other.” This trend is dividing our country, noble reader, and people really need to stop hurling verbal bombs at each other over social media and start hugging it out instead. The line for people who want to hug me starts right outside BQB headquarters in fabulous East Randomtown, USA. Bikini models will always be given first priority to move to the front of the hug line.

Frank Wylder, the hero of the tale you’re about to read, is a much older man than I am, but like me, he doesn’t recognize the world he lives in anymore either. Frank’s issues run deeper than long forgotten pop cultural references and outdated technology, although those developments trouble him. The world of 2050 has been conquered by an intrusive dictatorship. The One World Order has eradicated free will and has taken control over virtually ever last personal decision that people used to make on their own. Some folks who would normally pop a brain gasket while trying to make a major life decision find a government managed existence to have a calm, soothing effect. Others, like Frank, miss living in an era where a man could grab life with both hands and ride it into the clouds, or occasionally fall off and crash.

Globalism. Nationalism. We’ve been hearing about these movements a lot on the news lately. Globalists think it isn’t fair that some countries get all the goodies while others go without. Nationalists argue that if Country A is being managed well, then it deserves to keep its goodies and shouldn’t have to give them to Country B which, lets face it, is probably run by an egotistical, self-appointed dictator wearing a ridiculous hat and a uniform with a thousand unearned medals pinned to it who spends all of his nation’s wealth on solid gold toilet seats and hookers, then complains that Country A is the reason why his people are poor. The Globalists might have a point about promoting international cooperation. The Nationalists might have a point that one country’s success doesn’t automatically mean another country’s failure. If only these foes could get together in a room, hold hands, and sing a rousing rendition of Kumbaya.

            I don’t know. Like Frank, I want no part of this hullabaloo. Both sides can duke it out, but if we all don’t start throwing more hugs and less fists, I fear the world of 2050 as described in this serial will become a reality. Ergo, the next time you feel frustrated by a person with an opposing viewpoint, offer a hug instead of an insult and you never know, you might just find yourself with a new friend instead of a despised enemy.

Better yet, go for a drive in a fast car. I love fast cars, 3.5 readers. I love fast cars and conspiracy theories (Biggie and Tupac invented time machines that allowed them to shoot each other) and this serial is a marriage between my two great loves. I wank it whenever there’s a new Fast and Furious movie. What have they made, like 10,000 of those suckers now? Hell, they can make 20,000 more and I’ll still be in the theater gobbling up popcorn and watching those things.

Moreover, I spank it whenever I hear an interesting yet completely unfounded idea about how some tragic event took place (can we ever be sure that an alien dressed like Elvis was not on the grassy knoll?)

Intense car chases and head scratching power plays. All the big time Hollywood moguls really need to stop sexually harassing young starlets for five minutes and offer me a butt load of credits for this dazzling spectacle. Get in on the action before some creative, forward thinking power player snatches this bad boy up. Come on, Hollywood executives. Why coerce actresses into touching your thingy when we can all get so rich off this story that the babes will be lining up to touch our thingies voluntarily?

What do you think about self-driving cars, noble reader? In the early stage of this emerging technology, it’s looking this new form of transportation might change our lives for the better. Sure, we’ll miss being behind the wheel on a nice country drive but you know what we won’t miss – being locked up in traffic for three hours because some dummy got into an accident and mangled himself beyond all recognition. Further, as a chronic late person, I would not mind if my car were to form itself around me while I’m sleeping and begin transporting me to work while I catch up an extra snooze.

Admittedly, I have some pessimistic tendencies. While everyone is looking forward to the day when their car says in a computerized voice, “Relax, I got this!” I’m concerned about the potential for the government to use these contraptions to further the nanny state. Look reader, I don’t want to alarm you, but as we speak, there has got to be at least fifty technicians gathered around in a circle in the basement of a CIA black site, pleasuring themselves in a round robin circle jerk to all the photos you have been posting of your most embarrassing exploits on social media. If that’s the case, then how could any government pass up on the chance to mine the memory banks of self-driving cars for information on where their occupants have been traveling to, who they were with and who they were visiting?

Plus, I just know some health nut will demand that scales be put into the seats of self-driving cars and if the occupant weights too much, his car will tell him he’s too fat to swing by a fast food joint drive-thru. Honestly, that would be a good thing for a lard bucket like yours truly, but I’m willing to eat myself into oblivion if that’s what it takes to preserve free will. Just because I’m exercising my free will in a way that requires me to wear extra strength stretch pants doesn’t mean you all should have to suffer.

OK, enough about me. Let’s get this party started. Tweet, your thoughts about self-driving cars, human operated cars, Biggie and Tupac’s time traveling abilities, government conspiracies and most importantly, the epic serial about to unfold before your very eyes to me @bookshelfbattle. Share more in-depth thoughts on Facebook, where I’m @bookshelfqbattler or stop by my blog, bookshelfbattle.com.

I’m working as fast as I can on Episode Two, noble reader, but I’m just one man. I have a day job to work, ungrateful relatives to take care of, pets to walk, plants to water, cows to milk, pig stalls to muck out, haystacks to bale, karaoke bars to visit, vampires to stake, zombies to put out of their misery, werewolves to gun down with silver bullets and chupacabras to put on goat free diets. I’ll find more time to work on this tale if you keep the encouragement coming.

Better yet, tell a friend about this serial so I could, you know, make some extra dough, or actually, any dough. I heard a rumor once that some writers make money. I’d love to find out if that is true.

What? You don’t have a friend? Try making one. It all begins with a hug.

(Get a notorized permission slip before obtaining the hug.)

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