Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Another chapter in Untitled:

She was cleaning her toe-nails again.

Diderik Humble jr. detested the sickly sweet smell of butyl acetat (it boils at 125 degrees C, he though). Sinsemilla was leaning forward to aplly the nail polish remover. Then she would wipe her nails clean with a cotton pad, which she would the proceed to throw behind the front seats, adding to the pile of pads with a pink stint that separated the front of the car from the back.

Another BMW passed them on the highway from Bagdad. Diderik Humble humped along in his Trabant on the highway's shoulder, windows wide open, relishing each breath of fresh air provided by the passing vehicles.

"Look, there's another BM," Sinsemilla shrieked. "That makes three today."

Diderik Humble glanced over at her, still crouched over her nails, her hair flowing in the wind from the passing car. She looked content, he thought.

"No, we can't afford a BM," she said, her voice sounding grave, but was there a hint of a mocking smile at the corner of her lips?

Sinsemilla reached over to change the dial on the car radio. Out of the chaotic sparks of the ether, she managed to extract a song by The Humperdinkies, and sang along happily.

Diderik Humble straightened up in the driver's seat. They wouldn't arrive at the border post until midnight, and he had no idea if they might encounter problems at the crossing. He had expected a larger stream of cars heading for Uqbar since it was announced on the radio last night that the borders were now opened.

Bagdad hadn't been the refuge he had hoped for. He wanted to be somewhere far away from his countrymen, where he could live in splendid isolation with Sinsemilla, and she in splendid isolation with him. But the city was already seething with faces he recognized from the home office. It was as if they had come here to escape the thronged poverty of their central administration, hoping for a fresh start in the Newly Purchased Subsidiaries.

Perhaps it was a law of existence, Humble thought, that all corporations must spill over themselves, as if there was a constant tendency in all business life to expand beyond the what could be managed, like the Megaceros hibernicus, mutating until its antlers were four meters along the curvature, intimidating rivals and impressing potential mates, until one day its antlers had grown so large and heavy that it could no longer lift its head to see where it was going, falling off cliffs and stuck as prey for hungry, lonely wolfs.

In a state of imbecility, Diderik, for amusement, turned his attention to political economy. He had poured the pages of proto- luddite Ricardo's "Dialogues of the Three Templas," a very capable disputation of the notion that there is an "inexorable" tendency for profits to decline.

Diderik had said, before he had finished the first chapter, "Thou art the man!" Wonder and curiosity were emotions that had long been dead in him. Yet he wondered once more: He wondered at himself that he could once again be stimulated to the effort of reading: and much more he wondered at the book.

Lost in his though, Diderik had forgotten to pay attention to the gas gauge, and, noting that it indicated it was time to fill more gas, he announced, "It's time to fill more gas, Sinsemilla."

"Ok," she said, staring out the window at the odd olive tree floating by the car. He could see by the reflection of her face that she had put on some of her glossy lipstick and purple shades on her eyelids. She scratched her bare foot. Diderik navigated the car into the gas station.

It's strange, though Diderik as he had handled the pump, that such an establishment would be referred to as a petrol station, a gas station, or a garage, depending on its linguistic location. From the corner of his eye he saw Sinsemilla strolling across the tar. He turned his head and saw a red Alfa Romeo round-tailed Spider parked at the far end of the station area. A Dean Corso-type character had his head out the window.

As he exited the station building, Diderik observed that Sinsemilla was already seated in their car. He got inside the car and got it back on the highway. Sinsemilla didn't say a word. Two can play that game, he though, and said, perhaps a little too loud, "Two can play that game."

"What game? What are you talking about?"

"Silence. We can drive in silence."

Sinsemilla looked at him for a moment, tilting her head forward in what Diderik had decided was feigned disbelief.

"Whatever," she said.

"Total silence."

Diderik tapped his fingers on the wheel.

"Not a word," he continued.