UnderTow excerpt


    Robert shrugged. The bus fumes stank. The people around him were ugly. He coughed up a chunk of fleshy phlegm and spat it out the 'window'. He wondered 'what do these people do at night? watch rented Walt Disney movies?... or chain-smoking cop flicks?...'

    The bus turned right at 19th ish. That fucker didn't even warn Robert... He could understand not warning him when he got to his stop, after that cigarette bullshit, sure... but this wasn't really all that downtown even. Robert wasn't sure, but he had a feeling he'd been diverted into West Oakland. By the time he finally got the driver to stop, which he wouldn't do until he'd gotten to a designated and scheduled stop four blocks on for undoubtably insurance related policy reasons ( you wouldn't want to make some unsuspecting motorist 'think' by stopping at any old section of curb with one of them big old busses...), suddenly Robert had about eight blocks to walk just to get to Broadway. He nearly got lost on those cockeyed streets too.

    The bus companies had their reasons for doing what they did though... in a free market everyone has their reasons for doing what they do...

    It turns out he was on the 72Q.

    Robert still wanted to kill someone. He had his reasons. It could wait though. Instead he just walked... hoping someone would just try and mug him...

    It took a while, but he found the courthouse. No one that he asked directions from on the street could quite explain where the courthouse was, but one Cambodian woman in a little espresso hole-in-the-wall gave some fair directions to Washington street. She even sort of managed a smile when Robert said 'thanks', and then she wiped her hands on her apron...

    The traffic section was up on the third floor. Robert walked past the metal detector, and the sign warning that security reserved the right to search the possessions of anyone wishing to enter the premises. As if anyone really wished to enter the premises if they didn't have to...

    The elevator opened on a little hallway. The sign outside the office section directed anyone wishing to enter to buzz the buzzer, and warned that only two people were allowed inside to see the clerks at a time.

    Robert buzzed the buzzer, wondering how he wound up with a union that couldn't do any more for him than to guarantee three months of maternity leave and a rate of pay increase that often kept up with inflation...

    The door buzzed like a nice apartment building's front door in a bad neighborhood. Robert knew enough to grab on and yank before the buzzing stopped. There was no one else in the office, but Robert somehow felt like he was supposed to owe these fuckers a favor for the privilege of an audience.

    They probably felt the same way. Well, she probably felt the same way. There was only one woman in the office, the third window. She was Asian, generic, in a Gucci sweatshirt with a  gold necklace, and God knew what else. Robert couldn't see her legs, or even her shoes. She was wearing no earrings.

    She stood there silent. Robert was in no mood for the patience contest game. "Hello, I'm here for my car." he said, reserving further judgement for later.

    "Ok, well, hat's the license number?" she asked in bank teller monotone. It was very professional.

    "Uhh, 1 PKG337..." answered Robert.

    "Hmmm, what was the make and model?" she asked now.

    "'65 Cadillac; Coupe de Ville." answered Robert, mechanical by now.

    "Cadillac... Coupe de Ville... '65?" she confirmed.

    "Yes." confirmed Robert, in bank customer monotone.

    "Hmmm. I don't see it. Are you sure it was towed in Oakland?"

    Robert just stared for a moment. She looked up at him good naturedly enough,  a little hint of boredom with her job in her eyes, but no other real concerns about life apparent.

    "Uhhh; huh huh... It was towed in Berkeley. I went to the Berkeley tow-lot. They don't know anything. They were full. They say it, my car, was pawned off on y'all here in Oakland. Where's my friggin' car!?" asked Robert with amazing composure.

    She wasn't amazed. She didn't even notice. "I'm... I'm sorry. I only have access to the database of Oakland tows. The transfers come on a different list, it hasn't been installed on my machine yet..."

    Her computer hummed out dog pitch symphonies, but wasn't about to say a thing to Robert. Robert looked at her, then at it, then at her. He began to hyperventilate, it was his last means of defense, his last means of averting letting loose those weeks of Air Force combat training. It seemed like a bad idea in an Administration Building... to go berserk. The cops might actually do something about it.

    "So, whose computer has access to the highly sensitive data in question?" asked Robert, some piece of his soul clinging to sanity.

    "Uhhhm," she answered, sort of turning around to swing her hair in what would ordinarily have been a lovely arc, and soon turning back to Robert and, after chewing on her lower lip a moment, she answered "Uhh, the supervisor has access to that list."


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author:  alex farr
price: $11.97 + S.&H. 
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