7.1 – Track #4 of The Great Trip Mix: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s “Thunder Road”

I had a meeting with The Professor cuz he wanted to see if I’d MeToo’d any New Realities at my job yet.

“None,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Because I suck at the job, and no one else ever sucks at anything, so they can’t relate with that.”

Then I told him about hitting a mailbox.

“I love it!” he said.  “How ass-kicking.  I hope you keep crashing.  More damage, more Realities upset.”

“It makes me wanna quit tho.”

“Of course it does, but you can’t until you MeToo a New Reality there.  And not just some cute little MeToo like you both like pizza.  You have to get a Deep MeToo, like something they’ve never told anyone before, or something you’re terrified to tell them.  And remember you can’t Graduate from The Training unless you do.”

Then I hadta keep working at CFATTY’S and tried to think of who I could MeToo most easily.  Most of the other workers were CFATS Students who were like a Buffalo herd that only MeToo’d with each other as they charged across The Plains. Others could only MeToo you if you could deliver a pizza really fast without crashing into something.  While others were from other countries that didn’t even speak the same language as me.  Then there was The Pizza Boss, who I’d at least talked to before, but he seemed nothing like me at all.  He was from Downtown Colorado Military Base City and would tell stories about Downtown stuff like crime and being poor and Perception dealing.  He’d also been in the Army, where he made pizzas for Realities who might destroy other Realities in actual gun and blood Wars.

One day we were kinda slow, and it was just me and The Pizzas Boss in the store folding boxes together.  He was talking to me about where he grew up.

“I ain’t gonna fuckin lie to you,” he said. “Downtown was rough.  One time this dude jumped me and took my jacket.  He had an I’m-not-fuckin-lying sharp-circle pizza cutter on him.  He cut a little slice of me with it.  I still have the scar.”

Then he pulled down his Pizza Uniform, and you could see a little red V on his chest.  I didn’t have any scar to MeToo with it, so I didn’t say anything.

“There’s a moment when all Downtown people have to ask themselves am I gonna keep putting up with this shit or am I gonna Hit the Road outta here and find something better.  I chose the second one.  I got outta Downtown and decided to use pizza cutters only for good for the rest of my life.”

The way he said, “Hit the Road outta here,” made me think of the Bruce Springsteen song “Thunder Road.”

“Thunder Road” is a song about The Road that leads out of Town-Full-of-Losers.  There are many great things to win out there, like being a Great MusicMan Traveler, but these things can’t happen in Town-Full-of-Losers.  There you can only lose, and the longer you stay,the more you become a loser.  And when you finally hit the Road outta there, you feel as high and powerful as a crack of thunder.

I’d been listening to the song a lot, cuz it reminded me of how even when The Training got tough at least I was in Where-TheMountains-Meet-ThePlains and not Suburbs-Full-of-Rubber anymore.  I wasn’t sure if a DowntownReality like The Pizza Boss would like songs like that, but I knew I wasn’t getting any closer to MeTooing him by being quiet, so I took a chance and brought it up.

“Hey, Pizza Boss,” I said.  “Do you ever listen to The Boss?”

Springsteen is known as “The Boss”because he tells you what to do like a boss does at your job.  But instead of it being what to do to get the most outta work, it’s what to do to get the most outta life.

“I ain’t gonna fuckin lie,” he said.  “I do.”

“Yes!” I pumped my fist.

Then I told him how he reminded me of “Thunder Road,” and then Pizza Boss nodded and started singing part of it.

“Show a little faith.  There’s magic in the night.  You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright.  And that’s alright with me.”

His voice was a little crusty and cheesy, but it didn’t matter.

“Every working man loves Springsteen,” he said.  “Sometimes he’s the only thing that can get you thru a shift without quitting. And sometimes he’s the only thing that can get you to quit during your shift.”

I liked what The Pizza Boss was saying, and then it made me want to add something that I knew was risky but had to anyway.

“Every Reality Traveler loves Springsteen,too,” I said.

“I ain’t gonna fucking lie to you,” he said. “I ain’t never heard of that.”

“It’s someone who goes all over the world making people feel less alone,” I said.

“Oh, so like Bruce?”

“Yeah, and me.”

Then I told him all about it, and how I came all the way from the far off and unexciting Realities of Ohio Industrial City (Rubber) just to go to The Training here.

“That’s good,” he said.  “You should be a Bruce if you can.  I think The World needs Bruces.”

“MeToo,” I said.

“Let me tell you something about me I never tell people.  Sometimes I feel like hitting that Thunder Road again.”

“Really, to where?”

“All the way to Italy, to make pizza in the country where the pizza was invented.  So far I’ve been too afraid it will be too hard to be One of The Good Ones there, but every day I wonder what I’m missing.”

“Yeah, I’m afraid of hard things, too, like delivering pizzas without crashing.”

“I ain’t gonna fucking lie tho, you keep doing something you get better at it.”

“Then you could get better at Italy, too.”

“You’re right. Maybe it’s not too late yet.”

After that day me and The Pizza Boss started MeTooing all the time at work, and I didn’t wannna quit so much anymore.  I even thought about bringing him over to hang out at The Den with Wolf&Lamb.  But I didn’t know if I could handle the RealityFuck.

6.17 – The Storm

The Storm came down fast and hard with lots of thunder and lightning and wind and rain and even hail, and when it hit your skin it felt like sharp little iceballs. Me and The Perceptionism Professor hadta go back to the tent so The Storm couldn’t get us anymore.  When we got back Planner Ants were everywhere like a lollipop had just fallen on The Wedding. They were scrambling to get everything out of the rain before it got wet, and at the same time Wedding guests were running for cover under the tent and clogging up the entrance.  The tent itself was getting blown hard by the wind, and its thin plastic walls looked like they could just blow away at any moment.

I’d had enough of The Wedding.  I’d gotten my New Reality MeToo and just wanted to get outta there.  I just hadta find Wolf&Lamb, say a quick goodbye, and then I could get to The Goddess of Faith so we could make a Bluebird’s Alright, Baby!!somewhere in history.

I found a gap in the crowd of Adults and managed to get inside The Tent.  I lost The Perceptionism Professor in the chaos, but I couldn’t look back.  I zeroed in on Wolf&Lamb, who were, thank Gods, sitting alone together at The Important Realities Wedding Table.  They were actually looking better than they were before, and it seemed like their pre-Vertigo state must’ve been wearing off somehow.

“Bluebird,” Wolf said.  “I know you probably want to get out of here.”

“You read my mind,” I said.

“I don’t blame you,” he said, “but The Wedding is ending soon anyway as The God of Weather is making clear.  And then comes The AfterParty.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a party at The Best Man’s house in Philadelphia Suburbs (Pennsylvania),” Lamb said.

“There won’t be any Adults invited,” Wolf said. “Only Reality Travelers like us. We’ve been waiting for this all day.”

“Alright,” I said, “how do Iget there?”
“The Best Man hired a van to take us all there,” Lamb said.

“Since you drove here,” Wolf said, “you just need to find the van and follow it when it leaves.”

“Where’s the van now?” I asked.

“Let me show you,” Wolf said.

Suddenly The DJ turned off the music and came on the microphone.

“Attention everyone,” he said.  “The Wedding is over.  I repeat The Wedding is over.  Please say your final goodbyes to The Bride and Groom, and then leave.”

Then all the Realities looked over at us and quickly formed a mob.

“Oh Gods no,” Wolf said.

Before I could get directions to the van or say goodbye myself, I was rammed out of the way by the crowd.

All I could do was go outside in The Storm and try to find the van myself.  On the way out I ran into The PerceptionismProfessor again.

“I need your help,” he said.  “I just discovered the open bar still has a giant stash of unused Alcohol.  Those MeNotzies, as I suspected, were over-rationing, and I heard they’re just going to take it all and use it at their next wedding unless we get to it first.  That’s Wolf&Lamb’s by right, and you’re going to need it for The AfterParty.”

“You’re right,” I said. “What’s the plan?”

“Follow me.”

We headed to the open bar, and somehow in the chaos it was unmanned.  I kept a lookout, while The Perceptionist Professor went behind it and started putting all the bottles into two boxes.  I noticed The Bartender nearby getting yelled at by The Queen.

“Why haven’t you taken down your station yet?” she said.  “Can’t you see there’s a Storm outside? A Wedding’s worst enemy!  Everything must be carried into our underground Wedding tunnels at once!”

“Quick,” I told The PerceptionismProfessor, “they’re coming back!”

“Thanks,” he said.  “I got as many as I could.”

And then he handed me a big heavy box full of jumbo bottles of every variety of Alcohol Perception.

“Hey!” The Bartender saw us. “Put those down.”

I looked over at The Perceptionism Professor who had picked up his own heavy box.

“Run!” he said.

Then The Perceptionism Professor took off like a bunny darting thru the meadows, and I followed.  The Bartender ran after us, but The Perceptionism Professor was an expert at using the Realities in front of us to screen him off. When we got to the exit, it was still clogged up with guests and Planners, but The Perceptionism Professor was able to find a little hole in their legs and slideunder it, box and all, and he even managed to keep his top hat on the whole time. I tried to follow his lead, and found a little hole, and also made it thru altho I accidentally hit a few Realities’ legs with my box.

“We’ve gotta take these to the van!” I said when we got outside.

“Where is it?” The PerceptionismProfessor said.

We couldn’t see it at all, but you could hear the Bartender yelling behind us, “Help, they’re getting away!” and then we had to keep running anyway.

“Let’s just take it to my car,” I said, and we both ran toward Wings.

We looked back, and it seemed like we lost The Bartender, but there was another Ant in a raincoat who’d taken up his place and was now close behind.  She kept yelling “Hey!” at us, and she didn’t have a heavy box and was catching up fast.  I wondered what they’d try to do to take The Stash away, and I wondered what The Perceptionism Professor would do to defend it.  Just as I got to the car, a hand grabbed my shoulder.

“Get away you MeNotzie!” I said.  “Nobody likes how you planned this Wedding, and you owe us this Stash.”

“No, Bluebird, it’s me,” she said.

When I turned around, she’d taken her raincoat hood down, and I saw it was The Goddess of Faith.  She pulled out a big umbrella and held it over our heads.

“Holy shit!” The Perceptionism Professor said.  “It’s an Angel!”

“Don’t worry,” I told Faith, “he’s on our side.”

“I know,” she said.  “I’ve been watching.”

Then I introduced them to each other.

“Actually,” The Perceptionism Professor said, “I’m known to The Gods as Magic White Rabbit.”

“Nice to meet you,” she said.  “Actually I’d like to be known today as Bluebird’s Date.”

The word “Date” gave me The Chills, and we looked at each other and smiled.

“My Gods,” Magic White Rabbit shook his head, “You really truly are in True Love.”

“Shhh,” The Goddess put her finger to her mouth.

Then we looked around and cars were quickly leaving the parking lot, but we still couldn’t find the van.

“They must’ve left already,” Magic White Rabbit said.

“I guess we’ll just have to pack it up in our own cars,” I said.

“I wasn’t gonna make it to The AfterParty anyway,” he said.  “I’ve got Adventures in Perceptionism to lead at The Training School tonight.”

Then he helped put both boxes in Wings’s trunk and shook my hand.

“It’s been a pleasure,” Magic White Rabbit said.  “And I hope the best for you.”

“Alright, you, too,” I said.

“I’m parked just down there.  Mind if I borrow you and your umbrella, Bluebird’s Date?”

“Alright,” she said.

Before she went tho, she whispered in my ear.

“I have to go now, but I just had to be here for one second with you, so I could officially be your Date.”

“Thank you,” I whispered back.  “I TrueLove you.”

“Oh, Bluebird, I TrueLove you,too, my SoulMate.  And I’ll try to sneak back and see you as soon as I can.”

“I hafta kiss you now.”

“We can’t tho.  We’ll just have to say the words ‘kiss,’ and that will have to be good enough for now.”

“Alright, kiss.”

“Alright, kiss.”

And then she walked The Perceptionist Professor over to his car, and when she was done flew high into the sky and thru the stormclouds.

I got in Wings, and wondered how the hell I was going to find that AfterParty.  As we drove out of the parking lot, I looked at The Wedding and the tent was coming down and the last of The Wedding Planners were running down into their underground Wedding holes.  All the Wedding guests were gone, except for two who came running toward my car shouting. As they got closer you could see they were wearing a tuxedo and a Wedding Dress.

“Wolf&Lamb!” I said and scooped them up out of the rain.

“Bluebird!” they said. “Thank Gods you’re still here.  The AfterPary van left without us, even tho we’re the most important Realities at The Wedding.”

“How do we get there then?” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Wolf said, “I can get in touch with Scorpion and get the directions, as long as you don’t mind driving us.”

“Not at all.”

“It smells like pizza in here,” Lamb said.

“It smells like Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains in here,” Wolf said.

And they both went “ahh.”

6.16 – Hideout

“Thank Gods, I’m back in Alone Reality!” I said when I got back to Wings.  I wondered if I’d been at enough of The Wedding that I could just leave, or maybe I could just wait out the rest of it, come back at the end to say goodbye, and pretend I’d been there the whole time.

When I opened the door and tried to get in the car, The Crow was right there on the front seat.

“Ah, it’s my friendly OtherWordly helper,” I said.

But when I went to sit down next to it, the Crow took its beak and pecked right at my hand. I looked down and my fingers had a little bit of blood on them.

“Ow!” I said.  “Why?”

But The Crow just stared at me with its dark black eyes and went “CAW!”  It wouldn’t move off the driver seat, so I went around to get in the passenger side.  But then it flew over to that seat and puffed out its wings and started flapping them and going “CAW! CAW! CAW!”  It seemed like for some reasonThe Crow didn’t want me to be in Wings at the same time as it.

“Dammit,” I said.

Then I hadta just lean against the side of the car, and it was a bad Hideout cuz anyone could see me standing there like a Sore Thumb and wonder what I was doing.  It made me feel like a Bad Traveler.

“Can’t you just MeToo one New Reality here?” I said to myself.  “Stop being so afraid of getting your ass kicked.  You’re in True Love with an Angel for Gods’ sakes.”

Then I decided the only way I could feel like a good Traveler again was to introduce myself to the next New Reality I saw, even if they looked like a MeNotzie “Electric Slide” loving Adult, and try to MeToo them.

Soon a Reality wearing a white tuxedo with a black top hat walked into the parking lot. It made him look like a magic rabbit falling upside down.  Old Wolfy had introduced me to him earlier, but it was so fast I couldn’t remember who he was.  He was walking to his car alone, like maybe he was trying to escape to a Hideout, too.  I took a deep breath, told myself the Gods are on my side, and walked over.

“Hey,” I said.

He looked up from under his tophat and just as I was beginning to freeze he smiled at me.

“Hey!” he said. “You’re The Guy Who Drove All The Way From Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Man, driving that long is hard.  You get tired, and your butt hurts, and your mind can go crazy from boredom.  You must be a Great Traveler.”

“Thanks, what was your name again?”

“I’m The Perceptionism Professor.”

“You mean The Perceptionism Professor from Wolf’s Perceptionist Training School?”

“The one and only.”

“Wow,” I said.

Then we shook hands.

“So you’ve done every Perception ever?” I asked

“Yeah,” he said, “and somehow I’m still alive!”

Then I told him how me and Wolf met in Reality Travel Training together and had gone on all our Adventures in Perceptionism.

“Alright!” he said, “How bout an Adventure with me right now?”

“Like what?” I said.  “I’m still not that advanced.”

“How bout a little Lubricant Adventure?”

“Yeah, but they’re only serving it in little cups in there.”

“I know, that Open Bar is a Perceptionism tragedy.  That’s why I stole a whole bottle when they weren’t looking.”

Then he took off his top hat and like magic pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels from it.  He handed it to me, and I took a swig, and then he took a swig, and we kept passing it back and forth.

“Thank Gods,” I said as I felt the machinery of my mind loosen up.

“I was hoping I might be able to MeToo this with someone,” he said.  “My date had to leave, and everyone else is trapped in IceBreaker Hell over there.”

“That’s why I’m out here,” I said.

Then I told him all about The Wedding Mix and how, as a MusicMan Traveler, it was my only chance to MeToo, but it was ruined by their renegade DJ.

“They were supposta play things like ‘Magic Carpet Ride,” I told him.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “I love that song.  It’s about more than just a carpet ya know.  It’s about The Other World.”

“I know!  And when it came on I was going to tell everyone about that time I listened to it at Wolf&Lamb’s Den, and it led to us going to Karaoke for the first time and Lamb and I singing ‘A Whole New World.’”

“The song from Aladdin?”

“Yeah!”

“I saw that movie one time in Acid Perception.  The Genie was actually The Veil, and I had to go thru him to get to The Other World.  I asked The Gods if I could have three wishes, but they told me I didn’t need any, my life was Alright just the way it was, and that meant I was free. And it all made me cry and laugh at the same time.”

“Wow, you know everything about The Other World, don’t you?”

“Sure, it’s like my second home.”

“Then maybe you can explain The Crow.”

Then I told him my history with it and how it was inside Wings at that very moment.

“Oh my Gods, let’s see it!” he said.

But when we went over The Crow was gone.

“It was there a minute ago,” I said.  “I swear.”

“I believe you,” he said. “You’re not talking to just some Adult here.  I know Other World creatures appear and disappear whenever they feel like it.”

“Do you have any idea who The Crow is?”

“I’ve seen it before, but I don’t know much, other than it hangs out around The Veil sometimes, flying back and forth between this World and The Other.”

“Sometimes I think it’s trying to help me, and sometimes I think it’s just mean.”

“Maybe sometimes it helps you by being mean.”

“Ohh.”

“We could track The Crow down right now if you want to.  I have a couple Perceptions on hand that could take us straight to The Other World.”

“Actually, I don’t think it’s safe for me to be in The Other World right now.”

Then I explained everything that happened earlier with The Goddess of Faith.

“Wow!” he said.  “I’ve never heard of anything like that before. My Guardian Angel is called The Goddess of Manning Up, and whenever I’m in doubt she blows a loud whistle in my ear and tells me to get my shit together.”

“When I’m in doubt Faith gives me It’s Alright, Baby! and I don’t think I can live without it now.”

“It sounds like this is a True Love situation, and you can’t give up on it.  You just need to Love her where you can’t be caught.”

“We can’t be in The Other World, and we can’t be in this World. Is there another World I don’t know about?”

“There’s also The Past World.”

“You mean, like, Time Travel?”

“Exactly, your Angel can go back to any time and place she’s been before.  For the Gods it’s like watching a rerun of their favorite show.  But she could take you with her and Love you somewhere no one has been watching for ages.”

“And we can’t get caught by the historical Realities?”

“No.  The only way to get caught is if another God were Time Traveling back to the exact same moment in history at the same time as you.  It’s pretty much impossible.”

“Yes! Man, am I glad I introduced myself to you out here.”

“MeToo!”

Then there was a flash in the sky and a loud boom, and then it started to get dark.

“Looks like The God of Weather,” we said.

6.15 – Track #1 of The Anti-Mix: That One “Hot, Hot, Hot” Song

As a MusicMan Reality Traveler I have always done my best not to be a MeNotzie about any song.  Even if I don’t listen to them or know about them, I would never MeNot someone else for liking them.  But if there is just one song I cannot take, it’s That One “Hot, Hot, Hot” Song by someone I never bothered to find out.

That One “Hot, Hot, Hot” Song is a song about heat.  When you first get on a dancefloor your body is cold.  Your arms and legs are frozen solid and can’t move and you hafta just stand still in the back like an ice sculpture.  Gradually, as great songs play or Alcohol Perception kicks in, your body begins to warm up and then you can move and dance successfully. But That One “Hot, Hot, Hot”Song tries to heat you up all at once whether you’re ready to be thawed or not.  It makes everyone on the dancefloor get in a long line in which each Reality holds the shoulders of the Reality in front of them.  The Line then goes in circles collecting all the Realities it can even if they resist.

I was right on the edge of the dancefloor when I heard the first “ole, ole, ole, ole” of the song, and The Line began to form.

“Yeah!” the DJ Ant said.  “It’s time to par-tay!”

And then suddenly all the nearby Adults ran to the dancefloor.  I got caught in the middle of the chaos and tried to escape, but more Adults trying to join The Line kept blocking my way. I bumped into one and got knocked back and found myself face to face with The Head of The Line.

“Allaboard!” The Head of The Line said and made a ‘choo-choo’ motion with its arm like it was a train.

When I refused The Head of The Line didn’t like it.

“Oh come on,” it said.  “Don’t be a par-tay pooper!”

And then it began to encircle me.  Even Wolf&Lamb had been swept up in it, and I knew it would get me if I didn’t act fast.  The only thing I could think to do was run right thru the line, busting apart all the arms and legs in the way until I was free.

“Boo!” the line said as I fought thru, but I made it.

When I got to a safe distance away I ran into the Queen Ant and demanded answers.

“This shouldn’t be playing right now,” I said.  “What happened to Wolf&Lamb’s Wedding Mix they carefully compiled over months?”

“Oh,” she said, “we’re disregarding that, but don’t worry we know what people at weddings like.  Go have fun!”

I looked back at the dancefloor, and now they were playing “The Electric Slide.”

The Electric Slide is a song about electricity.  When you first get on a dancefloor your pulse is low.  Your heartbeat isn’t fast enough to make your arms and legs move and you stand there like a corpse.  Gradually, as great songs play or Alcohol Perception kicks in, blood will pump thru you and then you can move and dance successfully.  But the Electric Slide tries to jolt you to life all at once with an electric shock, whether you’re ready to be alive or not.  The song makes everyone on the dancefloor get in lines and follow a series of instructions like “now slide!” even if you don’t want to slide.

It only made me run straight back to my Hideout at the car.

6.7 – The New Reality Assignment

For our New Realities Class the Professor gave us an assignment to Travel to a New Reality we’d never met before, and knew nothing about, and seemed like would be impossible to ever MeToo. He didn’t technically say you hadta do it alone tho, so I asked Wolf to team up with me.

“Wolf,” I said, “New Realities are my main weakness, and I need you.”

“I thought Perceptionism is your main weakness,” he said.

“Yeah, but this weakness is the one I’m most afraid of. Every time I try to talk to a New Reality I turn frozen. My whole body can’t move, and my mouth can’t say anything, and then I just end up staring until we both give up and walk away MeTooless.”

“Don’t worry, Bluebird. I’m not bad at New Realities. I once turned one into a fiancée, as you know. All we have to do is follow The New Reality Sequence, and we’ll be fine.”

“Alright, where do we go?”

“I suggest we Travel to the Realities of the most mysterious, challenging terrain we know.”

“Oh no, TheMountains?”

“Precisely. As children of the sea-level East we cannot even begin to understand what kind of Reality would choose to live in this kind of environment. It should be fascinating.”

“Alright.”

“Great, you can drive us up there, right?”

“You don’t drive?”

“No, I suppose that is one of my weaknesses.”

Then I drove us there, even tho TheMountain Roads were hard.  They don’t go straight cuz TheMountains are in the way, and if you don’t turn hard enough enough you’ll fall off the edge to the bottom.  At the same you have to go really fast or else TheMountain Reality drivers will tailgate you and honk.

We went all the way up to Little Mountain Town.  It was crammed in between two huge Mountains, and it only had one main Road.  All the buildings were made of logs and clung to the side of one of the Mountains, and it looked like they were just about to fall off cuz of gravity.

“The Mountain Realities probably live here because they’re suspicious of Plains Realities,” Wolf said. “I imagine they won’t like us finding them, and we’ll need every advantage we can get. I suggest we go to a bar and put our faith in Traveler Lubricant.”

One of the log cabins said “TheMountains Bar” on it, and we went in there. It was the middle of the day, and there were only a couple of Realities inside. One was a bartender woman, and the other was a guy who looked like a Native American Reality.

Native Americans are a Reality about being the first Realities to be in America. Most of them were destroyed in the Europeans vs. Natives Reality War.

Native American Realities are rare in modern times, and none even existed at all where I grew up. It was exciting, but I was also scared we’d get blamed for some MeNotzie atrocities from the past that hadn’t been made up for yet.

The two of them stared at us.

“Wolf,” I whispered. “I can feel myself starting to freeze.”

“Don’t worry, Bluebird,” he said. “This is the easiest part of the sequence. Introductions.”

We sat down on a couple of barstools next to the Native American Reality. He scanned us up and down.

“Plains People,” he said and looked away.

“Yeah, we’re Plains People,” Wolf said. “I’m Plains Wolf and this is Plains Bluebird. Who are you?”

Instead of answering he just said, “Plains bullshit.”

I was frozen like a Mountains snow cap, but Wolf had a furry coat designed for the Tundra and wasn’t deterred.

“You’re a Native American, aren’t you?” he asked him.

“No, I’m an Indian. Wanna know what my Indian name is?”

“Sure.”

“Shitty Hunter… cuz I’m a vegetarian, haha.”

“You’re a vegetarian?”

“No.”

“Are you sure your Indian name’s not Running Tab?” the Bartender butted in.

“Haha,”he laughed. “That’s Chief Running Tab to you.”

“He really goes by Mountain Goat,” the bartender said.

“Why do they call you that?” Wolf asked him.

“Cuz I never fall,” he said.

“Please,” the bartender said, “You were so hammered you fell off your stool last night.”

“That was on purpose for a laugh.”

“Sure it was.”

Then the bartender asked us what we wanted to drink.

“We’ll have whatever he’s having,” Wolf pointed to Mountain Goat’s bottle of beer.

“Whatever you say,” she said.

Then she opened a couple of beers and grabbed a bottle of hot sauce and poured it into the beers. Beer and hot sauce were both on my Great List of Gross Things.

“We call it a Goat,” she said and handed us the drink.

Then we raised our bottles, and Wolf did a toast.

“To New Realities,” he said, “because life would bore me without them.”

“MeToo,” I lied.

Then we clinked glasses and said, “GAM-BAY,” and drank. The hotsauce beer was the worst thing that had ever entered my mouth. It was too bitter and too stingy at the same time, and it made water come out of my eyes and snot come out of my nose. I wanted to spit it right back into the bottle. Drinking Goat could tell from my face that I thought it was gross, and he laughed.

“Common Perception,” Wolf whispered to me.

Then I knew I had to try to keep it inside me no matter what. Wolf seemed like he liked his tho. He went “ahhh” and went right ahead with the question part of The Sequence.

“So you have the day off from work?” he asked Mountain Goat.

“Nah,” he said, “called in sick.”

“Yeah, sick with The BottleFlu,” the bartender said.

“What’s that?” Wolf asked.

“It means I was drunk as shit last night, haha!”

I wanted to come in and start asking questions, too, but I couldn’t think of anything. Their Realities seemed so different from me. I would’ve been scared to miss work for a hangover, but Mountain Goat seemed proud of it. Wolf kept doing really good on his own tho. He found out Mountain Goat was a construction worker who was in Alcohol Perception every single day and lived his whole life in TheMountains hiding from PBS, or ‘Plains Bull Shit.’ Wolf also found out The Bartender went by The Cougar, because she sometimes hunted younger men for Love, and it seemed like maybe she wanted Wolf, too.

Then suddenly Wolf got up.

“Where are you going?” I said.

“Bathroom,” he said. “This hot sauce beer is wrecking havoc on my stomach.”

“What do I do while you’re gone?”

“Just keep asking questions, and MeToo them if you can.”

I was totally frozen after he left tho. My mind was like ice cream that was too hard to scoop into even tho you want to eat it now. I certainly couldn’t come up with the human language necessary to get to know someone. I looked at the hot sauce beer I was barely drinking. I thought maybe if I could get some not gross Alcohol Perception I’d be able to thaw a little.

“Can I get another drink?” I asked The Cougar.

She noticed there was still a lot left in the drink I had.

“Can’t handle The Goat?” she laughed.

Mountain Goat laughed, too. I didn’t answer.

“What d’you want instead?” she asked me.

The only thing I could think of is what I always drank at Wolf&Lamb’s.

“A Jack Daniels and Dr. Pepper with cherries,” I said.

The Cougar and Mountain Goat laughed.

“Bars don’t have Dr. Pepper,” The Cougar said.

“Oh,” I said.

“We got Coke.”

“Alright, Coke then.”

“But I ain’t gonna put cherries in it. MountainMen don’t put cherries in their drinks.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Haha,” Mountain Goat said, “PBS.”

I wanted to run out of the bar right then and never go back to The Mountains again. But then Wolf came back just in time and heard some of what was going on.

“Hey,” he growled at The Cougar, “we’re paying you to make drinks, not give us your commentary on them.”

“Oh come on,” she said, “cherries?”

“If that’s what he wants, and you have them.”

Wolf pointed at the cherries on their garnish tray.

“In fact,” Wolf said, “I like cherries, too. Why don’t you make me another drink? This time a martini. Except replace the traditional olive with some cherries.”

“You’re kidding?” she said.

“Nope,” Wolf said.

She shook her head but made the drink anyway.

“Hey,” Mountain Goat said, “I forgot I like cherries. I want cherries too.”

“In your beer?” she said.

“Yeah,” he said.

Then she handed him a couple of cherries, and he poked them thru the top of his bottle and took a drink.

“It’s good,” he said.

“Oh hell,” The Cougar said, “I actually like cherries, too.”

Then she opened up her own beer and poked a couple cherries in it.

“What was your name again?” she asked Wolf and he told her.

“Alright,” she said, “from now on a Martini with cherries in this bar will be known as ‘The Wolf.’”

Then we all raised our glasses.

“To The Wolf,” they said.

And we clinked them together and drank, and everybody liked their drink this time.

“By the way, honey,” The Cougar batted her eyes at Wolf, “You’re kinda cute. If you wanna come Love me later I’m down.”

“Thanks,” he said. “But I only Love my fiancée.”

6.14 – The Reception

After The Ceremony The Ants demanded we all get in a big line to congratulate Wolf&Lamb.  It went slowly, and I hadta listen to the Adults next to me talk about The Wedding.

“I don’t really know The Bride or The Groom” an Adult said, “but it was nice.”

“What’s Wolfy’s boy do again?” an Adult asked another Adult.

“I dunno,” they said. “I think he’s a Traveling Realtor. Is that a thing?”

“I think they both do drugs,” another Adult said.

“No, no,” another Adult said, “they’re good kids.”

I was too frozen to tell them what Wolf&Lamb were really about and just hadta pretend I didn’t have ears for awhile.

When you got to the front of the line The Ants gave you a few seconds to say something before they pushed you away and the next Reality went.  Wolf&Lamb looked bad.  Their bodies were stiff, their faces were gray, and their eyes just stared out.  It seemed like it might be the first stages of Traveler Vertigo.

“Are you guys getting your ass kicked,too?”  I cut to the chase, “I keep getting too frozen to do the New Reality Sequence, and I haven’t MeToo’d anyone yet.”

“Hurry up,” an Ant interrupted. “It’s a long line.”

“Just shake my hand and say,congratulations,” Wolf told me.

I did what he said, and then he pulled me close and whispered, ”Traveler Lubricant… Lots of it… Now shake Lamb’s hand and congratulate her,too.”

I did what he said and then Lamb pulled me in and whispered, “There’s an Open Bar, all free.”

“Where?  How?” I asked.

But before she could answer a Soldier came to grab my arm.  I didn’t want my arm grabbed again so I dodged it and then hadta just run away.

I kept going until I got to the tent.  It wasn’t like a camping tent.  It was more like a building with thin plastic walls and windows, and it was big enough to hold all of the Realities of The Wedding inside.  There was another long line in there leading to a table with some kinda Bartender Ant who was surrounded by bottles of Alcohol.  “Ah,” I said and got in.

“You supposta be in this line?” an Adult next to me said.

I didn’t say anything.

“Where are your parents?”

“My parents?”

“Yeah, do they know you’re in this line?”

“I’m not a kid,” I said.

“Well, you don’t look like an Adult,” they said.

Then I hadta point my head down and stare at the ground so they wouldn’t say anything else to me.

“What do you want?” The Bartender said when I got to the front.  “It’s all free.”

“Great!” I said.  “I want an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and an entire 2 liter of Dr. Pepper.”

The Bartender laughed, and when he made the drink, there was only a little of both poured in a tiny paper cup.

“Have to make sure there’s enough for everyone,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

I looked around and everyone only had a tiny paper cup, even Adults like Old Wolfy and his SalesMen friends.  You’d see them drink it down in one gulp and then hafta get right back at the end of the line for another.  The line looked so long you figured your first small drop of Lubricant would probably wear off before you got the next one.  I realized I’d be in the lowest magnitude of Alcohol Perception the whole rest of The Wedding.  I drank my drink in one gulp even tho I knew I’d still have some squeaky tight mind machinery anyway.

Inside the tent there was a big dance floor with lots of tables around, which had namecards by each chair.  It looked like they were organized by Reality Groups, like Lamb’s Distant Cousins’ Realities or Wolf’s Distant Cousins’ Realities.  One table was higher up than the other tables and all of its namecards were in fancy gold writing.  Bride and Groom, Bride and Groom’s parents, Best Man and Wife, Maid of Honor and Date, Usher – The Important Wedding Realities.

Then I found my namecard at some kinda Miscellaneous Realities table.  I’d never heard the names before, and neither had anyone else there.  Soon everyone sat down there to eat and hadta start asking each other questions.  Like WolforLamb?  Name?  Hometown?  Job?  And marriage status?  I didn’t answer any of them.  I just sat there frozen waiting for the music to come on.

Then The Important Wedding Realities got to make speeches.  An Ant came around with a microphone and handed it to each one of them, and they said what they thought The Wedding was about.  Some were heartfelt like Lamb’s Dad.

“The Wedding is about my daughter being happy,” he said,“and that’s all a dad wants.”

Some were shy like Scorpion.

“The Wedding is about…” he said, “um, I don’t know…  Congratulations I guess.”

And some were a RockStar like Emperor Penguin.

“The Wedding is about everyone here being Great,” he said.  “I don’t really know Lamb, but I’ve known Wolf since HighSchool. And I know he only chooses to be around Great Realities.  Like me (pause for laughter).  And that means Lamb must be a great Reality, and if you’re at this Wedding you’re a Great Reality, too.”

It was a cheap MeToo, but it worked, and everyone laughed and felt good cuz they felt like they were a Great Reality.  It only made me wanna make my own speech, maybe about the first time me and Wolf&Lamb went to Karaoke and how they meant a lot to me.

Then Ant passed the microphone to another Ant who was set up at a table on the side with a bunch of music.

“Now it’s time for The First Dance,” a DJ Ant said.

“Yes!” I said.  “Finally.”

And then Wolf&Lamb got to get up and go to the middle of the dancefloor, while everyone stood up around them and watched. The DJ started playing Coldplay’s “Sparks,” and Wolf&Lamb got close together and slow danced.  I was just about to tell everyone I was the only one there who was actually around when they chose the song.  Realities around me started whispering tho.

“I’ve never heard of this song,” an Adult said.

“Me neither” another one said.  “Who is this?”

“Is this Dave Matthews Band?”

Dave Matthews Band is a band about Dave Matthews’s high but unpowerful voice.

“No, it’s John Mayer.”

John Mayer is a musician all about John Mayer’s high but unpowerful voice.

Finally Emperor Penguin stepped in.

“Pfft,” he said.  “You’re all wrong. This is Coldplay.”

And the “Pfft” was a horrible sound that was maybe even worse than “tsst” or “eh,” and it made it seem like Coldplay didn’t deserve to make music ever.

“Oh,” everyone said.

And they all rolled their eyes and shook their heads and went “pfft,” too.  And I couldn’t find anyone who looked like they would MeToo liking it.

When the song was over, the DJ told everyone they could come on the dancefloor now. And then, to make matters the worst they could possibly be, he put on That One “Hot, Hot, Hot,”Song…

6.13 – The Ceremony

I went back to Wings in the parking lot and took off my jacket.  Old Wolfy was right, it was just way too stuffy, whether I looked like The Professor or not.  It was nice back at the car, a perfect Alone Reality hideout where no one could find me, and I hadta fight the urge to just stay there and not go back to The Wedding. But I knew I still might have a chance at some MeToos when the music part happened.  And I knew The Ceremony was coming up, and I did want see the exact moment when Wolf&Lamb became married.

The hardest part was gonna be how to sit down.  I knew I didn’t wanna sit next to anyone else, and I noticed a lot of empty seats in the back where I might be safe.  Emperor Penguin was in charge of it tho, and it seemed like he was probably going to seat me in some MeNotzie kinda way.

I watched him from a safe distance. He was good at seating.  His motions were smooth and effortless, and he would put his hand gently on a Reality’s shoulder or back and guide them ahead with a clear voice that never um’d or stuttered.  He knew each Reality’s unique needs, whether it was going extra slow for a really old Adult or kneeling down and high-fiving a little kid. Most of the Realities laughed at something he said.  It started to seem like his ‘chaperone’ comment could’ve just been some kind of fluke or misunderstanding, and he was a true Reality Traveler who would be gentle and MeToo with me.

I walked up to him and took a chance.

“Hey,” I said, “Can I just seat myself?”

“No,” he said.

Then he put one hand firmly on my back, while the other one pointed.

“I’ll seat you right here next to these fine people,” he said.  “That way you don’t have to sit alone.”

They were a couple of younger looking Adults.  I couldn’t remember who they were at all.  It was possible they were imposters out to destroy The Wedding for the fun of it.

“But I want to sit alone,” I told Emperor Penguin, but he didn’t listen.

He used his usher hand to force me ahead just like the Planner Ants.

“This is So&So,” he said and pushed me down into the chair.  “So&So, this is Colorado.  He’s got some nice sneakers on, doesn’t he?”

I looked down at So&So’s shoes and theirs were both black and shiny, and then I looked at mine, which were all scuffed up with holes in the sides and the laces unraveling, and I realized I was Sticking Out Like a Sore Big Toe.  Once again Emperor Penguin didn’t even say,“I’m just fucking with you,” and when I looked back up he was gone.

Then So&So tried to start talking to me.

“So,” So(Female) said, “do you know WolforLamb?”

“I’ve never heard of WolforLamb,” I said.  “I only know Wolf&Lamb.”

“Oh…” she said.

“So,” So(Male) said, “you’re The Guy Who Came All The Way From Colorado.”

“No,” I said,  “all the way from Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains.”

So&So looked at me like they wanted me to say more, but I didn’t want to cuz it would’ve taken half a book to explain everything the right way.  Instead I just froze up and stopped talking to them, and eventually they got the picture and left me alone.  I could still feel them right next to me tho.  Sometimes So would accidentally brush me, and I would hafta inch my seat over a little, and I would wonder why they got to sit there instead of BigFoot, or the Iowa Goldfinch, or My Mom, or Kat, or El Puma, or The Goddess of Faith or Nobody.

After everyone was seated, The Ceremony began by playing The Wedding Song.

The Wedding Song is a song about being played at the beginning of every Wedding.  It starts off “Dun-Dun-da-dun, Dun-Dun-da-dun,” and when you hear it you know a Wedding is starting.  It keeps repeating until all the Important Wedding Realities march down an aisle between the Wedding Guest seats and take positions in front.

Wolf&Lamb soon took their positions right next to the Queen Planner Ant who got to be Ceremony Leader.  No one knew her before that day or what her knowledge of The Gods was, but apparently she had the power to legally marry you.  The Queen then made a big speech about Love, but it was all about hard work and hivemind and digging, and there was no talk of SoulMates or Cupids or sparks or crazy magnetic forces in The Other World, and I eventually tuned out.

I started thinking about The Goddess of Faith and wondered if she was watching the whole thing at that moment.  I thought about if we had a Wedding, and how we’d make sure there’d only be our favorite Realities, and no one would be a New Reality for anyone else, and everyone would get to be one of the Important Wedding Realities, and The Ceremony Leader would be The Professor, and The Ceremony would just be a recap of The Story of How We Met, followed by us forming Bluebird’s Alright, Baby!!for everyone.

Then I finally heard Wolf&Lamb talking for themselves.

“I’ll Love you forever no matter what,” Wolf told Lamb.

“I’ll Love you forever no matter what,” Lamb told Wolf.

“Alright,” The Queen said, “you’ll be married now as soon as you kiss each other in front of everyone.”

Then Wolf leaned in and put his mouth on Lamb’s mouth, and I was sortafar away, but I think I did see a fiery little spark or two fly out from their faces, and it gave me The Chills.