9.9 – The Tollbooth

“That hadta be the Peak of The Perception,” I told Wings.

“But what if this is just the beginning of a long descent into Hell?” Wings said.

“Then we hafta say this is only a Perception, and it can’t last forever.”

Soon we came upon a sign telling us to slow down for a tollbooth.

“Man, I hate this kinda Road,” I said and hadta dig into my pocket to grab some money.

“This Tollbooth looks kinda weird,” Wings said.

The car was right.  Instead of several lanes with a TollBooth for each, The Road narrowed down to one lane with a long bearded Old Man just standing in the middle of it.  When we got closer I could see he was so old that his skin was rotting off his bones, and he barely even had eyeballs anymore.

“Toll,” he screeched like his vocal chords were rotting, too.

“Maybe we should just turn around a take a Detour,” Wings said.

“Ugh,” I said, “that would be like the longest thing ever tho.”

Then we hadta pull up right in front of the man.

“How much?” I asked him.

“One dollar,” he screeched.

“Oh, that’s not too bad.”

Then I gave him a single one dollar bill outta my pocket.

“Silver dollar,” he screeched.

“Look, you hallucination,” I said.  “No one’s had those on them for like a hundred years.”

The TollBooth Man responded with a high and powerful and long shriek that hurt my ears.

“Wait,” Wings said, “remember you got one from The Banker earlier.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, “good thinking, Wings.”

And then I dug back into my pocket, found it, and handed the shiny gold Sacagewea to him.  The near-corpse nodded and took it.  Then he put it in his mouth and swallowed it.

“What now?” I asked.

“I take you from here,” he screeched.

Then he tried to open up the door and get in the driver’s seat.

“Do you have to?” I asked.  “You look like you’re not even alive.”

He let out another high and powerful and long shriek.

Then I hadta let The TollBooth man get in, and I moved to the passenger side.  Soon everything around us got even weirder, and I was glad he was behind the wheel. Fog rolled in from everywhere and I couldn’t see anything, not even The Road below us.  The car just kinda floated on it, and I couldn’t tell how fast we were going or if we were even moving forward at all.  The TollBooth Man smelled like a dead body, but at least he seemed to know how to navigate thru it.

“How far are you taking us?” I asked.  “Cuz we wanna stay on Road-70 Kansas all the way to Colorado.”

“No Colorado,” he screeched.  “The UnderWorld.”

“Of course,” I sighed.

“Could we die doing this?” Wings asked.

“Only if you get out, haha” The TollBooth Man screech-laughed, while his jaw looked like it was going to fall off.

As we went along we descended into a big dark tunnel, and the fog on the sides turned into shapes.  They got clearer and clearer until they became heads and arms and legs. They were all reaching out to us, and their mouths were open and moaning.

“Ghosts,” The TollBooth Man screeched.

Some of the ghosts got so clear I actually started to recognize them, like Jack Kerouac, Le Rouge Baron, and my old pet Dogritos. There was even one old man in rags and sunglasses with a nametag that said “THERESA S.”  Most of them were unfamiliar and scary tho, and they started to swarm the car, and we could barely move anymore.

“Yearning for treasures of the living World,” The TollBooth Man screeched.  “Give offering.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Your blood.”

“What about Dr. Pepper instead?”

“Don’t know Dr. Pepper.”

I decided to try it anyway, and I rolled the window down a crack.  The ghost fingers were trying to get in, but as soon as I poured a little pop out, they immediately dove down to lick it up.  Then I shook it up a little and sprayed it out at them and they lunged at it away from the car.

“Pepper blood working,” The TollBooth Man screeched.

Then I took the whole two-liter and threw it out as far as I could behind us, and all the ghosts ran after it, and the path was totally clear.  Then you could see a light at the end of the tunnel ahead of us, and it was made of pure fire.

“We’re here,” The TollBooth Man screeched.

“Where?” I said.  “Hell?”

“The Trial.”

9.3 – The Bank

Since I didn’t hafta be a Reality Traveler anymore, I didn’t worry about hitting the Road again right away.  I stayed at The Smaller Nest, sleeping and watching TV until my Hangover was gone.  Then when I was ready I asked my parents for some money to pay for the trip back.

“Don’t you have any money?” they asked me.

“No, pizza delivery pays me so little I couldn’t afford this entire trip even with the money you gave me before.  I’m going to get a new high-paying Adult job as soon as I can think of one tho.”

“That’s great,” they said, “but I think you still have The Shoebox in the basement somewhere.  Maybe there’s enough to tie you overfor now.”

“Oh yeah.”

I remembered when I was a kid I used to save every coin I found in The Shoebox.  I went down to The Basement, and it was still there.  I lifted the lid, and it was still full of pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and even a couple of strange larger coins, which were worth even more.  I liked looking at the money and smelling its metal smell and hearing how it sounded when you shook the box.

“I’ll have to get as much of this as possible when I start my New Adult Life,” I said to myself.

I knew it would be hard to pay in coin form for all the gas and Dr. Pepper I needed for The Road, so I hadta go to The Bank so they could give me bills for it.  It was right next to The Mall, and it was the cleanest building I’d been in yet on The Great Trip.  Its walls were all glass with no streaks or smudges, and the furniture inside was all smooth and crisp and looked like no one had ever sat in them before.  The air smelled like absolutely nothing, and it made me realize how good that smell actually is.  Everyone who worked there smiled and seemed to be at complete It’s Alright, Baby peace even tho they’d never hugged an Angel before.

The Banker I got was a young woman Reality, who wore the typical rigid Adult jacket that made her shoulders look pointy and heavy makeup that made her eyes and lips stand out, but this time I had a new appreciation for the Uniform.  I could see how much time and effort it took to control your looks that much, and it seemed like a more amateur Reality wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

“How may I assist you, sir?!” she asked and smiled at me.

“I need to trade this for real money,” I said and handed her The Shoebox.

I thought maybe she’d think it wasn’t Adult enough to store your savings that way and have some big MeNotzie reaction about it, but instead she kept smiling.

“Oh my,” she said, “you’ve really saved a lot of coins.  Good for you!”

“Thank you,” I said, “I need it for a trip.”

“Oh my, where are you going?!”

“Colorado.”

“I hear that’s a beautiful state, sir!”

“It is.”

“I’ll just put this in our convenient money counter right away, so you can have the best trip possible!”

Then she went into a back room, and you could hear coins falling and the buzzing of some kind of machine.  She came back after a few minutes and told me how much was in it.

“Wow!” I said, “that’s way more than I thought and enough to pay for the trip a couple times over.”

“Those pennies really do add up!” she said.

Then she handed me all the things that wouldn’t go in the machine, like a paperclip, lint, a RISK Army piece, and a dead bug.

“I also found this silver dollar you might want to keep,” she said.  “They’re good luck!”

Then she handed it to me, and it was shiny gold and had Sacagewa on it.

Sacagewa is a Native American Reality about leading the explorers Lewis and Clark into the far off and exciting and mysterious lands of the AmericanWest, where they became the first non-Native American Realities to see Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Now, how would you like the rest of this, sir?” she asked.  “Twenty dollar bills?!”

“How about fifty dollar bills?!”

“Sounds great!”

Then she handed me the crisp new money, and it felt so much better than the crumpled up soft money I usually had on me.

“Is there any other business you’d like to take care of here today, sir?!”

“Not that I can think of,” I said.

“Well, it’s been a pleasure helping you today, sir.  Feel free to take a lollipop!”

Then I reach into a little basket in front of her station and found a Dr. Pepper flavored one.

“Thanks so much for everything!” I said.

“Once again, it was my pleasure, and I wish you a safe and wonderful journey!”

7.17 – Shitshow

As the sing-along continued, Wolf summoned me and Scorpion into the kitchen.

“Well done, Bluebird,” Wolf said.  “I can’t believe I got the full blown Vertigo.  It was actually fascinating, like its own Perception.”

“I’m sorry,” Scorpion said.  “I underestimated the significance of this RealityFuck phenomenon.”

“It’s Alright,” Wolf said, “but now that all these Realities are together again, we have to maintain the MeTooing with a Common Perception at once.”

“I don’t feel comfortable doing any Perception with that Marijuana MeNotzie here,” Scorpion said.

“I’ve been watching him all night,” I said. “He’s had a lot of chances to be a MeNotzie but hasn’t.  In fact, I think he’s dying to MeToo with us.”

Then we looked back in the living room at him. The Baby was jumping up and down and clapping and had a big smile on his innocent puff-cheek face.

“I’ll admit he does look quite innocent,” Scorpion said.

“Yes,” Wolf scratched his chin, “I trust Bluebird’s assessment.”

“Alright,” Scorpion said.  “The only problem now is that we’re already deep into our own separate Perceptions.”

“There’s got to be something we can do tho,” Wolf said.

“Well,” Scorpion said.  “It’s a risk.  But we could try a having a Shitshow.”

“Of course!” Wolf said.

“What’s a Shitshow?” I asked.

“It’s a fringe theory of Perceptionism,” Wolf said, “suggesting if a Reality is at an extreme magnitude of a given Perception, or in other words Shitfaced, then they will be able to MeToo another Shitfaced Reality even if in a completely different Perception.  It’s unproven tho, and even if it did work, I’m not sure how to account for all these Sober Realities.”

“What if the Sober Realities get Shitfaced on a weak and unpowerful Perception like, say, Caffeine?” Scorpion suggested.

“I’ve still got a lot of Dr. Pepper in my car,” I said.

“Alright,” Wolf said, “we have no choice but to try.”

I left to get the Caffeine Perception, and when I got back Wolf was in the living room directing everything.  He had Emperor Penguin and The Penguins play every Marley song they knew, and Lamb kept everyone singing along.  WildFuckingTurkey was going around with bottles of Alcohol around and making sure everyone was drinking more than they could handle.

“Bluebird,” Wolf came up to me, “make sure the Sobers get fucking wired.”

“Alright,” I said.

Then I started handing out whole Dr. Peppers to each of them.

“I loveDr. Pepper,” The Baby said, “but I’m not allowed to have any too close to bedtime.”

“It’s Alright, The Baby,” I said.  “You can drink as much as you want after a Wedding.”

“Oh, alright!” he said and started happily suckling on his very own two liter Baby bottle.

Then Scorpion came back with The Marijuana Perception.  He was still cautious and trying to sneak the Octobong behind his back.  But the Baby saw it anyway.

“Hey!” he said. “What’s that cool looking Octopus thing?”

Scorpion was startled and was about to crawl right back into The Hole, but Wolf stopped him before he could.

“It’s alright,” he said, “just show him what it is.”

Then Scorpion brought it over, and The Baby started playing with it like it was new toy.

“What’s it for?” The Baby asked.

“You smoke Marijuana Perception out of it,” Scorpion said.

“I wanna try!”

“You do?”

“Yeah!”

The Scorpion sat next to The Baby and showed him which tentacle was which so you could smoke out of it.  The Baby took a hit and coughed and a minute later was giggling uncontrollably.

“I like it!” he said.

After that everyone in the room was inspired to try every Perception available at once.  I even took a couple more hits off the Octobong, and Emperor Penguin put some Dr. Pepper in his scotch.  Soon we were all Shitfaced, and the MeToos were flying around the room, and everyone got a chance to sit on The Throne.  Then it’s hard to remember what happened next.  I remember at some point looking up and Wolf was in the middle of the whole Shitshow smiling with his arm around Lamb.

And I remember sometime later waking up on the hard living room floor, and my head was right next to Emperor Penguin’s.

“Hey, Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“You came all the way from there?”

“Yeah.”

“By yourself?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s Alright.”

“Thanks.”

 

“Hey, Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains.”

“Yeah?”

“I think I’m gonna keep the band together.”

“Cool.”

“Hey… Wherethe…

“Yeah?”

“I’m shitfaced, man.”

“MeToo,” I said, and then I passed out.

4.14 – Track #6 of The Great Trip Mix – REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly”

Our Own Place had a garage with enough room for one car. Since Kat was way better at parallel parking we decided to let me always park in the garage while she parked on the street. One day I came home from school, and her car was in the garage tho. I hadta double park and run inside and ask what was going on.

“It’s only fair I get the garage sometimes too,” she said.

“But what if I can’t find a spot?” I said.

“Eh.”

Then I hadta go back outside and try to park on the street, but none of the gaps were big enough to fit in. The best I could find was way down the street, and its gap was still only the exact same size as my car. When I started to back in it seemed like I was going to hit the car behind me, and then I hadta pull out and try again, and then it seemed like I was going to hit the car in front of me. I pulled in and out several times like that but still wasn’t getting any closer.

“Need help?” someone on the street said.

It was a tough, gritty looking Just-Outside-County guy with eyes that popped out of his face like a bug. I wanted to shoo him away so he couldn’t watch me anymore, but he buzzed right on up to the window.

“I can get it in there for you,” he said. “I’m a Great Driver.”

I liked the idea of someone else parking for me but also wondered if it was some kind of MeNotzie trick.

“How do I know you’re not just fucking with me?” I said.

“Why would I do that?” he said. “We’re neighbors.”

I didn’t actually know he was my neighbor, cuz I hadn’t Traveled to any of the Realities on the street before.

“Hey” he said and held out his hand. “I’m Fly.”

When I rolled down the window and shook it, I got the strange sense that I could trust him.

“I think this gap is too small tho,” I said.

“Nah,” he said.

Then he motioned for me to let him in. I got out and went to the passenger seat, and he got in the driver’s seat and took the wheel. In one swift move he perfectly backed the car in without touching the other cars.

“Wow,” I said, “thanks!”

“It’s nothing,” he said. “I’m better at driving than anything else.”

“I’m worse at driving than anything else.”

“You could get better.  You’re young.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, what’re you in college or something?”

I told him where I went.

“No kidding?… You a Reality Traveler?”

“You know about Reality Travel?!”

“Yeah, I usta be one.”

“I was gonna be one once, too.”

Then I told him the whole story and how ALC was actually a MeNotzie school and how thank god I met Kat who Loves me and now we’re going to be Adults together.

“I bet you’re starting to get The Malaise tho, aint ya?” he said.

“What’s that?”

“You know once you get The Calling there’s no going back, right? If you stop Traveling you’re letting down the fucking Gods, and they’ll make you sick and depressed.”

“Sick like how?”

“Like that congested voice, and those red, watery eyes you got.”

“I have a cat allergy.”

“Trust me, it ain’t the cat. You’re allergic to being an Adult.”

“You can be allergic to that?”

“Oh yeah, if a Traveler tries to do shit like work a lame job or watch TV all the time or start taking their clothes to the dry cleaner, it will really fuck with your system.”

“Is there any way to get rid of The Malaise?”

“Only one way.  You gotta start Traveling again.”

“But my girlfriend hates Traveling. I’ve gotta be an Adult for her.”

“You could try, but The Malaise is just gonna get worse and worse.”

“What do I do about Kat then?”

“Hey, if she can’t accept you for what you are, maybe it’s time for you to fly. Ya know, like that one Speedwagon song.”

REO Speedwagon’s “Time for Me to Fly” is a song about leaving a MeNotzie. Sometimes you let someone Dominate you for a long time until you finally get fed up and can’t take it anymore. Then you don’t want to waste any more time in their Reality and escape in the fastest possible way, which is flight.

I knew the song from The Radio and always liked it, especially the high and powerful way frontman Keven Cronin sings the word “fly.” It makes you want to start suddenly soaring thru the air no matter what you’re doing.

“But I can’t leave her,” I said. “She’s probably my SoulMate.”

“I don’t know,” Fly said. “Wouldn’t a Reality Traveler have a Reality Traveler SoulMate?”

“That does make sense.”

“Look man, you don’t wanna end up like me. I usta be the best Traveler. I was SuperFly, and I was quick and fierce and no swatter could get me. I MeToo’d via fast cars, and I’d drive to any Reality anywhere anytime without getting tired or losing my mind. But then I got seduced by a MeNotzie wife and had a kid with her, and then I hadta get a fulltime job to take care of them. And just like that I was trapped forever like one of those fucking flies that buzzes between the window and the blinds until they slowly die.”

“So you have The Malaise?”

“Hell yeah, I got The Malaise. I’m a truck driver who delivers Dr. Pepper to the local gas stations. I’ve had a runny nose for like nine years straight.”

“Oh.”

Then he took out his wallet and pulled a card out of it.

“Hey,” he said. “If you do start Traveling again, you should take this.”

He handed it to me and it said…

THE REALITY TRAVELER TRAINING SCHOOL

WHERE-THEPLAINS-MEET-THEMOUNTAINS

And there was a phone number on the bottom.

“It’s a Calling Card,” he said. “You hafta receive one to get into the Training School.”

“What happens there?”

“A select few are chosen to become better Travelers.”

“How did you get it?”

“This might sound a little crazy, but I got it from a bird.”

“What kind of bird?”

“I dunno. I dunno the kinds of birds. It was blue.”

“It handed it to you?”

“Kinduv, it was on a tree outside my place, and I couldn’t stop looking at it for some reason. I mean, it was very blue. I said ‘whaddayou want bird?’ and then it swooped over me and the card fell from the sky right into my hands.”

“Wow… but you didn’t go?”

“Never even called em.”

“Maybe you still can.”

“Nah, it’s over for me.”

“Am I allowed to call this number tho?”

“Why not? You’re a Reality Traveler.”

“Well, isn’t a bird supposta give it to me directly?”

“Sometimes this is the way Reality Travel works. For all we know the bird gave it to me so years later I’d give it to you.”

“Wow.”

Then Fly noticed the time and started to get nervous.

“Shit,” he said.  “I gotta fly now. The wife’ll squash me if I’m gone too long.”

“Alright, thanks, man.”

“Yeah, now what’s the goddam saying again?… Oh yeah, be brave Traveler and don’t forget The Gods are on your side… unless, ya know, you quit.”

Then we said goodbye, and he got outta the car and flew to his apartment, and I never ended up seeing him again.

When I got back to Our Own Place, Kat looked at me suspiciously.

“It took you that long to park the car?” she said.

But I ignored her and went straight to the bedroom and closed the door and called the number on the card.

“This is The Professor,” he answered.

“Hey,” I said. “I think I just received The Calling Card.”

“Yes, you have, Jonathan.”

I hadn’t told him my name tho.

4.7 – LoveKat

Eventually the Road-80 traffic started moving again, but it took so long there was no way I’d be on time for Kat Reality. The Goddess of Faith gave me some more IAB! when she said goodbye, but it wasn’t long after she’d flown high into the sky toward the sun that Kat called and it all wore off. I didn’t even answer. I just started making Wings go as fast as it could, even tho it was against the law. I even sped right past a sign that said “The Wilderness, PA,” even tho I knew the right Traveler thing to do was Sidetrack into BigFoot’s hometown. I felt like every second counted, and there was just no way.

When I finally got to Kat’s parents’ house it was way after dinnertime. I stayed in her driveway for an extra second to prepare myself. I knew I couldn’t forget a Grounding Device like the last Past Reality, so I tried staring at my Bluebird Sticker long enough for it to stick on the inside of my brain. Then I sighed and grabbed The Mix and put another old delivery sticker on that and wrote…

Play Kat

track 6

and sing

I crossed my fingers and got outta the car.

When I got to the door Kat was already standing there in a sparkly gold dress and makeup, which she rarely wore. She was frowning at me.

“You’re really late,” she said.

“It’s alright, Kat,” I said. “There was construction on Road-80 and they stupidly closed every lane except one and you hadta wait for a guy with a stop sign to tell you you could go…”

But before I could finish she pounced on me with a big hug.

“Oh, I don’t care,” she said. “I’m just glad you got here safe!”

“Really?”

“Of course, now give Your Son a hug.”

Your Son was the kitten we’d had together. He was right at her side, but when I went down to squeeze him he squirmed out of my arms and ran away. It made me remember cats only Love you when they want to.

“Aw,” Kat said. “He’s just shy today.”

She was looking at me totally like the LoveKat, the thing she was before she became the HateKat. I figured there must’ve been some kinda TimeWarp at play for her.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“Very,” I said.

“Well, it’s too late to go to The Golden Lion, but there’s lots of food here. I can make you something.”

“Alright!”

Kat was very good at the kitchen and knew how to make almost everything on The Great List of Food.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You had your mind set on General Tso’s Chicken, and now you can’t think of anything else, right?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening.”

“I know you.”

Then she smiled and gave me another hug.

“I can think of something else you like,” she said.

“What?”

“Apple pancakes.”

“You’re right, I do like those!”

“With the apples in the batter instead of that gross apple syrup on top like at the diner.”

“Yes, I like it that way!”

Then she went into the kitchen and started working on it. She gave me a package of fudge grams to snack on while I waited. And then she did all her mixing and griddling and things in her cute outfit, and I hadta keep coming up from behind and squeezing her.

“Haha, stop,” she said. “I’m doing things.”

“But when you’re doing things is when I like to squeeze you the most!” I said and squeezed her again hard.

When she was almost ready she told me to set the table with plates and silverware and maple syrup. Soon she came out with a big platter full of fat apple pancakes, and she scooped them onto my plate, and I covered them in the syrup.

“Oh, I almost forgot something,” she said.

Then she left and came back in a second with a cold can of Dr. Pepper.

“Alright!” I said.

Then I ate the pancakes and washed them down with Dr. Pepper.

“Do you like it?” she said.

“I love it all!” I said.

We smiled at each other as we ate. The TimeWarp was strong and I wondered if we’d even have Love again. I remembered everything was perfect when we were at her parents’ house. It was only when we lived together at Our Own Place that things started going bad.

3.6 – The Great List of Food

General Tso’s chicken

Dr. Pepper

Doritos

Twizzlers

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Popcorn

Apple Pancakes

PeanutButter&Jelly sandwiches

Chicken sandwiches

Chicken wings

Chicken fingers

Mozzarella sticks

Marinara sauce

Onion rings

Ranch dressing

Keebler fudge grams

Oreo cookies

Christmas cookies

Spaghettios

Fruit Roll-Ups

Hot Pockets

Honey Nut Cheerios

Birthday Cake

Ben&Jerry’s Coffee HeathBar Crunch Ice Cream

Pizza

Flintstones Chewable Vitamins

Potato Salad

Salmon

Red White and Blue Popsicles

French Fries

Croissants

Macaroni and cheese

Juice boxes

Breast milk

Banana milkshake

McDonald’s Happy Meal

3.4 – The Smaller Nest

Me and my Mom and Dad and Brother usta live in a big house called The Big Nest. It was like a soft, but tightly strewn, perimeter of bramble that could secure and protect a fragile egg or baby bird too young to fly. It was so big, cuz Dad was a moneymaking Doctor, and everything inside it was big, too, like a big kitchen, big toys, and a big TV.

I moved away after I got The Calling, and whenever I came back Mom and Dad would always be talking about a strange new concept called Self Growth.

Self Growth is about your Self not being big enough as it is, so you have to do things to make it grow, like stretching, breathing, running, chanting, eating health food, and acquiring knickknacks from the far off and exciting Realities of Asia and/or Native America. Once your Self has gotten to a certain size you won’t need other things in your life to be as big.

At one point both my parents’ Selves had Grown enough that they didn’t even need The Big Nest anymore, and so they moved into a new Smaller Nest. Every time I went there it never felt quite right.

I got there this time early in the night. I went up to the front door and hadta ring the doorbell cuz I didn’t have a key. Inside I could hear unfamiliar high and powerful noises. When the door opened a small creature leapt out at me.

“This is the new puppy!” Mom said. “We named him Buddhawg after The Self Growth Guru, The Buddha.”

The Buddha was a Wiseman Traveler who MeToo’d via The Great MeToo – All Realities Will End.

“Oh,” I said.

Our old dog Dogritos had just died. We had named her after Doritos.

Doritos are a triangular snack chip about having a bold nacho cheese flavor.

I didn’t even know they’d replaced her with a new dog until that moment. It made me feel a TimeFuck tingle in my head.

The Buddhawg was very adorable tho. His shaggy black hair came down over his eyes, and you could only see a little nose and mouth, and you just wanted to smush his face in with Love.

 “Aww,” I said.

But when I bent down to pet him, he snapped at my hand, and I could feel little sharp teeth.

“Buddhawg, No!” Mom said and scooped him up.  “He’s still a little wild.”

Then she had to take him inside and put him in a little metal cage so he couldn’t attack me anymore.

As usual everything seemed off in The Smaller Nest. The walls and windows and carpets and furniture were all in the wrong places, and they were the wrong sizes and colors. It even had the wrong smell. I hadta shake my head to get all the TimeFuck Tingles out of it.

“Are you alright?” Mom asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Did you stop to rest at all?”

“No.”

“How did you stay awake?”

“Dr. Pepper.”

“Tsst, that stuff is toxic!”

“But I love it.”

“It’s making your Self Shrink.”

“I don’t feel like I’m shrinking.”

“It does it slowly and secretly until your Self is so small you don’t have one anymore.”

“But you usta buy it for us all the time.”

“We didn’t know better back then. But every Self Growth book and workshop and seminar says Dr. Pepper is bad.”

The Tingles wouldn’t go away, and they made me hafta sit down.

“So who’s wedding are you going to?” Mom said.

“Huh?” I said.

Besides the Tingles, my mind was also suddenly having trouble remembering things.

“You said on the phone you’re going to Philadelphia for a wedding,” she said.

“Oh yeah, that must be Wolf&Lamb’s I guess.”

“Do you have something to wear for it?”

“What I’m wearing now.”

I was in my Traveler Uniform, which I wore every day I Traveled – blue bandana, blue jean jacket, plain white t-shirt, blue jeans, and black tennis shoes.

“What about pants?” she said. “You can’t just wear jeans to a wedding.”

“I can’t?”

“Everyone else there will be wearing dress clothes.”

I hadn’t thought of that, but she was making sense. If I looked too different I could Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb and become a magnet for MeNotzies.

“What do I do?” I said. “It’s too late to change my Wedding Uniform now.”

“It’s alright,” Mom said. “We can go to The Mall early tomorrow and get a pair of khakis. I think there’s a sale.”

“But I hate shopping at The Mall. Maybe I don’t even wanna go to a Wedding.”

After I said that I realized that my head wasn’t right at all, and a TimeWarp must’ve been taking over. I tried to play “I’m Like a Bird,” in my head, but I couldn’t really remember how the melody went.

“Oh Gods,” I said, “I gotta get something from the car.”

Then I went to grab The Mix at once.