8.15 – War

When we got back inside everyone was shouting.

“Oh my god!” Red said.  “There’s a bird in here!”

She was ducked down on the floor covering her head, and The Admiral was on top of a chair holding a broomstick.  Just then a flash of darkness swooped around and divebombed them. It was The Crow.

Red screamed, and The Admiral swung at it and missed.  The Crow flew in a few circles and then noticed me and came straight towards me. I just stood there staring at it and didn’t flinch, and its claw scraped right across my face.

“Oh my god!” Red said.  “It got HD.”

“I’ll take care of this,” The General said.

Then he grabbed the sabre off the wall and pulled it out of its sheath.  The lights of The Barracks shined off the metal, and The General held it into the air like the leader of the cavalry.

“Where’d it go?” he said.

“Over there,” The Admiral said.  “It’s taking Ace’s music.”

It had The Great Trip Mix in its beak and was about to make another swoop.

“Oh my god!” Red said, “Get it!”

The General held his weapon high and charged.  The Crow dodged outta the way tho and turned back toward me.

“Go ahead,” I told it.  “Get me again.”

The Crow dove down at my face.  I didn’t flinch again, and it scraped my other cheek.  It perched on the globe for a second and looked at me confused.  It left its guard down for just that second, and TheGeneral&TheAdmiral took advantage.  The Admiral smacked it in the face with the broom, and then The General swiped at its wing with the sabre, and feathers flew up everywhere.  When they finally settled on the ground, The Crow had vanished.

“It must’ve flown out from wherever it came in,” The General said.  “Although I don’t know how it could’ve.  This place is a fortress.”

“Was that The Gods?” The Admiral asked.

“No,” I said, “It was just a coincidence.  It probably flew in from the balcony when you weren’t looking.”

“Oh my god, HD,” Red said, “your cheeks are all bloody!”

“I’ll be alright.”

Then I wiped them with my hands, and my fingers got all red.

“Oh my god,” Red said, “let me clean you up.”

Then we went into the bathroom so she could look at it.  She took a wet cloth and wiped the blood off.

“I think you need a band-aid,” she said.

Then she got some out of the medicine cabinet, peeled off the wrappers, and stuck one on each of my cheeks.  It was nice, and a little Alright, Baby, and it made her seem like she was someone else.

“Thanks, La Renarde,” I said.

“Oh my god,” she said, “I’m Red.”

“You look like La Renarde.  You have the same red hair.”

 

“You’re so funny, HD.”

“Are you guys like twins?”

“No I’m younger.”

But they really looked exactly the same to me.  I had one last vague sense I was being TimeWarped, but when I went to look down at my Grounding Device, once again it and the jacket it was stuck to weren’t there anymore.

“Hey La Renarde,” I said.  “Maybe if we kiss again it’ll turn out different this time.”

“Um, you’re acting kinda weird now.”

“Why did you kiss me if you were just going to be in Love with that other guy?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Let’s go back in the room, HD.”

“I’m not HD, I’m Jonathan, and I just wanted to be Reality Travel enough so you’d Love me.  I did all of this for you, and now you don’t even believe in it anymore.”

“I really think we should go back in.”

“Please kiss me.”

“I don’t like you like that.”

“So you’re still not going to kiss me ever?”

“Ew, no.”

Then she pulled away from me as far as she could and told TheGeneral&TheAdmiral everything that just happened.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “hahaha.”

“I win again,” The General said.  “When will you learn you just don’t have the Gods on your side.”

I looked at Red’s hair again as she avoided me across the room, and it was so LaRenarde-red, and then when I looked away everything else around us was the same color.  The walls and the counter and the door and the floor and The Admiral’s face and The General’s face, all pure red.  Then suddenly I felt a redness build and surge from inside me.  It was redbird, and it felt powerful and completely correct.

“Ahhrgh!” it made me say.

And then I charged ahead and attacked them with my redbird.

“Oww!” it made them say.

I took a step back, and all the normal colors suddenly came back around me.  White and black and gray.  Except for Red’s hair and clothes and a little red splatter on the floor.  Red’s eyes were wide open and she covered her mouth with her hand.  The Admiral was dazed on the ground, and The General was standing up holding his face.  One little red drop fell thru his fingers and hit the floor in front of him, and it almost made it seem like he was crying tears of blood.

8.12 – Track #17 of The Great Trip Mix: Radiohead’s “High and Dry”

I knew TheGeneral&TheAdmiral would still be tough to MeToo, but I didn’t know much about Red.  I waited for them to go to the balcony to smoke, and then I went up to talk to her.

“Did La Renarde ever tell you about Reality Travel?” I asked her.

“Who’s that?”
“Your sister.”

“Oh you mean Fox.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my god, she usta be so weird,” she said.  “I’m glad she’s finally starting to get normal now.”

“Reality Travel isn’t weird.  It’s all about the best thing in the world, MeTooing.”

“Oh my god, my sister usta say that word all the time.  I hated it.”

“You don’t like when someone relates with you about something?”

She shrugged.

“Wouldn’t it make you feel good if I said something like I’m getting kinda drunk too right now?” I said.

“Oh my god, you must be a Lightweight,” she said and poked me.  “I’m not drunk at all!”

“You’re on like your second huge vodka and cranberry tho, and you have a pretty small body weight, and I just saw you stumble over the couch a minute ago.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Red, don’t be a MeNotzie.”

“I hate that word, too.”

“It’s a good word, cuz you’re not supposta be one.  Especially a HighNDry MeNotzie, just like in the Radiohead song.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Radiohead’s “High and Dry” is a song about The Worst Kind of MeNotzie.  One who could easily MeToo a Reality, but chooses to lie about it instead.  Like you might both be low and wet, but they’ll say they’re high and dry, and then you feel all Alone when you didn’t even have to.”

“Sounds boring.”

“It’s not at all. You just hafta listen to it.”

I’d made sure to bring The Great Trip Mix in with me just for this kind of MeToo opportunity, and then I played it for her.

“This is old and depressing,” she said.

“Do you really think that, or are you just lying and leaving me HighNDry again?”

“I never lie.”

“Every Reality lies sometimes.”

Just then The General&The Admiral came back in.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “music.”

“Sounds to me like another futile attempt to MeToo,” The General said.

“It’s not futile,” I said.

And then I started singing along to the song, so at least the highness and powerfullness of my voice could MeToo them.  It turned out my Dead Voice from the night before had magically worn off.  I was back to full strength and nailing it right away.  It raised all of their eyebrows, The Admiral didn’t laugh, The General nodded his head and went,“Hmm,” and I noticed Red was even rubbing her arms.

“You’re getting The Chills aren’t you, Red?!” I said.

“No, it’s just a little cold in here.”

“My Gods!  It’s alright to tell the truth.”

“Ah, yes,” The General said.  “The Gods.  The ones you were chosen by to become this Reality Traveler thing.”

“That’s right,” I said.

“Tell me, how do you know if they’ve chosen you?”

“You just know.”

“How do you know it’s not just all in your own head?”

“I’ve seen them.  I’ve spoken to them.  I have a Guardian Angel who’s my girlfriend.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Imaginary.”

“She’s completely real.  I could summon her right now.”

“I would love to see that,” The General said.

“Alright,” I said, “but first I have to make a sacrifice.”

Then I took one of the bottles from The Stash and dumped it in the sink.  Everyone cringed for a second, but I motioned for them to trust me.

“Goddess Faith,” I said, “Now is the time.”

But after a couple minutes nothing happened, and she wasn’t there before us.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “no Angel.”

“As predicted,” The General said.

“She’s just slowed down for some reason,” I said.  “She’ll definitely be here soon.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Don’t hold your breath.”

“Wait,” I said, “I have another way to prove The Gods exist and are on my side.”

Then I pointed at The Mix.

“I’ve been touched by The Goddess of Music,” I said, “and she’s been helping me on the Great Trip by serendipitously playing songs from this Mix when I need a MeToo.  If we turn on The Radio right now, I guarantee one of these exact 18 tracks plus bonus track will be playing.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Apollo.”

“That’s no proof of anything,” The General said. “That could just be a coincidence.”

“Sometimes the odds of something happening is so low it has to be The Gods,” I said.

“The only way I’ll accept this challenge is if I get to choose The Radio station,” The General said.

“Alright,” I said.

The General had a Super Radio that had every different kind of station on it.  A lot of them I’d never even heard of before.  He started to go thru them all.

“90’s Suburban Hits,” he said.  “I bet you’d loveme to put that one on, wouldn’t you?  But for this to be a true test of The Gods, I think it should be a station you’d never ever listen to.”

“I listen to lots of stations,” I lied.

“Is that so?  Because I have a feeling you wouldn’t listen to something like… New Dance Hits.”

“Oh my god!” Red said. “I love that station.”

“Alright,” I said, “put on New Dance Hits.  The Gods will still come thru for me.”

Then The General put it on, and the first song playing was Radiohead’s “Creep.”

“Creep” is not a New Dance Hit at all.  It’s a 90’s Suburban Hit about wanting to be Special but actually being a Creep.  Everyone can MeToo with a Special Reality, but a Creep Reality is so different from everyone else that no one can possibly MeToo them.

We double-checked to see if the station was right, and it clearly still said “New Dance Hits.”

“It’s a Goddess of Music miracle!” I said.

The General, tho, was looking closely at the Mix’s track listing.

“Yes,” he said.  “Except this song isn’t on there.  You lose.  As always.”

“But Radiohead is on there,” I said.  “‘High and Dry.’ We were just listening to it.”

“I see that,” The General said, “and this is some strange anomaly I will agree, but the deal was it had to be an exact song on your Mix, and the fact is this is ‘Creep’ not ‘High and Dry.’”

“Isn’t it close enough?”

“Close only counts in hand grenades.”

“Oh my god,” Red said, “this is even more old and depressing than the other one.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Creeps.”

“What are you laughing at?” I said.  “You’re a Creep.”

“Hahaha, you are.”

“No you are, you drunk.”

“Hahaha, I’m not drunk at all.  I’m a sober skipper.”

“Shut up.  We’re all drunk.”

“Oh my god,” Red said, “I’m not even feeling a thing yet.”

“She’s right,” The General said.  “We’ve barely drank anything.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re already drunk tho.”

“I am drunk.  I’ll admit it.  We all wanted to get drunk, and now we are.  We did exactly what we wanted to do.  Why lie about it?”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Lightweight.”

“Stop leaving me HighNDry, you Creeps!”

“The only Creep here is you,” The General said.

“You’re the biggest Creep I’ve ever met.  I bet you’re actually miserable inside and feel like there’s nothing special about you.”

“No, I’m a very happy person.  I have a lot of money and people like me.”

“I don’t like you.”

“That doesn’t sound very MeToo to me.  What do you think Admiral?”

“Hahaha,” he said, “me neither.”

“I mean, what must The Gods think of you right now, Hippie Dippie?”

“I know what one God thinks of me,” I said, “and I’m going to get her right now.”

8.11 – The Barracks

The Barracks was in a brand new luxury apartment complex.  There was a gate around it, and you hadta enter a code in order for it to open. Inside all the buildings looked exactly the same, and you hadta have someone like The Admiral tell you which one to go to or else you’d get lost.  Then when you got to the right building you hadta type in another code to get inside the door.  Then you hadta go to another door upstairs, and when you unlocked that you were finally allowed in The Barracks.

It was clean and organized, but there wasn’t much in it.  Aside from the basic furniture, there was just a globe and shelf with books about War. All the walls were bright white and bare, except for one that had an old fashioned sabre hanging up on it.

As soon as we got in the door The Admiral told The General we’d got in a car accident.

“No, we didn’t,” I said.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral, “it was close.”

“Some things never change, do they?” The General shook his head.

“Everything always changes,” I said.

Then a girl came into the room who looked just like La Renarde.  Everything on her was red.  Red hair, red lips, red tanktop, red skirt, red boots.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “Red.”

“Oh my god!” she looked over at me.  “Hippie Dippie!  Do you remember me?”

I’d only seen her briefly a couple of times when she was just a kid.  La Renarde was older and always said they never MeToo’d about anything, and she couldn’t believe they were actually related.

“Sortuv,” I said, “I’m not Hippie Dippe tho.  I’m Jonathan or Ace or Bluebird.”

“You’re funny,” she said.  “I’m gonna call you HD for short.  Just like my favorite kind of TV!”

“No.”

But she ignored me and pointed to my chest.

“Oh my god, HD” she said. “Why are you wearing a sticker?”

“Don’t look at that,” I said and covered it up.  “Why are you here?”

“Oh my god, me and TheGeneral&TheAdmiral are are like friends now.  They come into my job at Applebee’s all the time, and they’re so much more mature than the boys at Ohio Future Adult Training School.”

Then she noticed The Stash we’d just brought in.

“Oh my god!” she said and grabbed a bottle of vodka.  “Is there any cranberry juice?”

The Admiral showed her what we just picked up on the gas station run.

“Oh my god, yes!” she said.  “Let’s get wasted.”

And then before you knew it everyone started raiding The Stash and grabbing different bottles to make their own drinks.

“Wait,” I said, “the best way to MeToo is if we all drink the same amount of the same Alcohol.”

“Don’t try to pretend like you know more about drinking than we do,” The General said.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “we’re alcoholics.”

“I know what I’m talking about,” I said.  “I learned it from the great Perceptionist Reality Traveler Wolf.”

“I was born knowing Perception,” The General said.

“No, you weren’t.  It’s a Reality Traveler term, and you don’t even know what it means.”

“What I know is that there’s no way you’ll be able to drink as much as me.  I have a greater body mass and a genetically superior tolerance.”

“Only MeNotzies make drinking a competition.”

“Okay,” he shrugged, “then I’m a ‘MeNotzie.’”

There was nothing I could do to stop it from becoming Every Reality For Themselves.  Red drank the vodka and cranberry, The Admiral drank straight rum, and The General mostly only drank expensive beer from his own Stash that was already there. You couldn’t tell how much Alcohol they were drinking at once, but they were all drinking too fast.  I hadta make my own very powerful JacknDrPepper just to try and keep up.

It seemed like a good moment for The Goddess of Faith to show up, but she didn’t.  All I could do was look down at my Sticker.

“I’m The Bluebird, a MusicMan Traveler who flies to all Realities and sings to them,” I hadta say to myself.

8.10 – Gas Station Run

I easily drove us the two blocks from Applebee’s to the gas station without crashing.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “It’s a miracle.”

“No, it’s not,” I said.

Then we went in and got the supplies we needed, and The Admiral got a pack of cigarettes.  On the way out a woman behind us shouted “Hey!”

“Goddess of Faith,” I said, “finally.”

But when I turned around it wasn’t her at all.  It was shockingly La Renarde from HighSchool.  The Admiral laughed and went straight back to the car.  I stayed, and she came up and gave me a big hug.

“Jonathan!” La Renarde said.  “It’s been so long.  I didn’t know you still lived here.”

“I don’t,” I said. “I live in Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains.”

“What do you do there?”

“Reality Travel.”

“Oh my god, you’re still Reality Traveling?”

“Of course, I even went to The Reality Travel Training School.”

“I didn’t even know there was one.”

“Yeah, it’s so Reality Travel.  You have to mystically receive a Calling Card to get in, and there’s The Professor, and he knows everything about Reality Travel, and he warns you about all the BoobyTraps like TimeWarps and RealityFucks, and you have to take a Vow against War, and, oh yeah, the best part is you get your own Guardian Angel…”

“Wow, sounds like you’ve gone pretty far with this thing.”

“I was just trying to keep up with all the far off and exciting Travels I imagined you must’ve been having.”

“Really?  I mean I was in Paris briefly right after HighSchool, but it kinda kicked my ass. I ended up coming back here and going to Ohio Future Adult Training School.  Now I’m doing PR for one of the Rubber companies.  And the best part is I’m about to get married!”

She showed me the diamond ring on her finger.

“He’s a doctor, and we’re going to move into a big house in the neighborhood your parents used to live,” she said.

“I don’t understand,” I said.  “Are you saying you’re an Adult now?”

“Ha, yeah, I guess I am!”

“What about Reality Travel?”

“I don’t know.  I realized one day it was just something overly romantic outcast teenagers make up to feel important, and I had to grow out of it.”

“Aren’t you sick with The Malaise?”

“I don’t know what that is, but I feel fine.”

“Oh.”

Just then a car horn started honking over and over. I looked over and it was The Admiral.

“That’s the Reality I’m Traveling to tonight,” I said.

“Wow,” she said, “you really do still believe in it.”

“Of course.”

The Admiral kept honking.

“You should probably go then,” La Renarde said. “You wouldn’t want him to turn into a MeNotzie, haha.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess I should.”

“Now be brave Traveler, and…how’s the rest go?”

“Don’t forget The Gods are on your side.”

“Oh my god, right. The Gods, haha.”

Then she tried to hug me goodbye, but I was so TimeFuck dizzy I could barely hug back.  Then I just turned around and headed back to the car.

“What the hell, man!” I said to The Admiral.

“Hahaha,” he said, “you took too long.”

“Well, that was an important conversation.  I haven’t seen her since HighSchool.”

“Hahaha, she’s so weird.”

“She’s changed a lot.”

“Hahaha, her sister Red is coming over tonight.”

“That’s her sister?”

“Hahaha, yeah.”

“Isn’t she just a little kid?”

“Hahaha, no, she’s grown up and hot now.”

“Oh.”

Then we pulled out of the gas station, and I watched La Renarde get into a Porsche with a guy in blue scrub Doctor Uniform. It made me so dizzy my eyes couldn’t work for a second.  Suddenly I heard squealing breaks and a loud honk.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “whoa!”

When my eyes started working again I noticed I’d almost hit another car pulling into the gas station.  The Reality inside the car rolled down his window and looked right at me.

“Learn how to drive, asshole!” he said.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “You still don’t know how!”

 

8.4 – Track #10 of The Great Trip Mix: U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (Live)

One time La Renarde took me to the DowntownOIC(R) Music Store.

“This is where you get music so you don’t have to listen to only The Radio,” she said.

The store had a lot of music in it, but most of it came in outdated forms Realities hadn’t bought for years.  Many of them were out of their original packaging and looked pretty scuffed up.

“They’re not new,” I said.

“Used things are very Reality Travel,” she said. “Reality Travelers are supposed to be poor and not be able to afford new things.  Besides,they’re all still perfectly alright and may even sound better.”

I looked thru the racks to try and see which albums had the most Radio Hits.  U2 had one called “Greatest Hits” that was made of only their Radio Hits, and I knew like every single one of them already.

U2 is a band,from the far off and exciting Realities of Ireland,about causes.  Their songs are always trying to cause Realities to care about other Reality’s problems like starving, getting sick from diseases, unfairly owing money, or dying in a War.

“Hey,” I said to the La Renarde.  “Are U2 Reality Travel?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I mean, before they got on The Radio obviously.”

“I think I want to get this one.”

Then I showed her the Greatest Hits album.

“Greatest Hits albums are not Reality Travel at all,” she said.  “Here, let me pick out one for you.”

Then she picked out one that said “WAR” on it, and it had a black&white picture of a little kid with angry eyes and a bloody lip.  It had the Hit “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on it.

“Sunday Bloody Sunday,” is a song about blood.  The best way to win a War is to remove the blood of the other Reality cuz they won’t be able to be alive without it.  Sometimes a MeNotzie will use a gun to make big holes in a Reality that removes a lot of blood all at once.  Like one weekend in The Northern Ireland Front of The Catholic vs. Protestant Reality War, when the Protestant Army shot a bunch of Catholic Realities even tho they didn’t have guns themselves.

“Alright, I’ll get it,” I said.

“Actually…” La Renarde said.  “You know what would be even more Reality Travel?  The live album.  The songs sound slightly different than the studio versions, and there’s crowd noise and stage banter.”

Then she picked out another album called Under a Blood Red Sky, and that cover had the black silhouette of a singer surrounded by the blood red sky.  It also had “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on it, and it said it was recorded in the far off and exciting Realities of Where-ThePlains-Meet-TheMountains.

“Ooh,” I said, “I’ll get this one then.”

Then we listened to it, and La Renarde was right, the live version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” was actually better.  At the beginning lead singer Bono goes,“This song is not a rebel song,” and in the middle he yells,“I’m so sick of it,” and you know he’s talking about War and really means it.  The guitars and drums are fuzzier and louder and you know they really mean it, too.  And then at the end there’s an extra round thru the chorus, and by the end you’re really pumped up to stop War forever.

I took the album with me everywhere after that, even when The General would drive me and The Admiral to school in his old minivan we called The Tank.  Usually we’d just talk about War the whole way, and the only Radio on would be an AM station that had The News.

“Hey,” I said, “how come we never listen to music in here?”

“Music is mostly pointless,” The General said. “While we’re over here listening to songs, The Chinese are building a huge Army to destroy us.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “General Tso.”

“Some music is tolerable I suppose,” The General said.  “Marches and National Anthems and that sort of thing.  But most of them are just Love songs that make us soft and vulnerable, and don’t think our Enemies don’t know this.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Emotions.”

“Well,” I said.  “I just got this new album, and it’s so great that even you won’t be able to help liking it.”

Then I showed The General Under a Blood Red Sky.

“The album title does sound promising,” he said.

Then he put it on “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and Bono screamed, and the snare drums charged, and the electric guitar fired right at you.

“Listen to this!” I said.  “It sounds just like a battle.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

And then he sang along, but it was not so he could get The Chills, but in a fake voice so he could make fun of it.

“Hahaha Bloody Hahaha,” he sang.

Then The General suddenly just turned it off.

“I’ve heard enough,” he said.  “Listen to these lines.  ‘I can’t close my eyes and make it go away,’ ‘I won’t heed the battle call,’ ‘there’s many lost but tell me who has won.’  Ace, this song is disgustingly Pacifist.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Peace.”

“What’s so funny about peace,” I said.  “I’ve been thinking lately War isn’t so great. I mean people die in War, and I wouldn’t want to die.”

“I knew it all along, Ace,” The General said. “It was only a matter of time before you went Pacifist on us.  You’ve finally realized you don’t have what it takes to be a Great War-Man, so instead you’ll cowardly try to oppose War all together.”

“No, it’s cuz War is really bad, and it does more harm than good.  La Renarde thinks so, too.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “She’s weird.”

“Admiral’s right,” The General said.  “She is very unconventional.  I assume she thinks more with her heart than her head, and she’s inventing fantasies because she feels insecure.  You can’t let her influence you just because you want to kiss her.”

“It’s not just her,” I said.  “There’re lots of other people who don’t like War.”

“Hahaha,” Admiral said.  “Hippies.”

“Maybe Hippies are alright,” I said.  “They stopped Vietnam, and everyone knows that was a bad War.”

“The Hippies would like to think they did that,” The General said, “but it was really President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger.  You can’t stop a War unless you’re actually in power.”

“Then maybe I’ll become a Diplomat,” I said.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Dippie.”

“Really,” I said, “I’ll become a powerful diplomat, like the Secretary of State or maybe even the President, and America will never go to War again.”

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Hippie Dippie.”

“How are you going to do that?” The General said. “You can’t even drive yourself to school.”

“Hahaha, Hippie Dippie can’t drive.”

“Shut up,” I said.

“Hahaha,” The Admiral said.  “Let’s just call him Hippie Dippie from now on.”

“I’d have to agree,” The General said.  “In light of recent developments, Hippie Dippie seems much more fitting than Ace.”

And that’s what they started calling me, and that’s when I kinda stopped hanging out with them.

2.16 – The Calling

The next morning I woke up, and I was in La Renarde’s car, and we were already Hitting The Road back to Ohio. My face and clothes were covered with crusty dried puke.

“I’m not stopping once,” she said. “Not even if you have to puke again.”

The motion of the car was making me very sick tho.

“Where should I puke then?” I asked.

“Fuck, I don’t know. Just hold it in.”

Then I found her Road-pillow, which she said every good Traveler needed. I took the case off it and puked in that.

“Gross!” she said.

“I’m sorry.”

I knew she didn’t like it, but I couldn’t help puking in it over and over.

“This is so not Reality Travel,” she said. “You were so not Reality Travel last night.”

“I’m sorry.”

“A real Reality Traveler like Fucking Punk can drink all they want and MeToo a million New Realities and never even think about puking.”

“I’ve never drank before.”

“Gods, you’re such an amateur.”

The rest of the trip I kept puking, and La Renarde didn’t say anything else until we got back to my house.

“Just so you know, I’m not going to kiss you anymore,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“And you can just keep the pillow case.”

Then I took the case and went inside and went straight to my bed and cried.

“I hafta become a Great Reality Traveler,” I said to myself.

And that’s when I was sure I was supposta be one.  Every Reality Traveler is Called Upon by the Gods in a different way. Sometimes The Calling is received in this way.

2.14 – Fucking Punk, La Renarde, and The Lake

I’d never been in Alcohol Perception before and didn’t know what was going to happen next. We walked across huge Chicago until the huge buildings stopped cuz there was a huge lake. There was a nice little greengrass park around it, but Fucking Punk led us straight to some jaggedy rocks at the very edge of the water. We sat down on them, and they didn’t feel good under your butt.

Then we started passing the Jack Daniels around. Fucking Punk gave it to La Renarde, and she took a deep and long gulp. Then she passed it to me. I tilted the bottle back and swallowed like it was Dr. Pepper, but it felt like flesh-burning acid instead. I wanted to spit it out really bad, but La Renarde and Punk were looking at me, and I hadta hold it down so I would seem Reality Travel enough. We kept passing the bottle back and forth, and it was easier to drink each time tho. Soon everyone was talking and laughing.

“I’m teaching Jonathan all about Reality Travel,” La Renarde told Fucking Punk.

“Okay,” he said.

“Like he didn’t know anything about Reality Travel Music,” she said. “He used to listen to Mariah Carey.”

“Ha,” Fucking Punk said. “The Radio.”

“I still listen to her,” I said.

“Ha,” Fucking Punk said.

The Alcohol made him seem almost alive.  Like he almost had flesh on his face.  It made the skeleton almost smile.

Then he came up behind La Renarde and started tickling her. She laughed and got up to keep from being tickled more, and Fucking Punk got up and chased her right off the rocks and into the park. I stayed put with the Alcohol and watched.

Eventually Fucking Punk caught La Renarde and tackled her to the ground and held her down. She screamed and tried to get away, but she was also laughing a lot. Then the tickle fight turned into hugging. They held each other close and whispered things I couldn’t hear. Then they kissed on the mouth in Chicago. I didn’t know what to do except drink more from the Jack Daniels bottle. Eventually I stopped remembering things.

Maybe a lot later I do remember lying on my belly on the rocks and La Renarde yelling at me.

“Get the fuck up!” she said. “We’re cold.”

I didn’t want to get up tho, cuz I was sick. My head was really dizzy and my stomach hurt.

“No,” I said.

Then La Renarde grabbed one of my arms, and Fucking Punk grabbed the other, and they made me get up. They dragged me off the rocks and put me in a taxi. The whole thing made me so sick I started throwing up even tho I knew I was inside someone’s car. A lot came out, and it was smelly.

“Get that Fucking Drunk outta here!” the driver said.

Then I don’t remember anything else from that night.

2.12 – Chicago in the Rye

One night La Renarde came over to my house to lay on my bed and make out with me. I was feeling unlonely and strong.

“Let’s go on a Great Reality Travel Trip right now!” I said.

“Yes!” she said. “You’re becoming so Reality Travel.”

“After reading Catcher in the Rye I now know we need to go to a huge city and wander around like Holden Caulfield. Ohio Industrial City (Rubber) is too small now. All the Ohio Industrial Cities are too small. We can only go to NewYorkCity and kiss in the Central Park.”

“We could go there… Or we could go to another huge city, Chicago, where I happen to know a guy. It’s only a few hours away, and we could crash with him, and it would make it a little easier on you since it’s your first big Trip and all.”

“Alright, Chicago in the Rye!”

We left right away and La Renarde drove us in her car.

“If you get your Driver’s License,” she said, “then we can split the driving like the Reality Traveler Teams do.”

“Good idea,” I said, “I’ll get one as soon as we get back.”

On the way La Renarde told me about the guy she knew.

“His name is Fucking Punk,” she said, “and he doesn’t take shit from anyone. He’s the one who first taught me about Reality Travel.”

“So he’s pretty Reality Travel?”

“The most Reality Travel! He doesn’t have a job or go to school. He just Travels all the time. Oh, and he used to be in a mental hospital. Not because he’s insane, but because he chose to so he could MeToo insane Realities.”

“How did you meet him?”

“He used to live in OIC(R). We dated.”

“Oh.”

Fucking Punk was in the very center of Downtown Chicago. It was many times huger than our Downtown, and it had brighter lights and taller skyscrapers and stronger garbage smells. I was nervous and wondered if I was cut out for this level of Reality Travel.

“I love how huge you are!” La Renarde told the city.

She easily parallel parked in front of a gross and scary looking building with rusty fire escapes and graffiti and bars on the windows.

“This is the place,” she said.

And then we hadta go inside. It didn’t have an elevator, and we hadta go up a lot of staircases to get to the right floor. I felt lucky we didn’t happen to cross paths with any of the Realities who lived in a place like that. Then La Renarde led us down a hallway and knocked on a door, and when it opened Fucking Punk came out.

He looked like a skeleton. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and his skin was bone white and you could see the outline of every single one of his ribs. He had no hair and his eyes were black and hollow.

“Yo,” he said.

And then La Renarde jumped on him and gave him a big hug.

“I can’t believe we’re in Fucking Punk Reality!” she said.

Then we went in. There was nothing on the walls and no furniture to sit on. The only thing I could see were lots of empty Jack Daniels whiskey bottles. Some were lined up in neat rows on top of the kitchen cabinets, while others were just sitting there on the counter and most were lying on their sides on the floor.

La Renarde wouldn’t let go of Fucking Punk.

“Oh my Gods! It’s really you,” she said.

Fucking punk just shrugged at her tho. The whole time his eyes were looking slightly past us. I didn’t know if he even knew I was there too.

“So we’re in the far off and exciting Realities of Chicago,” La Renarde said. “What should we do?”

“I dunno,” Fucking Punk shrugged. “Drink?”

“Yes, F.P.! Such a Reality Travel suggestion as always.”

“We could get a bottle of Jack,” Fucking Punk said, “then go to the Lake and get wasted.”

“Perfect!” La Renarde said, and I went along with them.

2.10 – Track #7 of The Great Trip Mix – Blondie’s “Sunday Girl”

“You like Blondie?!” I said. “But they’re on The Radio.”

“That wasn’t their fault,” La Renarde said. “They were actually Punks.”

Punks are MusicPeople Reality Travelers about realizing The Radio sucks.

“They just got accidentally popular enough that The Radio played them against their will.”

“Great! Play ‘Call Me.’”

“Call Me,” is a song about someone wanting someone they like to call them. Then once on the phone, they can make plans to go on a date.

“No, not that one! The Radio plays it all the time. If we’re going to listen to Blondie, it has to be one of their non-Radio songs, like ‘Sunday Girl.’”

Then she put it on. I’d never heard it before, but it was catchy and had many of the qualities the Beatles invented in the Great List of Songs, and I liked it.

“What’s it about?” I said.

“Sunday Girl” La Renarde said, “is a song about being half in French, which is so Reality Travel cuz every other song only has the courage to be all in English. The Radio doesn’t know any other language and will never play it.”

“But what happens in the song?”

“I don’t know. Something about a girl and a guy. Maybe someone betrays someone and someone’s sad…”

“What’s the French part say?”

“Can’t you translate it?”

“No, you’re much better at French than me.”

“That’s cuz I need to know it for when I Travel to Paris as soon as HighSchool is over.”

“Oh. Well, what’s the French part say?”

“It doesn’t matter. It just matters that it’s in French.”

As we listened to the song and other non-Radio Blondie songs, La Renarde was getting very close to me and soon our shoulders and arms were touching. She kept looking over at me and smiling.

“Hey,” she said.

“What?” I said.

“Do you like this music?”

“Yeah.”

“MeToo.”

Then she got even closer and leaned her head on my shoulder.

“Hey” she said again.

“What?”

“Open your mouth.”

I opened my mouth and then she leaned over and put her mouth on it and her tongue went inside and touched my tongue. And then we did that for a while.

2.9 – La Renarde and Reality Travel Music

La Renarde and I started hanging out a lot. I’d go over to her house, and she’d take me to her room and talk Travel. I started to wonder if I’d get to kiss her if I became a good enough Reality Traveler.

“I think I might be able to MeToo Realities about songs,” I told her once.

“That could be so Reality Travel,” she said. “What do you listen to?”

“Oh, like Mariah Carey.”

“Mariah Carey?… Gross!”

I was shocked by her reaction. I’d never met someone before who didn’t like something from the Great List of Old Songs.

“What’s gross about her?” I said.

“She’s so not Reality Travel.”

“But she’s had so many Hits, doesn’t that mean lots of people can MeToo about her?”

“No, they MeToo about her for all the wrong reasons. Like just cuz of how she looks.”

“But what about her voice?”

“So what, her songs aren’t about anything good.”

“‘Anytime You Need a Friend’ is a song about not being lonely.”

“Boring. Like every song is about not being lonely.”

“Maybe a lot of people can MeToo about that.”

“Reality Travelers should never be lonely. They’re supposed to be Traveling to New Realities constantly.”

“Oh.”

“Here, you need to listen to some Reality Travel Music.”

Then she played one of her favorite bands. I’d never heard of them cuz they weren’t on The Radio.

“Who is this?” I said.

“They don’t have a name. Isn’t that so Reality Travel?!”

“How do you know about them?”

“I met them at a party in Ohio Industrial City (Steel). They’re so Reality Travel. They don’t want to ever be famous and their lead singer has a conventionally unattractive body.”

Their music sounded like they were playing the wrong notes on purpose, and they didn’t even have chords. There was some screeching from an unknown instrument/voice, and you couldn’t understand the lyrics to know what the song was about. I couldn’t get The Chills from it even tho I tried hard.

“It doesn’t sound right to me,” I said.

“That’s because you’re not Reality Travel enough yet,” she said. “You’ve only ever listened to the very non-Reality Travel Radio.”

“You mean nothing on The Radio is Reality Travel?”

“No, it’s too easy. The Radio chooses the music for you. A Reality Traveler is only supposed to discover music from New Realities on their Travels.”

“I don’t know, La Renarde. Sometimes I’ll listen to The Radio and eerie coincidences will happen like the time I heard four different Journey songs in a row on three different stations. It’s like The Goddess of Music was trying to send me some kind of message.”

“That wasn’t a Goddess. That was just inevitable cuz The Radio way overplays Journey.”

“You don’t like Journey either?”

“Journey is like the least Reality Travel music ever made.”

“But they’re my favorite band, and they always give me The Chills.”

“The Chills aren’t everything.”

I didn’t know what to do when she said that. It felt like we were the two most different Realities ever, and I wondered if I should just ask her to drive me home. But she was still weirdly smiling and then leaned over and hugged me. Her body was soft, and she smelled good.

“Aww,” she said. “I know this is too advanced Reality Travel for you right now.”

“Maybe,” I said.

“Hold on, I think I have something we both might like.”