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The store had a lot of music in it, but most of it came in outdated forms Realities hadn’t bought for years.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.

5.11 – The Adult Bar Band

Soon after Wolf called, a band started playing at the Adult Bar. It was a classic drum-bass-two guitar-singer rock band just like The Beatles. I wanted them to be good, cuz they were covering old Radio Hits that could’ve MeToo’d everyone there, but the singer was like a quiet little mouse and his voice was so small no one even knew what songs they were trying to do. I hadta order another drink to deal with it.

I was doing pretty well at ignoring them until they started trying to play “Cupid.”

It sounded like Sam UnCooked.  It was low, weak, and had all the smoothness of sandpaper.

“No!” it made me scream out.

I needed someone to share in my frustration. I looked over at El Puma, but he was deep in conversation with his new best Adult friend. So I turned back to the Adult chick next to me.

“Can you believe they’re doing this song?” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “I hate to admit it, but I don’t actually know this one.”

“Well, this song is great! But the band isn’t doing it justice!”

Then I started singing the words so she’d know how it was really supposta sound.

“You have a great voice,” she said. “Do you sing in a band?”

“No, but I should be in their band right now.”

“Their frontman is a little timid.”

I looked back up and his posture was all shriveled up and his nose and eyes were pointed to the floor.  It seemed like he’d rather swipe a crumb and scurry into the nearest hole then play music.

“If you weren’t Touched by The Goddess of Music you shouldn’t even try,” I said.

“Goddess of Music?” she asked.

“Goddess damn right! Watch this.”

Then I got off my stool and headed up to the stage.

“Cupid draw back your bow and let your arrow go!” I sang loudly all the way up there, and it was easily way louder than the singer even tho he had a microphone. Then the song started sounding like the real version and nearby Adults started taking notice.

“Hey,” an Adult said. “This song was on The Radio when I was a kid!”

Then a few of the Adults came closer to the stage, and some of them starting singing along too and even dancing.

“This wouldn’t be happening without me!” I told them and kept singing.

When the song was over everyone clapped, but the singer looked upset probably cuz he knew he had nothing to do with it.

“You’re welcome everyone,” I bowed and went back to my stool.

“Did you hear that?” I asked the Adult chick next to me.

“Yeah,” she said, “but I kinda feel bad for the singer. You kinduv upstaged him.”

“Oh, who cares. The MeToo justifies The Means.”

Then I needed another drink, but when I asked for it the Bartender wouldn’t make me one.

“You’re cut off,” she said.

“What?! Why?”

“You’re too drunk.”

I looked over at the Adult chick next to me, and she was cringing. And the guy next to her was laughing.

“Can’t hold their liquor too well up in Canada, eh?” he laughed. “Lightweight!”

“I’m barely even in Alcohol Perception at all,” I tried to tell them.

“I’ve been at this for a long time,” The Bartender said. “I know the signs. No one sings that loudly unless they’re wasted.”

“No, you sing like that when you’re a Great Reality Traveler who’s been Touched by The Goddess of Music and just MeToo’d your whole fucking bar.”

“Kid, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

By then El Puma had caught wind of the situation and tried to jump in to help.

“This is the Great Reality Traveler Jonathan,” he told The Bartender. “His word is bound by The Gods. If he says he is not drunk, he is not drunk.”

“Look Mr. Just-a-Water,” she said. “Why don’t you get your friend to pay his tab and get out of here, before we have a problem.”

Then El Puma turned to me.

“I know this is a great injustice,” he said, “but I know these Adults, and we may not want to War with them.”

“All I know is a Traveler never apologizes when the other Reality is the one being bullshit.”

“I am sure this comes straight from the mouth of your finest Reality Travel Training Professors, but we have to remember the Adults are very close with the police.”

I looked back at the Bartender, the spiders in her eyes were extra crawly with way too many bristly legs and poison dripping off them.

“Alright, fine,” I said. “We’ll go, but only cuz this place is a MeToo-Impossible House of MeNotzism and Music-Death.”

I paid and was just about to leave when I checked the inside of my jacket and realized I had some final words for everyone in there.

“I’m The Fucking Bluebird,” I yelled to the whole bar. “I’m a Musicman Traveler who flies to all Realities and sings to them. But you’re all bullshit Adults. Fuck all of you!”

Then we ran out the door.

4.11 – Katfight

“I’m concerned,” Kat said one day at Our Own Place.

I’d just woken up in a stupor from one of my Benadryl naps. My eyes were crusty, and tissues were jammed up each nostril, and everything itched. I hadn’t made it to class. I’d just stayed on the couch and ate snacks and watched TV all day.

“It doesn’t seem like you’re trying hard enough to be an Adult,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, for one, you’re supposed to have a job by now.”

I’d actually gotten a job at The Radio. I thought it would be easy cuz I liked listening to the Radio so much, but it was actually hard. You hadta go to the station for hours without leaving, while some Boss Reality told you what to do. I wanted them to ask me to help them pick out good songs to play, but instead they told me to answer the phone and copy papers and make coffee. They didn’t even pay me, cuz they said it was something called an ‘internship’ that was only meant to possibly lead to an actual paying Adult Career sometime in the future. Every day I was supposta work my allergies got way worse, and the Benadryl Perception didn’t even help. Some days, like the second day, I’d feel so crappy I wouldn’t even want to go, and then some days, like the third day, I just stopped going at all.

“It’s not fair,” Kat said. “I’m working sixty hours a week and you’re working zero.”

“You don’t understand, Kat,” I said. “I think jobs make me sick.”

“That’s just your cat allergy.”

“But I started sneezing worse when I was at The Radio Station, and there weren’t any cats there.”

“Then maybe you were allergic to something else there. Just go find another job.”

“But every time I go somewhere to pick up an application the same thing happens. I get all snotgross, and the managers give me a look. I’m telling you, I think I may be allergic to jobs in general.”

“Maybe you’re not allergic to anything at all. Maybe you’re just lazy.”

“But, you’ve seen me sneezing.”

“Even so, it almost seems as if you don’t even want to be an Adult.”

“I swear I’m trying.”

“Well, try harder. Adults don’t get up in the afternoon and watch TV on the couch all day. Adults don’t have their parents pay for everything. Adults get some job, even if it’s a bad one, because they just have to.”

“It’s alright, Kat. I’ll get more applications tomorrow.”

“Eh,” she said.

Then she ended up taking her shower alone that night.

4.8 – Our Own Place

After our first year together Kat and I decided we Loved each other enough to live all the time in the same apartment, so we got Our Own Place. I was very excited cuz then I only hadta go to ALC just for classes and didn’t have to deal with the MeNotzie Dorms anymore. Kat had just graduated tho and had her own plans.

“I think since we have Our Own Place, we should start living like Adults now,” she said.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I mean like we both get jobs, and we go to them every day during the week. And then on the weekends we go out and do things like buy furniture or paint the walls new colors. And we become experts on things like houseplants and coupons. And we get a kitten and raise it like our child!”

“I guess so,” I said.

So on the first day of Our Own Place we went to the pet store. On the way there was something I wanted to show Kat. I’d driven back and forth between OIC(R) and JONYCC a few times by then and had had a lot of time in Alone Reality listening to The Radio and discovered something. Whenever I tried to sing along to a song I was able to sound exactly like the singer. It was strange cuz most things I did at first I was a bad amateur at them, but singing didn’t seem to need any experience for me to be good. I just seemed to know by instinct how to make the air go off the right spots in my throat to match the pitch. I was even able to copy some of the most high and powerful ones.

“Hey, Kat,” I said, “listen to this…”

Then I put in The You&Me Mix to “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”

“Aw,” she said. “It’s our song.”

“Yeah, but listen to me sing it.”

I was nailing it right away on the verse. Then came the little pre-chorus part where Lou Gramm goes “in my life there’s been heartache and pain,” and the vocals suddenly get very high and powerful and I almost got it.

“You’re straining,” Kat said.

“But didn’t you hear?” I said. “I was hitting every pitch up until that last high and powerful one. And I think I can even hit that if I warm up a little. Maybe I should take Voice Training at Artsy Lawless.”

“Eh.”

I’d never heard Kat say that word before then.

“What’s eh?” I said.

“‘Eh’ is I used to take those kinds of classes too,” she said, “but they don’t help you at all when you become an Adult.”

“But what if I have some kind of natural talent?”

“You need to take classes that help you get a job. Like if you take math&science classes it can lead to you becoming a doctor. Then you’ll have a steady Adult salary that allows you to pay for all the things you need to survive.”

“But I don’t like math&science. I like singing a lot tho.”

“I’m telling you as someone who’s just graduated and out in The World now, singing is a waste of time.”

I started singing along with the song again anyway. I wanted to prove to Kat I really could nail every note.  The next time the chorus came along, you couldn’t tell any difference between my voice and Lou Gramm’s.

“Stop,” she said. “You’re ruining the song.”

“But I got it.  Didn’t you hear?”

“I put Foreigner on the mix, because I wanted to hear Foreigner, not Jonathan.”

Then I hadta shut up and decide not to sing in front of her again.

When we got to the pet store there was a really cute gray tabby that Kat had to have. She picked it up and snuggled it against her and it licked her face.

“He Loves me!” she said.

Then she handed it to me, and it licked my face too.

“Aw,” she said, “he Loves you too. It’s like he’s Your Son.”

“Alright,” I said.

But then the place where he licked got red and itchy, and my nose started sneezing.

“I think I’m allergic to it,” I said.

“But we have to get him. We Love him,” she said.

“What if I just sneeze all the time tho?”

“We’ll just get you some allergy medicine. You’ll be fine.”

“I guess so.”

Then we got Your Son.

4.4 – Artsy Lawless College

I first heard about Artsy Lawless College from La Renarde. She always said college wouldn’t be Reality Travel enough for her, and as soon as HighSchool was over she was going to the far off and exciting Realities of Paris, France. But she did say if she was going to college she’d only go to Artsy Lawless in Just-Outside-NewYorkCity County, New York.

Artsy Lawless is a college about art and lawlessness. Most colleges are Future Adult Training Schools, and they have lotsa Rules to make sure you become one. Like you hafta  train to be a specific kind of Adult, like Lawyer-Adult or Doctor-Adult.  And you can’t take more than one Art Training class cuz no Adult job will ever need it.  And you hafta take a math class so you get used to how boring an Adult job will be. But at ALC they don’t care if their students ever become Adults, and there are almost no Rules. Students can take classes in whatever they want, even if it’s all art.

La Renarde said tons of Reality Travelers went there, and it was a big MeToo Party all the time. I also liked the idea of taking nothing but music classes and getting a real college degree just by writing papers on The Great List of Songs. So that’s where I went.

When I got there tho, nothing was like I thought it would be. Just-Outside-NewYorkCity County was like one endless Downtown OIC(R). It was full of huge and close together rundown buildings with tough-faced MeNotzie types hanging around. The ALC campus was a little island of trees and grass in the middle of it, but you hadta stay in The Dorms and live with a bunch of New Realities. They all came from different far off and exciting places, and looked like no animal I’d seen before. They all seemed like some kinduv ancient Greek mythological creature, half wing&talon bird and half monster-roar lion.

The first night there was a party in The Dorms so all the New Realities could start to MeToo. There was loud music and Alcohol Perception, and Realities gathered in small groups to talk. I joined one of the groups talking about songs. They went around with each Reality saying a song or band they liked, and then everyone else trying to MeToo them. They were all like La Renarde tho, and none of the things they said were Hits on The Radio, and I couldn’t MeToo any of them. When it got to me I knew saying something like Journey or Mariah Carey would be way too risky.

“I like Blondie,” I said.

No one said anything for a second. Then one half bird/half lion started laughing. Then all the others did too. They noticed I wasn’t laughing tho.

“Oh,” a mythological creature said, “he’s actually serious.”

“Old Hits Radio,” another one said, “ew.”

Then everyone started laughing again.

“But I only like the ones they don’t play on The Radio,” I lied, “like ‘Sunday Girl.’”

“But they play so many of their songs on The Radio none of their other songs count,” a classical monster explained.

“Gawd,” another one said, “Blondie’s like ‘Mom-Music.’”

Then everyone laughed the hardest, and I didn’t know what else to do but leave the group and the party and get to Alone Reality right away. It was all going on right outside my room tho, so I hadta go all the way outside. Even out there New Realities were all over the place laughing and drinking and MeNotting things, so I hadta go hide behind some trees so no one could see me at all.

“Ah, thank Gods, I’m back in Alone Reality,” I said to myself.

I was thinking about the horrible mistake I’d just made going to a MeNotzie college instead of a Reality Traveler college and wondering if I was allowed to drive back home to Ohio right away, when I heard a rustling in the trees next to me. It was bigger than a squirrel and heading right towards me. I ducked down so it couldn’t get me, but it did anyway.

“Hey,” it said, “What’s wrong?”

I looked up, and it was not a half bird/half lion but a whole cute-as-a-kitten girl. I didn’t know if she might still be a sneaky scratch-claw kinda cat, and I tried to ignore her, but she didn’t go away.

“It’s alright,” she said. “I’m one of the good ones. You can talk to me.”

Then she reached out her hand.

“I’m Kat,” she said.

I hesitantly shook it and told her my name.

“Nice to meet you,” she said. “You’re new, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I’ve been at this place for three years and can tell you everything about it. First thing you need to know is everyone at this school is mean. They all think they’re this thing called a ‘Reality Traveler’ and that makes them better than everyone else. I only go here because I grew up like right next door, and they let you take more than one theatre class. I’m not a Reality Traveler at all.”

I didn’t tell her I was a Reality Traveler, cuz I was getting the sense that everything at the school was backwards, and the Reality Travelers were actually MeNotzies, and the MeNotzies were actually Reality Travelers. It seemed like Kat might be on my side even if she called herself the wrong thing.

“So what’s wrong?” she said. “Why are you out here by yourself?”

Then I told her what happened at the party.

“Yeah,” she said, “they don’t like the same songs as me either. My favorite band is Foreigner.”

Foreigner is a band about being the closest thing to Journey. They both had a lot of hits during the exact same years, and their lead singer Lou Gramm is nearly as high and powerful as Steve Perry.

“I like Foreigner,” I said. “And Journey is actually my favorite band.”

“I like Journey, too,” Kat said. “When I was a kid my dad would drive me places and play The Radio and teach me about all the Good Old Songs.”

“Hey, I would do the same thing with my Mom!” I said.

Then we ended up talking under the trees for a long time.

4.3 – Driver’s License

Even tho I’d quit Driver Training I couldn’t stop thinking about driving. I thought about it when Mom drove me to The Mall or The General drove me to HighSchool. I thought about it when I saw car commercials on TV. I even had dreams where I was driving a flying car, and a tornado was trying to get me, but I was able to go right past it. And I especially thought about it whenever I saw La Renarde around. I had a deep and mysterious sense that driving would be a necessary part of my Reality Traveler destiny.

I eventually went to Dad for help.

“Look,” I said. “I finally want to learn how to operate a vehicle, but The Driving Professor is a big, giant, man-eating monster.”

“Driving just takes a lot of practice,” he said. “You need to be on The Road as much as possible, and then once you start to get better you’ll be ready to face your monster.”

“But what if I’m just bad at driving? What if there’s a God of The Road, and he gives some people the strength to drive really good and some the weakness to always drive really bad?”

“That’s not how it works. The more you do something, the more of an expert you become.”

I didn’t really believe him, but I felt like I had no choice. Soon we Hit The Road together, and he tried to train me for Driver Training. Dad wasn’t a mindless predator like The Driving Professor, but I was still making all the same mistakes, including not breathing. I was still almost getting into accidents all the time.

“No!” I said. “I’m just someone who can’t do this.”

“That’s not true,” Dad said. “The Road is stressful for everyone. No one around you is ever driving how you want them to, and you could get hit at any time even tho you didn’t do anything wrong. You just need something to take the stress off. Like your mom always listens to The Radio.”

“Ohh, alright.”

Then we turned The Radio on and everything changed. It made me suddenly realize that I had a steering wheel and breaks, five senses and a brain, and I could actually control the car with them. Instead of thinking about crashing all the time, I was thinking what The Radio songs were about, and then I started breathing again. I started making fewer mistakes, and when I did  a new song would come on to sing along to and everything would feel alright again.

“Yes!” Dad said. “I think you’re ready now.”

Then I went back to Driver Training to take The Driver Test. To pass it you had to correctly answer enough questions about The Rules of Driving, and then you hadta Hit The Road with The Driving Professor for several minutes straight without making any mistakes. I had The Radio on my side now, but I was still nervous. I knew the Crocodile would be there and maybe try to eat me for my meat no matter how much better at driving I was. Besides who knew what kind of MeNotzie things he would say about the Suburban Hits Station I liked to listen to? I wanted to be like Crocodile Dundee and stand up to him and make a hat out of him, but I didn’t know if I had it in me.

He came up to me as I was waiting. His mouth was so long. His armor was so green.

“You gonna freak out again?” he said.

“No,” I said.

“Huh? Can’t hear you.”

“No.”

“We’ll see.”

My breath had already stopped, and we hadn’t even got in the car yet. I could almost feel my flesh getting ripped apart in his jaws already.

“I’m not gonna take you this time tho cuz I got another Trainee,” The Driving Professor said. “You gonna go with The Other Driving Professor.”

Then he pointed at an old dumpy, gray, little man nearby. From what I could tell his face didn’t have any powerful biting mechanism, and he seemed generally harmless.

“I’m Mr. Pigeon,” he said and shook my hand. “Let’s get this over with.”

Then we got in the car and I tried to settle in.

“Do you mind if I turn on The Radio,” I said. “It helps me.”

“Whatever,” he said. “I don’t care.”

Soon music from The Great List of Old Songs was filling the air, and I was breathing deep and steady. The Pigeon didn’t seem to have any opinion on them. He looked like he wanted to sit on a park bench for a while and stare out. His beak didn’t even look like it could peck you.

“Alright,” Pigeon said. “Let’s try parking first.”

“Like parallel parking?” I asked.

Parallel parking was one of the hardest things to do in Driving. You hadta fit your car in between two other cars on the side of the Road, and there might not be that big of a gap, and you might hit one of the cars or end up way far from the curb.

“Nah,” Pigeon said. “We’re in the Suburbs. You’re never gonna have to do that here.”

Then all I had to do was just park into a regular parking lot space.

“Good,” he said, “now let’s just go around the block a couple times.”

Then we got out on Suburban streets that weren’t even busy. They didn’t have multiple lanes or any kind of weird signs I didn’t know about. He didn’t have me make a left turn before we went back to The Driver Training Center.

“Alright, you pass,” he said.

“Really?”

“Sure, why not.”

Then we went in and he gave me my very own Driver’s License. It had my picture and basic information on it, and it proved I could drive as well as any other Reality.

“Alright!” it made me say.

Dad was so happy for me he got me my own used car. It wasn’t fast or pretty, but it could go on most normal Roads without breaking down. I called it, Dodge, and it was good enough to take me back and forth from Artsy Lawless College.

3.12 – The Mall

The next morning Mom woke me up on the couch.

“It’s time to go to The Mall,” she said.

“Nooo,” I said.

It was too early, and I wanted to keep sleeping.

“Come on,” she said. “We need to get your pants.”

“But I have pants.”

“We need to get your dress pants for the wedding tho, remember?”

“I don’t wanna go to a wedding.”

“But you’ve already come all this way for your friends in Philadelphia.”

“I don’t know anyone there.”

“Yes, you do, sleepyhead.”

Then she opened the blinds, and the sun shined too hard on me.

“Nyaargh!” I said.

But it was too bright to go back to sleep. I hadta get up and get ready and go to The Mall even tho I didn’t even remember why.

“Do you want to drive?” Mom said.

“Of course not,” I said.

Then we took her car, and I got in the backseat.

On the way The Radio was playing a song with sitars and chanting. I’d never heard it before.

“Is this some kind of New Hit?” I said.

“No,” she said. “This is my Self Growth Music. It’s good, listen.”

I trusted Mom the most on songs and tried to like it. But it was in a language I didn’t know, and there were no electric guitars or high, powerful vocals. There were no choruses or verses or bridges or solos, it was just the same noises repeating over and over.

“It’s not very high or powerful,” I said.

“Its vibrations are high and powerful tho,” she said.

“Oh.”

By the end of the drive I decided there was no way it could ever be on The Great List of Old Songs. But more importantly my ears were getting full of TimeFuck Tingles. They hurt, and they were growing, and I knew it would be really bad if they spread to the center of my head.

Soon the massive concrete square that was The Mall arose before us.  We pulled into the equally massive parking lot, and Mom turned the music off.

We went into The Department Store where all the clothes were.  There was a men’s section with my clothes, but no one else was there with their Mom.

She immediately started looked thru the racks of dress pants trying to find the right size.

“Hmm,” she said. “I don’t think they have anything small enough to fit you.”

She picked up a pair of pants and held them up to my waist.

“These might be alright,” she said, “but you’ll need to go to the fitting room to find out.”

“Do I have to?” I said.

I was tired and my head was still funny from Mom’s new music. I just didn’t have the energy to take off my pants and put on new pants and then take those pants off and then put my old pants back on.

“You don’t want them so long you’re stepping on them with your shoes. They’ll fray at the bottom.”

“I don’t think I care.”

“If you stay for another day we could get them hemmed.”

“Aren’t I just going to stay here for every day forever?”

She didn’t hear me tho. Then she got the pants, but she still wouldn’t let us leave The Department Store.

“What are we doing now?” I said.

“You still need to get a dress shirt and shoes and socks and a belt.”

“Oh.”

Then we had to look thru more racks. We went over to the shirts, and she held a blue button-down one up to my chest.

“I think you’re a small,” she said. “You’re probably still a small.”

“Alright,” I said, “just get it so we can go.”

She got it, but she soon got distracted by other racks that didn’t even have the things she said I needed on it.

“Ooh,” she said, “look at this t-shirt. What’s that on it? A crocodile?”

“I hate crocodiles,” I said.

I was so tired and bored, I didn’t want to stand anymore. I sat down cross-legged on the floor and held my head in my hands while Mom kept shopping. It was taking forever. Sometimes pretty teenage girls would walk by and look at me weird, and it would make me feel bad.

“Mom,” I said, “can we go now?”

“But we haven’t got your shoes yet,” she said.

“I feel sick tho. I’m too sick to be at The Mall.”

“Tsst, I bet it’s all that Dr. Pepper you drank.”

“We need to go home so I can take something that makes me better.”

“Alright, I have some Self Growth remedies that will cure you.”

“I don’t care. We just hafta leave here.”

When we got back in the car The Self Growth music was playing again. The Tingles were now in my stomach, too, and I felt like throwing them up.

“Can you play The Real Radio instead?” I said.

“You mean like The Hits Station?”

“Yes!”

“Oh, I don’t ever listen to that kind of music anymore.”

“Not even Journey or Mariah Carey?”

“No, I guess I’ve Grown past that.”

Suddenly my whole body got filled with a gigantic dose of TimeFuck. Had I remembered I was a Reality Traveler I might have made a last minute sacrifice to The Goddess of Faith, but I did not. The spinning went faster and faster until all my senses shut off, and I didn’t even know where I was anymore.

“My city is gone,” I managed to say right before everything turned black.

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.