Taxi M’Koo drove most of the way down from Lost Angeles through the ruins. Her man Sam slept in the back of the hummer, recovering from a wound he’d incurred during a fight with three cholos over a large can of ham, pristine, pre-saddam. She’d shot all three cholos from ambush and rescued Sam and the ham. They’d laughed about the sam/ham rhyme by their fire that night. The ham had been really hammy and good, kept their stomachs full for several days. Of course even salty ham spoiled after a day in this heat, so the trick was to eat as much as you could on the first day and keep as much down as possible so you could basically sleep it off in a cave someplace with your man and your piece by your side.
The hummer began to smell funny as she passed a crumpled sign that read Del Mar. “Oh no,” Taxi said, banging her half-gloved fist on the dusty dashboard. She thought she smelled smoke, very faint, from the vent grill under the dash. “Something burning in there? You better keep your mama ass temperature down, baby.” The car said nothing. Of course the A.I. chips were long burned out, and the hummer hadn’t spoken in probably 25 years of being patched up and traded from owner to owner.
As they neared the coast again, the heat faded. Clouds rolled in from the Pacific, and soon droplets fell in the gray air. That was usually good ‘cause it cleaned the bad shit, washed it out to sea. Sixty years after being nuked and saddamed, the Earth was slowly licking its wounds clean.
There were still roads down here, but you worried when the road surfaces were slick as glass and nothing grew on them. When she got to such a stretch, she took a last heavy drag on her fat home-roller, tossed the burning butt out the window, and zipped the sides up. It was hot this way, with no air circulating, but it was better than letting dirty air roil through the cockpit, bringing with it radioactive particles or saddam spores or some shit from hell.
The hummer began to make sputtering sounds. “Oh Jesus,” Taxi said, gripping the wheel with both hands and looking desperately for a way off the freeway. They were high up in the ruins of a clover leaf exchange. Although nothing grew on the glazed road surface, tall eucalyptus trees rustled darkly all around, 30 meters up or higher, which said the land below was liveable. And probably sheltered all sorts of kadaffys and mercs and who knew what else.
She shook Sam’s sleeping figure. Like herself, he wore old jeans, a camo shirt, a knife, a gun, and what old purposeware he’d managed to scrounge and hang on to in his 30 years of life. They were both lucky to have a pair of solid combat boots, though they hadn’t seen socks in two years or more. Had she been with him that long. He had his steel-frame, canvas rework job seat tilted back flat. He lay flat on his belly, snoring, boots hanging forward, gored and bandaged hand extended to the back seat. Taxi tugged his belt. “Hey, man, wake up, Sam. Got car trouble. This bitch is dying.”
Sam sat up yawning and rubbing his eyes. “I hear it, baby. What are we going to do?”
“I’m working on a plan.” Actually, she had no clue, but she didn’t want him to panic. The engine kept dying, and Taxi kept kick-starting the tiny nuke engine. They rolled down an exit ramp on the clover leaf.
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Copyright © 2018 by Jean-Thomas Cullen, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.