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قراءة كتاب Eastern Standard Tribe

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Eastern Standard Tribe

Eastern Standard Tribe

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

enrolled. So I'm good at back doors and side doors. It's what the Tribe does for me — provides me with entries into places where I technically don't belong. And thank God for them, anyway. Without the Tribes, *no one* would be qualified to do *anything* worth doing.

Going out the side door has backfired on me today, though.

Oh. Shit. I peer over the building's edge, down into the parking lot. The cars are thinly spread, the weather too fine for anyone out there in the real world to be visiting with their crazy relatives. Half a dozen beaters are parked down there, methane-breathers that the ESTalists call fartmobiles. I'd been driving something much the same on that fateful Leap Forward day in London. I left something out of my inventory: pebbles. The roof is littered, covered with a layer of gray, round riverstones, about the size of wasabi chickpeas. No one down there is going to notice me all the way up here. Not without that I give them a sign. A cracked windshield or two ought to do it.

I gather a small pile of rocks by the roof's edge and carefully take aim. I have to be cautious. Careful. A pebble dropped from this height — I remember the stories about the penny dropped from the top of the CN Tower that sunk six inches into the concrete below.

I select a small piece of gravel and carefully aim for the windshield of a little blue Sony Veddic and it's bombs away. I can only follow the stone's progress for a few seconds before my eyes can no longer disambiguate it from the surrounding countryside. What little I do see of its trajectory is disheartening, though: the wind whips it away on an almost horizontal parabola, off towards Boston. Forgetting all about Newton, I try lobbing and then hurling the gravel downward, but it gets taken away, off to neverneverland, and the windscreens remain whole.

I go off to prospect for bigger rocks.

You know the sort of horror movie where the suspense builds and builds and builds, partially collapsed at regular intervals by something jumping out and yelling "Boo!" whereupon the heroes have to flee, deeper into danger, and the tension rises and rises? You know how sometimes the director just doesn't know when to quit, and the bogeymen keep jumping out and yelling boo, the wobbly bridges keep on collapsing, the small arms fire keeps blowing out more windows in the office tower?

It's not like the tension goes away — it just get boring. Boring tension. You know that the climax is coming soon, that any minute now Our Hero will face down the archvillain and either kick his ass or have his ass kicked, the whole world riding on the outcome. You know that it will be satisfying, with much explosions and partial nudity. You know that afterward, Our Hero will retire to the space-bar and chill out and collect kisses from the love interest and that we'll all have a moment to get our adrenals back under control before the hand pops out of the grave and we all give a nervous jump and start eagerly anticipating the sequel.

You just wish it would *happen* already. You just wish that the little climaces could be taken as read, that the director would trust the audience to know that Our Hero really does wade through an entire ocean of shit en route to the final showdown.

I'm bored with being excited. I've been betrayed, shot at, institutionalized and stranded on the roof of a nuthouse, and I just want the fucking climax to come by and happen to me, so that I can know: smart or happy.

I've found a half-brick that was being used to hold down the tar paper around an exhaust-chimney. I should've used that to hold the door open, but it's way the hell the other side of the roof, and I'd been really pleased with my little pebbly doorstop. Besides, I'm starting to suspect that the doorjamb didn't fail, that it was sabotaged by some malevolently playful goon from the sanatorium. An object lesson or something.

I heft the brick. I release the brick. It falls, and falls, and falls, and hits the little blue fartmobile square on the trunk, punching a hole through the cheap aluminum lid.

And the fartmobile explodes. First there is a geyser of blue flame as the tank's puncture wound jets a stream of ignited assoline skyward, and then it blows back into the tank and *boom*, the fartmobile is in one billion shards, rising like a parachute in an updraft. I can feel the heat on my bare, sun-tender skin, even from this distance.

Explosions. Partial nudity. Somehow, though, I know that this isn't the climax.

8.

Linda didn't like to argue — fight: yes, argue: no. That was going to be a problem, Art knew, but when you're falling in love, you're able to rationalize all kinds of things.

The yobs who cornered them on the way out of a bloody supper of contraband, antisocial animal flesh were young, large and bristling with testosterone. They wore killsport armor with strategic transparent panels that revealed their steroid-curdled muscles, visible through the likewise transparent insets they'd had grafted in place of the skin that covered their abs and quads. There were three of them, grinning and flexing, and they boxed in Art and Linda in the tiny, shuttered entrance of a Boots Pharmacy.

"Evening, sir, evening, miss," one said.

"Hey," Art muttered and looked over the yob's shoulder, trying to spot a secam or a cop. Neither was in sight.

"I wonder if we could beg a favor of you?" another said.

"Sure," Art said.

"You're American, aren't you?" the third said.

"Canadian, actually."

"Marvelous. Bloody marvelous. I hear that Canada's a lovely place. How are you enjoying England?"

"I live here, actually. I like it a lot."

"Glad to hear that, sir. And you, Miss?"

Linda was wide-eyed, halfway behind Art. "It's fine."

"Good to hear," the first one said, grinning even more broadly. "Now, as to that favor. My friends and I, we've got a problem. We've grown bored of our wallets. They are dull and uninteresting."

"And empty," the third one interjected, with a little, stoned giggle.

"Oh yes, and empty. We thought, well, perhaps you visitors from abroad would find them suitable souvenirs of England. We thought perhaps you'd like to trade, like?"

Art smiled in spite of himself. He hadn't been mugged in London, but he'd heard of this. Ever since a pair of Manchester toughs had been acquitted based on the claim that their robbery and menacing of a Pakistani couple had been a simple cross-cultural misunderstanding, crafty British yobs had been taking off increasingly baroque scores from tourists.

Art felt the familiar buzz that meant he was about to get into an argument, and before he knew it, he was talking: "Do you really think that'd hold up in court? I think that even the dimmest judge would be able to tell that the idea of a Canadian being mistaken about trading two wallets full of cash for three empty ones was in no way an error in cross-cultural communication. Really now. If you're going to mug us —"

"Mug you, sir? Dear oh dear, who's mugging you?" the first one said.

"Well, in that case, you won't mind if we say no, right?"

"Well, it would be rather rude," the first said. "After all, we're offering you a souvenir in the spirit of transatlantic solidarity. Genuine English leather, mine is. Belonged to my grandfather."

"Let me see it," Art said.

"Beg pardon?"

"I want to see it. If we're going to trade, I should be able to examine the goods first, right?"

"All

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