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19. Lingua Franca


"Lets be human, shall we?" Shaman proposed. Diplomats settling on a lingua franca. "You have a spare somewhere, dont you, Gypsy?"

The big nerve undulated to the cash register and punched "NO SALE" with one of his dendrites. He pulled up the tray inside the cash drawer, where the big bills are usually kept, and produced a squeaking mass of rubbery material that looked like a deflated beach ball. He started to pull it on like a pair of pants. When he was done, he was the rotund, superannuated hippie Id met down on the highway, and fully clothed.

Nora squeezed my hand, then headed for the little girls room to tidy up. "Youre okay, Mel," she said. "Well get through this together." Then to Shaman: "The toilet?"

"Go ahead," Shaman said.

"Ill be a minute. Well sit down together when I get back. Youll let him be till then?"

"Of course, Nora. What do you take me for?" He was wearing Gone Joes overalls. It still said "JOE" on his pocket, and "SMILING AND SERVING."

"Oh, stop it!" Gypsy said. "Just because shes an Earther doesnt mean shes stupid. She was thoroughly briefed when we recruited her, Shaman. She knows all about you, old Tut. She knows all about everything."

Gypsy offered me his "hand." He helped me up off the floor, then sat down at the table with me. Shaman joined us.

Nora was in the bathroom. She had been in the bathroom when I first entered the cafe, when I saw Gypsy, when the juke box played Johnny Abilene and Izzy? "Take a bite of this." What did she do in there? Maybe she slipped in and out of fake bodies the way Gypsy did. I still ached for her, but I couldnt do anything about it. I was a small, brown nothing. Shaman was tall and muscular, with strong, chiseled features, a square jaw, clear blue eyes, thick black hair neatly trimmed. He wore a white caftan and loose white linen pants; one leg was still soiled by errant thoughts?e v a p o r a t i n g?from my mind. Shaman could have Nora whenever he wanted to, and finish the job, I thought. My mind was a barber pole, thought-blood, endlessly supplied, spiraling endlessly down.

I listened to Shaman as a radio "listens" to a broadcast. It went through me. I should have been crying, but, though I looked and looked, I couldnt find my tears.



18. You Are My Sweet Burrito (Please Be True) | Izzy and the Father of Terror | 20. Inoculation