New Thing, 7
The first thing I did was stomp across the parking lot, go into cabin seven and unplug the campfire. Then I went back to reception and moved the van. I opened the van door and just sat there in the driver’s seat with my legs dangling, too tired (or sore) to climb down from that perch one more time today.
There were tiny porches in front of all the cabins, with railings, where you could tie your horse. That would be one approach to the gas prices problem. I was sure the garden at Lovecraft’s Lair was big enough for a horse. And you could put a cart in the garage as easily as a car. But we’d have to stay overnight when we came to town. That would cut into the money I was saving on gas. I’d have to ask Friendly Campfire if they could consider installing a hayrack. Hmm. I didn’t think Flowerhair or the Silent Wonder Dog could help me with this one. I sighed. I climbed down, slowly, hanging on to things. The stomping part of unplugging the campfire had been a little unwise. The back doors on the van creaked when I pulled them open. “I agree,” I said.
I hadn’t been entirely intelligent about packing. Actually ‘stupid’ covers it pretty well. After ten days in a gigantic, almost empty apartment, I’d sunk into the mindset that my mingy few boxes and odds and ends like the kitchen stool and my anglepoise desk lamp would probably all fit on the passenger seat of a smartcar and I could maybe tie the sofa to the roof. So the morning after I’d told Hayley I’d be there in three days I asked Joe the Doorman if he could recommend a van-rental place that would let me leave the thing for someone else to deal with in a small town in the outer reaches of the galaxy that no one running a van-rental in New York City had ever heard of, and, furthermore, rent it to me now, none of this wussy making an advance reservation nonsense.
Joe the Doorman can always recommend someone. He didn’t even have to say ‘Tell him I sent you—he owes me a favor’—this is a given for those lucky enough to live under Joe the Doorman’s aegis and luxuriate in his recommendations. Which I was about not to any more, but I could at least go out in a van that wouldn’t die on me in the going.
And it didn’t. It was a pretty good van, aside from the somewhat debilitated shock absorbers, and the fact that it got about .02 miles to the gallon. (Hey. It was carrying barely 1000 books. Okay, and the rose-bush. Which I knew from heaving it to the freight elevator weighed forty tons.) And, because I was sent by Joe the Doorman, they let me rent an elderly but regularly updated GPS thingy, without which I knew I would end up running away from alligators in the Everglades. I felt that the Screaming Skull logo was a little disadvantageous—eye-catching, perhaps, in a city with a lot of van-rental options—but disadvantageous. Increasingly so once you’d crossed the Triboro Bridge and had to, for example, stop for gas occasionally. But some other lucky person was going to be driving it home. If it was one of the enormous, shambling young men at the Screaming Skull garage, there would probably be fewer gas station attendants who killed themselves laughing on the return journey. (Joe the Doorman’s recommendations were always reliable and sometimes interesting.) Which meant I needed a car (or a pony) by the day after tomorrow. As well as a place to unload 1000 books and a rose-bush.
The main drawback to this van was that it was too small. My three-dimensional spacial-awareness faculty had been put drastically to the test—and had pretty much burnt out at about 1:00 a.m. a day and a half ago, when I’d started taking my clothes out of the cardboard boxes, putting them in a series of plastic bags (the seething mass of used plastic bags under the kitchen sink had been, fortunately for me, still there, after the house-contents razers had eliminated all signs of Gelasio’s occupancy) and stuffing them in anything that even looked like a gap. At one o’clock in the morning, when you’ve been putting not-everything in your too-small van and then taking it all out again since six pm, almost anything looks like a gap. Especially after seven hours of underground-parking-garage lighting. Joe the Doorman sent sandwiches down with a minion a couple of times or the valet, coming in at 7 a.m. to loosen the chains on Mr Testosterone’s four-wheeled cruise missile, might have found my wasted body lying motionless next to a small white(ish) van emblazoned with a wild-eyed skull vomiting flames through a dislocated jaw. When Mr Screaming Skull had asked me what size van I’d carelessly said, oh, the smallest one. I’ve only got a two-seater sofa and a few boxes of books.
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