Saturday, October 3, 2009

24. Chromium



She was a dual-cam '57 Chevy, with a Pentium 88 CPU, raked tail fins, and chrome up to here. She put the top down when she saw me coming, and I vaulted over the side and into the driver's seat. She fit me snug as a glove.

"Where to, boss?" she asked.

"Anywhere you like, Babe. Let's go cruising."

And we hit the road. Top down, radio blasting, and a big fat harvest moon chasing us down the night.

We were somewhere in northern Oklahoma when a pale white convertible blasted by us as if we were standing still. It was driven by a woman with long blonde hair that waved behind her like a flag. She was young, and she had great breasts. I could tell because she wasn't wearing a blouse. She flipped us the finger as she roared past.

There was a hand-made sign taped to the trunk: IF YOU CATCH ME, YOU CAN HAVE ME.

"Whaddaya think, Babe? Can we catch her?"

"She's as good as yours, boss."

Babe surged forward.

Three states and as many hours later, we caught up to the pale convertible. Babe feinted left, then sped to the right, and passed it on the shoulder. She got right in front of our quarry, then slowed her to a stop, right at the lip of the Grand Canyon.

I took my reward in the back seat of the stranger's car. Its AI wasn't programmed for personality, and didn't mind being turned off to give us privacy. Afterwards, we talked.

The lady's name was Celeste. We really hit it off. We were kindred spirits. By the time that dawn came up over the Canyon, we were both head-over-heels in love.

I didn't have any permanent abode, so Celeste offered to let me live with her. I figured that maybe it was time I gave up my rootless ways, so I said yes. We agreed that I'd drive, and her car could follow us home. I ripped the sign off her trunk, and threw it away.

But when I got back to Babe, the top was up, and she wouldn't open the doors. "C'mon," I said. "Stop kidding around."

"How could you?" Babe began to cry. "Haven't I always been here for you? What can that slut possibly offer you that I can't?"

"Well, see, when a man and a woman …"

"It's about sex, isn't it? Always sex! Damn it, love is more than just body parts going at it. Love is the spiritual union of true hearts and true minds. I thought we had that! I thought we had something special."

"Now, don't be like that," I said, embarrassed. "I'm not getting rid of you or anything. Celeste and I—"

"I won't share you! I won't!"

Wheels squealing, Babe threw herself into reverse. Then she stopped, raced her engine until it screamed, and surged forward.

"Celeste!" I yelled. "Run!"

But she wasn't trying to run down Celeste after all, or me either for that matter. She hit full speed, and went right over the lip of the Grand Canyon. Briefly, she flew.

When she hit bottom, she burst into flame.

Celeste gently placed an arm around my waist. I shook my head sadly. "Women," I said. "Who can figure them?"

© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.

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