Chapter Twenty-four

   I didn't really have to go to the bathroom. I had to move on. It was getting tiresome. How long have I been working on this? How many days?
   "Four score and seven?"
   Four score and -- what? Who said that?
   "Hiya, pal!"
   Abe? Abe! Where are you?
   "Down here, in your shoe! Your left shoe!"
   I reached down and there he was.
   "Smooth me out, will ya?"
   Sure, Abe, sure. I thought we'd lost you forever, I really did.
   "Ahh, you worry too much. So, I hear the big boys are taking on the little guys. They're going to try and silence all of you. Well, it's the case I've been waitin' for, ever since Booth dropped in on my booth. Get it? Booth, booth?"
   Yes, Abe, I get it. But what's our defense? We signed contracts, at least I did.
   "Where is it?"
   The contract? It's back at the apartment.
   "Let's go!"
   Abe and I ran downstairs from wherever it was we were, and I immediately looked for a cab.
   Taxi! Taxi! It was for naught, though. The cabbies couldn't hear me describe myself yelling Taxi! And then, wouldn't you know it, a taxi cab pulled up right in front of us. I got in, still clutching ol' J31856085A firmly.
   "Where to?" the atypical cab driver asked.
   My apartment, please.
   "And step on it, you big dummy!" Abe shouted, rudely.
   "What's that? What'd you just say?"
   "Yeah, you. You just called me a big dummy, didn't you?"
   No I didn't, I replied, honest to a fault.
   "Honest to a fault? What do you mean by that?"
   I didn't say "honest to a fault," I said, a bit taken aback.
   "Huh? Taken aback? Say, are you talkin' down to me?"
   No! Of course not.
   "I think you're talkin' down to me. You know, I hate it when overeducated bums like you talk down to me the way you're doin', and I resent it, and I think it's uncalled for, and, if I may borrow a concept from Wittgenstein --
   Wittgenstein? Did I say Wittgenstein? Why, you bastard -- "
   With that he hit the accelerator and began weaving in and out of the midtown Manhattan rush hour like a New York cab driver, which he was. Even Abe, who'd never even seen an automobile before, was getting nauseous.
   "Slow down, you big idiot!" Abe screamed as we went flying over the curb, nearly hitting a large crowd of pedestrians, none of whom had ever been in a novel before.
   Hey! Driver! Slow down! My pleas went unheeded. And then I looked, for the first time, at the taxi license that's normally attached to the glove compartment, and while I thought of what was on the license we passed the First Federal Security Savings and Loan. A man came out, a distraught man, I mean really distraught, like he was out of his mind, out of his body, out of his time, and the man panicked, and he ran, he ran right toward us, and -- oh no!
   "You just missed him, you big jerk!" Abe pointed out to our driver, who'd just about had it with Abe, and me. He screeched the cab to a halt right smack in the middle of world-famous Times Square.
   "Get out!"
   We got out. I didn't pay, although by then I was tempted to give him Abe.
   "Where the hell are we?" my emancipating friend asked, looking up at all the skyscrapers and brightly-lit neon signs advertising products like Sony, Panasonic, Matsushita, and Toshiba. Being from another century, though, he couldn't grasp the delicious irony. Still, he was impressed.
   "Where are all the people?" Abe asked -- oops! -- and then I realized I hadn't imagined them yet.
   Sorry, Abe, you deserve the full experience of standing in the middle of Times Square, at night, with all the lights flashing, and with all the people too.
   "Wowee," the Mt. Rushmore visage marveled, as the place lit up like a thousand sleazy suns. "What's that?"
   What's what? He pointed to the Loew's Multiplex, a multi-screen movie theater. It's a movie theater, Abe.
   "Who is 'Rocky'?" Abe asked.
   "Rocky" is a movie, I said. With Sylvester Stallone.
   You wouldn't know him. It's about a boxer. A fighter.
   "A fist-fighter? Let's go see it!" Abe was like a little boy, so we went over to the theater, I bought a ticket for myself and waved Abe at the kid in the kiosk, who nodded knowingly and let us both in.
   It was dark inside, and these new multiplex theaters are tiny, cramped affairs, with screens the size of postage stamps, but Abe didn't seem to mind.
   "Ford's Theater was never like this!" he exulted.
   Shush! I reminded him. They were showing previews, so I volunteered to get the popcorn. Save my seat, I instructed Abe, whom I left resting on the top of the seat back, the better to see the screen, or what there was of it.
   The food in movie theaters has gotten so expensive these days! It's a crime, a heinous crime. You could spend ten dollars for just one jumbo buttered popcorn, two Heath Bar Ice Cream sticks, two Medium Diet Cokes, and one box of Jujy Fruits. Ten dollars! It's obscene.
   When I returned I saw that Abe was gone, probably to the bathroom, and in his place, and mine, a boy and a girl -- they couldn't have been more than sixteen -- and they were giggling hysterically. They were out of control. So I moved to another seat, hoping Abe would find me in the dark theater. He never did. End of story.
   "That's it? Jim? Come on, Jim, you can't just drop things like that. That's the problem with you, Jim, you keep doing that. You're confused."
   I know, Maureen. And it comes from a lack of faith.
   "Faith? But you're not religious."
   Not that kind of faith. It's more pragmatic, everyday, the kind of faith you need to cross a busy street, or buy an unripe banana, or write a novel. (We had a lot of faith in you at first -- Ed.)
   "You're exasperating. I... I think I've run out of patience, Jim Reynolds. I'm... leaving."
   Why so melodramatic all of a sudden? I hate melodrama. Great word, though, melodramatic.
   "I'm leaving."
   "I won't be back."
   Suit yourself.
   "I mean never."
   I know what you mean.
   "See ya."
   See ya.
   "Ta ta."
   Ta ta.
   "Au revoir."
   Au revoir.
   "Hasta luego."
   Hasta lumbago. I could keep this going as long as the book binding holds out.

(This ends Chapter Twenty-four, obviously.)

Chapter Twenty-five