Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 46 of 64

20.

Three days later, Art finally realized that something big and ugly was in the offing. Fede had repeatedly talked him out of going to Perceptronics’s offices, offering increasingly flimsy excuses and distracting him by calling the hotel’s front desk and sending up surprise massage therapists to interrupt Art as he stewed in his juices, throbbing with resentment at having been flown thousands of klicks while injured in order to check into a faceless hotel on a faceless stretch of highway and insert this thumb into his asshole and wait for Fede—who was still in fucking London!—to sort out the mess so that he could present himself at the Perceptronics Acton offices and get their guys prepped for the ever-receding meeting with MassPike.

“Jesus, Federico, what the fuck am I doing here?”

“I know, Art, I know.” Art had taken to calling Fede at the extreme ends of circadian compatibility, three AM and eleven PM and then noon on Fede’s clock, as a subtle means of making the experience just as unpleasant for Fede as it was for Art. “I screwed up,” Fede yawned. “I screwed up and now we’re both paying the price. You handled your end beautifully and I dropped mine. And I intend to make it up to you.”

“I don’t want more massages, Fede. I want to get this shit done and I want to come home and see my girlfriend.”

Fede tittered over the phone.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing much,” Fede said. “Just sit tight there for a couple minutes, OK? Call me back once it happens and tell me what you wanna do, all right?”

“Once what happens?”

“You’ll know.”

It was Linda, of course. Knocking on Art’s hotel room door minutes later, throwing her arms—and then her legs—around him, and banging him stupid, half on and half off the hotel room bed. Riding him and then being ridden in turns, slurping and wet and energetic until they both lay sprawled on the hotel room’s very nice Persian rugs, dehydrated and panting and Art commed Fede, and Fede told him it could take a couple weeks to sort things out, and why didn’t he and Linda rent a car and do some sight-seeing on the East Coast?

That’s exactly what they did. Starting in Boston, where they cruised Cambridge, watching the cute nerdyboys and geekygirls wander the streets, having heated technical debates, lugging half-finished works of technology and art through the sopping summertime, a riot of townie accents and highbrow engineerspeak.

Then a week in New York, where they walked until they thought their feet would give out entirely, necks cricked at a permanent, upward-staring angle to gawp at the topless towers of Manhattan. The sound the sound the sound of Manhattan rang in their ears, a gray and deep rumble of cars and footfalls and subways and steampipes and sirens and music and conversation and ring tones and hucksters and schizophrenic ranters, a veritable Las Vegas of cacophony, and it made Linda uncomfortable, she who was raised in the white noise susurrations of LA’s freeway forests, but it made Art feel wonderful. He kept his comm switched off, though the underfoot rumble of the subway had him reaching for it a hundred times a day, convinced that he’d left it on in vibe-alert mode.

They took a milk-run train to Toronto, chuffing through sleepy upstate New York towns, past lakes and rolling countryside in full summer glory. Art and Linda drank ginger beer in the observation car, spiking it with rum from a flask that Linda carried in a garter that she wore for the express purpose of being able to reach naughtily up her little sundress and produce a bottle of body-temperature liquor in a nickel-plated vessel whose shiny sides were dulled by the soft oil of her thigh.

Canada Customs and Immigration separated them at the border, sending Art for a full inspection—a privilege of being a Canadian citizen and hence perennially under suspicion of smuggling goods from the tax havens of the US into the country—and leaving Linda in their little Pullman cabin.

When Art popped free of the bureaucracy, his life thoroughly peered into, he found Linda standing on the platform, leaning against a pillar, back arched, one foot flat against the bricks, corresponding dimpled knee exposed to the restless winds of the trainyard. From Art’s point of view, she was a gleaming vision skewered on a beam of late day sunlight that made her hair gleam like licorice. Her long and lazy jaw caught and lost the sun as she talked animatedly down her comm, and Art was struck with a sudden need to sneak up behind her and run his tongue down the line that began with the knob of her mandible under her ear and ran down to the tiny half-dimple in her chin, to skate it on the soft pouch of flesh under her chin, to end with a tasting of her soft lips.

Thought became deed. He crept up on her, smelling her new-car hair products on the breeze that wafted back from her, and was about to begin his tonguing when she barked, “Fuck off! Stop calling me!” and closed her comm and stormed off trainwards, leaving Art standing on the opposite side of the pillar with a thoroughly wilted romantic urge.

More carefully, he followed her into the train, back to their little cabin, and reached for the palm-pad to open the door when he heard her agitated comm voice. “No, goddamnit, no. Not yet. Keep calling me and not ever, do you understand?”

Art opened the door. Linda was composed and neat and sweet in her plush seat, shoulders back, smile winning. “Hey honey, did the bad Customs man finally let you go?”

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