ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER returns to consult the ORACLE
Two hours and forty-five minutes after SCHWARZENEGGER’S initial appearance. The VEHICLE is leaving Brook's apartment, following a period of beer-drinking and hanging out, which was occasionally awkward since the Vehicle has to communicate everything through gesture, or in writing, owing to psychosomatic muteness since her sex-change surgery. The Vehicle may have had too much to drink, as the "conversation" with Brook was unimpeded by actually having to open her mouth to talk. The ORACLE (the new vagina) did not talk to Brook, or vice-versa, during the visit, which the Vehicle appreciates, it having been some time now since the Vehicle could feel like herself instead of a disinterested third party when in the company of other people.
The visit was interrupted twice, once by the arrival of a male parental-type figure outside, who screamed at the girls who were watching (and to some degree tormenting) the dogs in another apartment. Male parental figure was yelling, "Get away from there! They don't want to play with you! They want to eat you! Get inside! Now!" and various other things, while the Vehicle and Brook watched the scene unfold through Brook's window's blinds.
The second interruption involved Brook's roommate, who has lately been going by the name of River, returning from her job as a hostess at a Chinese restaurant in Glendale, showering, changing clothes, and then heading back out again to see her boyfriend Trip before his gig tonight. The Vehicle has gathered that relations between Brook and River have been somewhat strained since River had her name legally changed. (It had been "Brenda," which maybe it's all the beer, but the Vehicle thinks that Brenda is a perfectly nice name, sort of girly and normal and unassuming, and today is considering it as a possibility for her own name, along with "Emily" and "Julie.") Something about an inside joke which got out of hand. The Vehicle has for the most part not spoken to River. Their one major conversation, months ago, revolved around Trip, whom the Vehicle has never met, though she did see his band play once.
According to River, Trip and his bandmates moved to L.A. from northern Minnesota, where they had a band they called Son of Beethoven, simultaneously an allusion to a children's movie the band members were all too old to have ever seen, and a reference to a serial killer they were all too young to know anything about, which after the move, and after River pointed out that the two abbreviated versions of the band name that they came up with, "Sonbeet," and "S.O.B.," were both more memorable and more amusing than the band's original name, they changed the name to "Duluth." Trip and the others encourage the audience to shout "Duluth, Duluth, Duluth is on fi-yah," at key moments in the band's second set, often during the song "Mr. Rogers' 'Hood," which very few jaded L.A.-area audiences are willing to do, and those that are, speculates the Vehicle, are probably mishearing it. River counters the general opinion of Duluth as a waste of her boyfriend's time by pointing out that he is an absolute barbarian in bed, and that this can make up for a lot, though sometimes after she says this she gets a certain look on her face like she's reassessing the wisdom of staying with Trip and not much liking the resulting answer.
But anyway. The Vehicle is slightly unsteady on her feet, but gamely preparing to head back home in the pedestrian fashion, when ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER reappears. In the twilight, it takes the VEHICLE some time to determine why he looks lumpier than before. But when he gets closer, she can see that, A), his right arm now ends in a wad of bandages, instead of a hand, and B), something approximately hand-sized is taped to his suit jacket's right shoulder with a large amount of duct tape. Despite the darkness, he seems pale. His face reminds her of a bottle of nail polish she has at home, which looked festively orange in the bottle but dried to a kind of translucent dusty orange-beige, over her white nails, which was somehow just not appealing at all.
Vehicle (thinking): Let's get out of here.
A nightmarish aspect settles over the scene, as the Vehicle wobbles through the apartment complex gate into the twilight, being tracked mechanically by the disfigured and weakened Schwarzenegger at approximately the same pace. The Vehicle's face is a study in determination as she first trips on, then steps over, a slightly-raised concrete border on someone's garden, tacking diagonally across a front lawn in the general direction of home. Schwarzenegger stumbles slightly, then kicks away the border and wags a finger at the Vehicle, as if to signal misbehavior on her part. Schwarzenegger's foot catches on a tree root, and he goes cartoonishly down. The Vehicle ponders dry heaving while leaning on the front of a house on the other side of the block. Schwarzenegger picks himself up, checks to make sure his hand is still attached to his shoulder, and tries to get a bottle of pills out of his left shirt pocket with his left hand. His left bicep presents a problem, and he is only successful after lying back down on the grass and trying to shake the bottle out of his pocket. The Vehicle elects not to dry heave, and continues down the sidewalk. Schwarzenegger wrestles with the childproof cap on the bottle. The Vehicle fails to see, in the twilight, a patch of wet cement or the sawhorses surrounding it, and walks into one of the sawhorses, which pivots into the street while sending her through the center of the wet concrete.
Vehicle (thinking): Fuck.
Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, has gotten something of a second wind, and is quickly gaining ground on the Vehicle. She is weaving toward the intersection ahead, hoping that the light will change in time for her to make it across. Schwarzenegger, in the light, is looking simultaneously pale and flushed, and his face is glossy with sweat. The Vehicle starts across the intersection as the cars begin moving parallel to Schwarzenegger's path down the sidewalk: he is now just even with the patch of wet cement. The Vehicle is at the center line of the street, when suddenly, a speeding sports car, driving dangerously close to the sidewalk, hits the sawhorse the Vehicle had dragged into the street, which explodes into a blizzard of splinters. Which splinters then catch fire. The car continues down the street and across the intersection, reaching the next block at the same time as the Vehicle, who stops and ponders whether to turn right or go straight ahead in order to get home while also attempting to scrape wet cement off her almost-brand-new flats on the curb. Schwarzenegger brushes flaming splinters off the right side of his jacket with his left hand, and one of the splinters embeds itself in the side of his left index finger and makes him wince. The Vehicle decides, in a flash of inspiration, to turn right, and also that the flats are a lost cause.
Schwarzenegger checks the street behind him for oncoming cars, and then goes around the patch of cement on the street side. A flock of six helicopters appear overhead in the distance, approaching Schwarzenegger and the Vehicle. The Vehicle kicks off her flats on the sidewalk and resumes walking. There are never any good alleys between buildings when you need them. The Vehicle looks back momentarily at Schwarzenegger's face, as he reaches the intersection: it is a grim grimy grimace of resolve, she believes, though in actuality he is trying to figure out how he's going to remove the splinter, later, and concluding that Maria can probably do it: Schwarzenegger has a limited range of facial expressions. The Vehicle, not looking at where she was going, accidentally steps on a roadkilled cat in her bare feet, and recoils.
Vehicle (thinking): Oh shit.
Schwarzenegger begins to cross the intersection. The helicopters are now directly overhead, continuing across the sky. The Vehicle, spooked by the cat, and in a high-adrenaline state to begin with, breaks into a barefoot run. She sprints through a block and a half before she has to stop and catch her breath. Schwarzenegger has paused at the intersection; his painkillers and general level of exhaustion are causing him to hallucinate a large number of twinkly lights in the air around him, which he is confusing with the lights from the streetlamps, passing cars, and helicopters. The Vehicle is only a couple blocks away, now, from her own yard, which is still occupied by FRED PHELPS and his followers, which she realizes means that she's going to have to go around to the back. Some of the lights Schwarzenegger sees are an odd color, intermediate between pink and gold. He is standing in the middle of the street.
The Vehicle is plotting ways to get to the privacy fence when she is overcome by a wave of nervous nausea, and she falls to her knees and vomits on the sidewalk. Schwarzenegger, still in the intersection, rallies his resources and proceeds toward the other side of the street. The Vehicle is mistaken for a prostitute by a teenaged boy in a Camaro, who yells something indistinct as he goes by. This attracts the Phelpsians, just a few blocks ahead, who assume from long experience that they are the ones being yelled at, and they all run off into the street, chasing the Camaro, Fred lagging somewhat behind due to his age. The helicopters disappear behind a large tree. Schwarzenegger pauses to examine a pair of concrete-caked shoes, which glitter like a mirrorball. The Vehicle vomits onto the sidewalk again, then stands up. Schwarzenegger narrowly avoids stepping on a pile of luminous green fake fur. His stump is beginning to throb in an attention-getting way.
The Vehicle weaves down the sidewalk to her place. Her mouth tastes like hell: the word toothpaste, contextless, floats across her consciousness. She snags a Twinkie out of the abandoned Phelps stash, then becomes slightly nauseous again at the thought of trying to eat it, and discards it on the lawn again. She reaches her front door, fumbles for the keys as she looks down the street, where she sees Schwarzenegger stumbling along, looking wildly around himself as if he were the one being pursued. A momentary loss of balance causes her to flail slightly, and she catches herself by putting a foot behind her, landing on the Twinkie in its wrapper. There is more flailing. Schwarzenegger appears to be swatting at mosquitoes or gnats or something. The Vehicle hears the noise of a car backfiring, or gunshots, distant, from an unknown direction. She unlocks her door.
(Story continues at DAN DOCE.)