Sometimes a Haight notion...

In the midst of another unseemly, endless fornicatory episode, New Speedway Boogie swelled to a a crescendo and dropped the hammer on Milo, finally persuading him. It was all a dead end: Peru. The laundry van. The drugs. The booze. The cheap chocolate. Lenore. Everything.

As the thought crystallized, so did the corollary: he had to get the hell out of this backwater mess, and back to his own far more crucial mess. No matter what it cost him.

As Lenore climaxed, his mind fled elsewhere, withdrawn, remote, busy cutting a quick side-deal with God, or some reasonable facsimile thereof:

"Dear God: I'll give up hiding out and running. I'll give up Peru and this nice safe van. And cheap chocolate. Oh. And Lenore. Definitely Lenore... I'll even try to fix the fractal fusion screwup. Just let me keep the drugs and booze. Please."

Nobody answered. Milo took that for as as much affirmation as he could expect. Under the circumstances.

Lenore shuddered and jiggled into her usual post-coital stupor, lips twitched into a sated smirk. Her eyes were closed as she dreamily scratched random itchy erogenous zones.

Feeling something besides the drive to dull his senses for the first time in months, Milo absently groped the floor for clothes and slipped them on. He rose quietly, and thumbed the handle on the van's sliding front door. Balanced there, he gingerly snagged the worn army-surplus knapsack, with the nearly-forgotten, precious thermosful of jello, from beneath the passenger-side seat where he'd stuffed it months back.

If he'd focussed there, he might have felt it vibrate a little in his hands. If he'd listened closely, the vibration may have resolved itself into something extremely familiar, say by The Grateful Dead. Or not. But he was distracted.

He turned away from Lenore and took a deep breath. This was it.

He heaved and the balky door screeched open on its track.

Lenore's sleepy voice surprised him as he stepped down from the stifling van into the warm evening air.

"Where ya going, loverboy?"

Milo froze guiltily. Where was he going?

Then he remembered the many traditional answers, used by countless hundreds before him in the same ritual, and destined to be used by countless hundreds after.

"Just, uhhh, to the corner store to buy a quart of milk, Pumpkin. Er, no. A pack of smokes. Uh.... a loaf of bread?"

Shit! He'd muffed it and used all of them at once! And there were no corner stores in Filadelfia. In the long, pregnant pause from the bed, he mentally kicked himself, winced, and stopped breathing.

"Okey-dokey." Lenore's voice was sing-song, and a little slurry. "Don't forget to bring me more Kinder."

Milo's breathed again. His feet felt freed.

"Sure thing, Honeybunch." Honeybunch!? Total red flag! SHIT!!! He kicked himself again.

Then he started running, quietly, barefoot, down a dusty dirt road in deepening twilight. Suddenly, he had had places to go again.

"San Francisco", he thought, unsure as to why. But when he came to a junction, he turned west and began jogging a little unsteadily toward the coast

Behind him, distant on the evening air, he heard an enraged scream swell and trail off. He picked up the pace a little, looked over his shoulder, and saw headlights. He waved his arms in the light and an overladen old bus slowed beside him. The folding door creaked open.

Milo felt in his jeans pocket, wondered if he had enough folding money left to get to Lima or Callao, stepped aboard.

The timing was perfect. And as the bus gathered speed, headed roughly west, the indigo night danced briefly with the silvery echo of a dark blue laugh...