Love Is A Smell

“Everybody accounted for? Home, please, James!” Ken Kesey barked as the bus doors swung shut behind them. Chick-a-dooing quietly to himself behind the big steering wheel, Cassady nodded, distracted as he lit another unfiltered Camel, then concentrated on wheeling Further out of  the Longshoreman's Hall parking lot to bump west on North Point Street.

Kesey grabbed the public-address microphone.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to to Electric Airlines Flight 1729. We will be landing at La Casa Kesey, conveniently located one mile west of Apple Jack's Inn in bustling downtown La Honda, California in an about hour and a quarter, where we will land on the illustrious, infamous Wavy Gravy, purveyor of Mirth, Truth and the American Way who graciously volunteered to stay back tonight and guard the women and goats. Please unfasten your seat belts, belts, suspenders, and any other restraints or hangups tangible, psychological, spiritual or otherwise. As is, of course, our custom, cabin staff will be serving complimentary libations in short order!”

A faint, stoned smattering of applause and sleepy cheers greeted this announcement. Magnum bottles of domestic red found their way into the hands and thence the maws of enthusiastic passengers. The healing elixir was chased by a cornucopia of multi-paper, hand-rolled joints that themselves resembled the horn of plenty in bountiful size and payload.  

Milo's residual weak flailing had quieted further after the Pranksters had stevedored  him sack-like into the depths of the bus and plopped him, still gibbering, into a nest of big patchouli-scented pillows and blankets in the back.  His left hand still clutched the precious thermos to his chest.  His head now rested in Rory's lap as she gently stroked his hair. The flashing loa of lights, become more subdued as Milo relaxed, had followed him. The heavy pot-fog filling the bus was saturated with strange, surprising glints of light and color. No one cared any more, or they were too stoned to notice.   

Milo's glassy gaze settled contentedly on the underside of Rory's rhythmically heaving bosom. Her breath smelled sweet, and cooled his face with every exhalation, rippling through the fine blond hair fallen from around her glowing face to his cheek like an Atlantic summer freshet teasing Nantucket beach grass.  

Milo's free hand suddenly rose and cupped one of her breasts.

Goo!” he said.

Rory's eyes widened involuntarily for a split second.  She gently pressed his hand back down.

Down, boy,” she whispered. Through an almost imperceptible grin, her eyes twinkled.  

Milo's slack face darkened like a child's and the ambient swirling lights began to flash harder and faster around them. There was a sudden unmistakable smell of flowers.

Kesey's eyes widened as he drew the connection.

“Maybe you should let him do that, Rory...” he ventured.

Eyes narrowed intently as she conducted the experiment, Rory allowed Milo's hand to rise again, hypnotically cobra-like, to rest again on her boob. The lights in the bus calmed.

Kesey's and Rory's eyes locked in mutual revelation.

“This is so totally fucked up,” she said.

"Goo!" agreed Milo, almost randomly.

Rory spoke again, quietly. 

"Does anyone else smell cherry blossoms?"  

Peach. Love.” corrected Milo.

Neal Casady was a man so attuned to his own internal rhythms that nothing around him usually fazed him. It wasn't so much unflappability as obliviousness.  His neurons were usually so jammed up with their own white noise that, except for driving, he didn't devote much bandwidth to anything else.

So it surprised Casady more than anybody else when, during a routine glance at the rear view mirror on the dash, he did an involuntary double take. His lips sagged and unmoored his glowing cigarette into the uncharted folds of his baggy trousers. But his overloaded synapses took a moment or two more to tune out the huge burst of static he'd just experienced and actually absorb what the mirror showed him. When they did, he had no headroom left to address the fire that now smoldered in his lap.

Everybody who had been lolling normally on the old bus' floor a few seconds before was now comfortably occupying Further's ceiling, apparently unaware of the fact. A tiny glow that may have resembled a tiny German dentist piloting a little multi-armed-woman-shaped blue UFO shimmered in and out of the edges of  his peripheral vision at near-light speed.

Casady remembered what he was supposed to be doing a little late. But he remembered. Tearing his focus back to the dark road in front, he slammed the brakes just in time to avoid teeboning a tan swallow-tailed '59 Biscayne that Further's iffy yellow headlights had overrun in the intersection, after he'd overrun the red.

In a remarkable burst of full sentience, he beat his flaming crotch with the hand that wasn't gripping the big turning knob on the steering wheel, fished up the still-lit butt wrong-way-round between his fingers, then raised them, reversed, to stuff it right-way-round at its customary drooping angle between nicotine-stained lips.

Further stalled  in the intersection. The panic stop had given him no time to declutch. Inside the bus, nobody except Casady noticed that lurching detail.  They were now fully distracted by the whirl of  multicolored lights and music that convulsed like some antic carnival ride from the outer limits.

Casady dragged deeply on his smoke and tried to blink sense back into himself. Sometime during the stop, his passengers had reverted to the floor, strewn in a winesoaked, bewildered random pile, swatting at embers escaped from smashed joints.

Someone began to giggle frantically. Another too-bright laugh joined it, then another, until, within seconds, everyone in the bus was laughing in wild hysterical waves.

In the face of this mass freakout, Casady's normal stoic internal equilibrium somehow reasserted. Taking an executive decision, he replotted Electric Airlines Flight 1729's destination on the fly, to 710 Ashbury.  He clutched, refired the engine after only the barest balk, gingerly ground worn square-cut gears into bull low, then reclutched and caught second gear much more smoothly.

Further accelerated and swayed into the night, the unbalanced gales of laughter and the galaxies of manic lights that sparkled and flashed behind its windows irising out as if they were some insane telephoto B-roll, shot straight down the Las Vegas Strip, slow-fading to black before the jump cut.

"Goddam hoopies," observed a glum plump middle-aged salesman from beneath his crumpled, square-planted Panama hat. His wide ass was parked on the warm, even wider hood of his tan '59 Biscayne. The high-mileage company Chevy sat, like him, stalled, askew and steaming a little, on the grass shoulder.

From  the middle darkness, an owl hooted a faint "chick-a-doo". The salesman took it as agreement.