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"C'mon, pick up, pick up . . . Tony? Tony! Oh, great, you're home! Oh, man, oh man, Tony, this has been, I mean, what a fucked up day! Everything went crazy! Big Brown, the gas pedal, you know, it stuck, and I couldn't . . .Yeah, I'm OK, but Big Brown went off the road, and . . . no, I didn't crash, just, the car's a little muddy, but then these bikers . . . yeah, BIKERS, man! Shit! Tony, I was so scared, but they were cool, and they helped me, and then, I'm driving, you know, to my interview, and I'm SO fucking stoned, man! What? Oh, the bikers got me high . . . no, no, that was cool, but now I'm totally wrecked, and I'm driving on that crazy Route 1, and . . . oh, shit, I'll tell you the whole thing later. But, Tony, I'm kinda scared about driving back. I mean, what if the pedal sticks again? Yeah, but . . . wha? You'll come GET me? Really? But how . . . ? Kevin can drive you up? And you'll drive Big Brown back? Oh, Tony, you're the best. But now what? OK. Princeton, yeah. Downtown? Yeah, I think I can find it. So I'll just get something to eat, but then where do we meet? Princeton Record Exchange? How do I find it? Yeah, uh huh, just off Nassau Street . . . About two hours? So hurry up, OK? All right. And, Tony? You're awesome, I mean it. Yeah. Bye."

Good old Tony.

Bubbles drains the last swallow in the glass and leans back in the vinyl booth. The ferocious buzz of the biker's evil weed has dissipated, replaced by the familiar, friendlier buzz of a draft beer. The dinner of a fish sandwich and fries had been unexceptional, but had hit the spot. With her elbows on the table, she puts a tooth pick in the corner of her mouth and lets her eyes wander the basement restaurant and bar. Though you could no longer enjoy a cigarette here, decades of smoke had left a deep amber patina covering everything: photographs, paintings, college memorabilia and even a stuffed sailfish. The whole place had been aged in nicotine.

Princeton students in orange and black, backpacks slung at their feet, stood around at the bar. Had her mother hung out here in her undergrad days? She couldn't remember her mentioning the place. She tried to imagine her mother sitting at the bar, with that asymmetrical 80's haircut, talking to . . . her father? Had he been a student too?

Bubbles had been to the university before. She and her mother had gone to reunions a couple of times, when she was eight, or nine, maybe ten. Of course, Bubbles was sure she too, would become a Princeton student, imagining herself walking with her books through the storied halls, talking and laughing with Biff and Binny and the rest of the prep school trust fund kiddies. Cable knit sweaters casually knotted around their necks, they would talk of summers in Switzerland. All of them, with pink ears and cheeks, tiny little features topped with straight blond hair.

"You like anything else, Miss?"

Bubbles stirs from her snarky reverie.

"Uh, no thanks, just the check, please."

Dropping some cash on the table, Bubbles heads for the stairs that lead up to the street. Her long legs flying, she bounds up the steps, taking two at a time. Squinting in the glare of the last rays of the late afternoon, she lights up a smoke. Tree blossoms blow around her like cinematic snow, flashing in the waning sunlight. Checking her watch, she's got about forty minutes until Tony and Kevin arrive. She considers a walk around campus, but decides to go the Record Exchange and wait for them there.

Striding through the door, she is surprised at the size of the place. Busy, too. Along the right is a long raised counter, with the clerks patrolling like battlement guards. Their contempt for the customers—musical philistines all—is palpable. Some kind of noisy, abstract doom-rock blares, a lugubrious British monotone occasionally rising from the murk. Record geeks shuffle around, armfuls of vinyl records and CDs, glazed looks on their pasty faces. Making her way past the rock and roll section, Bubbles finds her way past the blues and folk, locating the jazz towards the back of the store. She works her way past the rows of asses hanging out in the aisle, guys on their knees, rooting through the ninety-nine cent LPs in boxes under the raised racks. Finding the "D's", she scans down to find Miles Davis. Whoa. There must be a hundred of his CDs here! She flips through the overwhelming number of titles, stopping at intriguing covers: Miles in a sharp suit, Miles with space goggle-sunglasses, Miles in a big pimp hat . . . then she stumbles across one of those old, chunky two-disk jewel boxes, with a bizarre painting of a beautiful seaside city framed in gold, surrounded by earth, water, and fire. Agharta! Excitedly, she jumps back from the rack and blunders right into one of the guys hunkered down over the ninety-nine cent LPs, sending his head into the wall behind the racks.

"Ooh! Ooh! I'm so sorry! Are you OK?"

Bubbles reaches down and grabs the poor guy's arm to help him to his feet, succeeding in encouraging his head to bash into the underside of the record rack above him.

"Ow! No, don't help! Ow! Shit! I'm alright!"

"It was m, m, my fault, I . . . Holy Shit! . . . SULLY!?!"

"Bubbles? Bubbles! What the fuck are you doing here?"


 

Bubbles Meets the Prince of Darkness
International Assholes' Day
Bubbles Runs the Voodoo Down
Bubbles Takes a Magic Carpet Ride
Big Brown lets Bubbles Down
Bubbles, Baked and Fried
Bubbles, Biff and Binny
Bubbles and the 99 cent Epiphany
Bubbles' Trip To See the Doctor
The Doctor and the Prince of Darkness Meet Again
The Doctor and the Naked Glory
More Troubles for Bubbles
What a Lame Vacation
Cristo Redentor

In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive. In Careless Act, 17 Drown, 3 Survive.

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