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Hit Men

Lynn Coffey ( Journalist): The poet Oscar Wilde wrote, “Each man kills the thing he loves…” Each man except the smart ones. The ones who don’t want to serve time in prison, the smart men used to hire Karl Waxman.
Tina Something ( Party Crasher): How’d I know what Wax was up to? I couldn’t know. The first night he Tag Teamed me, that Honeymoon Night when Echo ditched me, Wax pulled over to the curb in a Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT. Painted dark red, Bordeaux Pontevecchio. Rosewood panels in the dash. The headliner is sewed out of Alcantara suede, and the heated seats actually give your butt muscles a constant Swedish massage.

Wax buzzed down the electric window on my side. I’m still standing on the curb in my pink bridesmaid gown, and Wax waves something floppy and white at me. That’s how Wax introduced himself.
“Before you touch anything, baby,” he tells me, “you put on these.”
It’s latex gloves.
Lynn Coffey: It’s tragic. Young people seldom purchase these exotic sports cars, certainly not professional basketball or football players. They could never fit in the bucket seats. No, almost all such cars go to older-middle-aged or elderly men who seldom drive them. These Maseratis and Ferraris and Lamborghinis sit garaged for years, like lonely mistresses, hidden from direct sunlight.
Jarrell Moore ( Private Investigator): As per my investigation, nobody’s 100-percent sure who runs Party Crashing, but it can’t be any single individual. That guy would have to keep track of fouls for every player. Anybody calls three fouls on you inside of two months, and you stop getting notified about the next game. Fouls include tagging too hard—figure the impact by the speed of each vehicle. Anything totaling more than twenty miles per hour is a foul. If I’m driving ten, and you’re driving eleven, and you swerve to hit me head-on, that’s an impact over twenty. I can call the foul on you.
Excess impact is only one foul to call.
Tina Something: Wax could tell you details the gaddamn owners never could. All types of convertibles: the Fiat Spyder, the Maserati Spyder, and the Ferrari Spyder, they’re all named after some kind of seventeenth-century horse-drawn coach. With no top and high wheels, this black olden-days carriage looked like a spider.
Wax could work the steering-wheel paddles to shift a Formula I or Cambiocorsa trannie. He saw how Jaguar Racing Green shows up a half-shade lighter than British Racing Green. When you open the door of a Maserati, and only a Maserati, you hear a faint, high-pitched whine…Wax could tell you that was the hydraulic trannie pressurizing.
“Nice,” Wax would say, gunning the V8 of a Jaguar XJR, painted Winter Gold. Flexing his fingers, he’d say, “They sprung for the heated steering wheel…” Then he’d drop the J-gate trannie into second gear and butt-ram some rusty Subaru wagon.
Lynn Coffey: In Party Crash culture, Karl Waxman was known as a “Hit Man.” A species of paid assassin.
Shot Dunyun ( Party Crasher): Me, my focus is providing the music for a perfect night of Party Crashing. But, no bullshit, I’d love to be a Hit Man. A night a while back, I watched some Hit Man scrape every inch of paint off the body of a half-million-dollar Saleen S7. A car with three and one-half inches of ground clearance, and the driver raced it off-road. That’s beyond sadistic.
Lynn Coffey: That people hired a Hit Man demonstrated their love for a particular vehicle. An owner might want a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud or Silver Shadow destroyed, but said owner could never, by his own hand, defile such a beautiful automobile.
Tina Something: One point, a Jaguar X-Type, Wax says, “Can you believe this?” He slams the heel of one hand, bam, on the leather steering wheel, saying, “Can you fucking believe this tightwad! Cheaped out and settled for the Tobago wheels, not the Proteus, not even the Cayman wheels.” Nailing the gas, Wax popped the right front wheel up on the sidewalk, just long enough to flatten one of those steel-plate mailboxes, exploding sparks and paint chips and white envelopes, before the wheel thuds into the gutter, the speedo never needling below forty.
Lynn Coffey: Among other things, Waxman would accept payment for disposing of luxury cars. Typically, cars about to be lost in a messy divorce decree. Or vehicles the owner could no longer afford to make payments on. Or simply insurance fraud. Or spite.
A certain go-between would pass Waxman the keys and an envelope of cash, typically two or three hundred dollars, then tell Waxman where to find the vehicle. The owner would leave town, establishing an alibi for the two or three days during which Waxman might joyride. By the time the owner returned to report the vehicle stolen, Waxman would’ve ditched it somewhere it wouldn’t be found.
Shot Dunyun: No bullshit, but I’ve watched people stop in the middle of a funeral, the dead body smiling there in the casket, the old ladies sobbing, and people stop to change the music. Mozart instead of Schumann. Music is crucial.
Beyond no way can I overstress this fact.
Let’s say you’re southbound on the interstate, cruising along in the middle lane, listening to AM radio. Up alongside comes a tractor trailer of logs or concrete pipe, a tie-down strap breaks, and the load dumps on top of your little sheetmetal ride. Crushed under a world of concrete, you’re sandwiched like so much meat salad between layers of steel and glass. In that last, fast flutter of your eyelids, you looking down that long tunnel toward the bright God Light and your dead grandma walking up to hug you—do you want to be hearing another radio commercial for a mega, clearance, close-out, blow-out liquidation car-stereo sale?
Tina Something: Another point, could be our third date, a Dodge Viper, Wax got going about how his clients always wash and wax the car, detailing every inch, before they turn over the cash and keys. “It’s like watching those actresses,” he tells me, “those women who get their hair done, colored and curled, and their fingernails manicured and their legs shaved smooth and tanned, all that fuss just to appear in a gang-bang porn video.”
Wax steered that Viper down a flight of those concrete stairs in the park, leaving a long trail of our exhaust system and suspension, saying, “Baby, I could just cry over those perfect manicured fingernails if they weren’t so fucking stupid.”
Shot Dunyun: No bullshit. If your car skids into oncoming traffic, and you die listening to The Archies sing “Sugar Sugar,” it’s your own damn laziness.
Lynn Coffey: Certain Party Crashers you could tell were Hit Men or Hit Women. If their vehicle was always pristine—even a Chevette or a Pinto, always showroom perfect and polished. If their decoration was minimal, nothing except the basic flag. And if they readily drove over curbs, sideswiped concrete traffic barriers. From that you could deduce their wheels had been someone’s dream gone awry. A lovely mistress or trophy the owner didn’t want another person to ever own.
Jarrell Moore: Other fouls you can call include tagging off-limits areas of the target. No T-boning—that’s a head-on impact against the side of your target. No angling to ram anywhere on the sidewalls between the front and rear axles.
Tina Something: For Rant and Wax, it irked them both that ancient mountains and forests were being sliced up to provide affordable granite countertops in tract houses, or Peruvian-rosewood dash panels in luxury cars no one would drive.
At some point, Wax mentioned how appalling it seemed that those brilliant minds who could invent miracle medicines and nuclear fission and dazzling computer special effects, they had such a complete lack of imagination when it came to spending their money: granite countertops and luxury cars. Talking about that stuff, Wax driving, the madder he got, you could watch the speedo creep up past eighty, ninety, a hundred.
Lynn Coffey: With Hit Men, perhaps with all Party Crashers, we’re describing a self-directed road rage.
Certain men may claim to adore women; they’ll marry a dozen times, then drive each wife to suicide with abuse. Karl Waxman felt that same way about those stolen luxury automobiles. He loved to speed along at seventy, all those jealous eyes turning to follow him, but he resented the fact he needed a Jaguar or a BMW to gain such recognition. That the automobile didn’t even belong to him was the ultimate insult. The supreme manifestation of all his self-perceived shortcomings.
Shot Dunyun: No bullshit, but I never leave the house without a mix for anything: Falling in love. Witnessing a death. Disappointment. Impatience. Traffic. I carry a mix for any human condition. Anything really good or bad happens to me, and my way to not overreact—like, to distance my emotions—is to locate the exact perfect sound track for that moment. Even the night Rant died, my automatic first thought was: Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto II, or Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major…?
Jarrell Moore: The way I figure it, the head individual in Party Crashing would have to tally fouls. Plus, keep track of teams by their license plate. Plus, name the flag and window for each game. Yeah, and notify all the players about upcoming events. If that’s only one guy, it’s a safe bet he’s pretty damn busy, and not just some thug. He’d need to be pretty damn bright.
Tina Something: Didn’t matter was it a Lexus or a Rolls-Royce, at the finish of every Party Crash date, Wax and me ended up at the top of the Madison Street boat ramp, the place where the ramp’s angled, steep, into deep water. Trailed behind us, cotter pins and U-joint needle bearings, crankcase oil, brake fluid, and maybe slivers of carbon fiber. And smoke, gaddamn fog banks of black or blue smoke. Our drivetrain barely still functional.
I’d climb out and watch while Wax shifted down to first gear. With the engine still running, some nights, if nobody was around, he’d press the panic button on the alarm. What a gaddamn noise. The sirens and whatever lights we hadn’t already busted, they’d be flashing on and off. With the Mercedes or Lamborghini still flashing and screaming, Wax would step out and slam the door shut. The car already rolling down the boat ramp, nose-first, into the black water. Like watching an ocean liner sink. The Titanic. White and amber lights, horn blaring, even as the car settled deeper, under water, that trashed relic of somebody’s dream would keep wailing, flaring, fainter and fading, until it settled onto some secret mountain of wrecked dreams—Jaguars and Saleens and Corvettes—that people had hired Wax to murder.

The City

Todd Rutz ( Coin Dealer): The kid who died. The kid comes in with a sweat sock tied in a knot, starts undoing the knot with his teeth. Nothing inside that old yellow sock should be worth my time to look. My permit says I can stay open four hours past the night curfew, long as I don’t leave the shop. Past curfew, I lock the door, and anybody comes I buzz them inside. This kid with the dirty sock, I almost didn’t buzz him. You can never tell with Nighttimers.

But even I can tell, this kid’s a convert. His suntan he hasn’t even lost yet. So I took a chance I’d make some money. Look at New Orleans, 1982, some bulldozer doing construction work downtown at lunchtime, businesspeople walking around dressed in three-piece suits. The dozer scrapes the dirt and busts open three wood cases of buried 1840-O Liberty Seated quarters. Not gold, mind you, but coins worth in the range of two to four grand apiece. Those bankers and lawyers wearing suits and dresses, they jumped into the mud and wrestled each other. Biting and kicking each other for a handful of those Gobrecht quarter-dollars.
My point being, you just never know where a hoard of treasure will surface.
Edith Steele ( Human Resources Director): We interviewed Mr. Casey for a position as a nighttime landscape-maintenance specialist. He was referred to our firm through the I-SEE-U labor help line. On the occasion of his third failure to arrive for work, claiming his fifth injury due to a non-work-related traffic accident, Mr. Casey was removed from our payroll.
Todd Rutz: The Baltimore Find of 1934, two little boys were goofing around in the basement of a rented house and they discover a hole in the wall. On August 31, 1934, they pulled 3,558 gold coins out of that hole, all of them pre-1857. At 132 South Eden Street in Baltimore, Maryland. A fair number of those coins, we’re talking “gem condition.” At the very least, perfect uncirculated or choice uncirculated.
Lew Terry ( Property Manager): If it was up to me, I’d never even rent to Nighttrippers—those Daytimer kids who switch over. It’s just to irk their parents, they convert. Those delinquents feel compelled to live into every negative stereotype they have about Nighttime culture—loud music and boosting drug highs—but the housing statute says a minimum of 10 percent of your units you have to make available to converts. Casey moved in with nothing, maybe one suitcase, into Unit 3-E. You could go look, only the door’s still sealed with police tape.
Todd Rutz: The kid with the sock, he’s chewing at the knot with his teeth, and inside the toe you can hear coins clinking together. My point being, that sound makes me glad I buzzed the kid inside. I can tell the sound of silver from copper and nickel. Running my shop so long, I can hear coins rattle and tell you if they’re twenty-two-or twenty-four-karat gold. Just from the sound I hear, I’d chew on that stinking, dirty sock with my own teeth.
Jeff Pleat ( Human Resources Director): According to our records, we engaged Buster Casey for two weeks in the capacity of dishwasher. By apparent coincidence, during the brief span of his employment with us, some sixteen dinner guests encountered foreign objects in their food. These ranged from steel paper clips to a buffalo nickel dated 1923.
Todd Rutz: The kid slides an arm inside the sock, all the way up to his skinny elbow, and he drags out a fistful of…we’re talking impossible coins. It wouldn’t matter how bad they smell. A 1933 gold twenty-dollar in gem condition. A 1933 gold ten-dollar, uncirculated. An 1879 four-dollar piece, the Liberty with the coiled hair, near-gem condition.
Jarrell Moore ( Private Investigator): My statement for the record is, Buster Landru Casey, aka “Rant” Casey, did contact me via the telephone and did arrange an appointment to discuss my services toward locating a missing biological father. At that time, I informed the potential client that my base fee was one thousand dollars per week, plus expenses. Said potential client assured me the expense would not be an issue.
Brenda Jordan ( Childhood Friend): If you promise not to tell, another thing Rant Casey told me was that the old man who showed him about the coins, the stranger who drove up the road from nowheres, said he was Rant’s long-lost, for-real pa from the city.
Todd Rutz: Dealing with a kid like that, believe me, I looked for obvious counterfeits: any 1928-D Liberty Walking silver dollars. Any 1905-S gold Quarter Eagles. Blatant fakes. An 1804 silver dollar or Lafayette dollar. I put a Confederate 1861-O half-dollar under a lens and look for coralline structures and saltwater etching, “shipwreck effects” that might tell me more than the kid’s letting on. I check for microscopic granularity that might come from sea-bottom sand.
We’re talking coins that haven’t been whizzed and slabbed. Raw coins. Some with nothing except bag marks.
Allfred Lynch ( Exterminator): Vermin control is not your chosen field for most, but Rant Casey took to it like a roach to cat food. The kid would crawl under houses, into attics, didn’t matter if the job was vampire bats. Snakes, bats, rats, cockroaches, poison spiders—none of it made Rant Casey break a sweat.
Funny thing, but his physical exam came back positive for rabies. No drugs or nothing, but he had rabies. The clinic took care of it and updated his tetanus booster.
Todd Rutz: Believe me, I was only pretending to check the blue-book values. I tell him, the Barber Liberty Head half-dollar he’s got, the 1892-O, when Charles E. Barber first minted it, newspaper editors wrote that the eagle looked starved to death. The head of Liberty looked like “the ignoble Emperor Vitellius with a goiter.” While I’m feeding the kid my line, really I’m going over the stolen-property bulletins for the past year.
The kid’s looking out my front window. He’s shaking the sock to jiggle the coins still inside. He says his grandmother died and left these to him. Offers that as the only pedigree for his collection.
Allfred Lynch: Only single problem I ever had with Rant Casey was, every month or so we do random lunchbox checks. As the guys are headed home, we ask to look inside their lunchboxes. Our guys are alone in people’s homes, sometimes with jewelry and valuables sitting around. A random check keeps everybody in line.
Never found Rant stealing diamonds, but once we popped open his lunchbox and the insides was crawling with spiders. Black widow spiders he’s supposed to been killing that day. Rant says it’s by accident, and I trust him.
I mean, who’d smuggle home a nest of poison spiders?
Todd Rutz: The deal ended up, I paid the kid fifteen thousand out of petty cash. Gave him every bill I kept in the safe. Fifteen grand for the 1933 gold twenty, the 1933 gold ten, and the 1879 four-dollar piece.
When I ask his name, the kid has to think, look around at the floor and ceiling, before he tells me, “I ain’t decided yet.”
Believe me, it didn’t matter if he lied. Didn’t matter that he refused anything except cash payment. Or that the kid’s teeth he used to untie the sock, his teeth are stained black. Jet-black teeth.
My point being, just that 1933 gold Saint Gaudens Double Eagle, that’s an eight-million-dollar coin.

Student Driver

Shot Dunyun ( Party Crasher): One Student Driver Night, Rant asked Green Taylor Simms to take a picture, a photo of Rant standing next to me. Rant handed Green one of those throwaway paper cameras, and, holding one hand stiff, chopping at his own knees, he goes to Green, “From here up.”
Green drove his car that night, his big Daimler, and we’d pit-stopped at a drive-in for something to eat. Rant stands next to me, reaches an arm around my shoulder. He fingers the knob of my port, where it comes out between the Atlas and the Axial at the back of my skull, and Rant goes, “What’s this like?”

He tells me how, because of rabies, his port won’t boost. His fingers still pushing, rubbing the skin around mine. His fingers warm, as if he’s been holding a cup of coffee. Fever-warm. Hot.
A port is like having an extra nose, I tell him, only on the back of your neck. Only not just a nose, but eyes and a tongue and ears, five extra ways to see. Sometimes, I say, it’s bullshit. You’re supposed to control a port, but sometimes you get a whole-body hunger for a Coke or potato chips, stuff you’d never eat, so you know the corporate world must broadcast peaks or effects that enter the port even when it’s unplugged.
Green’s standing, leaning against the driver’s door of his car, holding the camera to his face, going, “Tell me when.” Cars drive past, behind him, some cars with “Student Driver” signs. Some Party Crash teams, slowing to see if we’re flying a flag.
Rant cups the back of my neck in his hand, going, “Now.”
For example, tonight, I wasn’t hungry until we drove past this fast-food place. My drool, it’s real. But the bacon-cheeseburger taste in my mouth is a boosted effect.
Green Taylor Simms goes, “Say ‘cheeseburger.’”
And, Rant’s hand gripping my neck, he twists my face toward him and plants his mouth over mine. When the camera flashes, Rant’s other hand is dug between my legs, spread and thumbing between the buttons of my fly.
The crazy asshole. His tongue hot in my mouth, his saliva on my lips, fast as spit can transfer rabies. The camera flash comes twice before I push Rant Casey away, and he goes, “Thanks, man.” He takes the paper camera from Green and says, “My dad won’t believe I bagged me such a good-looking boyfriend.”
How bullshit is that?
And me, I’m just spitting and spitting. The hot taste of cheese and bacon and rabies. Spitting and spitting.
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic Reports: Bad news for those of you westbound on the 213 Freeway: A four-door hardtop has sideswiped the inside divider and flipped, trapping the driver and one passenger inside. The ambulance boys say the driver is a thirty-five-year-old male, losing blood from a compound fracture of his femur; his pulse is weak, and his blood pressure is falling rapidly. His current prognosis is cardiac arrest due to exsanguination, with another update on the quarter-hour. This is the DRVR Graphic Traffic Report: We Know Why You Rubberneck…
Shot Dunyun: On Student Driver Nights, the flag is one of those signs that warn: “Caution—Student Driver at the Wheel.” You have to make two good-size signs and wire one between your taillights, across the back of your trunk and rear bumper. You wire the second sign across the front of your hood, but so it won’t block ram air into your radiator. Beginners, teams that expect too much from their viscous fan clutch and coolant pump, they’ll make a sign that blocks the whole grille, and you’ll see them overheated at the side of the road.
Echo Lawrence ( Party Crasher): Party Crash rules require all the teams use some form of “Ajax Professional Driving School” sign since a few seasons ago a real student driver wandered into the course, during the window. That guy’s a legend. The poor student, the story goes, six different teams serial-tagged his car, chased him for blocks, gang-banging his rear bumper until his muffler dropped. People say the student and the instructor just bailed, drove up onto a curb and left the front doors hanging open and the motor running.
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic Reports: Here’s another update regarding that rollover accident on the 213. Driver extrication continues, but we’re already looking at signs of a cerebral subarachnoid hemorrhage and pneumocephalus caused by the driver’s forehead contacting the windshield-mounted rearview mirror. That’s all there is to see on the westbound side. We’ll have another update on the quarter-hour. This is the DRVR Graphic Traffic Report: We Know Why You Rubberneck…
Shot Dunyun: Party Crashing might sound exciting, but most of it consisted of sitting, talking, and driving in circles. Cruising around, watching for another car flying the correct flag for that time window. The flag announced on the phone call or e-mail or instant message that went around. Some windows, you’d see a team without a clue, dressed for a Honeymoon Night with wedding shit on their car. Or you’d see a team wearing the wigs and driving a car painted with “Go Team” shit, perfect for a Soccer Mom Night. If your flag is wrong, you look like assholes. Or worse.
Teams with the wrong flag up, people say they’re police trying to break the game. Or they’re teams that tagged too hard, rammed other cars in the side or some other verboten spot. You commit enough fouls and people start to call the Party Crash Hotline and report you. Enough fouls go on your tally and you stop getting notices about the next flag and window.
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic Reports: Here’s a quick look at the rollover on the 213. The meat-wagon boys tell me the driver exhibits bursting lacerations of the pericardium—that tough little bag that holds your heart. Early word is, localized impact appears to have driven the heart against the vertebral column, resulting in a contusion of the posterior wall of the interventricular septum. Dead means dead, and drive time means an update every ten minutes. This is the DRVR Graphic Traffic Report: We Know Why You Rubberneck…
Shot Dunyun: That Student Driver Night, I’m riding shotgun, with Rant covering the backseat. The field looks pretty thin. With my window rolled down, I’m spitting outside, telling Rant, “Even if you give me rabies, I’m not your butt boy.” I spit and say, “Especially if you give me rabies.”
Normally, Rant smells like a glass of clean water, but not tonight. Every place he touched me, I smell gasoline. “What’s that stink?” I ask him.
And Rant goes, “Dimethylcyclopropanecarboxylic acid.” He’s turned around, watching our five o’clock, out the rear window. Rant says, “Supposed to kill spiders.”
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic Reports: This just in from the 213: Further treatment of the driver reveals a lateral compression fracture of his right femur, resulting in lateral fractures of the pelvic rami, disruption of the sacroiliac joints with impaction, and fractures of the acetabulum. For those of you on the North Side, the northbound exit from the 614 to the eastbound Helmsberg Freeway is slow, due to a Student Driver stalled on the right shoulder. For Graphic Traffic, this is Tina Something.
Shot Dunyun: Green’s lurking us behind a student driver, trailing, weaving through traffic for a better angle, hoping to split the target onto a side street where a solid tag won’t soak up too much attention. Maybe police attention. Green’s keeping a van, a taxi, a bus—anything big and bright—between us, so the target won’t see our flag flying.
Watching for Sharks, I ask Rant if he’s looking for a boyfriend.
And Rant goes, “Nah.” He’d screw a German shepherd, Rant says, if it would make his folks love him less. Save them from pain.
“Part of my strategying,” Rant goes, his head turning to cover two quadrants, our three to nine o’clock. “The worse my folks think of me,” he says, “the less they’ll hurt about me being gone.”
The bus driving next to us, it brakes, drops back for a stop. We’re exposed for the time it takes Green to say, “Gentlemen, brace yourselves,” and the Left B-Pillar Lookout in our target is staring back, straight at our flag.
The target dives around the next right turn, down a dark lane of parked cars, and Green throws us past the bus in pursuit. Two student drivers, leaving rubber and smoke.
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic Reports: This update just in from the meat wagon, en route with our earlier 213 rollover: We won’t know for sure until the autopsy, but it looks like another minor laceration of the proximal jejunum with communication with the peritoneal cavity. Inside word is, just two thousand milliliters of purulent material leaks into your peritoneal cavity and the ambulance driver shuts off those sirens and fancy lights. Somethingelse to keep in mind as you hurry through your commute today.
Shot Dunyun: Our target’s cruising slow, too close to parked cars for us to make our tag without costly collateral damage. Putting a dent in a game car is fair, but denting an innocent bystander, you have to fess up. Pay for repairs. Our target banks on this fact and tucks close beside parked cars, staying safe until he can lose us around a quick exit. An alley. Ora cop.
Keeping an eye on my game quadrant, I ask Rant if he’s queer or not.
That’s the night Green Taylor Simms started calling him Huckleberry Fagg.
And Rant goes, “Truth is, I won’t never be a doctor. Don’t even ask me to do long division.” He goes, “I can’t do much to make my folks proud…” And he leans forward, reaching into the front seat to turn up the radio. Tina’s yakking. Her taking calls from paramedics and traffic cops and pasting together her rubberneck deal.
“But,” Rant goes, “if I get my folks’ expectations low, and pester them with the worry they messed me up, then just the simple miracle of me getting a girl in trouble—that will bust them open with joy and relief.”
From DRVR Radio Graphic Traffic Reports: One last report from the boys in the meat wagon, regarding the fatality rollover on the 213: The song they died hearing was “My Sharona” by The Knack. And that makes Brian Lambson our newest Death Song winner. Brian, if you’re listening, call in the next hour to accept your prize. This has been Tina Something for Graphic Traffic: We Know Why You Rubberneck…
Shot Dunyun: As Rant reaches into the front seat, to fiddle with the radio controls, written on the back of his hand in blue ballpoint pen it says: P295/30 R22…P285/30 R22…425/65 R22.5. Obviously tire sizes. Big tires.
Nodding at the blue numbers, I ask him, “Been car-shopping?”
And Rant goes, “How good do you know Echo?” He sits back.
Good enough, I tell him. Pretty good.
Green Taylor Simms feathers the gas pedal, patient. The target car almost touching-close. Almost brushing the line of parked cars. Our two cars moving first-gear slow. The smell of insecticide. The flavor of rabies.
And Rant goes, “Figured maybe I’d get her a present…”
Echo is off, working, tonight. Doing some bullshit I don’t want to explain here. Complicated shit.
Rant goes, “Really truly with her whole entire heart, does Echo hate somebody?”
I go, doesn’t Rant mean “love”?
And Rant shrugs and says, “Ain’t it the same thing?”


From the Field Notes of Green Taylor Simms ( Historian): For sheer spectacle, the peak of Party Crash culture had to be Tree Nights. The idea, as always, was to choose a flag that the unaware public could dismiss as ordinary, normal—or, at worst, an accident.
Among the accident type of flags were coffee cups and sack lunches. Crash teams utilized these flags on Ooops Nights: For example, during an Ooops “Coffee” game, participants indicated they were in the game by bolting or gluing a large travel mug to the roof of their vehicle. The actual coffee was optional. In the event of an Ooops “Brown Bag” game, teams glued a brown-bag “lunch” to their roof. To the general public, these flags occurred as silly accidents, and unaware drivers might pull alongside laughing and pointing, attempting to get the driver’s attention and help resolve the misplaced item.

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