Well, I tried to go to work today: Dosed myself heavily with antihistamines and aspirin, guzzled water and focused on plowing through the papers on my desk so maybe I would forget that I had a pounding headache and felt like somebody spent all night working me over with a tenderizing mallet. I managed to hang on until ten-thirty when I finished up the last of the letters I had to write and was looking around for something else to do. All the energy I’d managed to sustain up to that point drained out of me. It was all I could do not to slump into my chair and take a nap.
I finished my hot cuppa, put away the files and other paperwork that were on my desk, called a cab and went home. Then I slumped in a chair and napped the afternoon away.
I had to walk up to the Willy Street Co-op to get some money for the cab. They have an ATM for the credit union we belong to and maybe the only public telephone for ten blocks in any direction. Naturally, the ATM was down, so I had to double back to Lazy Jane’s to use their ATM before I went back to the co-op to call a cab.
The cabbie was a woman about my age who confirmed my address, then went silent as she made her way out of the parking lot and into the street. I was halfway through the first story above the fold of the newspaper I was carrying when the cabbie asked if I knew when construction on Willy Street was supposed to finish up.
“Mid-October, I think,” I answered. “The merchants along the street are going to throw a big party.”
Several blocks go by. I start to read the newspaper again, get through maybe another two paragraphs before she makes a remark to the effect of, “I’ll bet they’ll be glad when it’s over.”
“Yeah,” I agree, “I’ll bet you will, too, eh?”
She chuckles a bit at that.
She crosses over the Yahara River, through the neighborhood to Atwood Avenue and turns east toward Monona. We’re passing Olin Park and actually heading into Monona when she asks, “So, where do you work?”
I’m not against small talk, but this is the most stilted conversation I’ve ever had. “I work for the state,” I tell her. “I license business professionals.”
After a pause that’s exactly long enough to be too long, she asks, “Do you like it?”
“Sure, I like it,” I answer her, and start counting, One-thousand one, one-thousand two…. to find out just how long too long is, exactly. In a cab on the way to Monona it’s about ten or twelve seconds.
“Got the day off today?”
“No, I’ve been sick all week. I went in for the morning to clear up some work.”
… one-thousand eight, one-thousand nine …
“Sorry to hear that.”
At this point in the conversation we’re about halfway down Monona Drive, so it’s my turn to lead. “You know where Sylvan Lane is?”
“Sylvan Lane …” … one-thousand one, one-thousand two … “… it’s off Frostwoods Avenue.”
Holy shit! Did you just google that in your head? I almost, but not quite, asked her. Are you a freaking cyborg googling my house on google maps?
Luckily for me we were only a minute or so from my house by then, so she didn’t have time to pick another awkward conversation starter from the pull-down menu on her robo-eyes like Arnie the Terminator. I paid her with a twenty, told her to keep the change and jumped out of the cab as she told me to “Have a nice day,” like a good android.
As she backed out of the driveway, I realized I didn’t have a set of housekeys in my pocket. Maybe the cyborg cabbie could have picked the lock or cut the door open with her laser vision, but it was too late. I had to figure out how to break into my house on my own.