Snake Oil Rights by Ken Poyner
- 1 -
I love driving this type of country. The rolling hills. The houses set way off, with porches pushed protectively out in front and continued welcomingly along the side. Grassland mostly, wheat and corn and hay, spotted now and again with a favored tree. Little road signs that point down two-lane intersections saying that whatever-name bluff is two miles that way, and implying that, if you go there, you will know it from the fact that the three houses there are closer to the road than the houses you now pass here, one or two stranded in every half mile.
The grade is not so steep that I really hear the rig labor as we go up, and on the way down I can coast without needing to hear the break kick in. The rise and drop is never long enough for there to be a complete loss of momentum going up, or a surly exchange with gravity going down. You know you have been up, and you know you have been down, and that is about it. The autopilot doesn’t even think of warning you.
My companion in the side seat crosses her omnivorously smooth legs, slyly. The thunder of her spiked heel nearly touches the floorboard as one blue sensuous snake of a thigh slithers carefully over the other, the lip of her mini-dress folding just a little back. I turn to look over the whole of her, and it takes commitment to this trip’s firm schedule not to stop the truck and move into the back for just a bit of rumpus. But I need to make the next little hamlet within an hour, and I know what this woman can do. I designed her. I even designed the clothes. She was one of my early models and, even though I have moved on at times, I come back to this set of attributes, this collection of abilities. I am particularly proud of the swept back ears. I get a lot of comments from people about that. Sure, everyone remembers to make the eyes more of a slit, and angle them slightly up. But to continue that angle with the ears and slip them back behind the plane of the neck: now that was pure genius on my part. Too many have tinkered with the basic human form and come up with a freak no one wants about the house; but I know just where to stop, and those ears are a thing of beauty.
I need to get to wherever this place is that has been for too long expecting me. I am the new novelty, straight from the complicated cities and now out in the hinterlands. Even in small little farming communities, where people have to come in from thirty miles out just to do a day’s shopping, they are seeing progress these days. No matter how badly they want to do it, yokels cannot stay yokels. If they try, their own children abandon them. I am bringing progress, modernity, the life they see on their quaint hand-held view screens: so, like or not, they had better at least be curious about it.
She uncrosses her legs and simulates a sigh, and I want to stop: I really, really do. I think a moment about trusting everything to the autopilot. But if I hit one stray cow, we have one glitch in the rig’s auto-driver, and I lose more time than I can make up. There are sales to make. And time is a limit I cannot yet move.
- 2 -
When we get into town, I drive right up to the square all these little towns seem to have stranded somewhere around dead center, and park the truck long-ways across it. There is some monument to the people lost in the last contagion, and a marker about the designer of the Hamper-d process for storing re-assigned plant fiber, and it all looks perfectly normal and forgettable and I have long ago stopped looking for distinguishing factors. I am in town. As opposed to out. I look around like a man who could use a bit of water after a good ride, my steed purring proudly in the seat next to me.
Then I am out to let Bumpers loose. First few times that I set up in one of these one-sewage-plant towns, I made Bumpers part of the show. But I later found it best to have him ready to go. There is so much he has to do. If I generate him as part of the sales pitch, first I have to do about a third of all the set up myself just to get ready to fabricate him. Then I have all the potential franchisees straining in the front row and Bumpers and I racing about trying to get the rest of the hoses screwed into place and the collectors set up; all the while with Lucinda here parading back and forth as a ball of blue ecstasy, and if I am not ready to throw her to the wickedly worked up crowd, I have to work fast. And there is always time. Time snarling and nipping at me, and my day’s work bound up like a savage bureaucracy in time’s seedy in-box.
The Avatar Self
Boomtown Guide for the Perplexed
Snake Oil Rights
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