Downtown

So at the end of the week I shut down my left brain, got charged, and told 

anyone who would listen that I was going Downtown. 

“And who is it that’s supposed to care?” the Group Average said. 

“Certainly not you,” I said, pulling on my weekend skin. GA and I used to be featured, and they still held it against me. 

“What you gonna do down there?” the Duck asked. The Duck was puny and naïve. 

“Tell me something I ain’t gonna do,” I shot back. 

Well, that seemed to intrigue the Duck. “Can I come, too?” 

“It’s a free domain,” I said. “Long as you got your own charge.” 

We left the Group by the lockers and walked out of there. The sun was dying and on the horizon the murder trees were stirred by the offshore breeze. We walked up to the transit stop, plugged in, bought a couple of passages, and stood on the platform in the sultry evening waiting for the slip. Far down the slipway glowed the lights of the city. 

“Will there be boys and girls there?” the Duck asked. 

“You bet your feathers,” I replied. “Ducks, too.” 

When the slip drew up we settled in and before we knew it we were stepping out into the colorful Calle Rosinante. Boys! Girls! Snakes! Metatron the Archangel, Available for 23 Amps! Ducks! 

Hot jazz filled my right brain, singing Go! Go!, along with the Four Noble Truths: 

Life sucks. 

It sucks because you’re stuck on things. 

This can be remedied. 

Fake left, fake right, go up the middle. 

Just like Downtown to kill your buzz while pushing it. Stuck on things? I wasn’t going to be stuck on anything tonight longer than it took me to drink it or smoke it or poke it. Remedy me no remedies. 

First, food. We got some food. A CosmicBoy accosted us in front of the cheesetaurant. “You’re outliers, right? For a very reasonable price, I can provide an interstellar experience.” 

“How much?” the Duck asked. 

Before Cosmic could answer I put the bigger of my two hands—my pushing hand—on his chest. I pushed. “We aren’t interested, Chaz. My friend may look like a Duck, but he wasn’t fledged yesterday.” 

Cosmic sauntered off. “Why did you chase him away?” the Duck asked. 

My right brain informed me that I regretted saying the Duck could come. Thanks, right brain. “Look, Duck, let’s split up. I’ll meet you back here at daybreak and a half.” 

His display feathers drooped, but he didn’t protest. 

So I had me a night and a day and a night. Various transactions were made, physical and psychological. Fluids were transferred. Charges were discharged. Frankly, I don’t remember most of it. 

What I do remember is waking in an alley between a tavern and a frothel. The Duck was leaning over me. He had lost most of his feathers; his downy cheeks made him look like a girl. Holy calamity—he was a girl. 

“Duck?” I said groggily. 

“The one and only,” she replied. She levered herself under my arm and helped me to stand. My weekend skin was ruined. My right brain whirled. “Come on, Schmee,” she said. “Time to slip home.” 

“I can’t slip,” I croaked. “I’m completely discharged.” 

“I’ll take care of it.” 

We limped through the street. Downtown was just as bright and attractive as it had been when we arrived, in a completely meretricious sort of way. Meretricious. That was my left brain coming back. 

We stood on the platform waiting for the slip. Ahead: another week in the reality mines. “Life sucks,” I muttered. 

“This can be remedied,” the Duck said. To my utter and complete surprise, she kissed me on the cheek. 

She is really quite attractive, for a duck.