Chapter 56 of The Empty City

By Andrew Looney

Saturday morning. Mindless cartoons became splattered, one by one, onto Television screens in living rooms all over the City.

However, in the apartment of the Android Sisters, Life was slow in resuming. All three slept very late. Eventually, Mandy crawled out of bed and into the shower. Somewhat later, Cindy staggered out to the living room, retrieved the newspaper from the hall, and collapsed with it onto the couch. Lastly, Wendy wandered absently into the kitchen, located a box of cereal, a blue glass bowl, a silver teaspoon, and a carton of milk. From these raw materials, she constructed a breakfast.

Mandy emerged from her room, showered, dressed and alive. By this time it was almost noon. Mandy took the elevator down to the lobby to collect the mail. When she returned, she tossed the mail with disgust onto the table in the dining room, where Wendy munched cereal.

"Nothing good in the mail," she announced. She sat down at the table across from Wendy.

Silence dominated for awhile, disrupted only by the sounds of Wendy's breakfast and Cindy's newspaper.

"Hey," said Wendy, as she refilled her bowl, "I had a really weird dream last night. We were in a car, and we were driving across the desert. It was a nice car, a white convertible, and we had the top down and we were going like a hundred miles an hour, and the wind was whipping through our hair. And we had the Atomic Bomb with us, you know, the one the Four gave us, and we were taking it somewhere. I don't really remember now why or who, but I think somebody needed it for something, so we were rushing across the desert to deliver it to him. So there we were, driving the Atomic Bomb across the desert." She paused, pouring more milk onto her cereal.

"The next thing I remember was that we came to the Border and were stopped at a customs checkpoint. They looked over our passports and papers and junk, but luckily they didn't search the car, and we had the Bomb covered up, so they let us through. Then, all of a sudden we were stopped by some train robbers. This big old train just blasted across the road in front of us, and we stopped and they stopped and these bank robbers, like from an old TV western, you know, with handkerchiefs on their faces and a gun in each hand, these bank robbers jumped off the train and pointed their guns at us and told us to hand over the Atomic Bomb! So we gave them the Bomb and they jumped back onto the train and chugged off. It was an old train, you know, the steam locomotive kind, but there weren't any train tracks, it was just driving normally, like a car or something. Anyway, we started to drive away, but we couldn't, because our car was up on cinder blocks. They'd stolen our wheels, too! So we had to hitchhike. We got a ride to a truck stop in a big eighteen wheeler, but the food at the truck stop was really expensive, like 35 dollars for a cup of coffee, and the breakfast special was $175, so we couldn't afford to eat anything, and we were really hungry. I think something else happened with some of the truck stop waitresses, but I don't really remember. It was strange."

Silence reigned over the room once more. Neither Cindy nor Mandy could think of any response to Wendy's dream. But then, Mandy turned around and looked up at the Atomic Bomb, which was perched, out of the way and all but forgotten, on a high shelf. "Hmm," she said. "That makes me wonder. Do you think we could sell that thing? Maybe someone would like to buy it, maybe we could get a few bucks for it. We can always use extra cash."

Cindy put down her newspaper. "Who'd want it?" she said, somewhat incredulous.

"I don't know," said Mandy. "In some ways it's kind of neat. I'll bet there's somebody out there who'd like to have it."

"But it's useless!" insisted Cindy.

"Oh, I don't know," said Wendy. "The timer on it is pretty good."

When they'd first gotten the bomb, Wendy had tried to find some way of putting it to good use. About the only thing she'd been able to think of was to use it as a kitchen timer. This was great when you needed to cook something for one minute, but was a bit of a pain for marking longer periods of time, since the bomb only counted 60 seconds. Cooking something for a longer time required constantly resetting the bomb and re-pushing the detonation button. Wendy had eventually gotten tired of this and had bought a normal timer.

Mandy said, "Maybe someone would want it for a film project or something. After all, it does look like a real Atomic Bomb."

"Well, I'd be happy to be rid of it," said Cindy. "It gives me the creeps."

Mandy located a pad and a pen. She read her words aloud as she wrote them: "For Sale, one Atomic Bomb. $100.00 or best offer. Call 555-1449." She scrounged up an envelope and a stamp, dug up the previous week's City Paper, wrote the address of the paper's classifieds desk on the envelope, and sealed it. Then she slipped out into the hall and dropped the envelope into the mailslot. Whoosh! It fell into a box at the bottom of the slot, many floors down.

"We'll just see what happens," she said upon returning. Cindy was still reading her paper, and Wendy was washing up her breakfast dishes. Neither said anything else about the Atomic Bomb.

Copyright © 1991 by Andrew Looney.

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