Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
Nick inhaled on his cigarette until the glowing ember reached the filter, then flicked it absently out the driver’s window. His younger brother James sat upright and fidgeting beside him, eyes wide trying to look at everything at once.
“Two hundred and forty meters. Turn left. Two twenty. Left.” James spoke outloud.
To Nick, James’ factual rambling had become background noise. James grew up locked inside his own head, overwhelmed by the world around him and unable to process any of it. When his doctors had wired him into the network, they’d armed him with everything he’d ever need.
James flinched as a police car screamed by in the opposite direction, lights bathing them for an instant in blue and red. “Metro pursuit, two one nine one four. Eric Waynes. Forty Two. Divorced. Two Children. Sixty meters, turn left.”
Nick saw the street as looming walkups and parked cars, but to James it was a seething mass of lines connecting objects and boxes containing datapoints; an infinite number of rabbit holes he could plumb for details ad infinitum.
When their parents had died, Nick had the hard line replaced with an array of wireless antennae woven into his brother’s dirty blond faux hawk. It was the only way he could get him out of the apartment.
They turned left onto Kinsella, slowing to navigate through the cars parked on both sides of the street. He could see the stop sign at Mathews when a shopping cart rolled from behind a parked car into the street, forcing him to step hard on the brakes.
“Pay and Save. Twelve thousand three hundred cubic inches. Fifty pounds,” he paused, eyes darting around the car before adding, “probably stolen.”
Nick smiled until a hand came to rest on his window sill.
“You got permission to be on this block?” The voice was deep, the speaker’s face lost in shadow with the sun blazing a halo around his head.
“Sorry, just passing through.”
James eyed the cart and the dark skinned man that had joined it on the street.
“Zoo York jacket. Sixty three percent sold to upper middle class kids imitating the lower class style.”
Nick winced, suddenly painfully aware of his brother speaking.
“What did bristle head say?”, the tone sharpened. As he leaned in closer for a better look the sun revealed deep brown skin under a pork pie hat, crisscrossed with fresh pink scar tissue.
“Nothing,” Nick said, “he likes your friend’s jacket.”
“Dolan Ryan. South Bronx Cricketers. Soldier. Fourteen arrests, no convictions.” James blinked repeatedly before adding “This year. Fourteen this year. Forty meters, turn right.”
Dolan yanked on the door handle. Finding it locked he reached in through the open window trying to open it from the inside.
“Out of the fucking car, dumbass. Rainman here just bought you a beating.”
“Seventy percent of altercations involving Cricketers result in violence. Fifty pounds. Forty meters, turn right.”
Dolan paused his brailing the door panel long enough to cuff Nick in the side of the head. “One hundred percent chance of violence asshole, out of the goddamned car.”
James pounded both hands on the dashboard and yelled “forty meters turn right”, then turning to look Dolan straight in the eyes he continued “Doctors appointment Thursday at two. Syphilis”.
Dolan froze for an instant and Nick stood hard on the gas, liberating the shopping cart from the Zoo York jacketed figure as he jumped out of the way. The cart crumpled under the bumper and was dragged into the intersection as he drifted right onto Mathews, the tangled mesh basket peeling off on a parked car as the sedan straightened. Not slowing, he turned left onto Morris Park and kept his foot planted on the gas until the Parkway loomed into view.
“Bronx River Parkway. Thirty and three quarter kilometers in length.”
Nick finally eased up on the gas. “Syphilis?” he asked.
“Spirochetal bacterium. Sexually transmitted.”
Nick laughed as he fumbled for another cigarette.
“I really did like his jacket,” James said, before slipping back into the data mass of the world outside.