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Cross Country

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"We gon' have to go to California," says Tex, licking the seam of the joint he's rolling and then carefully toasting it sealed over the flame from his purple Bic. "So when we sleepin' at least we be warm."

Hopey kicks her bare feet up on the dash and makes little sweaty toeprints on the inside of the windshield. Tex sparks the joint and passes it to her. "We won't be sleeping in your car when we get to Hoppers," says Hopey. "Shee! We gonna be living large."

It's dark out and they're somewhere west of Chicago, stopped by the side of the road till daybreak. Tex drives a low-slung Nissan Pulsar that's only sixteen years old and only got one hundred eighty thousand miles on it. Hopey's never had a car she could call her own before, and this one she's lived in for like five days already. It smells of coffee and wet cigarette butts and dirty clothes and Tex's sweaty bald head. Hopey snuggles down under her coat and slides her ass further down on the seat. She takes a long drag off the joint and holds the crappy smoke deep in her lungs.

"That's it for our shake and I'm outta cash, so breathe deep, mamacita," says Tex. Hopey takes another drag and passes the joint back so Tex can fit it between his big hammy lips. Hopey leans over and lays her head on his shoulder, and the parking brake digs into her ribs.

"You're warm," Hopey says, and closes her eyes. Tex wraps his arm around her.

"I got a buddy in St. Louis," says Tex. "How far's St. Louis?"

"What state's it in?" Hopey asks. She feels Tex's fingers on her cheek and opens her eyes long enough to help him guide the roach to her lips. Then she remembers. "Oooh!"

She sits up and digs around in her bag for a minute. "I think..." she says. "I think I have..."

"DVD player?" asks Tex. "Cotton candy machine?"

"Wait," grins Hopey. She pulls out Triple A's map book for the tri-state area, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Hopey found it in her bag the day she left on tour. She thinks it's from Izzy. It's Izzy's style. She shakes it and a stack of photos comes out. "Look look," she says, reaching up to flip on the dome light.

"Don't kill the battery," murmurs Tex, but he'll indulge her, and he's seen these photos a dozen times before.

"This's Ape Sex, before we changed our name," says Hopey. "This is Izzy. She's loca, mi nina."

"The one what wrote the book," Tex says, holding Hopey steady while he reaches down between his legs for the bar that'll move his seat back. "Here, move your -- yeah," he says, and she tips her seat back too and now they're both looking at the ceiling.

"This's Maggot and Ray, he's her hombre," Hopey says. The photo's got Maggie before she cut her hair that time. There's a couch in the alley behind the strip mall on Colorado, and on the wall behind it where it's all POST NO BILLS there's half a decade of Hoppers in graffiti. Maggot's leaning on Ray's shoulder and they're holding hands, and they both look fat and dumb and warm and happy. Tex gives a little nod. "Maggot and Ray again," Hopey says, and the next one's got Maggie practically throwing herself on el perro, with her arms around his neck and one knee cocked up against his hip like a hundred pound starlet. On Magpie, it's thunder-thigh central. Hopey's mouth waters, and she wishes Maggie's skirt were hiked up even farther.

She slips the pictures back in the Triple A book and roots around for her bag again. "Wait, though," she says. "This isn't the cool thing," she says, digging in the bottom of her gym bag again, pulling out crumpled papers, parking receipts, Maggie's Mighty Ducks t-shirt. Then she finds it.

"Xanax, double bar!" Hopey emerges victoriously with the pink rectangle pinched between her fingers like it's made of gold. She breaks it on the score and gives half to Tex, then dry-swallows her own.

They're like 2500 miles from Hoppers and a world away from Maggie and Ray. "A'ight," says Tex. "Sweet." He swallows his pill.

"Let's find St. Louis," says Hopey, taking snuggling down in the crook of Tex's fleshy arm and resting her head on his shoulder. "You think we can crash with su gente for a while? Find us some gas money?"

"Guess we'll see," says Tex. "Night, little girl."

"Night, mi amor," says Hopey. When she dreams, Izzy's fifty feet tall, and Penny Century's a porn star, and Maggot's fat and fleshy and her ass is round and perfect, and she's single, and she's sitting on the steps, and she's waiting, and when Hopey comes up the walk she says, "I missed you," and she says "Never leave me again." When Hopey wakes up, she's got a Xanax hangover and Tex is already driving.

She remembers when Maggie met Ray, back when Ray was dating that airhead Danita before Danita's babydaddy came back. Ray was all sensitive and arty, and Maggie was all primed and juicy and scared of the pussy and ready to be someone's old lady. Those days Hopey would fuck Maggie in the morning and by afternoon Perlita'd be down by Ray's crib, doing his dishes, makin' him sandwiches, posing nude.

After Hopey left, she called a few times, mostly to Daffy, 'cause Daffy was a ditz but she noticed everything, and plus could be counted on to forget Hopey'd called before anyone else would think to ask about it. Daffy said Maggie and Ray were getting down together, that Maggie'd moved in. Daffy sent the photos, even, and her letters always had lots of exclamation points in, and doodles of Japanimated kittens in the margins. It's been more than six months since Hopey's had an address to get mail, but she knows how Hoppers goes, and knows nothing's changed in that time. Nothing important, anyway.

They hit St. Louis the next day, find Tex's homies, make a little scrape and stick around till summer. And Hopey finds it easier to suck cock and flip packages when she's got Tex to come home to, and when she doesn't think about Maggie at all.