Driver A Story by Hossie

Part 3

Driver Part 1 | Part 2

Chapter 9

A couple of years passed that day and the next as Cerise and I got to know each other better, talking and walking, sometimes with Mary Lincoln for company, more often alone.There was little else we could do. Direct investigation was out of the question for us at this time, but Izzy and Ringo were spreading their nets, asking questions in some places, listening in others. We kept to the rear of the property, out of sight of the public.
Finally, Thursday evening -- was it really only Thursday? -- Izzy and Ringo appeared together just after suppertime and summoned me, Cerise, and Mary to join them.
"What's up?"
Cerise stared at the two of them at once in that somewhat-disconcerting way a horse can: one ear aimed at each.
"Those ring-tailed bastard offspring of a coonhound and a copperhead! They's got themselfs a full-fledged military operation growing right under our noses."
Izzy was a little less colorful, but just as serious.
"It seems there are some connections between the Humanity Firsters and some military types."
That bothered me more than it surprised me.
"Okay. When do we go in?"
Izzy raised his eyebrows. Ringo, as expected, was more direct.
"What in the pee-windin' hell are you babblin' about?"
I took a breath.
"Look, someone has to stop them, don't they?"
Mary stifled a laugh and Cerise strode over from the patch of clover she'd been trimming, planted one hoof on my right toes without putting much weight on it, shoved her muzzle against my breastbone, and stared into my eyes with ears laid back.
"Are you stupider than you wook, Wuvver-Boy?"
Ringo cracked up, he and Mary slapping each other on the back, while Izzy discreetly coughed into his fist.
"I think you'd best listen to your girlfriend, Mr. Nixon. Do you think this is some b-grade action-adventure video?"
I was a little hurt and insulted; after all, if the government and military were in on it, then who would take care of things?
"If the government and military are in on it, who'll take care of things?"
vIzzy recovered his dignity (I don't think Ringo had any to recover) and gave me a serious answer.
"I didn't say the government and the military were all in on it, just some of them. There are people around who'll do their jobs and take care of the Human Rollers and their ilk if we can get them the evidence they need."
That still rankled.
"You mean we just sit here and write letters or something? I want to get those so-and-so's who jumped in and messed with my life."
"Okay, boy, you think yer a Texas Ranger er sumpin? Been in the military, maybe a little combat?"
"Well, no."
"Can you shoot?"
"Sure! I mean, sometimes on holiday weekends a friend and I'd go out and shoot some cans. And I got a deer once. But I carried a gun with me in the truck, what with hijackings and crazies on the highway."
Izzy's voice was soft. "Ever kill a man?
"It's not as easy as it looks on tape, not for civilized people. Most have to be driven pretty hard to shoot another human being. Some die themselves before they can pull that trigger, even though the situation demands it."
"Are you calling me a coward?"
"You said you got a deer. Once. How did you feel about it?"
Cerise's ears were forward again as she paid close attention to my answer.
"Not too good. I mean, I had a license and everything, and I didn't waste the meat, and it was a clean kill. But it wasn't something I needed to do to eat or feed my family."
"It's sumpin' needs done, though, else them deer will breed so fast they starve off or mess up crops too much. You turnin' liberal on us?"
I shook my head at Ringo.
"No. I understand conservation and controlled harvesting. But I'll let others do it who get more out of it than I did. To tell the truth, I felt kind of sick about the whole thing."
"An' you were ready to do a John Wayne number on an armed hill camp? A heavy machine gun over your shoulder, Cerise with twin mortar mounts on her pack harness, an' Izzy an' me dyin' nobly, right?"
Well, when he put it that way, it sounded pretty damned silly.
"Okay, I'm licked. So we just sit here and talk, or is there something else to do?"
Izzy smiled. "Oh, there's plenty to do. First off, I expect some more information to come in on the Information Superhighway. There are a few hackers who owe me favors, and they're digging a little deeper. But I have some questions for Cerise."
Much to my relief, she stepped back. I immediately began rubbing my foot.
"What you want to know?"
"Well, I spent some time around the bios out there at the truck stop. You're awfully smart compared to most of the other breeds. In fact, I'd have to say you are of a whole different generation than the loaders and security biomorphs I met. Most of them only had a basic vocabulary and didn't seem much on abstract thought."
Cerise nodded. "They're okay, though."
"Oh, of course! no offense intended to any of them. But I understand you can read English?"
"A little."
"I never met another bio who could. Simple symbols, the spoken word, sign language with the hands--that was all they could do, and all they needed to do. But for your abilities, it seems it would take some heavy-duty gene-splicing to add all that to a basic horse makeup. Five years ago they expected to be twenty years from even having the maps they needed; four years ago--?" he paused, she nodded, "you hit the road, or at least started training in the big rigs. But there are damned few like you out there. In fact, I've only seen one other, and he drove for Bio-Resources just like you did."
"You saw Trip?" Cerise was excited.
"If you mean a little stud with hair the color of an Irishman's dream, then yes.
"I didn't know if he even made it. We never saw another B-R truck; we just knew where they were from the dispatcher."
I spoke up.
"If horse-bios are so rare, why the fancy chair in the truck stop?"
"Probably because B-R owned a piece of the company. And whoever in B-R is involved in this might have wanted to make that stop attractive to their drivers."
I nodded. It made a sort of twisted sense although it sounded chancy. Then I recalled that Cerise had selected the stop. I turned to her.
"Did you know the special seat was in the Jiffy-Stop's cafe?"
"I'd heard it was."
Ringo slapped his hand on the table.
"That's purty long-range plannin', fellers. I don't think we's up against amateurs, here."
"Another good reason to let the professionals handle any raids, I think. Now that you mention it, none of my colleagues at any of the other stops in the chain ever mentioned a horse-morph seat in their places. To place such subtle bait close to their main base speaks of either genius or insanity."
I pulled out the little pamphlet again and waved it. "I vote for the latter. Why is a bunch of nuts who want to stamp out bios sneaking war animals into their compound?"
Ringo grinned.
"Boy, you don't know much about that kind of preachers, do you? You can pretty-close figger that whatever they preaches the loudest agin' is what they's up to in private--or'd like to be!"
"Be that as it may, Kevin, I've been picking up little hints that there's much more going on than we suspect even now. If it's okay, I'd like to bring someone else in this."
"Okay with me."
"I was asking Cerise."
Her ears swiveled to Izzy.
"Doc Bozo had his license revoked years back, but I trust him. He's kept close ties to the medical world, especially the underbelly. Would you mind if he talked to and examined you?"
"An unlicensed doctor touch my sweetheart? Are you nuts?"
Cerise shook her head in annoyance.
"He said he trusted the man. If he thinks we should, wet him."
I didn't like it, not one bit. But I knew that Cerise had a stubborn streak when she wanted to do something, and I thought I recognized the signs. She reached over and nuzzled my cheek.
"Wuvver, I heard rumors at the wab when I was growing up. I want to know, too. I think it's important to me, maybe to both of us."
This thing seemed to be growing bigger and more complicated by the day, but I didn't see that I had much choice except to go along.
"Okay, darling. If you want to, I guess I don't have as many legs to stand on as you do."
Cerise kicked me again. My new friends seemed to have low tastes in humor; they all laughed--whether at the pun or the slapstick I don't care to guess.


Chapter 10

Overnight more of Izzy's sources dropped tidbits of data, and a rather appalling picture began to form, one of corporate "good buddy" deals, political corruption (as if that was anything new), and more hints of dark, illegal research.
About ten A.M. a strange car pulled into the driveway and a tall, slender man dressed in a conservative business suit emerged. Izzy came out of the kitchen (he'd cooked breakfast that morning) to greet him. As the man turned, I saw his face was painted white with a large smile surrounding his lips and a bulbous red nose poking out from under a frizzy wig.
"Oh, no!" I groaned.
"Doctor Bozo?"
Mary was absent, but Ringo was there.
"Of course. He's in disguise until he decides whether or not he can trust you!"
I might have taken umbrage, but it made sense--as much as anything else had lately.
"Hi, you old quack!"
The clown approached the table which seemed to have become the center of our lives.
"Hello, you fat fraud. How many widows and orphans have you cleaned out lately?"
"No more'n a dozen or so. But the year ain't over yet, and I think I'm gonna throw me a Halloween wingding and revival that'll have 'em forking over the deeds to their old family homesteads."
"Just remember to invite me. Not all those widows are old, and you're getting to fat and tired to take care of them."
"Old?!? Tired? Me?Listen you sawbones, I can still shag a whole church choir between songs, an' the sopranos twicet!"
"You never did have much staying-power, did you? If you'd just listen to me, your old friend, I'd--
"Gentlemen, gentlemen. Amusing as this is, it isn't getting us anywhere.
Cerise, let me introduce you to `Doctor Bozo,' MD, PhD, DVM, MSc, and a bunch of other things. Doc, this is Cerise. You already know Ringo all too well. The fellow with the well-satisfied glow in his eyes and the worn-out knees is Kevin Nixon. You might call him Cerise's harness mate."
"Speakin' o' gettin' hitched--"
Izzy raised a hand to silence Ringo, but thought I saw a gleam of interest in Cerise's eye.
"Later. We have other fish to fry right now."
"Yes. Cerise, my lady, would you accompany me to a place of privacy where I can examine you?"
"Okay. But I want Kevin to come awong."
I wanted to come, too. And it made me feel rather special to know Cerise needed the comfort of my presence.
"Well . . ."
Bozo seemed reluctant.
"Do you have a nurse with you?"
His eyes widened at her question. He shook his head.
"Then I want a witness."
With a skyward cast of his eyes, the doctor acquiesced to her demand.The garage apartment proved adequate.Despite his . . . unconventional . . . appearance, Dr. Bozo seemed competent enough. He began by looking over Cerise's hooves, her teeth, legs, and coat. He had me make a quick trip outside for a manure sample; he pronounced her free from intestinal parasites. He listened to her heart and breathing ("First time I've been able to ask a horse to take a deep breath and hold it."), and felt her muscle tone.
He requested, and received, a urine sample.I suppose I should have expected an gynecological and rectal exam. Cerise made the first horrible face I've seen on a horse, but assured me it was standard practice. The doctor was gentle and professional, refraining from clowning around. (Sorry!) She stood patiently, twitching her shoulders whenever the arm went a bit too deep, but cooperated.
When the large hypodermic needle came out, though, Cerise came to me and put her head under my arm.
"I hate those things! Hold me? Please?"
Dr. Bozo tapped a vein and pulled what seemed to my protective eyes far too large a sample.
When the needle entered, Cerise jerked, restraining herself as much as possible, but I could tell she wanted to leap out through the door.
"Easy, darling. I hate needles, too, but it's always over sooner, with less pain, if you can relax and hold still."
"I know. But-- it hurts! Something is going into me that doesn't bewong there."
I hugged her neck and scratched her shoulders.
When she said, "I trust you, Kevin," and actually did relax, I wanted to collapse and bawl like a baby. I couldn't do that right then. But, God! how I loved her at that moment. I was the luckiest man who had ever lived.


Chapter 11

There are more details about the raid on the Humanity First Tabernacle compound. If you're really interested, there are dozens of books, television specials, tabloid-paper articles, and even a couple of music videos reporting what happened in varying degrees of accuracy.With more luck than anyone deserves, the roles of Cerise, me, Israel Lincoln, and all the others mentioned here, were never revealed. Well, Sam was one exception. He was killed by a WarWolf bio when he tried to hide in their kennel. It was a fitting end.

Bio-Resources, Inc. is essentially a dead corporation, at least for a while. The principal officers were cleared of any complicity in the plot to overthrow what's left of our Republic. Quite a few preachers and politicians who wouldn't normally be suspected of sedition are out of circulation-- some in jail, some dead, some in hiding who-knows-where. I'm sure there are others who escaped detection.I don't care. Well, that's not exactly true; I care . . . some. While one major danger was averted, humans are still the most-treacherous, sneaky, underhanded, traitorous, stupid, insane beings ever created. But I guess, as Ringo said once, that's what makes us what we are; striving against our natures is what makes progress. I'm not sure, though. I also look around when I'm feeling more generous (or perhaps simply more objective) and see that humans are also caring, giving, humorous, generous, accepting: good folks.
It's easy to say that there are good people and bad people. The confusing part is, nobody is ever all one or the other, and nobody's individual mixture seems to stay the same.But I digress into philosophy, which sounds pretty silly from a truck driver.
Eventually, in a quiet legal settlement, Cerise and I were awarded our old truck, the one specially fitted for her. She was relicensed to drive as an unsupervised partner so we took to the open road without a third driver; this suits us just fine.
Oh, you still want more details on the "exciting part?" As far as I'm concerned, the exciting part was when Cerise and I found each other as soulmates. And it continues to this day. Oh, all right!


Chapter 12

Dr. Bozo finished his examination and left to go to a laboratory for the blood work. Between Izzy and Ringo (and their friends), enough evidence was found and passed to the proper authorities (ones who were not corrupted any more than usual), several combined service units hit the compound south of Joplin, a whole regiment at Fort Leonard Wood was placed under arrest, the FBI served warrants based on secret indictments, and the whole mess (this particular one, at least) was cleaned up. Lots of bad guys died; unfortunately, so did quite a few good ones. War-bios, whose only "sin" was operating properly--as designed--were destroyed en masse.
This upset Cerise quite a bit, and me, too. I realize there was really nothing else that could have been done in the current political climate. In fact, I don't know what they would have been able to do with the fighters except imprison them until they died of natural causes. I'm not so sure that wouldn't have been much worse.
This story is about something much more important to me, though. Maybe it's important to you, maybe not. But I grew up in a time and a place where black people were still "niggers," where non-Christians were hell-damned, evil people, where anyone whose ancestors hadn't sunk roots into the hilly soil at least a hundred years before were strangers, not to be trusted--not that you could trust all of the natives, by any means. Travelling the country helped expand my horizons a little bit, but quite a few of the other drivers were just as prejudiced, just as close-minded as anyone from the hills outside Circe, Arkansas in 1965
The discovery that I could fall in love with a person of a completely different shape, a different perspective, was mind-boggling. It was too real to ignore, though. I'm sure I'll face other challenges throughout life, but maybe I'm flexible enough now to weather them a little better.
There was some interesting fallout from the medical tests, quite unexpected.The afternoon of the exam, Dr.Bozo reappeared at Izzy's house in a state of agitation. Mary (an incredible woman who doesn't deserve the short shrift I have given her here) seated him on the patio, served hot tea with fresh cookies (the perfect prescription for the excited doctor), and gathered the rest of us together. She didn't allow any discussion until all had been served and we settled down. Cerise discovered that she really liked Earl Grey tea.
"I had some DNA tests run on Cerise's blood sample. They confirmed something I'd suspected. Cerise is human."
In unison, we sounded like a Gilbert & Sullivan chorus.
"Just what I said. Oh, she doesn't look like it on the outside, but most of you don't look like frogs, either."
We agreed, ignoring the straight line.
"The human genome is pretty thoroughly mapped, you know. In forty-six chromosome pairs, we have almost all the genetic information needed to mature as any of our evolutionary ancestors clear back to amoeba, maybe beyond. Most of those genes are turned off. Now and then a web-footed child will be born; babies with tails are fairly common. When the more exotic genes accidentally get turned on, the zygote rarely matures, the egg doesn't fertilize, the radical throwback isn't born."
Mary nodded.
"I know. Izzy and I studied all those things when we were still trying to have children."
I hadn't known that part of their lives; I immediately felt sorry for them.
Dr. Bozo continued.
"Gene-mapping is getting better and better, but it still took quite a few years to map out the human coding. I wondered now and then how Bio-Resources managed to do a good-enough job of mapping several other species to radically increase their intelligence. I assumed they simply fudged a little and stole a bit of human coding and spliced it into the apes and dogs and horses. I was wrong."
You could have set off twenty pounds of firecrackers in the driveway, and not one of us would have noticed.
"What they did was splice certain horse characteristics onto human genes."
We were, of course, stunned. As the whirlpool of thought and emotion calmed a bit, I wasn't sure if I liked the idea. I'd come to rather like the idea of loving a woman of a different species. Further reflection assured me that Cerise was, if closer to human than thought, a new species.


Chapter 13

The upshot of all that information, later confirmed by secret company records, is that Mary recommended Earl W. Short, a local retired attorney who he was able to get Cerise full human rights and eventually get precedent-setting rulings concerning other bio-constructs. Cerise received a very large cash award, but we still drive together. Ringo seemed to figure out the ramifications ahead of anyone else--except, perhaps, Mary.
"Well, boy, are you gonna marry her?"
"Marriage? Where are we going to get a license? Where will we find a preacher?"
Cerise didn't look happy.
"Hell, boy, why worry 'bout some damn license? And I'll be happy to do it right here and now."
I looked at Cerise. In the long/short time we'd been truly together I'd learned to read her expressions fairly well. The mixture of anger and doubt was clear, but it was in the background. Overshadowing it were love and hope. My decision was easy.
I began humming "Here Comes the Bride."
Cerise jumped, knocked me over, and began licking my face. I licked back.


Chapter 14

The wedding took place within the hour. Of course Dr. Bozo, Mary, Izzy, and Ringo were there. We needed no more to share our joy. Somehow, I knew I would never again be alone, never again become a bitter single man.Izzy found a very old, very good bottle of champagne. Ringo contributed a jug of extremely smooth moonshine whiskey. Mary, somehow, came up with a cake that passed quite nicely for a wedding cake.Dr. Bozo offered some tablets from his medical kit that he claimed would make us feel good without much risk of addiction or bad side effects. We declined, regardless of his assurance that "it'll also really spice up your sex life."
Wordlessly, Cerise and I agreed that we needed no help in that department. We still didn't have a place to live, but all we needed after the reception was some privacy. Just before we adjourned to the garage apartment, though, Dr. Bozo took us aside.
"Kevin, I'm glad you decided to make an honest mare out of Cerise."
"I could do no less. I love her, she loves me. What better reason?"
"I guess it's not a `better reason,' Mr. Nixon, but I think you should know something else. Mrs. Nixon is pregnant."


Copyright 1994

George Willard

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