Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 63

In which Jones checks the atlas

“Why did I ever give this stuff up?” hollered Bugs. He took another slug of coffee and pressed down harder on the accelerator. The croplands of the San Fernando valley streamed past them. Here, and there, rotting almond orchards crumpled against each other, littering the roadside with twisted branches. Abandoned farm equipment rusted next to listing outbuildings. It was hot again. No one was out.

“Drink more water,” said Jones. “You’re going to crash.”

“I’m in full control of this vehicle and I am loving it,” said Bugs.

“It’s too much caffeine,” said Jones. “This is very unsafe. I’m worried about your coffee consumption. It’s a hard habit to break.”

“Its temporary,” insisted Bugs. “Situational. Look at this! No traffic! Not a single person on the roads besides us!”

“Thank god,” said Jones. “You’re all over it. You should still stick to the right lane, just in case.”

“Always worrying, always trying to see around the next corner,” said Bugs. “This is a straight road, Jones. We can see for miles.”

Jones looked at the speedometer. They were going over 90. “If they’ve closed the prisons, that probably means highway patrol isn’t working either,” he said.

“Exactly,” said Bugs, swerving around a stray trash can. “As soon as everyone else figures this out, the roads are going to be a mess. I predict massive collisions. There’s a reason we moved to autonomous vehicles, you know. People are terrible drivers.”

“Fortunately, we’ll all run out of gas at some point,” said Jones. “Do you think there will be gas stations in the Next Economy?”

Bugs suddenly seemed very sober. “Are there gas stations on the way to the Hoover Dam? I should tell you now, I’ve never pumped gas before. Louie always does it for the potato truck.”

“Amelia put some extra cans in the trunk,” said Jones. “I saw them when I was putting the extra water in. This car’s part electric. We should be fine on fuel. We’ll be even more fine though if you slow down to about sixty.”

“Amelia thinks of everything,” said Bugs. “She’s a very good secretary.”

“She’s never accepted a package for me,” said Jones, “or greeted a single visitor to my detective agency without offending them in some way. I used to send her emails, until I found out that she was forwarding every one of them to the President of the United States. I once asked her to make me coffee and she screamed about the means of production for forty minutes, then refused to speak to me the rest of the week because her throat hurt.”

Bugs nodded, impressed. “You’re lucky to have her.”

Jones didn’t answer. He strained his eyes, trying to read the road signs as they sailed past. The car didn’t have GPS, which was good for avoiding Agent Moss and Marvin, but it was hard to know whether they were really heading in the direction of the Hoover Dam. Jones unfurled a road atlas on his lap. He hoped that it was up to date. In theory, neither the major highways nor the dam had moved since it was printed, but Jones knew how easy it was to get turned around under the desert sun.