Bishop's Story

It's a really hot day here in BV, so hot the paving is going crazy under my feet and there's a glare in the sky like a sun-colored neon tube. I love it. I'm on patrol, and that's the best part of my day. It's not official, I just walk the beat for a few hours when I feel like it, and that way the hoods don't know when to expect me.

I'm just rounding the corner into Geranium Boulevard when I see the Slob, lounging on the stonework and chewing the vegetation. "The Slob" is what those citizens who respect the law call certain other citizens who don't respect it quite so much. The Slob have got together to do their disrespecting in a group, like a knitting circle, only they don't knit, they acquire other gents' money without the gents' agreement.

I know that they've seen me, because one of them disconnects himself from the backdrop and walks over, giving me a funny look. It's meant to be menacing, but actually it seems more like he's squinting into a bright light. Maybe this is his problem because in order to do the look he's had to take off his shades and, as I said, it's a sunny day.

"How're you doing, Sammy?" I ask.

"Nice of you to ask," he says, not telling me how he's doing. "I got news for you, Bish," he says also. This is unlikely. News is what I don't know, and I know all about Sammy and his crew. I wait to hear the speech.

"Spud's in town," he informs. This is news, after all, and it's not good news. Spud is a heavyweight, and not just on the scales. As a young man Spud had a baked-potato stall, but he diversified and now he takes contracts to hit people. If he's here, he's on a job, and I want to know what that job is, but even Sammy's not stupid enough to tell me. He just wants to get my juice going.

"I should stay home for a bit," advises Sammy. "That way the Potato Man might decide not to mash you." He finds this so funny that he is unable to speak for quite some time, and while he is recovering I walk off.

I follow the highway until I reach city limits. A long way off on the road there's a dot, and the dot is a fast car, painted a dark shade of black, and heading into town. I mooch off into the scrub and await developments, because it occurs to me that this mile-eating machine might be the automobile of Spud, and I want a better look at it. What doesn't occur to me is that a short distance away the vehicle may turn off the road and travel across the scrub towards me. This is foolish, because the vehicle does exactly that. I begin to wonder whether I might be the job Spud is in town for, but I don't wonder long because if the automobile doesn't stop very soon it will run into me, and it's not going to stop.

There's only one thing to do. I draw back into my shell and give a bit of a lurch sideways, so that the car hits me off centre. My shell is a smoothly curved up-ramp. The nearside wheels take off and the car flips, making a trench in the desert that would grow a lot of celery. It's a neat landing, though heavy, and a good repair shop could maybe put it back on the road, but inside, Spud is a write-off.

I make the necessary arrangements, then I go back into town. The boys are still there leaning on the wall, I guess nobody's told them the news.

"Hi, Sammy," I say. "There's been a motoring accident. Spud won't be coming to town after all. Shame - I was looking forward to meeting him." Then I go home. There's only so much excitement a guy can take in one day and besides, I had some tire-marks on my shell that really needed attention.