THE NUN WITH THE POLAROID CAMERA
SHORT PULP NOIR FICTION
BY JAMES A. NEWMAN
DAD’S CAR could take no more. Slam the V6 round 90 degrees into main-street, the traffic cop a memory now, stewing in his stomach acids, slumped by the zebra crossing, his shirt and face covered in blood, his face splattered and cracked like a watermelon, his brain matter mixing with the cerebral-spinal fluid, a mix of greys and crimsons, an unforgettable green sludge flickering under those forever unforgiving blinking neon lights. An Indian not-selling-cyclist fell from his bike and puked right there on the street. You should have seen it, baby, but I had to get away, and away I did in Pop’s big deadly hunk of Japanese metal, through the night, through the City, the whores, the broken orange peels, condoms, hypodermics, through the diseases, the cures, the hatred, broadsided barbarians bivouacking under the oily blue tropical night, a teenage girl holds an otter on a leash… Beyond and between the dead machine blinking one, two, three…
Did she see the license plate?
The night sky starless – all the stars are on the streets sparkling with the twilight of infinite despair; impossible transsexuals strutting past drunken comedians, omnipresent cyber hookers looking for the dollar connection, the neon circus, the Red Night Zone, steering the black killing machine towards the Beach. Excited about my new life the pedal hits the boards.
How far I’d come.
A killer on the run, sweet sixteen, baby, sweet sixteen.
Did she see my face?
There’s a chick riding shotgun wearing a tiny silver dress and boots like she just raided the wardrobe from Barberella. Hair peroxide blonde she’s sucking a star-shaped lollipop, says to me, sucking,
“I think we should go back.”
“You’re crazy,” I said.
And she was.
I picked Natalie up in a two-bit shopping mall thinking her outfit would explode to dust. Then it did. Plates flew and waiters fainted, diners battled with chopsticks to get to her… Women covered their children’s eyes. Men quit their jobs and switched careers. The shopping malls were divided into those who admired her beauty and those who resented it. Small armies were organized and families divided. Anarchy erupted in the city while Natalie oblivious to the sexual power at her disposal sat unclothed staring at the sashimi boat. Empires fell and new religions founded. Statues were built and demolished, history books written, rewritten, a short running cable television show produced starring the nearest facsimile to Natalie that could be found by a group of metrosexual auteurs with unlimited contacts and budgets. This and much more would happen, shortly after the fall of several empires and just before the final Armageddon, which would be named by visiting aliens as the Fall of Natalie.
“He might die,” Natalie said bring me back down to the driving seat.
“Did she see us?” I asked her as the neon night flashed by.
“The Nun with the polaroid camera?” The nun was right there in front of the wheels after we hit the traffic cop. How could Natalie not of seen her? Was it the crap I’d been smoking, something I’d been drinking? “How could you not see her?”
“You didn’t see the nun? Black and white costume, big old Polaroid in her mitt. She stood in the road, I took her out. Imagine that, Law and Religion in one hit.”
“I didn’t see no nun, you’re crazy,” she said. Wasn’t the only one that thought so, family got me analyzed by a shrink who told me I was incapable of empathy yet needed to ask me how that made me feel.
“But you saw the Cop?”
“Yes, we should go back,” her face reminded me of a cat. They had nothing to offer but their company and would split for a better saucer of milk any old day of the week. Women were like clothes, you wore them until they were worn and then you found yourself a better outfit.
Maybe so, but I kept driving through the night towards the Beach. The night was slipping into dawn, the red glow peeping above the horizon. I had a vague idea of driving the bucket out of town and switching it for another heap and doing this state by state until we reached another weather system and another time of day. I looked old enough to sit in a bar or rent a motel and with Natalie beside me, I looked older than sixteen. My folks would be happier shot of me, maybe I’d come back when the heat had died down. Get a regular job, a dental plan, see a shrink and work out how to separate the pepper from the mouse shit. As long as the nun didn’t clock me with her camera we had a fighting chance.
Blue and red lights blinking.
I’d killed one of theirs and it obviously meant something to them.
Fuck. Drove parallel to the beach and feigned taking a left towards the mountains, took the third one, throwing the V6 up the beach road and opening her up, three black and whites snapping at the tail. Cop passenger shouting in a radio, backup no doubt.
Cop killer on the run.
Way to go, punk.
Guessed they had the top road blocked. Guess I’ll have to punch through the blockade. Alive they would tear me to pieces.
The exit is in sight.
Motorcyclists swerve out of the path, the V6 plows into a row of market stalls, for a moment the air is filled with grapefruit, pineapple, you name it, sliced and diced.
Approach the blockade, a cop car blocks the exit. Decide to drive through it, Natalie screams, tries to grab the wheel. I hold her face and kiss her mouth as we arc into the morning sky twisting and spinning above the blockade.
The car rolls three times and lands on the roof, Natalie isn’t breathing, blood drips from the corners of her mouth, the make-up glitter she had applied to her cheeks now looks almost pathetic, like a dead doll, the first shards of cold morning sun shines through the shattered windscreen and throw spikes of light at her pale baby-doll- face. I climb out of the wreckage and there she is standing in front of the cops who seem unaware of her presence.
The Nun with the Polaroid camera looks at me directly. As she takes my picture the blackness swallows the world.