I got fired again. This time for using the delivery truck for street racing. And I would've won. Had it not been for the damned turbocharger in Raymond's Falafel Food Truck. Anyway, when I drove back to the warehouse Bert called me into his office and asked me to look at the map on his computer screen.
"De Furia," he said, "can you tell me what the hell were you and that delivery truck doing in Mount Roskill at lunchtime?"
"Did you hide a GPS in my truck?"
"Every single one of the trucks in this warehouse is GPS-ed, De Furia. Didn't you know? Tell me what you were doing in Mount Roskill. Driving a date around?"
"No, Bert. No date."
"I was street racing."
"All right, you're fired. Tell Edna to write you a severance check."
I tossed the truck keys on Bert's desk and left.
An hour later I had cashed the check and was in the street with my jacket zipped up standing at the bus stop. The next bus wouldn't be coming for another half hour so I stuck my arm out and hailed a cab, 'cause baby, I was flushed with cash. The cab stopped, I got in the back seat, and slammed the door.
"Hey, watch it!" the driver said. "I just bought this car."
"Where to?" she said.
"Nearest liquor store first...It'll be a quick in and out."
"A quick in and out?" she smirked. "Holding up that store, then use me like your getaway car, are you?"
"What? No. I'm gonna get me some beers. Then you're driving me home. Deal?"
"Deal. But the metre stays running."
I looked at her driver's permit on display.
"Harper Smith...is that your name?"
"Yes, it is."
"You have a beautiful name, and a beautiful picture."
She was looking at me in the rearview mirror. Her big green eyes were doing the smiling. "Yeah? And what's your name?"
"Gian. Gian De Furia."
"Is that a name you made up? An alias?"
"It's Italian." I showed her my ID.
At the liquor store I grabbed a six pack of Steinlager, paid in cash, and walked out. Harper had the engine running. I shouted: "I'm riding shotgun!"
She unlocked the passenger's door and let me in. "What did you get?" she said.
I showed her.
"Steinlager...nice...What's the occasion?"
"Me getting fired."
"You're drinking to you getting fired?"
"I'm drinking to me getting fired."
"Oookay. So where to now, John?"
"It's Gian, sweetheart. But you can call me John...Downtown. We're going downtown."
Harper put the transmission stick to «D» and we were back on the road.
"So where are you from?" I asked.
"Dunedin. Been there?"
From my jacket I pulled out my jackknife and reached for a Steinlager. I looked at Harper. I knew her type well. She was the type of girl that looked pretty during the day, but smoldering hot at nights. I liked her. I liked that her sweater was tight. And that she wore black nail polish. With the jackknife I popped the beer cap open and told her, "Dunedin? No. But there's good whisky there." I drank from the bottle.
"And penguins," said Harper.
"Don't know what you're saying."
"You never heard of 'em penguins? Flightless birds, super cute, real gentle, very well dressed?"
"Ah, fuck, pen-guins. You're talking 'bout pen-guins."
"Yeah, penguins. That's what I said."
I drank beer and opened a bottle for Harper.
"John, I can't."
"Why? I wanna have a beer with you."
"'Cause I'm driving."
"Just a sip, girl."
"Fine. How about this? We stop the car, and you and me drink beer. We'll keep the metre running."
Harper thought about it. She asked me, "Do you spook easily?"
I drank from my bottle and shook my head.
"There's a cemetery nearby. Do you see that hill?"
"I see it."
"We can drink in the cemetery and look over the city. The view's nice."
"Girl, you're my ride or die."
She steered the car, took the exit, and drove up the winding path to the top of the green hill and shut off the engine. We got out, I put the six pack on the hood of the car, and we drank in the cemetery.
I said, "You do realize everyone around us is dead?"
Harper took a sip from her bottle. "Yeah, but you and me are alive...and that's enough to drink beer."
I looked over the tombstones and then over the city. A sudden feeling of calm came over me. "The view is nice," I said. "I like it."
"Do you really?"
I pulled Harper up real close and kissed her.
Around us there was less light.
The sun was about to set.
I told her, "I'll find a new job this week."
Her hand was in my hand. Her fingers were long and warm and her nail polish was black.
"That's good," she said.
"And then, I want to take you out on a proper date."
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