Chapter 9:

I wish I were an alien, the extraterrestrial kind that can read peoples' thoughts, suck out brains through tentacles in their nose, and brainwash entire cities to believe cats should be worshipped. Movies always depict them as being strange-looking, sometimes slimy, but I've always thought that if the big Man made us in His image, He'd make other aliens the same too. Theo says people like to believe there's something or someone else out there so they don't feel so small and insignificant. I tell him there are six point five billion people on the planet – of course they're insignificant.

At the moment, though, I wish I was an alien of the mind-reading variety because then I might know why Theo is lost. He won't admit he's lost, of course. Having just visited Aunt Ida, I would say he's acting stereotypically male due to his masculinity issues.

"I do not have masculinity issues, and I know where I'm going." Theo reiterates for a third time, and with very little amusement.

I don't believe him because we got off the Interstate forty-seven minutes ago and there hasn't been a sign of life since then, unless you count the sign that said: Jessup 10 miles.

I'm beginning to believe Theo is really some kind of serial killer. It would definitely explain his solemn disposition.

"Just so you know, if you're going to kill me I'd like to have some fair warning. Also, when you chop my limbs off while I'm still alive, I'd appreciate if you started with my right arm." I stare at him quite seriously.

Theo gives me a strange look then smirks.

"I've always thought the right arm wouldn't hurt as much if you were to chop it off, not that that's anatomically correct. Everyone knows that there are just as many pain receptors in the left arm, but –"

"Sophie, you're not making any sense." Theo mentions.

I sigh and try to concentrate on the slowly setting sun. The air is still just as sizzling and stifling as it was when I buckled my seatbelt a few hours ago. "Y'know," I use slang because I'm feeling rather hot and western at that moment, "We're kind of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." We used to watch it when Nomi and I were younger and Robert Redford was a heartthrob.

Theo glances dubiously at me and then smirks. "Why?"

I shrug. "Well, we've already stolen a lighter, and you'd look really good with a moustache."

"You stole another lighter?" I might have a small fetish with stealing lighters; they happen to be mesmerizing when flicked on and off repeatedly.

I look at him as if he should know. After all, he was the one who distracted the cashier with his roguish good looks while I snitched it to begin with. "No, we did – in Salt Lake City," I brush it away as if it's not really important, "but back to the moustache…"

Theo shakes his head a little. "I'm not growing a moustache so you can say we're a pair of ancient bank robbers."

"Robert Redford is hardly ancient, and besides – it's perfect! I'm always talking and thinking too much, and you're always quiet and moody, occasionally shooting people."

"I've never shot anyone that I know of."

I quirk an eyebrow at him. "Of course you have."

"When?" He has that skeptical quirk on his face, like he doesn't believe me.

"When we went shooting for gophers at Grandma Kerr's place." We'd been in grade five or six at the time, and Grandma Kerr had given us two bb guns with instructions not to shoot ourselves in the foot. Theo had shot one gopher so suddenly he'd literally shat himself. We'd had a good laugh at the time.

Theo makes a face like it doesn't matter. "That's not shooting at people."

I shrug. "Well, I did almost shoot Grandma Kerr," It had been an accident of course. I'd missed by three inches and ended up hitting a book she hadn't, nor ever would, read. Theo had been told to keep his woman in line, "but seriously, Sundance, we're a great team."

"Didn't they die at the end?"

"Of course. In Bolivia," I wave it off, "but we haven't robbed any banks or trains yet." I grin.

My partner in crime mutters something satiric. He tells me that I can use the analogy as long as I don't call him Sundance again. He won't let me call him Kid either. I guess three names are enough without having to be called Sundance too, so I give in and let him win. Still, what a killjoy.

We seem to be traveling up towards this place called Jessup. I ask Theo if it's some kind of terra-burp, like a hiccup but earth-style. He doesn't answer me. Whatever it is, the landscape kind of reminds me of home. I kind of miss it now that the sun's sinking into the horizon.

"Hey, Theo?"

"Hm."

"Do you miss home?" I stare at him to gage his reaction, but there doesn't seem to be too much facial activity.

He doesn't really hesitate. "No, not really."

I feel dissatisfied with his answer, but I don't know why. Instead of asking him about it, I pop in an acoustic tape and roll down my window. Fresh mountain air pours through Delia and plays with my dreadlocks. I love the feel of wind, which is the reason why I can't wait to see the Ocean – to feel the gusts of salty breezes. Theo told me once that it just makes everything colder, but I choose not to believe him because he's a pessimist.

We stop at the top of a hill surrounded by trees and Theo turns Delia off.

I quirk an eyebrow in his direction. "This is the part of the movie where you get a crazed gleam in your eye and pull out a sharp object like a chainsaw, right?"

"Sure." He mutters.

"Cue the thematic creepy music, please."

He simply shakes his head and gets out. Curious, I follow his actions and watch as he pulls out his backpack from the back. I wonder if he plans to leave me behind in the wilderness and see how long it takes for me to find him and ring his neck. Uncle Braxton did it to me once. Sarah Lee swore at him in eight different languages, then he and John sat around and drank Pepsi. So much for reprimand.

I think this is only the second time he's come up with an idea without my help, besides the Grand Canyon. Maybe he's making up for lost time. I grin at him.

He looks at me funny, then turns and begins walking towards the slowly darkening forest.

"Where are you going?"

He turns briefly and shrugs before continuing on his way to death. I follow him, very curious indeed.

"How do you know about this place?" I ask after I catch up to his giant-sized footsteps. Grandma Kerr said once that Theo could probably walk five thousand miles like that silly Irish drinking song. I have no idea what she's talking about.

Theo shrugs and hesitates. "My…uh…Boy Scout group used to come out here sometimes."

"You were in Boy Scouts?" I can't contain the shock.I try to picture him in a Boy Scout uniform, but I just can't. It's one thing to know someone who can survive out in the woods, but it's another thing entirely trying to picture them in a dorky outfit. I hate uniforms too. They're so conformist.

He shrugs almost sheepishly and I feel kind of bad for sounding so incredulous. "A long time ago."

It makes sense when I think about it. Where else would he have gotten his amazing wilderness skills that he's always showing off at home?

"So you do know where you're going?" I ask skeptically.

He nods with confidence.

"So we can find Delia?"

He nods again.

"So if we happen to get chased by fascist Wallabies, you'd be able to get us back to civilization?"

Theo arches an eyebrow at me. "Wallabies don't exist in North America."

I shrug. "Maybe not regular ones, but there could be some fascist ones lurking around somewhere here in Jessup." I pretend to glance around, just to be sure. There's no telling what kinds of creatures could be lurking near an earth burp.

We stop and suddenly I'm overlooking rock and wilderness in the twilight of an almost departed sun. It's not exactly like home, but it's still beautiful.

Theo pulls off his back pack and unzips it, revealing a small blanket, and some other items which he hands to me, along with a lighter. The items are the exact size and shape of something so familiar…

I stare at them for a moment before my eyes take on a crazed gleam of happiness. "You found some!"

He smirks to the point of an almost smile. "I had to shut you up somehow."

I hug them to my flat chest fondly. "They're the most beautiful, most perfect explosive objects ever molded into existence!" I'd do a dance, but I don't want to risk Theo reconsidering leaving me in the wilderness to die.

We sit on the blanketed boulder and throw lit firecrackers off into a ravine to watch them explode, just like home. My hands tingle with delight. This must be what an addict feels like after being without a high for a long time. I sigh and blink at the familiar purple spots dancing before my eyes.

"You miss home?" Theo asks, lying on his back and staring up at a clear sky of stars.

I shrug and dangle my legs a little. "Sometimes. You get used to things – normal things, like Nomi and her hippie-ness, and John taking me for ice cream, and Sarah Lee yelling at me to Mr. Clean her floors…" We both smirk. "I think home can be a relative noun, though." I announce, throwing just one more fire cracker. There are only eleven left, and if I light anymore I'll be left with an even number.

"You think so, do you?" He sounds a little hopeful, I think.

I shrug. "Of course. People do it all the time, especially homeless and transients. Lots of them use people in reference to it, or an alley, or a possession. I don't think it matters all that much."

Instead of answering, Theo sighs. For awhile we lie there and watch the stars. I've never seen them quite so clear before, even in comparison to the ones at home. Sometimes I wonder if they're actually real or if they're just like in that movie where everything is fake and people control the weather. I think a lot of people could go crazy with so much paranoia. Theo agrees with me. I personally believe that that's the reason why faith is so important; it keeps our mind from exploding.

"Theo, if you were an Existentialist, what would you eat for breakfast?" The question has just arrived in my brain and out of my mouth before I can properly mull it around to figure out my own solution for it. That's the strange thing about speaking before you think.

Theo looks as me as if I'm alien, but not the mind-reading kind. "What?"

I return his stare with one of curiosity. "I was just wondering. Existentialists are practically inhuman because they're always questioning their existence. Wouldn't their diet be entirely different too?" I desperately hope that he doesn't give me a sarcastic answer; it would defeat the purpose of my question entirely.

He shakes his head and smirks. "They eat dinner for breakfast, and breakfast for dinner." He says finally.

I contemplate his answer until I think I understand it. It's like Mr. Blane's unbelief in endings I guess. In all reality I probably have no idea what either of them is talking about. Instead of asking Theo to explain himself, I tell him we should go before a pack of fascist Wallabies comes to make us their economic slaves. I don't know why he chucks a pinecone at my head.

We spend a few more lazy minutes lying there staring before I sit up. "Let's go." I say, shivering at a sudden cold breeze against some exposed skin on my lower back. Theo gets up and begins folding up the blanket and stuffing it into his back pack again. I keep my firecrackers close, determined to sleep with them once I get to Delia, that is, if I get to Delia. Theo says if I mention fascist Wallabies again he's going to leave me here for them to eat me. I tell him he's incorrect; fascist Wallabies don't eat people, they just suck them of all economic resources until they die.

I manage to make it to Delia without being left behind, but only because Theo says my parents would have definitely sent him to jail if he had.

As we settle into our sleeping bags, and I cuddle close to my newly found pyrotechnics, another thought hits the electrical pulses through my brain. I don't say it out loud because Theo is already softly snoring on his side of Delia, and there are no fascist Wallabies to consult. I don't think they'd be much help anyway. With that in mind, I drift off into a strange dream where Theo is dead and I don't know how to dial the phone.

I wake up the next morning to the Islamic singing of a squirrel high in the trees summoning me out of my slumber. I wish I had a slingshot, but then I remember that as a vegetarian and lover of nature, I must not bring any physical harm to animals, including Islamic singing ones. Theo groans next to me as the singing continues and mutters something about a bb gun. He's a carnivore, so I wouldn't necessarily be able to stop him. I contemplate making Theo strap the squirrel to a firecracker, but think better of it; it's hard to catch a squirrel. I'd tried it once. They're hyperactive little buggers. PETA would probably hunt me down and shoot me too.

"Do you think he's yelling at us, or the wallabies?" I ask quite innocently. For some reason Sundance Kid throws his rank-smelling t-shirt at my head. Fascist wallabies must irk him somethin' fierce. "Jeez, Theo. No need to get your t-shirt in a twist." I hear him snort a kind of laugh – not quite a chuckle. I don't like to categorize it as a chuckle, because the word in itself reminds me of old men sitting in barber shops and talking about their old ladies or something.

The Islamic squirrel carries on into a second song after a brief water break. I sit up to see if I can see where the stage is from the back window of Delia. Theo moans and tries to smother himself to death with his pillow. I tell him I'm not inclined to deal with his dead, asphyxiated body and he lifts it to smirk up at me.

The sound of his stomach growling rivals the third verse of the squirrel. It's enough of an excuse for me.

"Let's go." I say, opening the trunk door and stepping out into the cooler air with a yawn.

Theo rubs his face, a habit I've noticed he does every morning, and tugs on the same ratty black t-shirt he wore yesterday, the one he threw at me. Gross.

The instant Theo steps out of Delia the singing stops.

I turn and frown at him. "I think he knows you're a good shot and a carnivore."

"I think – " his retort is cut short by the squirrel again.

For a minute I look around, and there in the tree above us, to the right of Delia, is the very intent looking face of our singing rodent. "If I spoke your language, I would tell you to shut up!" I yell at him, but he doesn't seem to understand.

Theo shoves his hands in his pockets and glances over at me. "Maybe it's female."

I glare at his smug face. "What is that supposed to mean?"

He gets in Delia before I can get in much about the insinuation. I would rant at him, but he was very nearly grinning a very mischievous grin, so I let it slide, instead asking him where we're going as I buckle my seatbelt.

"California." He says simply.

"Today?" I ask as I rummage through the glove box for a different tape. The only one we haven't listened to is The Moffats, and Theo says if we ever listen to them he'll attempt suicide over a bridge. He's so melodramatic.

He nods once he starts heading back down the mountain. "Yep."

I sag a little against my seat. It'll be a good thing once we're in California. The tapes we have are getting old to listen to, and there aren't any good radio stations around. I'm even bored with trying to decipher the meaning behind what qualifies as a "sexy back". At least I have my fire crackers.

It takes almost an hour to get back to the Interstate, and another thirty-three minutes to find a dilapidated farmer's market another ten minutes off the road. The farmers and their stands look as if they've been there since the invention of the light bulb, but I repress the urge to mention this. They sell some funky things though.

I make Theo buy things like kettle corn, pop corn, and barbequed corn slathered in butter. He only eats the barbequed corn because he says he hates pop corn. I argue that vegetable corn is the same as popped corn, but by then I've shoveled too many handfuls of popcorn in my mouth, and Theo has butter all over his face. It's a meaningless battle.

We pass a cotton candy booth, and hand made wool goods, knick knacks, a seed booth, hemp products, and all sorts of strange people and nifty gadgets. I think of Nomi and how much she would probably fit right in with all these people who look like children of the seventies. I wonder if she's still going to Princeton to learn with all those silly drinking "academic" yuppies. Maybe her big news had been that she'd decided not to and had put a down payment on a bus. It's unlikely, but I like to hope for things like that.

"Y'know, I was thinking about an existentialist's breakfast," I say as we pass a booth selling trinkets made of popsicle sticks. They've reminded me of my epiphany in Delia before my REM cycles. "I think that it would depend on the existentialist. If he believes that everything is meaningless, then it doesn't matter what he eats; if he believes nothing is meaningless, then he's probably going to have too many ulcers thinking about it to care. Right?" I glance around at the silence and find that Theo isn't even listening, but observing a remote control car spinning circles near another booth.

Reluctantly he turns, his gaze lingering on the remote control car as if it means something supremely significant. I don't know what. "What?" he asks.

"I said we should buy a llama and name her Dolly." I say.

He seems rather overly confused. "Why?"

I shrug. "Then we'd have our own Dolly llama."

Theo stares at me while I titter to myself at how clever I am.

"Dolly llama? Dalai Lama?" I stare up at him expectantly.

"You inherited your mother's sense of humor." He says dryly and with a smirk.

Instead of responding I repeat my real epiphany to him.

He shrugs. "It makes sense." I can tell he's still not paying attention because he has nothing to say about it. Usually he has his own theories to add or something. It's so unlike him to not share his opinion.

"Do you want to buy it?" I ask.

He blinks at me, a little surprised. "What?"

"The car," I nod backwards to it, "Do you want to buy it?" I figure since it's a home grown product, he might as well support them.

For a moment I think he's going to say yes, but his brows dip briefly and he turns his attention to something else. "Nah."

"Are you sure? I could –"

"Don't worry about it." He says in that way that I know he's serious. I don't know why.

I sigh. "Well, we have to buy something. Farmer's markets like these are saving the environment."

He quirks and eyebrow. "Booths that are falling apart are going to save the environment?"

I simply nod.

"By decomposing into the ground?"

I'm so disappointed in him. He should know better. "They cut the cost that would otherwise be spent on shipping useless things that we can grow here." Really, it's been all over the news. Too many products are shipped overseas, using up more gas and oil. If we all just used home grown stuff, we wouldn't need to pollute as much.

"Oh." He says.

We still don't buy the remote control car. Theo says the man selling them probably ships them in from China anyway, thus defeating the purpose.

Instead we buy a baby sunflower growing in one of those clay pots from an old couple. They live in an R.V. during the summer and spend their winters in Mexico. Sue, the old lady, says that she adores my hair and wishes she were young again. Don, her husband observes me with a smirk on his face that reminds me of Theo a lot. They ask where we're going and tell me that the ocean is marvelous this time of year. I can tell that they love each other; Nomi would call it adorable. I just call it cute.

They're the perfect example of companionate love: friendship love. Those kinds of romances always last the longest, because if it's any other kind, it's usually based on too much testosterone and sex. Aunt Ida says she's a ludic lover because she doesn't believe in only one mate. Sarah Lee told Ms. Jyles once that ludic lovers are also more susceptible to getting STIs. Ew.

We wave goodbye to Sue and Don and head back to Delia with our sunflower and popcorn.

"I hope I have that kind of companionate love that they do when I'm their age." I say while at the same time contemplating what I should call the sunflower. "Don't you?"

He shrugs and looks at me funny for a moment. "Sure."

Theo told me in eleventh grad that doesn't believe in love, and that it's only a chemical reaction in the brain that fades, usually within four years. That had been after Melissa Donovan had refused to go out with him. I don't really keep track of his love life; it doesn't really interest me all that much. He probably wouldn't tell me anyway.

"Fine, but you can't deny that they were cute."

He glances at me skeptically. "They weren't cute, they were old and retired and beyond having a sex life."

I raise an eyebrow. "Y'know, Theo, sometimes I wonder if you have a heart at all."

He doesn't answer, just stares at me strangely again in that way that I can't decipher. Maybe he's trying to send me messages telepathically, but I'm just on the wrong frequency.

I personally think love's a matter of choice, because really, how can anyone live with the same person for years and not think about killing them once in awhile? Still, I'm a bit of a romantic, indoctrinated with too many sappy love stories that Nomi makes me watch. She doesn't make me watch them too much anymore because I always pick apart the relationships and determine that they'll never last long; they're all based on sex. No good relationship lasted on sex alone – there has to be substance. Grandma Kerr said that once. I don't think it'll get her into Heaven. That's the problem these days: most people just don't know what love really is.

Theo rolls his eyes and calls me a sap.

When it comes to matters of the heart, Theo is a brick wall. He scoffs at the comparison, then smirks as if it's some kind of accomplishment. "What are you going to name your sunflower?" he asks to change the subject as he starts Delia.

I shrug. "I think you should name it."

For once he indulges me and takes some time to think about it. I think he's just guilty that he didn't contribute anything to my topic of companionate love. "How about…" his face quirks and animates, "Bill."

I snort. "That's terrible."

"Sunny?"

I make a face.

"Darla?"

It's even worse than Sunny. "Are you going to name your children like this?" I hope not. I'd feel bad for any of his offspring named Darla.

"Fine," he rolls his eyes and his window down at the same time. "Since you're so keen on love, how about Venus?"

I glance at him, then at the plant in my lap. "Venus is perfect!"

Theo says that Venus will probably wilt in the backseat within three days, and I frown at his pessimism. No plant ever grew without encouragement and his negative attitude isn't helping in the least. He laughs at me and replays a Beach Boys tape.

It takes three hours and eleven minutes before Theo mentions that we passed the Californian border while I was reading a comic book of Foucault. I glance around to see if the landscape is any different, but it doesn't seem like it so far. I don't see any bikini-clad models or ripped surfer dudes, but that's apparently because we're not close to any large bodies of water yet.

"So," I close my book and chuck it into the back seat. Theo frowns briefly at my handling of his books. There are bigger things at hand, "How long until we get there?" Foucault isn't nearly as interesting as crashing waves and seashells.

He shrugs nonchalantly. "Maybe another day at the most – I'm not really sure."

I nod as if he's told me something supremely exciting. If anything, he's being typically vague. "So where is 'there'?" Aside from the fact that it's most definitely going to be the Pacific Ocean, I have no idea where we're going.

"Eureka." Theo says simply.

I stare at him, waiting for him to tell me his brilliant idea. After a moment he glances at me with confusion.

"What?"

"You said 'Eureka!' so I was waiting for your ingenious plan."

His eyes glint with a smirk. "It's the town's name: Eureka, California."

"Oh." I like it. I like that it's different, that it has some kind of exclamation of excitement behind it. I wonder if all the people there are geniuses.

Theo looks dubiously at me when I ask him, but doesn't answer.

I grin out the window and shove my arms out like I'm on a roller coaster shouting, "Eureka!"

A car honks at me and I give him the finger. Theo smiles a little proudly as I settle myself back in my seat.

"I think we're going to like it there."

A/N: Sorry it's taken me yet another long period of time to get this up. It really can't be helped! Hope you enjoyed. What did you think of this chapter?

note: I tweaked this one after posting it - just in case you were confused. Nothing's really changed, I've just added a couple lines here and there.