Gazing into pushy highway traffic,
Rudie over-aimed, struggling to find the cutoff sign. We’d lost our bearings, forgetting which side of the Queen Elizabeth Way to be on for the Niagara fork out of Toronto. His failing eyes fought to focus. I’d lost one of my contacts. And neither of us could cut through the bruised belches of smog against the orange glare of early evening.
  Could be the pink-and-blue Inglis sign flashing DREAMS ARE FREE....DREAMS ARE FREE sidetracked us a few miles back. Whatever, between his ugly lane changes and my suspect navigation, this road trip of Rudie’s was getting dangerous in a hurry. Still, as bad as my eyes were, I was sure a bucket shot out of the back of a pick-up truck in the distance.
  “You see that?” I asked, pushed against the dash, squinting into the sun.
  “What?” Rudie asked, scrounging under his seat for a tape.
  “Some flying can or something.”
  “Look, Jonzun, I’m not hallucinating yet. That’ll come later. But you leave home without your specs and chairs attack,” he sneered, slipping a Concrete Blonde cassette into his tape deck.    Forcing a nervous laugh, I refocused on the primer-baked Honda in front of us. Suddenly, it was firing glaring-red brakelights and skidding. Swerving violently, the Honda jerked onto the shoulder, fishtailing on loose gravel. Then the tall bucket reappeared, bouncing up off the road before tumbling downward again. Falling end over end with the grace of a diver, seemingly in slow motion, it gathered velocity only when it slammed off the pavement, exploding with the urgency of a suicide pilot. In an instant, a milky blanket of white paint enveloped the windshield.
  Yanking the steering wheel left, Rudie blindly veered onto the shoulder. We fishtailed, too, until I felt the radials stop sliding on jagged granules. Rudie’s teeth ground into a Halls cough drop. His eyes shot into the white sheet of paint, hands tangling his mop of black hair.
  “I told you I saw something,” I said quietly.
  Without responding, Rudie reached into the back. Shoving a litre of STP aside, he found a few rags and pulled them to his lap. We looked to each other once before pushing the doors open. That burning paint smell made my eyes water. Rudie’s forest green Ford Mustang was a mess, something a folk festival troubadour would park a few blocks from his day job. The hood was neatly covered with a smooth white splash. Smaller splatters stained the black rag-top and side windows of the ’92 Mustang. The one Rudie bought after selling his life insurance to Bay Street investors for $60,000, half of what the policy was worth. It was a blue chip investment. Better than shares of AT&T. With mutual funds on the decline, this was a sure thing in a shaky market. Rudie had been HIV positive for five years.