THERE was time to think, although it was only seconds which seemed like hours. After his out-of-control truck broke through the guardrail, Beamer wondered if he should jump out of the cab or stay in. Usually in a crisis ``something'' would have told him what to do, something quick and inescapable, but here and now, all rational somethings disappeared. He was, after all, several hundred feet off the earth in an 18 wheeler carrying a mystery load. Samba music was still playing from the tape deck. And he and the truck had just finished being a projectile on a trajectory. Now they were ready to fall. They had shot off the road and moved through space to ... what?
He leaned out the window of the cab. ``What?'' he said, imagining that someone had spoken, or was it the music, the beat of the samba altering the way he heard? And optics? Was he not now seeing light change all around him? And physics?
``What?'' he said.
Why was he not falling? Why was the truck hanging there? What hook had caught it? Who was there to tell Beamer that this was quite amazing; who but Beamer was there to tell Beamer that the truck was, on the one hand, floating, actually floating, and on the other hand not floating, or was there some other explanation between floating and not floating?
Should he be astonished? All around him were the mountains, craggy and severe, yet here in the air was his silver truck with the light blue cab with ``Beamer Transportation'' painted on the door. His truck was quite peaceably forgiving gravity for its predictability and defining a new sense of truck, a truck free of truckness, floating as if it was a big note in an enormous song....
``Rio ... here's to Rio. Let's go to Rio....''
He laughed. Oh my, look at me and my truck. He rose from the seat, laughing, moving headfirst out the window, astonished that all this was still within the definition of transportation, to do this, to float, to look at the truck and see all 18 black wheels turning slowly and going somewhere, or was it nowhere?
Positioned in the air, the truck tilted down slightly. Beamer hung there, beside it, laughing, happy, giddy and unafraid, samba music all around. Then the rear doors opened slowly. Beamer's mouth opened too. ``What? How?'' He laughed. ``This is completely impossible! We're in midair!''
People started coming out, dancing men and women in bright colored clothes, people laughing, swaying and shuffling. He watched as the tempestuous Luty Boo and the Rio Spoon Flyers drifted out, a cluster of samba-driven energy, their instruments glinting in the sunlight as their samba beat filled the mountain air. ``Rio ... here's to Rio, let's go to Rio.''
``Impossible,'' Beamer murmured, his astonished delight overtaking his incredulity. ``Impossible.'' Yet if all this was completely impossible, he thought, then it was completely without boundaries, no restrictions; the impossible embracing all possible impossibilities. It hit him; in the midst of this there could be anything, purple cows, cities made of rubber and rugs, or a nation of unbroken hearts, or singing pigs gathered on a lemonade moon, or the moon finally made of cheese, or a truck - and he began to laugh again - a truck floating in midair surrounded by a rainbow of samba dancers.
Just then Luty Boo waved at Beamer. ``This is impossible,'' she yelled and grinned. ``We shouldn't be here.''
``I know,'' yelled Beamer. ``Neither should I.''
``Rio!'' she yelled and danced. ``Vamos a Rio!''
More and more dancers shuffled out of the truck on samba feet, filling the sky with brilliant reds, oranges, blues, and yellows. Luty Boo motioned to Beamer and he joined the circle of dancers twirling, twisting, dipping around the truck. There was no down or up, just a little sideways for the sake of the booming samba that echoed through the canyons and slopes of the Rockies.
``Rio ... Let's go to Rio!''
Beamer looked around. He could see hundreds of miles in several directions. Normally it would have been breathtaking, a vast scene of awe. Now it was secondary, almost vague before that which was nurturing the impossible. He was not a tourist in this; pride took hold of him. Beamer Transportation, the first to explore the outer limits of impossible transportation.
Just as he thought, ``Where do we go from here?'' the impossibilities continued. The truck began to move slowly back toward the road, the dancers returning into the truck. Luty Boo was shaking a finger at him, grinning and scolding him for his part in this little exercise in midair samba and new truckness.
He shrugged and waved.
``Samba im-pos-sea-blay!!'' she yelled and threw him a kiss.
In minutes the last of the dancers drifted into the truck as the doors closed, the tape music continuing. Beamer lifted himself into the cab as the truck turned finally like a great, blue whale in the sea and moved directly over the road, 20 feet off the ground, then 10, then five, then one, and softly settled back on the pavement, brakes hissing as Beamer took control.
Just then an old, green station wagon pulled up alongside Beamer. The baldheaded man behind the wheel jumped out, eyes bulging, pink mouth agog.
``Great balls of fire, man!'' he shouted. ``How on earth did you do that?''
``It was impossible,'' said Beamer, leaning out the window and turning down the music. ``Zero as I live and breathe.''
``I know, I know, but how did you do it?''
How? thought Beamer. He shrugged. ``I didn't want to do it,'' he said, ``but after it got started I didn't mind.''
``Can you do it again? Can they sing and dance again?'' the man persisted.
Public relations, thought Beamer, a man looking for something like a floating truck and dancing girls to promote and charge admission.
``Nope,'' said Beamer. ``Impossible.''
``Who are they?''
Who is this guy? thought Beamer. He pushed in the clutch and shifted into first gear, ready to pull away. ``Luty Boo and the Rio Spoon Flyers. Listen, I'm late,'' said Beamer, impatiently. ``I've got to go.''
``Where are you going?''
``Can I do it?'' The man had gold in his eyes.
He pointed to the sky. ``Defy the obvious.''
``That's up to you.'' Cue the music, thought Beamer, and turned up Luty Boo.
As he pulled away he could see the man's lips say, ``How?'' And then Beamer put the truck on the road again, this time lumbering and careful as it gained speed. The man jumped back in the station wagon, pulled in close behind the truck and stayed there.
Weaving downhill, Beamer kept control of all 18 wheels, working hard to drive exactly at that point where truck and man were in harmony and rhythm.
But a few miles later Beamer signaled he was pulling over. He had to do it. He was as curious as the man in the station wagon. What had happened? He loved his truck, he loved the samba, but what had happened? Was there something translucent and revolutionary on the loose? Was Luty Boo really in the back, or was there something else there that could explain what happened?
He stepped down from the cab and circled around to the back. The station wagon rolled to a dusty stop. Eager and suspicious, the man got out, shading his brown eyes from the sun and said, ``You opening the doors?''
``Right,'' said Beamer, reaching up and unlatching the handles, banging the steel locks and grabbing the handle to swing the tall doors open. He paused, remembering a question he heard once in a movie, ``What unties me from this and that but cannot be seen?''
He opened the doors.
Empty. Stark, raving empty.
``I knew it,'' said the man, slapping his hand on one of the doors, ``A hoax, a great big hoax!''
Beamer stared into the gray-walled hollowness.
``You're dangerous, Buddy,'' said the man, backing away. ``Doing stuff like that on the open road. I've got your license number.'' He edged toward his station wagon and opened the door. ``Families drive on this road.'' He got in and drove away, shaking his fist.
Beamer stood there, one eye closed, the rest of him thinking. Well, he thought, looking into his naked truck, I've got a possible court case here; a false affidavit told me I had load when I didn't. I should have known.
He shut the doors. But a truck is a truck, he murmured, empty or full. Double pay, too. He walked back to the cab, and swung up into the seat, starting to doubt that anything had happened except the fact that he was hauling an empty truck when he thought it was full. But maybe....
He started the engine. Maybe nothing. Maybe the impossible is so quick it really isn't there unless it leaves a stain or a scratch. Trucks don't float in mountain skies. He looked at his watch: Denver in 45 minutes. Count on it. He turned up Luty Boo, angled the truck back onto the road, and started shaping the wild story he would tell anybody willing to listen.