DARK END OF THE ROAD

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


Drinking and driving.

Submitted: October 18, 2017

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Submitted: October 18, 2017

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A A A


 

 

 

 

 

The Dark End of the Road

 

 

Tom shut the Cadillac’s door and leaned his heavy frame against the cool steel body. “Damn fog.” He removed the flask from the pocket inside his jacket and took a swig. He capped the flask, then staggered around the front end of the car, glancing down at the grill and hood in anger, praying the gloom would cover the new dent as he lumbered off toward the bar.

He stopped under the buzzing yellow light that hung over the door of the Burping Mug Bar and Grill and turned to look back into the fog before he hurried inside to escape the night. The odors of alcohol and cigarettes greeted him like old friends, chasing away the thoughts of his impending bankruptcy, but the vision on the road remained.

Tom shivered as he hung his coat on a rack.  What the fuck had he just done? He shook his head in disgust, his stomach threatening to revolt.

"Evening, Tom.” His favorite bartender tossed a rag into the double sink. She wore a black western style shirt with red-ruby buttons and the usual pack of cigarettes and lighter in the front pocket. “Foggy tonight, ain’t it?" Kitty’s blue eyes flashed with sudden concern. He’d always believed that the young woman had an uncanny intuition.

 “It’s a God-damn mess out there.” A shudder wormed up his back, and Tom looked toward the door, wondering if his deed had followed him into the bar like a ghost. 

"Anything special for you tonight, Tom?"  The blond-haired woman asked, ready to wring out his problems with a stiff drink.

A cowboy song crackled to life on the old jukebox at the back of the bar. The twanging Honky-Tonk diluted the local gossip. Tom shook his head. “My usual plus a Guinness, please.”

“Comin’ up.” Kitty turned to grab the drinks. 

Tom combed his fingers through his thinning gray hair. He sat his middle-aged pudgy frame onto a small red stool. The enormous bust of a mule deer stood out from the wall over the beer taps, and a raven looked balefully down from an antler it was attached to. The pair had been there for three decades or more, but tonight they seemed ominous, even accusing.

 Kitty slid a beer, then the Jack and Coke in front of him. “One icky, dark beer and your usual.”

 He grabbed the Jack and Coke first.

“Everything all right, Tom?"

He looked up, knowing he wouldn’t be able to hide his anxiety. “Money, again,” Tom tried to fool her, gulping the stiff drink.  He put his sleeve to his mouth, and sighed. “My farm is bankrupt.” It was true that his family’s farm was underwater.

Kitty gave him a peculiar look and went to help an inebriated cowboy attempting to grab a bag of free popcorn from the popper. 

Tom grabbed the Guinness and took a long drink. He turned the stool toward the open bar as he pulled a cigarette from his pack in a shirt pocket. On the far wall of the Burping Mug, a display of antique whisky bottles formed an amphitheater of glass that attested to the alcohol consumption of the pioneers whom settled the small town of Denver, Idaho. Both the walls and ceiling were both covered with an assortment of old pictures of people, places. Fifty years of electronic beer signs represented tastes and advertisements from the past.

“How ya doin’ Tom?" Marty Hawkins sat down on the barstool next to him. “Damn youngest of mine, wouldn’t go cat-fishin’ with me.” The man was a thin, wrangled looking rancher. He had green eyes that peered out from behind glasses and he always wore a busted-up brown cowboy hat.

“Kids.” Tom’s upper lip lifted in a sneer of anger and resentment. “Riding in the…” he stopped short of saying what had happened and took another drink of the bitter beer.

“Ridin’?” Marty asked blithely. “My youngest boy’s always playing video games with that Burke kid. Can you imagine a boy choosin’ games over fishin’.”  Marty’s raised voice coincided with a beer-spilling gesture. “Waste of time!” he slurred. “Friggin’ kids today!”

Tom reached for his whiskey in a desperate attempt to shake the afterimage of the red bike as it careened crazily towards the ditch. The face, the nose, the same eyes as his father’s. He put his head down on the bar for a moment, hoping he wouldn’t be sick.

He looked directly up at the deer and his black companion. Kitty must have interpreted his drunken grimace as an order for another drink. She poured another Jack Daniels.

Marty mumbled. “That kid of mine is at the Burke place, again. You’d think he lived there.” The man was half-deaf from lifetime of working on a rock-crushing rig, for Suebert’s Crushing.

Tom turned his attention to Marty. “What was your boy’s name?” he sucked down the drink in several quick swallows and sat the empty down.

Marty pulled out a tin of chewing tobacco. He dipped his big fingers in the Copenhagen can for a pinch between his cheek and gum. “Jack,” he said, shaking the loose tobacco from between his fingers and stuffing the lump behind his front lip. He took a drink of Budweiser to wash down the loose grains. “I gotta take me a piss.” Marty moved off with urgency.

 The mule deer’s dark glass eyes glowered down, and the raven looked over it all. “Thanks, Kitty,” he said, as she set another whiskey and Coke in front of him.

“You and that old buck and bird have something special going on tonight?” Kitty interrupted. “Dad always said, if you stare at any of them long enough they’ll steal your soul.” She gave him a half-hearted smile. “I hate that worm-eaten raven. He gives me the willies.” She shook her head in real disgust.“Who stuffs a raven anyway? The thing should be pushing up some beans or something.”

Tom took a long drink. He sat the half empty glass down, alcohol coursing through him. "Did you do something with that goddamn deer tonight?” He tilted his head for a better look.

“I gave the bar a dusting earlier. Maybe it’s cleaner. He bothering you?” She slipped her hands over her hips ready to tackle the problem in earnest.

“No.” He lied again, and looked from the dead thing beats into Kitty’s eyes.

She looked suspiciously up at the deer and the raven and back at Tom.

Ice clacked against Tom’s teeth and he asked for another. She poured it. “Sure, you need this, buddy?  Why don’t you stick around tonight? We can talk while I close up.”

Tom felt the sweat on his forehead head and he wiped it away with a shaking hand. “Thanks, Kitty, but I’ll just take one more for the road.” His eyes closed but he could still see the terror and heard boy scream as the Cadillac hit him. Tom’s hands were frozen to the steering wheel. “Mary, Jesus, fuck.” He watched the body flying in the headlights.

Tom opened his eyes and was back in the familiar surroundings of the Burping Mug. He wasn’t sure he needed another drink. "Damn kid." He said it loud enough for Kitty to take notice and give him a queer look. 

Tom removed his wallet from a back pocket. He slapped a fifty onto the bar. “Screw the bank.” He stood slowly, lifting his heavy legs and moving toward his coat.

***

Tom dreamed of a flat hazy plain upon which every step took him deeper into the dark. A weak groan sounded from within the nightmare and he awoke. 

His soul struck at him with its own gavel; dyspeptic alcohol burned his throat with guilt. He sat up the bed. The digital clock on the nightstand displayed 2:33 and he headed to the garage.

The heavy fog still clung to the road as Tom cruised close to the shoulder, where the accident took place. He pulled the Caddy to a stop near the spot and grabbed his flashlight before he opened the door to enter the fog. A country song by Meryl Haggard played on the radio.

The Cadillac idled. Its headlights pierced the fog as Tom stepped into the deep shadow of the ditch. It was cold, and he could see his breath. The prairie was silent and the road black. The ditch was dark and the grass tall and he nearly stepped over the body before he saw it. He shined the flashlight down at the twisted and torn boy. The dead eyes shone back red in the beam.

Tom remembered the sound of the tires as the slid on the pavement, followed by the heavy, visceral blow that had undoubtedly scrambled the boy’s vital organs into jelly. He was instantly sober, and desperately needed a drink.

He moved his flashlight away from those red eyes and began vomiting, stumbling and falling, his face nearly hitting the cold dead face of the boy. Tom picked himself up. He was out of breath, but reached out to take a small arm into his hand. The thin wrist was cold to the touch. Lightheaded, Tom took a deep breath to steady his nerves and pulled the body into his arms. The boy was big enough that his feet dragged as he pulled it onto the road.

He thought he heard something in the fog as he carried the body toward the car, shoes and jeans scraping the pavement. It was an accident, even if he had been drinking. What did Marty say his son’s name was?  Tom hadn’t stopped to consider another man’s family, something that he had never had. Jack had been his name.

Headlights pierced the fog behind the Cadillac.The driver gaped at Tom from behind the wheel. His Ford pickup moving fast, the driver’s eyes focusing on Tom and his burden, Tom and his son in the middle of the road.

Tires squealed… The Ford’s steel grill slammed into Tom and the boy with a bone crushing thump. The body flew from his arms and Tom landed in the ditch. 

He could see the boy’s foot, his shoe was gone, the sock half off. The truck skidded to a stop. The Ford’s door opened. Tom couldn’t move and realized he wasn’t breathing. 

The sound of cowboy boots tapped on the pavement.  The Tap, tap, tap came closer. “Jacky!” Tom heard Marty call...

 

The End

 

 

 


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