Reads: 320

Dark is falling and the cold's setting in. Jess hands over the bills and takes the keys from the gas bar owner. She takes a few seconds to admire her new ride. It's an old Ford Ranger. The kind with a single bench seat and never enough legroom. Red paint peeling and withering like petals as rust chews the underlay. She tosses her single bag in the pan next to the spare and climbs into the cab with Marvin.

She hasn't driven in a couple years now, but the key finds the ignition as though it's drawn. As easy as falling. She feels her wrist turn and slowly, reluctantly, the engine catches and rolls into life. Coughing, grumbling, but alive.

There's something in being behind the wheel that feels right to her. Familiar. She's been  still for too long. It's time to make some paces.

The little town disappears behind and ahead is dusk. Cotton candy clouds shift into webs of frost in the air. Orange to pink to grey. Blacks and blues. Treetops form a toothed border darker than space along the horizon. Beyond, the world fades into nothing, lit by a cold moon.

She turns left onto the Trans-Labrador and takes a breath. Passes the check fuel sign and picks up speed, flying dust up into the night. Marvin's asleep, head on her lap and whimpering softly. Jess remembers her cousin placing his newborn in her arms and becoming paralyzed with fear. One wrong move, one slip... I wouldn't feel that way now, would I? I'm braver, I think.

The headlights split the night ahead, transforming the shapes of things into grotesques. Everything is exaggerated. Everything is illuminated. Gravel crunches. The old springs creak and sigh. Joints groan. The peace breaks. Suddenly something's troubling her. The sounds of the old machine become contrary. Abrasive. Odd-fitting half-rhythms that collide and entwine. Twisting into a archaic din of mechanical arithmetic. Her neck crawls. Music, I need music.

She slams the brakes and the truck slides to a stop in the middle of the unpaved highway. Her hands are shaking.

Marvin barks. He's startled.

“Easy, boy. Stay.”

Jess jumps out and grabs her bag from the pan. She drags it into the cab and settles it onto the mat on the passenger side. It's covered in road dust, sparkling in the light of the overhead. Opening it, her hands get painted brown. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

She digs through the clothes, the papers. Moves the books aside. She's frantic now, digging. Finally she finds the CDs, tucked away under a protective cover of hastily folded tees. She grabs one at random and thrusts it into the stereo.

Only it doesn't fit. The old truck has a cassette player. Swearing, she twists the dial on the radio but finds static. Nothing discernible.

“Christ, Marvin.”

Marvin looks at her.

“What?”

Slowly, she starts the thing moving again. One kilometre at a time. Southward. Eastward. Southward. Eastward. Minute by minute, she moves closer to home, wondering why she ever thought it was a good idea. Ashley's voice is still echoing in her ears. You fucking liar! You don't give a shit! And now, two hundred kilometres away from anyone, the rear driver's side tire blows.

It's not a bad blowout, but the shock sends her nearly into the opposing guardrail. Cursing, dreading what's next, she shuts the truck down. Everything stops. All is silent.


Submitted: December 23, 2015

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.

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