Friday, June 8, 2012

'Big Empty' (1)

The middle of August, hot as hell. Stand outside in the warm sunrise, cross my eyes to see past the glare and the fingerprints, examine my reflection in the living room window. Barely recognize myself, wish I were a kid again. Six years old, when I didn’t have this thundercloud in my stomach. Snap out of it, refocus to see Stevie Ray on the other side of the glass posing these pathetic puppy eyes that remind me of Mom. Mom, unconscious on the recliner. Left a note under an empty beer bottle beside the TV, saying that I was leaving but not revealing where or for how long. Feel like bringing Stevie because she’s the only one who understands, but think Manitoba is too far to take a dog in a car. All I have is my thundercloud, my shit-mobile, a bag stuffed with one of Stevie’s chew-toys, a camera, an outdated map. Wave goodbye, cross over to my car.

Hour into the ride, the sun hangs heavy in the sky. Window’s busted so there’s no relief from the heat that refuses to be ignored. My car smells like potatoes and death. Radio’s busted so I’m stuck with my own voice butchering songs I used to love or thoughts that never go anywhere. Hope the rest of Canada is more fascinating than the parts I’ve seen inside British Columbia. Fantasize about Manitoba, how my situation is about to change. After I’m finished there I might travel to Ontario to become a famous photographer. To capture any sort of beauty that’s left on this earth. Think of Stevie, fear Mom’s going to let her starve. That possibility makes my eyes leak so I stare into the sky until they dry, daydream about other things.

Next hours spent counting splattered bugs on the windshield, trying to hold my breath because the air dries my mouth. Get dizzy quick, try not to blink. Start to see spots and my gaze falls to the gas meter. Realize it’s time to refill. Another twenty minutes of barreling down a highway that isn’t getting any more interesting. Come across a gas station, pull over to fill up and make a phone call to my girl. Haven’t met her yet, but she doesn’t look half-bad in the photo she sent and knows how to spell, which is a step up from most girls I’ve been with. Pull a quarter out of my pocket along with her picture, which has her number scribbled on the back. Punch the numbers in, try to remember if I actually told her I was coming. Try three times before she answers.

“Hello?”

“Molly? That you?”

“Um, yeah? Who’s speaking?”

Haven’t heard her until now. She sounds flat. It’s almost a relief to make contact with another human being, though.

“It’s me. Made it to Alberta. So fuckin’ hot.”

“Wait, who?”

“I’ll be there in a few days, we’ll go swimming like we planned.”

“Oh, you. You’re coming? Seriously?”

“Of course. Excited? I’ve been driving all day.”

“Okay, I don’t how to put this…”

Know this tone. Mom uses it any time she forgets to buy groceries or spends all my allowance on booze. Clench my left fist, stare into the sun until my pupils sizzle.

“I have a boyfriend, alright?I was just messing around on the net, trying to make him jealous. That picture isn’t even me. It’s from a magazine. You didn’t notice? Sorry.”

Click. Typical. Strike the side of the building, not regretting a thing when my knuckles split open. Already miss Stevie but there’s no way back now. No way to admit defeat. Decide to continue. Maybe to Ontario to take pictures. Maybe to be a rock star. Back in the car, driving faster, farther from Stevie. Zombies surround me on the road. Miserable people in cars. No matter the make, year, or model. Miserable. All going the same speed. Use my hand to fan myself, lose concentration.

Hours of traveling into more space. Still battling against heat that isn’t phased by night falling. Skin is wet, mouth is dry, thoughts are baking. The sunset reminds me of what the entrance to Hell might look like, if Hell isn’t as bad as they say. Sweat drips into my eyes, blinds me momentarily. Don’t know where the dog comes from, don’t expect it to stop in front of me. The thud makes my teeth hurt, my ears burn. Instant death. All the other travellers swerve around us, abandoning me with this broken dog.

Retrieve my camera out of the bag in the backseat, kneel down beside my victim. It didn’t have a hope of surviving. Press the camera to my eye, snap a shot. A tribute. Roar into the sky, boot the side of my car, feel more determined to escape. Drag the carcass to the side of the road, vomit for a couple minutes, return to my car. Wipe my mouth, throw my camera into the bag, pull Stevie’s chew toy out. Toss it on the seat beside me, ignore the blood on the hood, speed away faster than any mechanic would recommend.

(End of Part 1)

Note: I’m pretty well versed in copyright laws, so I’d appreciate it if nobody tried to steal this story. I have definitive proof that I wrote it. If you share or re-post it, please give credit to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

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