10/14/10: Way to shame me into updating again by commenting, people who comment! (Seriously, though, hi, welcome, and pull up one of the splintery old orange crates that we use for seating 'round these parts seein' as we can't afford no fancy chairs.)

The rules from
here still apply.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Diesel

Phoenix rolling up behind him now, rearview eventually giving way to rock-strewn emptiness, and he was on his way. North to Flagstaff, east to Albuquerque, a quick run through Amarillo. Nick had christened his truck the Yellow Kid a few years back, once it became apparent that the Phoenix-to-Oklahoma-City drive had sort of unofficially become his. Nobody got it.

Nick flicked through the radio spectrum for a while, trying to find something that wasn't either brimstone or steel guitars, but finally gave it up as a lost cause. Instead he hummed to himself, some song he'd heard recently about a cat in the rain, or something, he wasn't sure; it was in Spanish, which he had known as a kid but managed to mostly forget somewhere along the way. Probably the song had nothing to do with cats, or rain.

Once or twice he glanced at the photo taped to the dashboard; it was an old one, and the kids were still frozen at four and six and running laughing through Teresa's backyard. There were newer photos at the house in Wichita, he knew, but he preferred the ones that still had Charlie in them. Teresa's daughter Julieanne was in high school now. Every Christmas Teresa sent him family pictures, which he kept in a shoebox. On his dashboard Charlie and Julieanne laughed and ran, and neither cousin betrayed any knowledge of the fall that would neatly remove Charlie from future scenes. Nick was pretty sure you could see the offending tree in the background of that photo. He'd never asked which one it had been, though. Hadn't even been there in the first place. He'd been on the road.

He worked the gears, babying The Yellow Kid up a hill, and then eased it down the other side. In a couple of hours he'd stop at the same diner he always stopped at outside Phoenix. Clara or Berenice or Steph would be there, one of the waitresses who'd served him coffee a hundred times before, and she'd ask him as she poured how his family was, and he'd lie and say fine. As far as Clara and Berenice and Steph were concerned, his wife was still around and his son was still alive. They all lived in a pretty little ranch house in Phoenix. Rhonda wasn't tired of him being gone all the time. Charlie's six-year-old neck hadn't snapped against the hateful ground. Nick enjoyed the fantasy.

Tonight he would sleep in the cab of his truck, and tomorrow night, and probably the night after that, before catching a Greyhound up to Wichita. He'd sleep on his sister's couch, say hi to his niece, and then go back to The Yellow Kid and get back on the road. He didn't have a home; or if he did, then the Kid was it. The pretty little ranch house in Phoenix had been sold years ago, once he no longer had a wife or child to share it with him. Now all he really had was the road.

It was enough, Nick told himself firmly.

Yeah, I don't know. It was going to be a quiet little reflection about a guy with a quiet little life, rolling from job to job, occasionally seeing his sister but otherwise being very much alone. Then I started channeling Richard Bachman at his weakest. Next I guess I die of cancer of the pseudonym?

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