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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · None · #1273085
I came up with it while an a trip to Missouri to visit some friends.

    The pickup moved as if it were on a gravel road instead of smooth blacktop. The

doors rattled and the body squeaked. The wind whistled into the cab despite the

windows being rolled up. Hank could see the spots of faded gloss on the hood of

the truck. The shapes were identical to two T-bone steaks, placed on the hood to

  Hank glanced at the driver. David used the truck as a table while he barbecued.

Then he got so wasted on beer and weed he forgot about the steaks until morning.

Lighting up a cigarette, Hank asked, “How long before we get there?”

    “Not long.” David concentrated on the road.

    “So, tell me.” Hank took a long drag off his cigarette. “Are there any straight

roads down here? These roads can make a man sick.”

    “Up north.” David navigated a sharp left curve that changed into a right

curve. “You get used to the twists, it's the ups and downs that make you wanna


    Hank's stomach dropped as David sped down one hill to curve up into another

left turn. “Oh.” He looked out the passenger window. “I can't believe all the trees out


    “Beats cornfields, huh?”

    “Yep.” Hank glanced past David's large frame, to the other side of the road. “Look

at that!”

    David looked. “Fox.”

    Hank twisted, looking at the small animal. It's copper coat glistened in the early

morning sun. He'd seen foxes in Nebraska, where they both grew up. But this fox,

keeping up with David's beat up Chevy, was somehow magical. Hank swore the

animal locked its black eyes with his green ones.

    “I don't get tired of it. I've seen all sorts of critters out here, just hanging out on

the road like they own it. Snakes, turtles, doves, pheasants, road-runners...you

name it. And it isn't like back home, where they run off, they kinda expect to see

ya. If that makes any sense.” David laughed. “Or maybe it's just one too many


    “What kind of jobs are down here?” Hank thought Missouri could be a place to

start over. He mentioned moving down here to David, but didn't say why he wanted

to. Some things, men just didn't talk about.

    David shrugged. “You take what you can get. Gals have it better, this being a

tourist area.”

    “I thought you said construction was good.”

    “Oh, it is.” David chuckled. “Pay isn't great, you really gotta prove yourself.”

    “I've got references.”

    “So.” David pulled on the wheel to make a sharp turn. “I was partner of a siding

company. Started at ten, now making thirteen.”

    “Geez.” Hank flicked his ash on the floor board. How could a man live on that?

    “Cheaper here. More laid back. Can't beat it.” David smiled. “Get time to explore


    Hank nodded. Yesterday, David got off work early to show him this secluded

place in the woods. Civil war events happened in the area. Troops moved from one

place to another on the winding, nearly hidden paths. It was rumored there were

artifacts waiting to be found by those who looked for them. The closest Hank came

to finding anything was a button that could have fallen from a Confederate uniform, if

it hadn't been made of plastic.

    He shifted in his seat. “And you get plenty to eat.” Hank patted his stuffed

stomach. “I haven't eaten this good in a long time.”

    “That's Angela's doing.” David spoke of his girlfriend with pride. “She's always

cooking. I wish we worked the same hours so I can watch her put it all together. It's

like magic.”

    Hank wasn't sure how to respond to David. Being around David and Angela was

like being trapped in a chick flick, forced to replay the same lovey-dovey scenes

over and over again. He hated to admit to himself that he envied their relationship.

He blamed that on Sandra.     

    He spent most of his life avoiding serious relationships. He should have stayed

away from the entanglement, but then came Sandra. He thought his heart was

completely safe. She was not only his sex goddess but his reason for coming

home at night. Sandra with the golden red hair made him feel alive. Sandra with the

green cat-eyes left him for a man with three times the money in his wallet than

Hank had in savings.

    “Where we headed?” Hank asked, trying to put Sandra in the back of his mind.

    “The resort first. We gotta get ice. Then we'll go to Henson School Road.

There's this place we can park the truck and,” he laughed. “Hell, you'll see.”

    Hank wondered if David was going to have him looking for buttons again. “Man!"

Hank was forced into the door when the truck slipped off the road. David pulled

sharply on the steering wheel and Hank wobbled back into his upright

position. "They don't believe in shoulders around here, do they?”

    “Would ruin the beauty.” David turned onto a road that looked as if it were newly

poured concrete. David nodded toward the area in front of him. “The other side of

this lake-” David pulled on the steering wheel. "It was a tourist trap for a long time."

The truck turned. A narrow one-car-at-a-time road leading to the body of water he

talked about snaked before them 

    “These rich guys from California bought up this property, set up the dock with

their own boats and water skis, put up a few cabins, and voila` they got themselves

their own chunk of the tourist trade.” 

    Hank studied the area. Trees had been cleared out to provide a view of the blue-

gray water. The sun was just rising above the small mountains and casting a glow

over the water in narrow broken lines. He wished he had a view like this to wake up

to every morning, maybe he wouldn't feel so alone.

    As David drove around the resort, Hank looked at the cabins. A total of nine two-

story buildings with split log fences lined the outer edge of the park like area. Each

building had sliding glass doors that led to an evenly mowed lawn and a cook-out

pit. “Nice cabins.”

    “More like town homes. These folks cater to the hoity-toity, as Angie will tell

ya.” David shook his head. “Guess how long it took for them to build one cabin?”

    Hank studied a structure. “From start to finish?”


    “Gotta basement?”


    “Eight weeks," Hank calculated.

    David snorted. “Try three months-just to get the frame up.”

    “What?” Hank twisted to see if he underestimated the size of the cabin. “No


    “Slow. It's a real slow pace here. Residents don't rush, only the tourists. We call

them tour-er-ists, by the way.”

    “Oh.” Hank took a drag off his cigarette, as if David's explanation made all the

sense in the world.

    “Wait here.” David parked the truck and walked into one of the Cedar planked

buildings. Hank figured it was the office, the hours of operation were painted on the

swinging glass door. A few minutes later David hopped into the truck, drove around

the building and parked between a cabin and the office.

    Hank watched as his friend got out of the truck and walked over to an ice cooler.

He could smell the grease drip into the flames of a nearby cook out waft into the

truck before David slammed the door. He heard the bass of some music he was

sure didn't play on any of the local radio stations.

    He wondered who would be cooking burgers at this time of day. He shrugged.

Who cared. It was their vacation. If it was him he'd be frying fresh caught trout.

    David hopped into the truck and slammed the door. “Do you smell hamburgers?”


    David shook his head. “Tourists.”

    Hank looked at the butt of his cigarette. “Ashtray?”

    “Use the floor. I just hose it out every week with all the sand and crap that gets

in here.” David backed out of the alley. “There's this cemetery in Kimberland I want

you to see. It's real cool.” He focused on the road. “The head stones are all

crumbled, some of them look like mounds, nothing on 'em anymore. I like walking

around the place.”

    “Really?” Hank didn't expect this from his long time friend.

    “Bet you didn't know that. It's kind of weird out here, Hank. You discover things

about yourself you didn't know. I learned I like the old cemeteries.”

    Hank thought about the cemetery back home. It was small with neatly mowed

grass, a few huge monuments, and a bunch of plastic plants. He wondered what he

could learn about himself out here. Maybe he'd learn to forget Sandra. “Sounds


    “It's nothing like the one back home.” David took his foot off the gas and tapped

on the brake. “Damn.”

    “What's wrong?” Hank looked out the window. A yellow SUV was approaching

from the other direction. The driver flashed the head lights a couple of times in

warning. “Cops?”

    “Could be.” David checked his speed and dropped his foot onto the brake

again. “Doubt it's a speed trap.”

    Hank looked at the speedometer. David had slowed the truck down to twenty

miles an hour, a good thirty miles under the speed limit. “So why'd they flash you?”

    “Obstruction.” David scanned the road ahead. “No shoulders. If some thing's

blocking the road, you need to know so you can avoid it. We kind of give each other

a heads up, so we're prepared.”

    “Oh.” Again Hank muttered the only thing he could think to say to David's


    David continued down the road. Another car, a bright red sports car, flashed it's

lights. “Yep. Something's blocking the road.” He waved, acknowledging the warning.

    Hank watched as the truck slowly ate up the road. He tried to look beyond the

curves, through the thick green under brush to see what the warning was about. He

saw nothing.

    “Accident.” David murmured.


    “Coming up. I can hear the siren of an ambulance.”

    Hank strained his ears, then looked at his friend. “You can hear sirens over the

rattle of this truck?”

    David didn't re-act to the barb. “You know, I've known two people get killed on

these roads. Locals. Damned tourists drive like these roads are some kind of race

course. Both of them were run off--” David stopped. “Sorry, tourists just tick me off

with what they get away with.”

    “Don't sweat it.” Hank felt the same way about Omahans coming to his town

looking for the river. They'd drive in circles, slowly, causing traffic problems instead

of asking for simple directions. But he doubted they caused a death.

    Hank lit up another cigarette. David's tenseness oozed toward him in the form of

a nicotine craving. They rounded the curve and the tail end of a cruiser became

visible. Strobe lights rounded on top of the cruiser. An officer signaled David to stop.

The policeman angled his head toward his left shoulder and talked. A few seconds

later he waved David to the left side of the road.

    David followed the directions. He strove slowly forward. “Someone went off the

sharp drop.” He shook his head.

    Hank couldn't help it. He looked at the crash sight, like one of David's hated

tourists trying to glimpse the landmark a tour guide pointed out. A gray mini-van's

undercarriage was exposed to the sky. The door to the driver's side was wide open.

Hank saw the crumpled nose of the van, the shattered red-stained windshield still

clinging to the frame, and the steam rising from the antifreeze as it escaped the

radiator. He heard the cry of a baby. He heard hidden people murmur.

    A woman, with short red hair, stumbled around the van. She was scratched up,

yelling frantically for her husband. An officer grabbed her and pulled back behind the

van. She reminded him of Sandra.

    From the van's radio he could hear a country-dance tune, the type Sandra liked

to listen to. He could still hear Sandra singing the songs. She was totally loud, and

completely out of tune. He missed her. She didn't miss him.

    David looked in his rear view mirror. “The driver was thrown.”

    Hank twisted in his seat. The hidden voices now had forms. Two officers, trying

to keep a man alive. A fourth officer was frantically speaking into his portable radio,

violently shaking his head. Another woman was there, a sister, a child, Hank wasn't

sure but she kept asking, “Is he ok? Oh God, is he ok?”

    Hank leaned back in his seat and stared at the bare metal ceiling. He noted the

criss-cross pattern created by some machine thirty years ago. He didn't want to

think of what he had seen. He'd rather think of a hot, well-oiled factory machine

pressing a piece of metal to resemble the roof of David's track. He'd rather think of

the golden sparks of flying metal than the baby crying and the wailing woman who

resembled Sandra. Sparks shattering on the ground were far better than the

crumpled van and his broken heart.

    He took a long drag of his cigarette. They drove past the second police car. The

sirens of the approaching ambulance grew louder by the minute. Hank felt David

pick up speed. The siren faded.

    “Before I lived in Nebraska,” David said, “I lived in Germany. My Dad was Air


    “Yeh. I remember.”

    “We lived near a cemetery. I'd go down there just to walk around. It wasn't like

our cemetery. It was like a graveyard and a park. Everything was real there. The

flowers, the trees, the plants. It wasn't set up like rows of head stones. There were

family plots that looked like gardens. I liked to go there to think.”

    Hank turned to David. He waited for his friend to add more. Maybe even

comment on the tragedy they just witnessed. But David remained silent. “Sounds

interesting.” He commented.

    David nodded. “Kimberland can wait a bit. There's this field up ahead.” David

glanced at the sky. “It's still early enough, I'm sure all the blooms will be open. It's

real cool. Wanna see?”

    Hank heard the rise in his friends voice. It reminded him of when they were

younger begging, without begging for permission from their parents to go out to

play. Hank knew by listening, the crash had affected his friend, just as it affected


    “It's real cool, Hank, all the flowers are as blue as the sky just after dawn.”

    Hank took a deep breath in. Some things you couldn't talk about. “Yeh. Dave.

Think I'd like to see  something like that.”
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