This is a short story that I wrote many years ago. It holds a special place for me, as it was one of the few times I was really inspired to write non-genre fiction.
Content and language warning.
“Janice, perhaps next year we could move to
“I don’t want to live in
Santa Fe. I want to move to San Francisco and start doing my painting.”
“We can get a time-share in
California also, after we’ve settled in Santa Fe, where you can open a shop for your work.”
“I don’t want to open a shop. That would keep me from traveling.”
“No, it won’t. I’ll send you wherever you want to go.”
“Whatever. Can I get some gas money for tomorrow?”
We drove down the dirt road in his old rusty car, kicking up dust in the dry-heat night. It was midsummer in
Nevada and we were on our way back home from John’s family in Vegas. He had introduced me to them as his assistant and slept in the same bed with me.
The next morning, I had gotten up early. I never slept well in strange places. I went to the kitchen to dig up some coffee or orange juice, something to wake me up. I had just started the coffee when John’s mother walked in. She stopped short for a moment, then recovered.
“I didn’t realized you were up, Janice. I was going to make some eggs and bacon for John. Would you like some?”
I nodded and offered to help, but she waved me to the table, already hunting for the pans and ingredients. I tried to catch her eye and start a conversation once or twice. She answered yes and no and sometimes, but watched the eggs as if she was cooking them with Superman’s heat vision. After a half hour of this, John showed up, yawning and relieved the tension for both of us.
Now, fourteen hours later, he drove fast along the empty road that he claimed was a shortcut. I could not see any lights as far as the horizon. He was talking about his family and growing up next to the casinos; anecdotes that had nothing to do with me, that I could not bring myself to be interested in.
“Are you awake?”
I kept my eyes closed and my head leaning against the seatbelt. “Hmm.”
“Do you think you could drive as soon as we get to the interstate?”
“I’m really tired. Can’t we get a hotel or something?”
“Oh, you’ll be fine to drive. It’s a straight shot.”
“I have to work the day after tomorrow.”
“You can sleep when we get home.”
An hour later, I slid behind the wheel. John was asleep in the passenger seat before we hit the interstate. I turned the music on low and drove all night, stopping for gas at a station near
Salt Lake City. I raided John’s wallet and kept an extra twenty for myself. The attendant got fresh with me and I gave him the look I give to gangster-punks back home. The do-not-mess-with-me look.
I didn’t get to sleep until midnight the next day.