John suddenly paused as he approached his rig from across the expansive parking lot. Something his body did without waiting for his brain to request it. His brain was more occupied with making sure he got to the truck with two six-packs, two chili dogs, and two packs of cigarettes still in balance. He caught onto Depeche Mode’s ‘Behind the Wheel’ coming out of the old VW bus parked not quite far enough away to prevent him from catching the weed coming out of it, too. His body registered the wind changing direction.
The sun had just set on this truck stop outside of Custer, in the Black Hills-the Badlands-of South Dakota. John decided he would spend the night if the kids in the van stayed, too. The raucous laughter that erupted every so often convinced him that they were harmless enough, and they should be good canaries in a coalmine if things got squirrely.
Tilting the six-packs to keep the skating cigarette boxes in play, John flashed back to his son’s high school hockey games in Rapid City, many years ago. A part of him noted he still drank the same beer. Of course, this also meant the grimacing memory of his ex leaving him for a vacuously happy, upscale suburban life. He never blamed her for getting tired of waiting for him. Whether vessel or vehicle, John had always needed to keep moving. Stay ahead of it. What bothered him was her going off to be happy, and leaving him as he was. Bitch.
So it startled him when he came to the side of the cab and a girl was there, seemingly out of nowhere. She was small, maybe pushing 5 feet, young, and beautiful. She was also very much Indian. John had never cared for the Indians much. He just didn’t want to be bothered with them. He had kept to his own and expected them to do the same. Whatever their issues were, it wasn’t his fault and wasn’t his problem.
But this one mesmerized him: bronze skin, high strong cheekbones, a ponytailed mane that reminded him of the high-bred horses he had seen on some of those nicer ranches, and grey-green eyes that flickered from within.
It surprised him further how quickly she moved to catch his cigarettes and teetering hot dogs. When she smiled up at him, John tried his best to swallow. As his knees buckled, his mind managed to reassert enough command and control to play it off as an effort to maintain the stack of slow poison he was carrying.
She spoke, and all John could process was the hypnotic tone of her voice and something about “west toward Thunder Basin”. When he hesitated, she added how she could really use one of the beers he was carrying, and John heard himself lying about going that very way tomorrow morning. She stood there, looking into him. He heard himself asking if she had a place to sleep for the night. This detached witnessing of events was foreign to John. He stood at the edge of a canyon, and could not stop his body from moving forward…
He held the door open, admiring her lithe form leaping up into the seat. He caught a chill as he climbed aboard and noticed he was sweating.
After starting the second six-pack in the sanctuary of the truck cabin, John confessed his weariness of always being alone, always on the move. Yes. Yes, she knew this hollow place, as well. She knew this flavor of suffering. John closed his eyes and let his head fall back with a sigh.
“I’m so damn tired. I never can sleep much in this truck.”
“Maybe I could sing you to sleep…pull the curtains, put down your beer and cigarette.”
The Depeche Mode CD was still looping in the background from the van outside. She sweetly sang along:
“I heard it from my friends about the things you said.
I heard it from my friends about the things you said.
You know my weaknesses.
You know my weaknesses.”
As John drifted off he fell into a dream about a pair of lovebirds the family once had long ago, back in Rapid City. He dreamed of taking them outside to set them free. When he set the cage down and opened the door, suddenly he was the lovebird inside the cage, staring out of the opening into the terrifying expanse…
Inside the cabin the song of a young warrior princess, descendant of Wovoka, modulated to a low, guttural chant as she silently withdrew the curved blade from her bag.
Rolling west down Mt. Rushmore Road, Jack struggled pulling on his jacket as the night cold set in. He startled when the form of a young woman appeared in his beams, seemingly out of nowhere, standing at the side of the road. He was too overwhelmed to fully process how her eyes reflected the light the way his cat’s did when hiding in the bushes by the driveway at night, but his body instinctively tensed. She smiled as he passed her. As she began walking toward his slowing car, a coyote called into the dark.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, DoubleDynamite challenged me with “Maybe I could sing you to sleep…pull the curtains, put down your beer and cigarette. ” and I challenged Tereasa Trevor with “Once I touch it, there’s no going back.”.