Krissy swerved back into her lane and shot a futile glare at the oncoming convertible as it whizzed past.
Rebecca paused mid-rant. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry,” Krissy said. “I’ve been stuck behind a slow truck for miles, and I lost it for a second there. I’m listening, I promise!”
“Seriously, ‘boogersnot’? You’d probably be a lot less tense if you just let an F-bomb fly once in a while. Come on, try it. Tell that truck to get the FUCK out of your way!”
Krissy was glad Rebecca couldn’t see her blush. “I don’t know, swearing isn’t really my thing.” She crept the Jetta back over the center line.
Another line of cars coming.
Krissy sighed and fell back behind the sluggish semi.
“You’re so fucking sweet I just got diabetes from the vomit you induced in me,” Rebecca said. “Better toughen up, or those rednecks will try to deep fry you too.”
“That’s providing I make it there,” Krissy said. She was running late for her first solo assignment, covering the 12th Annual Clark County Fried Food Festival — a rural American gala with more clogged arteries per capita than high school diplomas. It certainly wasn’t a grand enough event to warrant the presence of real journalists, but the paper wanted an intern staked out just in case another contestant keeled over from a coronary during the highly anticipated Corndog Cook-off.
“You’d better, if you want to cover the grand re-opening of the Urinal Cake Museum in Greenfield next month.”
“Hey, I got my first byline covering the Podunk Possum Days Parade. Never underestimate city dwellers’ demand for flippant hillbilly stories. Scoffing at the simple pleasures of others makes the miserable fucktards of the business world feel civilized as they snort cocaine out of their secretaries’ ass cracks.”
“Try to have some fun, kid. And snap some pics of the fried Twinkies; it will give the gym nuts something to jerk off to.” Rebecca hung up.
Krissy tossed her Bluetooth earpiece onto the passenger seat and smiled. She liked Rebecca. Despite her crassness, she was a million times more pleasant than Mitch, the last reporter she had interned under. He had an infuriating habit of pointing; he would constantly wag his index finger in her face while listing all the ways she had royally screwed up his coffee order. But after Mitch’s abrupt retirement the newspaper had placed her with Rebecca, who at least treated her like a human being. Although if she didn’t get to her assignment on time that might all change, and the 18-wheeled turd ahead of her wasn’t helping matters.
She took another gander across the center line.
An oncoming truck.
She coasted back just in time to see a sign reading “Do Not Pass – Next 7 Miles” taunting her from the shoulder as the yellow dashes in the road morphed to solid yellow lines.
“Dang it!” Krissy slapped the steering wheel, then remembered Rebecca’s advice. What could it hurt? She took a deep yoga breath in, preparing for what she felt would be a loud, uncomfortable, unnatural, but hopefully highly cathartic release.
Mike smacked the big rig’s steering wheel with his palm and flung his crappy old flip phone across the cab. He had broken the government’s stupid “hands free driving” rule to listen to a new voicemail from his divorce lawyer, if he had been ticketed she’d probably use that against him in court, too. Funny how Karen always said he was the asshole, yet the bitch was trying to leave him in financial ruin. As if she hadn’t squandered his money enough during their marriage, now the bitch wanted alimony to boot!
And how was he such an asshole, anyway? By working his ass off for twenty-some years, so she could have a nice house to bring her little boyfriends back to?
She had said he wasn’t “chivalrous” enough. Women these days! They whine and cry about wanting to be treated as equals, until being equal means opening their own goddamn doors, or, heaven forbid, buying their own drinks. Well Karen would have to cozy up to one of her lovers, because the fucking wench wasn’t getting another cent out of him!
Mike tossed back a long swig of Coke. A bit dribbled down his chin; he didn’t bother to wipe it away.
His right front tire caught the rumble strips on the shoulder of the winding highway. He corrected the rig and fumbled with the radio dial. He needed something to take his mind from Karen, this slow-moving run, and the growing pressure from his bladder.
Krissy sipped her latte, hypnotized by the rattling rear doors of the trailer in front of her. A bump in the road forced a little coffee to drip down her face, which she quickly patted dry with a napkin before checking herself in the Jetta’s rear view mirror to make sure no major damage was done.
Not that anyone cares what I look like anymore, she thought, shifting her gaze back to the road, and the truck that was taking up way too much of it.
It had been nearly two months since Jared had broken up with her, and the loneliness still crept up on her sometimes.
Jared had been her high school sweetheart, but they had been growing apart for quite some time. Now, in her final year of college (Jared had dropped out over a year ago), she felt like he had done her a favor by ditching her in favor of a girl that was more “his type”. And by his type, Krissy assumed he meant someone with no ambition to do anything more than play guitar and read whiny poetry at the local coffee house.
She would have broken up with him first, but she couldn’t bring herself to hurt his feelings. So she had pretended to be happy, and even told him she loved his silly stretched earlobes that guaranteed he’d never have a respectable career. Hell, he couldn’t even stick with a hobby, if it required any effort. Krissy was still carting around two boxes of his abandoned pastimes in the Jetta’s trunk, unsure of whether the forgotten junk of his gardening, whittling, or home brewing phases should be donated or ceremoniously torched.
Maybe I’ll have it all deep fried, she thought.
Krissy ran her fingers along the woven center of the dream catcher hanging from her turn signal switch. She’d rather have it dangling from the rearview mirror, but heard she could be ticketed for such a thing, and she didn’t have the time to deal with such a silly offense. It wasn’t an authentic Native American dream catcher; Krissy had made it herself during a sorority retreat her sophomore year. But while traditional dream catchers were said to trap good dreams and filter out the bad, Krissy’s handmade token of good luck was crafted to weed out the obstacles standing between her and her dream of becoming a respected journalist with a family of her own before her thirtieth birthday. Instead of feathers, Krissy hung personalized charms from the willow hoop, as reminders of the hurdles she’d already overcome.
Krissy’s hands snapped back to ten and two as the rumble strips along the highway’s shoulder startled her out of her reverie. The swaying of the trailer in front of her implied her nemesis trucker wasn’t faring any better on the ‘focusing on the road’ front. Glancing to the shoulder, she saw a sign approaching that may as well have been advertising heaven itself: Passing Lane, 2 Miles Ahead.
Oh thank heaven, I can finally pass this-
“Son of a biiiiitch!”
Mike’s voice was off-key and his index fingers had no rhythm on the steering wheel snare drum, but belting out the Nazareth song on the radio had to be better therapy than that bullshit couple’s counseling Karen had put him through. That prick had charged him hundreds of dollars to listen to Karen whine and cry about the same shit she had already been bitching about pro bono for years. But he had gone, to show her he cared. Fat fucking lot of good that had done.
“Talkin’ jivey, umm,” Mike drummed harder to compensate for mumbling through the lyrics he didn’t know.
Damn this is a boring drive, he thought, glancing at the thick woods lining both sides of the hilly, winding road. The light load was good for his fuel tank, and in turn his wallet, but he wondered if it would kill the road commission to build a divided highway through this godforsaken northern country.
Oh well, I’ve got everything I need right here in this rig. The bitch can keep the-
“Fucking shit!” Mike interrupted his own train of thought when he accidentally kicked over the soda bottle on the floor of the cab during his big drum bit.
The road ahead widened to make room for a temporary passing lane. Mike jerkily veered the truck into the right lane while reaching down to assess the damage.
The carpet felt dry; thankfully the thing hadn’t spilled.
Finally, some luck that isn’t of the piss-poor variety! Mike thought, cranking the radio even higher as Vince Neil began to howl Girls, Girls, Girls.
The road mercifully widened, and for a moment the semi-truck veered side to side, as if unable to choose a lane. Krissy contemplated jotting down the phone number on the bright yellow How’s My Driving? sticker that had been taunting her for miles, but she knew she’d never call. A complaint could cost the driver his job, and she didn’t have the heart.
Too nice, she thought with a tinge of resentment.
The truck haphazardly maneuvered into the new right lane and straightened out, a good enough sign for Krissy that the driver intended to keep it there. Finally, some luck!
“Heart attack heaven, here I come!” Krissy stomped down on the accelerator.
The revving of the Jetta’s diesel engine was cut short by a crash against the windshield, the highway in front of Krissy suddenly drowned under a swirling yellow mist. She fumbled with the steering wheel as she began hyperventilating. She yanked her foot from the gas pedal and stomped the brake. She could vaguely see the dripping outline of the semi-trailer, now pulling away from her.
Get a hold of yourself, Krissy scolded. She sprayed the windshield washers and turned the wipers on full blast, flinging the yellowish obstruction from both sides of the glass. The world slowly solidified as the Jetta skidded sideways, heading straight toward the right shoulder and the wooded embankment beyond a rather flimsy looking guard rail.
Krissy released the brake and eased into the gas as she attempted to correct her steering, but the Jetta’s right front tire hit the graveled shoulder with a crunch and dug in. The other three wheels squealed on the pavement as Krissy fought to regain control of the car.
Krissy finally felt the car’s momentum shift back around, and she pressed down harder on the accelerator to encourage the Jetta’s maneuver back onto the highway.
Her relief was cut short by a sound like gunfire, followed by the car careening back to the shoulder and the thinly guarded, menacingly steep embankment.
Krissy cranked the steering wheel to the left to no avail. It felt like the car was in quicksand. As a last ditch effort she stomped down on the brake pedal, reaching for her dreamcatcher with her fingertips and mouthing a silent prayer.
Mike took a mid-song glance in his side mirror and saw a dust cloud rising from the shoulder behind him, silhouetting one of those yuppie German cars.
“Ha, serves the falafel eatin’ fairy right,” he said, resuming his daydream of being Tommy Lee behind his dashboard drum kit.
That’s just like you, ignoring someone that needs help. You selfish bastard. Karen’s voice. Six months separated, and the cunt was still nagging in his ear.
Mike begrudgingly slowed the rig, flipped on his four-ways, and pulled onto the shoulder.
Krissy rested her head against the Jetta’s steering wheel, waiting for her heart to stop pounding in her eardrums. The car had mercifully stopped within a few inches of the guardrail between the highway and the precipice separating road from forest.
The car sat askew, in more ways than one. The vehicle itself sat at an ungraceful angle, as though she had gotten three quarters of the way through a right-hand turn and changed her mind. The passenger side of the Jetta sat much lower than the drivers, and Krissy didn’t think it was just because of the crown of the road.
A passing SUV laid on its horn, startling Krissy upright as it zipped by her. Looking forward she saw something disturbingly familiar – that dingy truck trailer. But now it had its flashers on, and was slowly backing down the shoulder.
A large, tattooed arm appeared out of the semi cab’s window as the SUV flew by. Krissy couldn’t be sure, but it certainly looked like that arm was giving the SUV driver the bird.
Boogersnot, she thought, lowering her forehead back to the steering wheel.
Mike hopped out of the cab, groaning as his legs adjusted to supporting his considerable weight. He didn’t bother to drop safety cones around the truck before sauntering down the highway’s shoulder toward the crooked Volkswagen.
As he approached the car he could see the driver wasn’t a fairy at all, but a young blonde woman. Her head was down and Mike feared she may have been hurt, which would be a real pain in his ass, but after a moment she looked up and eyed him cautiously. She was awfully pretty. He considered trying to suck in his gut, but dismissed the idea.
Too young for you, champ. Just make sure the damsel isn’t in any distress and get back on the goddamn road.
He stopped at the driver’s door and peered into the car. The girl stared right back at him, one hand hovering above the window switch on the door, the other clutching her cell phone like a weapon. He tapped on the window and tried to smile, but the gesture felt awkward and he guessed it only made his scruffy appearance seem more menacing.
She returned his strained sentiment with a shy smile of her own, which seemed to radiate from her bright eyes. She lowered the window.
Mike rested his arm on the roof of the car and crouched down.
“Hiya. I, uh, saw you were in some trouble there. Looks like you had a blowout.” No shit, Sherlock, Mike chastised himself.
“Yeah, I guess I did. I thought I was going to end up in the woods down there.” She pointed down the incline, her shaking hand still holding her cell phone.
“Eh, this roller skate never woulda made it that far with a dead skin.”
The girl stared at him, her lips trembling. He needed to get the hell out of here before she started crying.
“So, anyway, looks like you’ve got a phone so you should be all set.” Mike straightened, and as he pulled his arm away he noticed it was wet, though the day was sunny as could be. Dirty water dripped down his tattooed forearm, and off his hand. He twisted the rolled-up sleeve of his flannel shirt; the white lines in the plaid pattern were stained yellow where it was damp.
“I don’t know what it is,” the gal in the car said. “Something hit my windshield, then it was everywhere. I lost control.”
Mike sniffed at the stain on his sleeve and gagged.
“Piss,” he whispered, staring with disgust at his wet hand.
“Excuse me?” The girl said.
“It’s, uh, piss.” Mike stammered. “I threw my piss jug out the window some ways back there. You must have hit it.”
“What? You… urinated on my car?”
“Well, not on purpose! You must have been following awfully close–“Mike realized the hole he was digging for himself. “I mean, uh, I’m really sorry about this, Miss. I don’t know what else I can say.”
Mike hung his head, then braved a glance at the girl as he waited for her to rip him a new one.
Her lips twitched, as though the impending tirade was still forming in her mind, but her mouth was eager to let loose on him. He braced himself. Finally, she threw her head back… and laughed.
It was a full-bodied laugh; infectious. The kind of laugh that has been pent up for ages.
Mike couldn’t resist a slight chuckle of his own, though his was restrained. He was still expecting the tides to turn and anger to fill those deep blue eyes.
After what felt like a small, insane eternity, the girl’s laughter trailed off into winded giggles, and she turned back to Mike, carelessly tossing her cell phone onto the passenger seat. He noticed her hands were now perfectly steady.
“So, uh, you got a spare? I could help ya swap it out, if you’d like. I truly am sorry, Miss.” Mike wiped his wet hand against his protruding belly. This flannel was toast, anyway.
“Oh please, call me Krissy.”
“Okay, Krissy. Uh, I’m Mike.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mike.” Her smile was contagious. “But I am not shaking your hand!”
Krissy got out of the car and the pair assessed the damage to the Volkswagen. Or, Mike scoped it out while Krissy followed and nodded.
Other than some paint damage, it looked like the right front wheel and tire were the only casualties. They had to unload boxes full of miscellany that would have looked at home in a hobby shop to access the spare tire in the Volkswagen’s trunk, but once it was uncovered Mike looked it over and deemed it road-worthy.
He grabbed some tools from the sleeper of his truck, including the creeper he kept back there in case of emergencies. He wanted to take a thorough look at the car’s steering and suspension components while he had the wheel off, and he was getting too damn old to be lying on the ground.
The entire time he worked they chatted and laughed, like they were old friends or something. Mike hadn’t felt this at ease with someone… well, ever. Karen certainly hadn’t been this easy to get along with. If she could see him now… grinning and even enjoying himself while he helped a nice young lady out. The bitch would probably drop dead of a heart attack, which was reason enough to make this humanitarianism shit a habit.
Mike tightened the last lug nut and took one more tug on the axle. Everything seemed hunky dory.
“Now your spare is full size so you’re okay to drive on it, but I’d still get ‘er into the shop as soon as ya can to have the alignment checked.” Mike sat up on the creeper and wiped his greasy hands on an old shop rag he had grabbed from his truck. “And you’ll definitely want to get a new wheel and tire for a spare.”
Krissy was repacking the hobby shop from the Volkswagen’s trunk.
“Are you done with this tire iron?” she said, leaning down and picking up the heavy tool.
“Actually that’s called a lug wrench. It’s a common mistake, but tire irons aren’t really-“
Mike saw the wrench coming at him only a split second before the pain exploded from his skull. The thud of metal on bone reverberated through his head and his vision blurred. Krissy raised the wrench over her head, her mouth grimaced, her eyes squinted and dim. She planted her feet, and swung again.
Krissy buckled herself into the Jetta’s driver’s seat. She looked both ways on the highway; no cars. Funny how that happens when you’re no longer in a hurry. She slipped her sewing kit back into her purse, and marveled at her dreamcatcher one last time before pulling back onto the road, leaving behind the abandoned semi-truck with its emergency lights still flashing.
Her new charm would still have to be dried and sterilized, but she smiled at how powerful the freshly severed strip of foreskin looked, now dangling between the blackened index finger and oblong ear lobe of life-obstacles past.
Soon she came upon a highway sign showing Clark County: 23 miles. Her stomach rumbled. She sure hoped those butter-loving bumpkins hadn’t sold out of elephant ears!
Kimmy Dee is a lazy blogger, hot mom, and sarcastic Internet personality who dreams of one day becoming a shut-in cat lady. Her book, PUSSY PLANET AND OTHER ENDEARING TALES, is a collection of essays about life, death, and masturbation. It’s available in paperback and e-book through Amazon.