Once upon a time,
There lived a girl. Her hairy was curly and rosy. It twinkled red in the sunlight, and orange in the candlelight. Her lips formed a smile so genuine it'd make you wonder if you were actually smiling, yourself.
Her name was Alice. Alice was quiet, yet confident. Always somehow happy, regardless of what was going on. She was very adventurous, only fearing the mundane and falling into a life of complacency. Alice loved to camp, and did so wherever she could.
At least, that's what she told me. Minus the descriptive bits about looks, though. Alice spoke of herself and how she was, but never who she was. I could never quite figure that out.
Alice actually wasn't all that quiet, or so I thought. Driving around with her next to me, I wasn't sure if the music on the radio spoke as much as she did. Eventually though, she admitted that she "once was", or again, so she said.
I picked up Alice a couple days back. I was tired of my job selling cowhides professionally etched by child laborers in China, marketed as fashion. But oh, why was I there before? To make money, that's right. And what about that money? I'm not sure, because I now know that I don't need it. Nor this surplus of noise across from me.
Continuing on, I'd converted my cow hide selling skills into something more tangible. Like a '91 Ford box van. It was white and tended to make the authorities think I was housing illegals. Or shipping them, anyways. Or shipping while housing. I'm really not sure. Kind of tired and distracted listening to statistics on rain forest frogs.
So, I picked up Alice driving east through Montana. She had her thumb out like she appreciated my fine taste in vans. I thought I'd pick her up, and found out she was heading in the same direction I was.
I was heading out east to visit my uncle. He told me he'd take me fishing, and that he was proud of me for getting out of the big corporate wagon and road tripp'n, as he said.
The silence was broken. "Babe, I'm starving. I need to get something to eat."
I paused for a moment after glancing over her, then to the road. "First off, I ain't no piglet. We'll eat when I'm hungry, not when you feel the need to start whining."
I felt a little harsh, but she deserved it. Who calls someone they don't know, "babe"? Who calls anyone, "babe"? Enough snarky-nosed thinking later, I started to agree with her on the food issue.
So, I turned off at the next exit, I parked at Bob Barker's Burgers. I remembered this place as a kid. The burger was amazing. But this woman wouldn't stop looking at her burger like it was some kind of monster. She kept going on and on "and I can't believe they'd just take that disrespected cow and grind it up, and put it on a plate. Don't you know?" Yeah, I do know. And I don't care. I'm sorry I don't hug the deer and live off of plant fibers.... She opened her mouth again, "It's crazy, isn't it? I kinda feel bad for liking the taste so much. It's like my body wants me to do something wrong."
I rolled my eyes then realized that's something men don't do. I stuck my face back into the burger as a sort of holy purification for the sin.
"Look, Alice. I'm sorry you don't like to eat meat. It's what I eat and I eat it because it's good. Don't you think God made cows for eating? They sure ain't pets. Smelly, fat, big, I ain't got time for that. They're like a meat banana. You only grow it where you've got the space, then you skin 'em, gut'em, and hang 'em. You've got meat!"
I was a little slow to realizing she had stopped eating. She was staring at me. One of those angry stares, not even a "I did something a little wrong stare". This was the disgust stare. Not the chewing-with-my-mouth-open stare, but the real, deep down disgust stare. I did something wrong. Whoops.
A dozen blood soaked napkins later, I walked outside to the nice breeze and propped the door open for her. She took the closed one. I started to realize this was going to be one hell of a long trip.
"Can I drive?", she asked.
Pontoon was a drab town. So was Orangeville, and Vacaville. But according to Alice, The City of Summit was something else.
"What's your name again?", she asked. "What 'again'? I didn't tell you my name." "Why don't you tell me your name, darling?"
Staring down at the fuel gauge, it conveniently lined up with my stomach. "Alie, we're going to get gas. And you're not going to talk. Understand?" Of course, she replied verbally. I wondered where exactly on her head she had been dropped as an infant.
I filled up with gas and got back in the driver's seat. She wisened up and started to mumble, pointing frantically at the car mirror. "Huh? Is it important?", I spoke in my annoyed tone. She shook her head.
"Those lights! That car! Go, fast, now!", she said half panicked.
I stood still and looked puzzled. "You don't understand. I'm so sorry. Please, just go. Take me out of here! They want to hurt me!"
The woman was crazy. "Get out, Ma'am.", I cleared my throat. "Get out, now."
Her hand went to mine and held it. "You don't understand! Help me! Please!"
I looked her back in the eye and moved my hand from hers, to the hilt of my knife. She got out. I started the van and drove off, keeping my eyes in the mirror.
My inner rejoicing began not far from the gas station. Sadly, close enough to see that something was going down. In my last bit of good will towards womankind, I circled back around to drive by.
They saw me. The big, burly men around her. They glanced back at her and threw her in the trunk, screams and all. This is gettin' crazy. I actually felt bad for her.
I punched the throttle on my van. Screaching tires at twenty miles an hour, and all. I came right for her. I was going to be the knight in shining armor for a princess a frog wouldn't kiss.
The black car matched my response, and ran through the parking lot and on to the highway. My hands got cold and I felt real bitter at this lady. But man, I felt regret, too. She was right. She didn't deserve this. I'll make it right, I thought. And why a black car? What's with bad guys having the cool looking cars? I don't get it.
The vibrations through the floor were exciting. This was the most adrenaline I'd felt since I quit my job. I'm gonna get me a good story out of this one.
They didn't seem to be making good progress. I had them down pat, neck and neck. They won't get away. I've got her!
Except, I didn't. Every time I got close, they just sped up. I could never catch them. No police car spinaroos for me. A few tight turns later, and I finally figured out I wasn't on the highway any more. Two guys in my rear view mirror rolled a gate across the road. I must've gotten too wrapped up. What's happening? I finally felt scared.
I chased them to a corner, and they jumped out. And they've got guns. Oh shoot.
I ducked. The girl can die. I don't care. "Bye, Alice." It was... passable meeting you.
I found reverse. I heard some yelling and a scream. "Don't shoot him!", she screamed. In Gear Cowardice, I booked it. Then I swung the wheel around, back, and punched it into drive. I finally peeked my head out. Did I really just do that?
Twenty feet later, my head plummeted into the dashboard and I hit that damn fence. Er, the concrete fence. My heart was pump'n really good and I felt my nose. Definitely bloody. It wasn't even action-hero-save-the-girl sexy blood, either. This was coward blood. But blood won't save me. Unless I kill them all? No, no. You're not killing anyone. Bad, bad idea. Uncle would be pissed.
A mob started banging at the door. Both doors. Holy crap. My eyes winched just like I'd had some moonshine.
A smart one stopped banging and just opened the door. It was unlocked. I'm an idiot.
I don't remember much after he clubbed me in the head.
A fog set over my eyes. That Tennessee fog. I guess all states have fog. But it was serious, serious fog. "Alice?", I said. "Alice?" "Alice!?"
"Fred?", Alice spoke. I still couldn't see right. "Fred Barnum?"
I could just barely make her figure out, holding a wallet. My pocket felt even more barren than usual.
"Sorry about the face... the money, and the van."
"Huh?", I paused. "Alice, are you okay? Did they hurt you?"
I squinted. She stood there with a bunch of those men. She looked fine. One looked like he got hit by my van. Oops.
"Alice! Don't tell me..."
I imagine she nodded, because she didn't say nuthin. That damn woman. Last one I'm gonna trust. Wish she just got raped.
And then I felt bad. I didn't wish that. But my van? Are you kidding me?
"Looks like you're good for something after all, Kate.", a scruffy voice spoke. He kissed her. I was suddenly quite happy she'd found an equal-douche who'd hopefully ruin her life.
"Could you let me go? I won't tell no body."
The fat one grabbed my by the hair and walked me out. They had a serious camp, from what my blurry eyes could see. He cut me loose and kicked me on my way. I thought that was it till chubby's eyes got big.
"Everybody run!", he said. My eyes finally figured out what the flashing lights meant. I must've been slow, or the sirens must've been off. Am I concussed?
The police station looked kind of like Elementary. Grim and disgusting. "Sir, I've got good news. We're dropping the charge for the broken brake light. You're free to go."
My van was impounded and the officer was nice enough to drive me to it. The tow company wheeled it on out. The officer handed me a box with my belongings, as best as they could find.
"Stay safe, son." He drove off.
The van didn't really wanna start. Not at all. And it smelled like antifreeze. Good thing, because maybe some dumb cat will drink it. Dead cat's a good cat, my 'Ma used to say. Cat broke her heart when it left him. I dunno why, but she passed on her bitter hate to me. Went to the auto parts store, picked up some antifreeze and zip ties. Brought them to the counter and looked up, rang the bell. I rubbed my eye twice, and Alice showed up. I couldn't believe it. What's the scumbaggess doing out of jail!? I reached over the counter and grabbed her throat. The trinkets on the counter shook as she twitched. She whimpered and everyone in the store looked at me. An officer immediately pulled his gun out at me. "Let go! Right now! On the ground!", I stared at him like I was stupid, and let go of Alice's not-brittle-enough neck. She coughed and I stepped back from the counter.
"Get on the ground!", he yelled. Alice spoke, between coughs "Don't, Sir. Please!"
I laid down on the cold floor. I put my hands back. I couldn't believe it.
"Wait!", she screamed. She walked over the counter and stopped the officer.
"Let him go, Randy! I cheated last night. I made the mistake. He's not like this. Just leave him."
He spat on the back of my head. "If I see you lay a finger on her one more time, I'll cut your throat. You hear me, boy?"
"Yes sir.", I replied. I felt something unlike butterflies and more like wasps in my stomach.
I went about everything as usual, bought the radiator and all, and jerry rigged a cooling system back together. I was pretty proud. But what the heck was Alice doing out of jail? Did she get off free?
Alice came out. "Shift's up", she said. I looked over her, disgusted at her betrayal. "Get away from me."
"Fred, I had no choice. They were going to hurt me if I didn't do something."
"Look who got hurt!", I pointed at my head.
"But Fred... I'm pregnant. I couldn't let them hurt my baby!"
I paused and showed a hint of understanding. Then I spoke. "Like I care. Get away from me."
I shrugged and wrapped up my work under the hood. She never left. I must've spoken like I didn't completely mean it. So stupid, why would I think twice about her?
"Fred, I'm not Alice, I'm not Kate. I'm Whitney. No one in this town knows that, but you."
I looked like I ignored her.
"Everyone in this town is an addict. I... I, got off and thought it was my second chance. I just got this job and I know I need to leave. Please, they suspended my license. I can't go anywhere. I need your help."
It might've been the sight of good 'ol Randy driving by, but I decided to give her a second chance.
"The hell!??", I snarled. 4AM and her Taylor Swift ringtone starts going off. I don't know what to think.
She laid over on the bed. Cheapest motel bed we could find. I was shocked they had a couch in the room, so I took it. On the bright side, my back hurt so bad the driver's seat was going to be like some kinda massage chair. Heck, Alice.. no, Kate, no Whitney??, might just bring me down so much, my normal life will feel pretty amazing. Anyway, that darn phone. She picked it up.
She sounded pretty scared. She hung up, got real quiet. I passed out again.
Morning came like my Uncle's roosters. The cleaning crew next door were arguing. Something about towels on the floor or not, and which gets washed and which don't. Hard to believe they'd be so loud, but maybe it's just the walls. Out here, they turn those 2x4s the wrong way 'round.
"Are you ready, Momma Whitney?", I asked.
She laughed for a second and stood up. Then she started talking.
The road kept going and I kept driving. She did get quiet every so often, so I was grateful. She wasn't the least interesting woman in the world, anyway. But definitely not the most, oh no.
"Darling,", my eyes went stern on her, like an angsty furnace, "I mean Fred", "would Clarksville be out of the way?"
I'd been there some time ago. I nodded, and turned on my ManCompass. Few miles later, I turned left. My ManOdometer was a little off, it was more like twenty miles, not ten. But maybe, maybe, these good deeds will make up for my rotten life and I can get back to business with a clear conscience once we're done.
"Right up here.", she said. "Excuse me? There's no road!" She cleared her throat. "That's what I said, right up here. You're a grown man, do you know how to drive up a dirt hill?"
Somehow, she knew that much about me. She struck my ego to the core and I couldn't say no. I just couldn't. I turned on my Man4x4 went for it. Those rear tires spun, but in Man4x4, sometimes those lesser people just can't tell what's really happening. You see, it was my pure, testicular testosterone that got us up that hill. She even looked over at me and smiled. I think she was impressed. She just watched a grown man be a man! What could make you smile more than that?
The forest had no tire tracks, anywhere. I rolled on up and over shrubs, and just kept climbing. Finally, a cabin came up outta nowhere.
"Alice," "I'm not Alice, I'm Whitney!" "Then don't lie about your name the first time!", she stayed quiet. "Al, Whitney, what's the story behind this place?"
"It was my grandfather's", she said. She didn't continue. "Did he sell it?"
"No, I think he died." I finally looked at her. "What do you mean, 'you think'?"
"No one has heard from him in five years. That's about four years later than usual, you know." I laughed, shocked. "You mean to tell me, you've thought he was dead for four years and only now you come out to check on him?"
"That's right. I just didn't really have the time. My parents didn't care. So here we are, finally gettin' around to it." She stayed quite after that, and I just kept on driving.
I saw a glint of light in the leaves. I didn't know what it was. Then, I heard a rifle and my driver's mirror got shot off!
"Albert! It's me! Don't shoot!!", Whitney screamed. I was already in reverse and started to peel out.
"Don't! Fred, don't! Stop! It's okay!", she coughed out and reached for my hand. I made a mistake, I held it. POW! Shoot, Whitney's mirror went. This guy is good!
Before I could do anything different, Whitney opened the door and rolled out. Couldn't believe that stupid lady. Isn't she pregnant, anyway?
I booked it back and to the right, till he didn't have an angle on me. That glint must've been a scope. Old guy's a good shot, if that's still him.
Another loud shot later, the van sunk down. Back passenger tire shot out. I hunkered down and got out the door, hoping I had a better chance that way.
"Albert!", I heard her yell. "Albert!!!" "It's me! Whitney!"
I'll be darned, she was Whitney after all.
I tensed up, waiting to hear a shot and a scream, but I didn't. That lady got off lucky.
I heard a couple voices but not what they were saying. I started the walk back up, giving it a fair chance it'd be my last walk.