Author’s Note: You can find the previous episodes of this story under the Serials on Cereal menu tab above.
Roy Essence and I sat in a roadside diner somewhere in hot as hell Arizona. We were hunched in a booth by a window, our alterations in appearance fully intact, our voices low.
Roy forcefully tapped at the road atlas he had with the tip of his finger and said, “That’s it. That’s where we’re going.”
I glanced out the window at the brutal desert. “Where’s that, Roy?”
“Truth or Consequences. Now, doesn’t that just sound perfect for us?”
I turned away from the window and looked at him. “That sounds made up, Roy. Where the hell is that?”
“I thought you wanted to go to regular Mexico.”
“No. No. I changed my mind. Too obvious of a choice. We’d get caught up in a tangle for sure. But here,” he said, tapping on the road atlas again, “Here, we’d blend right in. We’d make out as just a couple of weary travelers. Smooth as pie.”
“But we’re not just a couple of weary travelers.” I looked around at all the other drifters on the great American road. No one seemed to pay us any attention at all. They were too lost in their own troubles, just as we were. “We’re in deep shit, Roy.”
He leaned back in the booth and glared at me. “Are you having second thoughts about all this?” he asked me. Then he leaned forward and clutched my hands in his and looked me dead in the eyes. “Because if you are, we’re going to have to end this. End this right now.”
A weary, beaten-to-hell looking waitress came by the table and set down a couple of Cokes, fizzing in glasses of slowly shifting ice. “Ready to order?” she asked, disenchanted.
“Can I get the chef’s salad without tomatoes?” Roy asked, looking away from me and up at her. “I hate them damn things.”
“Sure,” the waitress answered. “Nothing I love more than plucking tomatoes from a salad. A pre-made salad, mind you. But what the hell.”
Roy looked a bit uneasy, almost guilty. “And a fish sandwich. Crispy. Easy on the mayo. That okay?”
“Whatever you want. That’s what I live for.” The waitress nodded her head toward me. “How about you sweetheart?”
“Do you hate your job, miss?” I asked her instead of ordering.
“No. I love putting up with ass-grabbing knuckleheads all day. It’s what gets me up in the morning. Now, I’m here to get your order, not talk about my life. So, what will it be?”
I skimmed the menu quickly because I hadn’t completely decided. “I guess I’ll have the same, but I don’t mind the tomatoes.”
She wrote some things down on her little waitress pad, turned, and walked off.
“I don’t know how you can eat those damn things,” Roy said, shaking his head. “I’d rather eat tree bark.”
“No, you wouldn’t.”
“Yes, I would. And don’t string out conversation with people. We don’t need that kind of attention, Sally.”
I put my head down, hurt that Roy was upset with me. “I was just talking. She just seemed sad.”
“So. Isn’t any of our god damn business if she’s sad,” Roy scolded. “We need to look out for ourselves, not anybody else.”
I stared out the window in silence while Roy flipped through more of the atlas. When the food came, we ate without talking. Roy seemed to be far off in the land of a thinking man, and I was worried he was all alone in that place, meaning without me. Then I got to thinking that maybe I was starting to feel some regret about all this after all. But my future didn’t look bright any way I tried to picture it – either I was going to end up in some prison forever or I was going to have to spend the rest of my life running from myself and all the wrongs I created. I’d never be able to just breathe. Holy hell, Sally Dibbs. I felt sick to my stomach and excused myself to go use the restroom.
We gassed up and got back on the I-10. Roy slept as I drove. It was a long, hot rest of the day and we didn’t talk much. Roy cried out a couple of times in his sleep, like he was scared of something bad.
I got us through Phoenix, down through Tucson, and just over the New Mexico border when I tired out and wanted to stop. We found a little roadside motel and got us a cheap room for the night. Roy was dark and moody. He didn’t say much to me except, “Why don’t you order a pizza.”
I flipped through the little binder that the motel had there that showed all the restaurants and things to do. There wasn’t much, but I did find a pizza place called Jim’s Clean Pizza and I called them up and made an order.
“What the hell is a clean pizza?” Roy wanted to know.
I shrugged my shoulders at him. “I think it’s one of those places that only uses organic things in their food. You know, real natural ingredients.”
Roy scoffed and shook his head. “Organic. Out here? In this shit town in the middle of the god damn desert?”
“It was the only place they had listed, Roy. I don’t know what else you want me to do.”
He plopped down in the bed and turned on the television with the remote. “Whatever. I just want something to eat.”
I wanted to take a quick shower before the pizza man showed up, so I got undressed right there in front of Roy because even though he was being a grouch, I was hoping to stimulate him into giving me a good poking. I stood at the edge of the bed, right in front of him in all my womanly glory and he paid me hardly any attention.
All he said was, “Get the hell out of the way, Sally. You’re blocking the TV.”
“Why don’t you desire me anymore?” I asked him.
“You want desire?” he replied.
“Some sort of desire,” I answered.
He powered off the TV and came to me. He wildly pawed at my body as he kissed me. I was melting from the inside out and ready to go at it. He forced me down on the bed and pushed my legs open, and just as he was about to take on my taste, there was a frantic knock on the door.
“Aw, holy hell,” I said.
“Stay here and cover up. I’ll have you for dessert,” Roy said in a playful way, and then he went to the door.
But when he pulled it open, it wasn’t the pizza delivery guy. It was someone else, and it wasn’t good.