Author’s Note: This is the last installment in the Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse series. If you missed previous episodes or just want to revisit them, you can look here https://cerealaftersex.com/serials-on-cereal/. Word of warning: The following contains some mature elements that may not be suitable for all readers.
The next morning, I was sitting in the backseat of the car while Roy drove, and I didn’t feel right at all. I don’t know if I had been dreaming or what it was, but there were all kinds of crazy visions in my head relating to the night before.
Seems after our little pizza party, Roy got himself all worked up like he does and went out with Karl to a bar they found. They came stumbling back in the room full of liquor and madness and they had brought more bottles with them and started feeding me booze like a baby. And then all I remember was a lot of crazy talk and sexy dancing and then it was Roy on top of me in the bed slamming into me like he hadn’t gotten any in years. At one point I turned my head, like in a bad dream, and there was Karl sitting in a chair in the corner and he was watching us with a nasty grin on his face and his hand working like a piston in his lap.
And then, now there he was, creepy Karl in the passenger seat, and he kept turning to look back at me, and then he would lean a bit to his left to talk to Roy real softly.
My eyes hurt. My head felt heavy and fuzzy. It was as if I hadn’t slept for two or three days but I’m pretty sure I did. Maybe. My whole being felt as if I was trying to swim in a river of maple syrup.
“What the hell is going on, Roy?” I finally mumbled.
Roy glanced back at me in the rear-view mirror. His eyes looked worried. “Nothing is going on, Sally,” he said. “We’re going north now, honey. Just sit back, relax, and take in the view.”
I turned my head from side to side, but the view was all the same — dry and desolate and almost frightening. “Why is he along with us, Roy?” I asked. “I thought… I thought we were going to kill him.”
There was a silence in the car and then Karl reached out and switched on the radio and some weepy country song came softly dribbling out like an old man’s pee. Roy suddenly jerked the car to the right and pulled off onto the shoulder. He roughly pushed the shifter to P and turned back to scold me in a way he had never done before.
“Damn it all, Sally! Snap out of it! Don’t you remember Doctor Karl?”
“Doctor? What the hell are you talking about, Roy?”
“For fuck sake, Sally! It’s me. Royal… Roy. Your husband. We’re the same damn person!” He looked down and sadly sighed. “You’re having another one of your spells, Sally. You know, where you go off acting all crazy.”
“Well, you’re all acting just as crazy,” I snapped back, but then in a way I was scared that he might be right.
“We’re just trying to keep up with you, Mrs. Dibbs,” Doctor Karl said in a bedside-manner tone. “We’re just human beings, too. We have needs and desires like any animal, it’s just our windows to the world aren’t as broken as yours.”
“You mean, you didn’t kill anybody, Roy?”
“Did I ever say I did?” he answered, and then he tapped the point of a finger against his head. “It’s all in that messed up brain of yours.”
I moved my head from side to side as I looked at them both. “I don’t believe any of this shit,” I said. “You’re the messed-up ones. How could you do this to me, Roy? After all we’ve been through together. I thought you loved me.”
“I do love you, Sally. That’s why I’m trying to help you. That’s why I’ve got the damn doctor with us.”
“We’re just trying to save you from yourself,” Doctor Karl added. “We want to give you a new and better life — free of puzzling and possibly dangerous derailments.”
“Where are you taking me?”
They looked at each other, and then back to me. “Somewhere that will help you get better,” Doctor Karl said. “Somewhere more suited to treat your particular condition.”
None of that sat with me very well so I made for the door handle to try and get out of the car. It was locked and I couldn’t undo it. I started screaming and hitting the back of Roy’s seat, and that’s when Roy came around and wrestled me down and Doctor Karl came at me with some sort of injection. Soon after, the whole world went dark.
When my eyes finally popped open, I was inside a blue, dome-shaped tent. I could feel the heat of the day through the fabric. I sat up. My mouth was dry. I unzipped the opening and stuck my head out. The sun was bright, and it caused me to squint. After I crawled out, I stood up and looked around. I was surrounded by another world I had never been to. There were dry, rocky hills of yellow brown. There were salt-tainted flats. There were summer bugs in the hot air. There was turquoise water far out. I saw a couple of small boats — the sounds of their engines very soft and distant in the air. There was a narrow gravel road off behind me. I twisted my head in search of Roy and Karl. They weren’t there. The car was gone. They had abandoned me.
I started walking on the gravel road in a direction I thought might be west. A while later, a man in a pickup truck rolled up beside me and stopped. The window on the passenger side went down like magic and I saw a chubby and bearded face look out at me with a slight smile of curiosity. He seemed friendly enough.
“It’s an awful long walk if you’re wanting to get to… Well, anywhere,” he said, studying me. “Are you okay? Can I give you a ride?”
I hesitated at first but then I said, “I’m looking for my Truth or Consequences.”
He looked at me like I was strange for saying it like that, and then he said, “I can give you a lift to town if that’s what you mean.”
I tugged on the passenger-side door handle, and he unlocked it and I climbed up and in. “Thanks,” I said. “Do you have any water?”
“Um yeah, look behind my seat there. May not be the coldest, but it’s wet.”
“Perfect. I like it wet.”
He made a manly little grunt of dirty desire. “I bet you like it wet.”
I gave him a “don’t fuck with me” glance because I wasn’t in the mood. He quickly changed his tune.
“Is your car broken down?”
He motioned backward with a fat thumb. “Well, how did you… ?”
“Someone left me out there.”
“No shit, mister.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “That’s pretty rough.”
I turned to look at him. “Yep. It’s a rough world and love never seems to make it any better. I guess I’m learning that the hard way.”
“Yeah. You’re right about that,” he agreed, but in a way that seemed like he didn’t truly understand what he was agreeing with.
We got quiet as he drove on. The road was winding and often rutted and bumpy causing my ass to slightly jump up and down on the seat. The sun was blaring. The A/C in the truck was blasting. It felt good. At a high point in the road, I could see down into a low valley and the clustered mass of short buildings, western houses, and a gridwork of streets that made up some sort of town there. It was surrounded by wrinkled brownish-green mountains and flats of desert floor that made me think of rough-grade sandpaper with flowers coming out of it. The I-25 dissected it all like an asphalt zipper on a pair of endless pants.
“Is that Truth or Consequences down there?” I asked the stranger.
“It sure is.”
“Do you live there?”
“Yes, I do. Been there most of my adult life. Grew up in Albuquerque though.”
“Do you have a house there?” I asked him, and then I could tell he was getting nervous.
“Yeah,” he answered with some hesitation.
“Is there a wife at your house?”
“What’s her name?”
“Do you love Stella?”
He snapped his head in my direction. “Why do you want to know all this?”
“Do you love her?” I repeated with greater purpose.
“Well, I guess. Yeah. I mean, we’ve had our share of problems like everyone else.”
“Pull over to the side of the road.”
“Just pull over.”
He pulled off and put the truck in park and looked over at me. “What are we going to do?” he asked, oddly nervous.
For some reason I suddenly came down with the haunting fever of wanting to taste another man, a stranger, and I reached over and cupped him through his jeans. “Get it out,” I said to him.
“Here?” He moved his head all around. “What if someone comes by and sees us?”
“You don’t want me to?”
“Well, hell yeah I want you to.”
But then I kind of got sick about it and I pulled my hand away and glared at him. “And just what the fuck would Stella think of that?” I scolded, and then I was suddenly down on myself. “Aw holy hell. What am I even doing?”
“Do you still want me to take it out?”
I scoffed and looked over at him and nearly laughed. “No. Just get me to town.”
The stranger in the pickup dropped me at an old-time café in the downtown area of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I went in and sat in a lonely booth by a window. People looked at me as if I were on fire or something. I ordered myself a hamburger, fries, a grape soda, and a wobbly piece of key lime pie for dessert.
I enjoyed being alone as I sat there and ate, yet I still felt as if some part of me was missing or had always been missing — like when you drop something from your pocket, but you don’t realize it until later, but by then it’s too late to get whatever it was back. It was gone for good. And that’s kind of how I felt, sitting in that lonely café, a stranger to all and all a stranger to me, that there was some part of Sally Dibbs that was gone for good. I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was, though. Not that day. Maybe it didn’t matter after all.
And when I had that last piece of key lime pie skewered on the tines of that silver fork and almost in my mouth, my eyes wandered up to the television they had there. I could barely believe it at first, but there it was, a special report about Roy being captured by the police in a place called Raton, New Mexico, up north, right there by the border of Colorado.
It showed him in handcuffs as they led him to a patrol car. I got up and walked closer to the television and then I asked the waitress if she could turn the volume up. The reporter talked about how Roy was alone when he was captured at a motel there. There was also talk about a female accomplice still on the run, but that Roy wasn’t being very cooperative with providing details about where she might be. They didn’t say anything about creepy Doctor Karl from Indiana. Maybe Roy killed him after all or maybe he didn’t even truly exist.
And then the cameras zoomed in close to Roy sitting in the back of the police car, you know how like they do, and I swear to the god of your choice, Roy looked up and out that window and straight into my eyes as I stood in that lonesome café. And his truth suddenly came inside me like warm sex, and that truth was that he really did love me after all, no matter what else I believed any day of the week, past or present. I just had to trust in that with all my broken heart, and then go my own way.