The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep. 1)

The sound of the jet airplane’s engines had lulled him into a half sleep. He was drifting in and out of a panoramic dream — something about floating on clouds — and then when his head jerked hard enough to snap him back into wakefulness, he looked out the small window next to his seat and saw that his dream had come true.

At that very moment, he wanted to crawl through that impenetrable opening and just fall like an angel into those mushroomy blooming puffs cut now like vibrant jewel prisms by the perfectly angled falling light of the day. There was a ding sound in the cabin and then an indecipherable voice came over the sound system. He could feel the plane beginning to dip and soon they were swallowed whole by the very same clouds from his dream come true.  And when they finally emerged from the bottom, he could see the land below, wide western meadows and low rocky ridges and far off into the distance he saw the snowcapped peaks that Colorado was so famous for, and they sprang out and up from a mirky soup of yellow pollution hovering over a city called Denver.


He moved through a pulsing hot throng of people on his way to the mile-long escalators going down to where the train arrived that took travelers to the main terminal of DIA. Even though he had no particular place to be at any particular time, he walked fast, constantly adjusting the backpack he carried with him because it kept slipping. People zoomed by him in both directions. The voices all mingled into one loud hum in a hive.

He dashed into a crowded men’s room to relieve himself. He had to wait in a line to use a urinal. Once finished he washed his hands, splashed his face, tried to comb his hair into some semblance of order with his fingers. He studied himself in the mirror for just a moment because he thought it was overly vain to look at oneself for too long. And for some reason it made him uncomfortable to look at himself, as well, almost embarrassed. That’s why he always did it quick. He decided he looked very tired and moved on.

Once back into the rush of the main thoroughfare, he slipped out and took a seat in the mostly unoccupied waiting area of a darkened gate where a flight to Detroit wasn’t set to depart for another two hours. It was a quiet reprieve for the time being. He lifted his pack into the seat beside him and retrieved his cell phone. He squinted as he looked at the screen. He took it out of airplane mode and waited for the technological pipes to clear. No calls. No messages. Nothing erupted now that he was back on the ground. He was almost glad for the fact he wasn’t popular among any crowd but his own. He took a deep breath and tried to stretch his neck by bending it from side to side. He could almost hear the tendons strain and crackle.

He sat still there for a long time, his thoughts getting caught up in the traffic of human beings continually parading by like a perpetual mountain stream. Some moved fast, others dawdled. Some had a trainload of luggage behind them, others merely a single bag slung over a sore shoulder. He wondered about where they had come from and where they were going. Why were all these people moving so much? What was with all the here and there? What great grief or passion was calling to them? His life in comparison seemed so much slower and simpler. But was it? Not really, after all.

He glanced at his diamond digital watch from Hades, but then realized it didn’t really matter what time it was. He was at that place in life where time was something that only other people dealt with, not him.

Then for some strange reason his thoughts drifted to childhood in the lakeside burbs of upper middle crust Chicago and about the Christmas mustard his Aunt Sharlene used to proudly serve with her platefuls of fancy meats and breads and cheeses during the warm, crystalline holidays. Aunt Sharlene was always wearing a dress, he recalled. Even if she was cooking eggs and bacon at 6 a.m., she had on a dress. Back then he even thought that she most likely slept in a dress. Maybe she did. But the mustard, that Christmas mustard. It came in a fancy glass jar, and it had a fancy foreign label and lid and Aunt Sharlene boasted about how she got it from this peculiar owner of a deli in the brick and gold shopping plaza in the neighborhood because he thought she was something special and would know exactly how to use it as if it were fragile magic. His Uncle Drake always frowned when she brought that part up because she would always throw something in there about how this particular and peculiar deli owner was also tall, dark, and handsome. His Uncle Drake was none of those things.

But the mustard was something special in exchange for the pricks of jealousy, as well, he supposed. And his Uncle Drake would lovingly slather it all over his rye bread. It had a bite to it that was somehow extraterrestrial and made the person eating it feel like they had traveled somewhere very far away. The man’s imagination had always been bright, and he believed the Christmas mustard must have had come from Saudi Arabia or perhaps Yemen or even Tatooine. But why would he think something so foolish? He shook his head at his own youthful naivety, and then he was suddenly hungry for a sandwich even though he knew that no one would have any Christmas mustard in the airport.


He settled on a faux New York deli type of sandwich place that pretended it was authentic but really wasn’t — merely corporate fantasies for sale. It was crowded and hard to move around inside the little box in a long line of other boxes aglow with money suckers. His broken velvet eyes the color of underwater gold scanned the menu for something that wasn’t gross. He settled on a New York Clubber — roast beef, turkey, ham, Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, spicy (not Christmas) mustard, black olives on a crusty crunchy dick-like stick of white bread cut and spread open like a lover’s legs.

The pace of the place was frantic, and the man’s nerves began to tick and twitch as the people pressed in on him, the mingling of sandwiches and skin like uneasy sex in a musty dark cellar, and he reached forward to pay at the counter quickly because the pressure was on him. People were watching and waiting and staring at the stranger from somewhere else. He felt like they all hated him.

He found a small table in the very center of the food court outside the deli joint and the roar of people eating and talking and slurping and bitching and babies wailing was all around him. He unzipped his backpack and reached in for an orange bottle of pills. He uncapped it, shook out two white bars with score marks and tossed them into his mouth. He washed them down with a bubbling iced Fresca.

He unwrapped his sandwich and laid the paper out flat. He opened a bag of salt and vinegar chips and poured them out onto the paper. He brought the sandwich up to his open mouth and bit into it. He chewed and as the flavors and textures mingled, he looked to his left where he saw a young girl in a periwinkle blue dress and her hair in pigtails sitting at a table all by herself. She looked very different from everyone else. She looked like she belonged to a strict old religious clan that rebutted the ways of modern, sinful life. She looked like she should have been in a barn, knee-high in hay, not inside one of the busiest airports in the world.

The girl was staring at him for a long time for some strange reason. Did he have something on his face? He instinctively reached for a napkin and wiped it across his mouth. He glanced over at her again. She had weird eyes and she looked unsettled. He put down his sandwich and sucked on the straw connected to his plastic cup of Fresca. A strange man and woman dressed similarly to the girl suddenly appeared at the table and they set down bags of food and cups of drink. She looked up at each of them in turn and smiled. Then she said something to them that he could not understand through the cacophony of humans communally filling their guts.

Then all three of them turned to look at him and their faces were dusted with disgust. He watched them watch him through the clouds of humanity. He couldn’t understand why they were looking at him that way. What did the girl say to them? And why? He had done nothing wrong. Was it because he was so different from them? Had she read the inner linings of his soul and discovered there was a reason why he was now drifting listlessly through time? Did she discover that he was merely a living ghost after all, and it upset her balance of beliefs and familial rituals set forth by her spinning God?

He quickly finished eating, gathered his trash and stood to carry it over to a receptacle to dispose of it. When he did, an eerie quiet fell upon the food court and seemingly the entirety of Denver International Airport. A billion heads turned to watch him with scathing glances. He moved slowly to the garbage bin and dropped in the remains of his meal into the wide hole. No one else moved or spoke. He hoisted his pack over his shoulder and gazed at all of them.

“What do you want!” he screamed out.

And when they just continued to stare and not say anything, he backed away from the coital mob and made his way back onto the main thoroughfare of the concourse and walked as fast as he could. The people there too now stared at him, watched him with sallow unfamiliar eyes like he was some murderer on the loose. He quickened his pace as the swarm thickened. He started bumping into bodies, pushing bodies, kicking at bodies. He pulled the pack off his shoulder and started swinging it at the people closing in. He hit a young woman in the face, and she fell. No one screamed but instead they just hummed like a hornet’s nest plump with menacing insects.

And then he ran. He ran as fast as he could and the tunnel like artificial air of the airport whooshed by him in an effort to keep pace with his speed. He glanced behind him, and the people were floating toward him effortlessly. He glanced in front of him, and there he saw that a thick wall built of human beings was erected to keep him from passing. He suddenly stopped and looked from side to side. He saw an emergency exit door and made for it. He pushed on the thick silver bar and an alarm immediately began to wail. He ran down the jetway that was untethered to any airplane. Once at the end he could taste the open air and he saw an attached metal ladder in which he could use to get to the ground, and he swung over and onto it and climbed down.

Once his shoes hit the pavement he ran and ran and ran until he was breathless and limping. A jet loudly swam above him and then he was suddenly surrounded by white cars with flashing blue lights on their rooftops and men in uniforms quickly jumped out and corralled him. They pushed him to the ground and made him lie on his stomach. They handcuffed him. They yanked him up and led him to one of the cars and shoved him into the backseat and slammed the door. He was in a cage now, and he was headed for another cage. He was sure of it.

TO BE CONTINUED


The Puppets of Kudzu (2)

Franco Dellaronti was lying on his bed in a very dark space, and he was in a state of horrible depression and self-doubt because of his failure as a kudzu pie entrepreneur. He scrunched his eyes and wrapped his arms around his belly because he was in so much pain. The he heard the faint sound of someone slowly opening his bedroom door. He sat up on the edge of the bed while trying to settle his raging heart that was now pumping with fear. “Who’s there!?” he cried out. The door creaked open wider. Franco tore a drawer open in a nightstand near his bed and pulled out a gun. He shakily aimed the revolver toward the invisible menace hovering somewhere in the door frame. Whoever or whatever it was moved closer. He felt it.

“I’ll shoot! I swear I’ll shoot!” Franco yelled out.

“Don’t shoot! It’s me.”

“Cheise Karn Mouise?”

“Yes!” He reached up to a light switch and flipped it. The room became painfully illuminated. “What the hell are you doing? You could have killed me!”

“I’m sorry. I was half awake and very sad and my head wasn’t very clear. I thought you might be an intruder or a rapist.”

“I’m not an intruder or a rapist, but thanks for locking me out of the house you big goof. I think I got sunburned.” Cheise Karn Mouise walked across the floor and hopped up on the bed next to the man.

“I’m sorry about that, too. How did you get in?”

“I broke out a basement window… I didn’t know you were a gun owner.”

Franco was frustrated with himself. “Yes. I don’t know how to use it very well. It’s heavy and makes my wrist hurt.”

“You’re just being a pussy,” Cheise Karn Mouise bemused. “Are you sure you’re not a girl?”

“What? That’s a horrible thing to say. Of course, I’m not a girl… And why are you suddenly being so snotty?”

“I had a pretty rough day and I’m completely sunburned, and it hurts like hell,” the little puppet man complained.

Franco looked at him and felt bad for locking him out of the house. “Would you like me to rub some pain-relieving aloe vera gel all over your body?”

Cheise Karn Mouise was confused. “Um. What did you say? What do you want to rub all over my body?”

“It will help soothe your sunburn. I bought it at a Greenwalls pharmacy in Cortez, Colorado after I went on my hiking sabbatical in the high desert without the proper clothing and sunscreen. It really does help ease the pain, but you may smell like mouthwash for a while.”

“I think I’ll just deal with the pain,” Cheise Karn Mouise said, and he winced as he adjusted himself on the bed.

Franco tried to convince him. “Are you sure? I really want to rub this all over your body.”

“What the hell is wrong with you!?” Cheise Karn Mouise snapped.

“What? I’m just trying to help.”

“You’re acting very gay.”

“Gay?” And Franco thought, then said, “Even though I’m pretty upset about the whole kudzu pie fiasco, I am generally a very happy person.”

“Don’t you know what gay is?”

“Well sure. It’s like how it is when I’m so light on my feet that I could just jump over a rainbow. When I’m completely joyous about life. When I feel gay, gay, gay!”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his head, looked around the room, and then stared at the floor and mumbled. “Okay… You can rub it on me but do it quick.”


The morning was filled with the smell of coffee and bacon and gross wet eggs as the man and Cheise Karn Mouise sat at the kitchen table and awkwardly ate breakfast together. Franco looked over the rim of his cup at the puppet that had come to life by the power of kudzu pie. He loudly sipped to get his attention.

Cheise Karn Mouise set down his fork and looked at him. “Must you do that?”

“What?”

“Slurp at your coffee like a dime store hooker.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You sure are sorry a lot,” the puppet snapped. “You should probably do some research on that and figure out what is wrong with you.”

“I pay a shrink to do that.”

“Oh, yeah. I forgot.” Cheise Karn Mouise scoffed. “I’m afraid you’re wasting your money.

Franco was hurt by the comment and tried to turn the tides of the conversation. “How’s that burn feeling today?” he asked.

“I think it’s better. That stuff really does work.”

“Good. I really enjoyed rubbing it on you.”

“I um… Enjoyed it too. And you’re pretty good at rubbing.”

Franco was pleased with himself, but bashful enough to change the subject. “I thought today we’d go down to the puppet store and get you a new outfit. That one looks very dirty and gross. Then maybe we could pop over to the mall.”

“Today? Not today. I want to stay home and watch some football games I recorded. I haven’t gotten to yet.”

Franco fluffed his hand in the air. “Football all day? No. We’re going shopping.”

“Why are you being so gay again?”

“What? I’m not very gay at the moment. You’ve upset me. And I think organized sports is just a ginormous waste of time. It’s barbaric and merely weekend fodder for the brain-washed masses.”

Cheise Karn Mouise threw his napkin on the table and crawled down. “So is shopping,” he snipped, and he disappeared into another room.


It was then that the doorbell rang, and Franco Dellaronti huffed, “Oh good big balls who is that!?” He got up from the table and walked toward the door and yanked it open. There was a serious man standing there and he wore a navy-blue suit with a red tie and his hair was clipped short and neat and was the color of vanilla frosting and even had the swirls in it like you might see on cake. He was holding some kind of computerized tablet. “Are you,” he began, and he looked down at the tablet and squinted his eyes a bit. “Franco Dellaronti? And are you the owner of this property?”

“Yes, I am. And this is my house. Who the hell are you?”

“I’m from the city and I’ve come here to control your life. Is that your smashed up lemonade stand littering your front lawn?”

Franco peeked over the official’s shoulder. “Yes. It’s mine. But it’s not a lemonade stand — it was a kudzu pie stand.”

“What the hell is kudzu pie?” the city official wondered out loud.

“It’s a delicious pie made from a sprawling southern vine. Would you like to come in and try some? It would be no trouble at all to plate you a nice fat slice.”

The official hesitated and looked around and sniffed before stepping up and in. “It smells kind of weird in here, but I guess I can get past that for a piece of delicious pie.”

“Oh, that’s my roommate. He has a problem with personal hygiene. My apologies. But please, come sit down.”

Franco led his guest to the kitchen and offered him a seat at the table. “Would you like a big glass of milk to go with that delicious kudzu pie?”

“No. I can’t. I have that lactose intolerant thing. Do you have any beer?”

“Beer? They let you drink beer while you work?”

“Sure. Everyone drinks on the job at the city,” the official teased as he looked up at the man’s confused face. “I’m just kidding. I can’t drink on the job,” he said, and then he winked at Franco. “But I do it anyway.”

Franco fumbled around in the refrigerator. “I’m afraid I don’t have any beer, but would you like a frosty wine cooler?”

The official scrunched his face. “Hell no! I don’t want a wine cooler. That’s gay.”

Franco rolled his eyes and grumbled. “My smelly roommate has been saying that to me all day. I just don’t see what’s so wrong about being happy. Why is everyone so against being happy?”

“I don’t know, but I think you may be a little confused… Anyways, forget the drink and let’s get down to business. Now, the broken stand out in the yard is considered refuse and city code #32-HTBF-43C clearly states that any refuse on personal property must be stored in an approved refuse container which must in turn be stored in a garage or other location which renders it hidden from public sight. So, I’m afraid you are in violation, and I’ll have to fine you.”

“Fine me!? How much?”

“It’s 600 dollars.”

“That’s preposterous!”

“I’m afraid it’s the law.”

“Fine. Let me go get my purse,” Franco whined.

“What? Now that’s gay.”

“Seriously? Can I not be happy about one damn thing today!?”

“You really carry a purse?” the city official wanted to know.

“Yes. I carry a purse. So what!?”

“But you’re a man for crying out loud! Use a wallet like the rest of us.”

“Purses happen to fit my personal needs better than a wallet. I could wear a dress if I want to. It’s nobody’s choice but mine!” Franco exclaimed; his hands now high in the air.

“Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Do you wear a dress?”

“No, I don’t wear a dress! I just like purses. I have a lot of shit to haul around, and I need a purse. Now, can I just please pay the fine so I can get on with my life!”

The official sighed and printed a piece of paper out of the handheld machine, tore it off and gave it to Franco. “Sorry. I can’t take any payments. That would be too efficient. You must come down to city hall and pay in person, but you can only do it between 10:30 and 3:30 on Mondays and Thursdays, unless of course Monday falls on one of those fake holidays, then you’ll have to wait until Thursday. Also, the office is closed from noon until 2 to accommodate our staff’s completely impractical lunch period. And if you’re late on your payment for any reason, they’re going to tack on an exorbitant fee that no one is willing to explain to you and a warrant for your arrest will be issued. So, yeah. Sorry about that, but I’d suggest you get this taken care of as soon as possible.”

“That’s all so completely ludicrous. So, on Veterans’ Day for example, the government takes the day off to honor the same people they don’t give a shit about when they come home from one of your profit-making wars?”

“I work for the city mister, not the federal government. If you got a problem with war, take it up with President Orangutan Assface.” The official laughed and dragged his rough fingers across his scratchy beard. “Hey. What about that kudzu pie?”

TO BE CONTINUED

Read the previous part of this story HERE.


Beyond a Shadow of a Lemon

It be catastrophic ink

Hand-held jubilee in Sicily

Heart ripped

Via raw meat grinder

Downtown high school

The high bums making their way

In cascading light and atrophy

Train whistle kid runs

I bus tables at some Italian joint

Dirty head ware

Lomticks of lowly paycheck curse the bank

Stirring spaghetti sauce with hair drenched arms

Spotlight America whore vibrato

Sad jaw crumbles in the rain

Insane dreams beneath black blanket

What does a kiss taste like?

Anymore???

The door, to the bones

All bleached and static

Bare feet and flannel

Smoking fire in moon’s grave

Heart flaming on highway cocaine

The insane

Cabin by the strip mall

Fake forest

Remnants of Earth boiled in greed

God’s basketball court at dusk

Humans’ suffering heart

Heroin dialect, monkeys on fire

Soul ripped Merry-Go-Round

Plastic steeds crushed in

Smashed guts, broken ribs

Starlight all fucked and asunder

Blood on my shoe

Garage warfare

Dig in ebony tattoo bruise

I crave ham steak

I crave real life

I crave a pond and a warm bullet

There’s lemon meth on the couch

To write an opera

In a dingy tri-level Colorado hurt

It’s all hiding and pain

I the trees and high heights

Mossy wet rocks pointing to grave

Where are my wishes?

Where is my Howard Johnson hamburger in sterile light Albuquerque by freeway feign?

The tick, tick, tick of dead traffic and the insane American bitch

I am panel and door and alien light of night

I am loved dash and LA 405 hurry it up

I am the Long Beach Mormon drama crush queen

I am a night of fight

I am the one who wants to disappear into dreams and never wake up

I am the liquor-laced atom blowing up on the café porch

Aspen, Vail, Trinidad, Raton, Denver boom boom king

I am bomb of heart

The dead muscles whacking at breath and blood and tick tock life heart

Waiting for a blonde to lick my blood back to life

Carpet scars on a flight to Dublin

The waitress clown pinched my peanuts

It’s a Las Vegas grass pass prostitute love charm via gratuitous charm and lavender eyes

Money for boner

Boner for drugs

Lawn light cascading across foreign bed sheets

I think I am done

It is lonely in this space

Somewhere in the stars called

It’s time to go home

And just look out the window.


Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (The Ending)

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?”

“No.”

He motioned backward with a fat thumb. “Well, how did you… ?”

“Someone left me out there.”

“No shit?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“What’s her name?”

“Stella.”

“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.”

“What? Why?”

“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.  

END

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