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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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 7)

Author’s Note: You can read the previous episodes of this story by going to the Serials on Cereal tab in the menu bar at cerealaftersex.com.


I would have never believed it myself had I not witnessed it in the realm of real life, but there he was.

“Karl! What the fuck are you doing here!?” Roy blurted out loud enough for the whole world of the underground dead to hear.

Creepy Karl from Indiana held up a dirty, empty plastic milk carton. “I tried to stop you, but you just tore off. You all forgot your milk jug back in California. I thought I’d bring it to you.”

“I swear Karl, you’re cuckooier than a bowl of Cocoa Puffs,” Roy said, exhausted in spirit.

“No, no. I’m just trying to be a decent citizen of the world.”

“What kind of shit is this, Karl?!” Roy demanded to know. “You’ve been following us, and not because of some god damn empty milk jug. You’ve got some serious explaining to do or you’re liable to lose even more teeth. You’ll be swallowing them right down with a warm blood chaser after I punch you in the face.”

“No, now, Roy. There’s no need for physical violence here,” Karl said, and he craned his wrinkled neck to get a peek at me in the bed over Roy’s shoulder. “Oh. Looks like I might have interrupted a hot love session.”

“Roy! Get him the hell out of here. Right now!” I screamed out.

“You heard the lady, get the hell out of here before…”

“Before what?” Karl sneered. “Before you call the cops?” He moved up and down on the balls of his feet, snickering. “Now, that might not be in your best interest, Roy. You know, considering everything that’s transpired among you two and the outside world.”

I got up out of the bed, a sheet wrapped tightly around my body, and I went to stand by Roy and looked that son of a bitch Karl right in the face and pointed my pissed off finger at him. “You don’t know shit about us, so quit playing like you do,” I said to him.

“Well, on the contrary young lady, I do know a few things. Things like how you’ve been fornicating with an outlaw.”

“That’s none of your god damn business,” I seethed.

“But it is my business. And it most certainly is the business of those that I represent. It’s a sin. They know it. I know it. Seems like you’re the only one who doesn’t know it, or maybe you just don’t care.”

“I have no god damn idea what you are talking about, mister, and I don’t really care to,” I said to him. “Now, I’m going to go take a shower and when I get out, you better be on the other side of the Rio Grande, Karl.”

As I walked off to the bathroom, Karl called out something that stopped me dead in my tracks. He said: “Royal is wondering why you ran off with this here killer.”

I turned to look back at him. He was smiling some victorious smile like he had beaten me, beaten Roy, too. We were caught in some sort of web I didn’t fully understand yet. “What do you have to do with my husband?”

And just as he was about to speak, a beat-up car came pulling up to the motel with a bad-news rattle. There was a little lighted sign strapped to the roof and it read: Jim’s Clean Pizza. Roy glanced at me and said, “Finally. I’m so damn hungry.”

Roy went out and paid the kid and then came back inside with a plastic 2-liter of lemon-lime soda pop and a big cardboard box, and the room started to smell so good. It was that smell that told you that you were about to indulge in some delicious goodness sliding down your throat and into your hollow belly. Kind of like when Roy lets loose when he’s in my mouth.

I’ll tell you what, though. That damn Karl watched Roy all the way as he carried that box over to a little table and set it down, and I could tell he was going to ask for some damn pizza. Aw, holly hell. I’ve seen this fool drink milk and I sure as shit wasn’t looking forward to seeing him eat pizza. But Roy invited him to stay so we could talk about things. But the weird thing is, he didn’t ask me what I thought about it at all. I think it was a strategy to keep our enemy close as we worked stuff out. But I was already fast-forwarding in my mind to killing this lump of trouble and dumping him deep in the desert so the buzzards could carry him off to the afterlife in pieces.

Roy sat down, rubbed his hands together in anticipation, and opened the lid of the pizza box. “Hell yeah!” he said. “Meatballs, pepperoni, and black olives. Damn that looks good. Well come on you two, pull up your asses and grab a slice before I eat it all myself.”

“Those sure are small meatballs,” Karl said as he curiously peered into the box.

Roy chuckled through a mouthful. “I’m sure you know plenty about small balls, don’t you Karl?”

Karl gave him a stern look of disapproval, reached a spindly hand into the box, and retrieved a piece of pizza. “My balls are big enough, Roy.” Then he slurped the pointy end of his slice into his mouth.

“Well, I sure as hell hope I never find out, Karl,” Roy said to him with another laugh.

“Would you all mind not talking about your balls while I’m trying to eat,” I said to them, and then I filled some motel cups with that lemon-lime soda pop and passed them around.

“Sorry, Sally,” Roy said. Then he cleared his throat and looked around at our humble gathering. “This sure is weird as hell,” he pointed out.

“So, Karl,” I began. “What was this talk about my husband?”

He was tipping his cup back as I said this, and when he got it all down, he smacked his rutted lips and looked at me with a strange grin. Then he turned to Roy and said in an uncharacteristic tone and even with a different voice, “I think it’s time we tell her.”


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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 6)

Author’s Note: You can find the previous episodes of this story under the Serials on Cereal menu tab above.

“I live to pluck the tomatoes from your pre-made salad.”

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?”

“New Mexico.”

“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. 


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Love and Thunder In the Jailhouse (Part 5)

Author’s Note: First, if you have missed the other episodes and want to read them, go to the Serials on Cereal menu tab above. Secondly, the following contains probable offensive language. Turn away if you don’t like that sort of thing.


That familiar ugly ache of an unwanted dawn fingered its way in through a thin slit in the motel room curtains and I knew it was time for Roy and I to move on.

Roy was moaning in the sheets because he was so hungover. I let him just be while I got up, showered and got dressed.

I started packing up some things and was loading them in the car, and that’s when weird Karl from Indiana suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in a pink bathrobe and a head of crazy hair that looked as if he had just stepped out of a tornado. He was sucking on a cigarette he had in one hand and sipping coffee from a paper motel cup he had in the other. He was strangely watching me as if he were scribbling notes in his head like a detective.

“Good morning, Sally,” he said in that gaseous, off-planet voice of his.

I gave him a quick nod of acknowledgement and slammed the trunk of the car shut.

“Hey there. Nice outfit,” I said, without really thinking.

He seemed to take offense.

“This robe happened to belong to my mother,” he sternly said, then sighed. “She was wearing it when I found her on the kitchen floor that day you don’t know anything about. She was dead. One of those eternally crippling heart attacks. So they said.”

“Aw holy hell. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“It’s fine. I’m through it. I’ll never be over it, but I’m through it.” He suddenly lighted up. “Roy about?”

“He’s still in bed, but we’re about to hit the road. I’m hoping at least.”

“Where you all headed?”

I couldn’t really give him a straight answer because I didn’t really know myself. And I didn’t want to let him in on anything. I simply said, “East.”

“Hell, that opens up a lot of possibilities.”

“It sure does, but that’s how we like it.”

Karl laughed to himself and tossed his nub of a cigarette butt to the ground and threw back the last of his coffee.

“Okay. I get that you have to keep your plans under wrap, but your secret is safe with me. I won’t tell anyone.”

I glared at him, annoyed. “We don’t have any secrets. We’re just wandering. You know, having an adventure.”

“Right. The time of your lives, I suppose.”

“Something like that. And I don’t understand why you have to know where we’re going anyway. I’m not prying into your personal business.”

“And I don’t understand why you have to treat me like a disease. I’m doing nothin’ except trying to be friendly. Hell, in a world like this, why is that so awful?”

“It’s awful because the world is the way it is. You answered your own damn question,” I said to him. “Now, if you don’t mind, I need to rouse Roy so we can get going.”

“Don’t let me stop you. Bitch.”

I didn’t reply to him calling me a bitch because in all honesty I was kind of being a bitch, but I didn’t care. It seemed like the right thing to be at the moment. I turned, walked back into Room #13 and locked the door behind me.

Roy was up and sitting on the edge of the bed without any clothes on. He was holding his head in his hands and mumbling something. I thought he was praying.

“Which one of them gods are you talking to, Roy?” I asked him.

He shook his head slowly.

“Whichever one is going to see me through this god damn life to the end and with the least amount of damage.”

He grudgingly got up off the bed and went into the bathroom to take a shower. When he came out, he got dressed in some fresh clothes and brewed us some coffee in the little coffee maker they had there.

We ate the chocolate donuts with our coffee and Roy had some more of his Lucky Charms.

“What the hell are we going to do with all this extra milk?” he wanted to know after he poured some in his cereal bowl. “Why’d you buy so much god damn milk, Sally? We can’t take it in the car with us. It’s 400 degrees outside.”

“I don’t know why you’re riding my ass about milk. I got it for you because you wanted cereal so bad.”

He sighed and shook his head at me.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry I snapped at you.”

“It’s okay. I know you’re not feeling so well.”

“I’ll just take it over to Karl. Poor guy looks like he could use some milk. Why don’t you come with me, and we can say goodbye. Together.”

“Do I have to?”

“It would be the right thing to do.”

Roy knocked on the door to Karl’s room and it quickly opened, and he halfway emerged, and it looked as if he had been crying.

“Well, hell, folks. I thought you two were already on your way.”

“We’ve been somewhat delayed, Karl. Damn hangover is kicking my ass,” Roy told him.

“I understand.”

Roy held up the half-empty gallon of milk.

“You go on and take this milk. We can’t bring it with us.”

And I’ll tell you, I’ve never in my life seen a man light up so much over the stupidest things. He was grinning so wide I thought his face would crack apart and fall to pieces. Over milk. And not even a full gallon of milk. Holy hell.

Creepy Karl from Indiana reached out with two hands and took it. That strange fellow nearly hugged the damn thing.

“My, my,” he said with a gross smile. “I don’t believe anyone has ever given me milk as a parting gift before.” He suddenly looked at us with wide, curious eyes. “It is a gift, right? I get to keep it?”

Roy scoffed with a laugh. “Jesus Christ, Karl. It’s just milk.”

“But you thought about me. You must consider me a friend. I mean, at least you do, Roy,” and he shot me a scowl.

Roy looked at me and smirked, then he turned back to Karl.

“To be honest with you, Karl. It’s just we don’t know anyone else around here,” Roy teased with all seriousness.

Karl looked at us like we just kicked him in the everlasting heart.

Roy slapped him on the upper arm and laughed. “I’m just kidding, Karl. Sure, we’re friends.”

His face switched back over to a grin.

“Come on, Roy. We’ve got to get going,” I said impatiently.

Roy stuck out his hand to shake.

“Take care, Karl. Enjoy the milk.”

When we finally started pulling out of the Furnace Springs Motorlodge, I could see Karl in the rear-view mirror as I adjusted it. To me, that’s usually the best way to see people you don’t really like — as you’re moving away from them forever. That damn Karl though, he was madly waving one arm goodbye and in his other hand he had that milk jug tilted up and he was drinking, but he was being really messy about it, and I could see the milk pouring out of his mouth and running down the front of him. And the whole time his eyes were as big as plums, and they were aimed directly at us.

And then as I was waiting to turn into the road, he came running up behind the car and he took that milk jug he emptied, and he threw it at the car as hard as he could. It bounced off with a plastic doink, and then he was stomping around like crazy and yelling out, “I’ll get you milk fuckers! You won’t get away with this!”

I punched the accelerator, and we were off.

“I’ll tell you, Roy. That Karl is one of the strangest people I ever had the misfortune to meet. He gives me mile-high anxiety.”

“He sure as hell was a strange bird,” Roy agreed. “Like some sort of poor cuckoo soul tragically lost in the world.”


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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 4)

Author’s note: You can read the other episodes here: Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 1) and Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 2) and Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 3).

I pushed a wobbly cart down the dead-light aisles of a place called Food Cave. It was an old and beat-down place but a grocery store just the same. I tried to keep my head down and not look at people, but that didn’t keep those strange desert rats from looking at me. I had to wonder if I was on fire or something the way some of them people stared.

I found Roy’s Lucky Charms and since I thought I loved him so much I got the really big box. I picked up some cheap plastic bowls and spoons, a gallon of milk, some bottles of water, and grabbed a box of donuts with chocolate frosting on them. And since I felt bad about ditching ol’ Karl from Indiana, I snagged a case of cheap high-gravity beer in hopes he might forgive me and not cause us any trouble.

When I got up to the checkout lane it was backed up because they only had one god damn cashier. Hell, it doesn’t matter where you go, it’s always the same. Nothing is ever how they show it on the god damn commercials – never. How do we keep falling for this bullshit?

When it finally came my turn, I put my things up on the belt. The cashier was a shaky, middle-aged lady who had a black eye and a cut on her bottom lip. When she tried to smile like the fortune gods tell her to, I could see she had a front tooth missing. I looked at her nametag and it said HELEN.

I asked her for two packs of Camel cigarettes and then I said, “Are you okay, Helen?”

She looked up from her scanning and her eyes got real wide.

“I fell down the stairs,” she said.

“Them stairs must have had a fist of stone,” I boldly replied.

She stopped what she was doing and looked at me like I was her worst enemy ever.

“I told you. I fell down the stairs.”

“And they still made you come to work?”

“I can’t afford to miss. I’ve got bills to pay, honey. Now why don’t you mind your own damn business and pay yours.”

Yep. Nothing like the commercials.

When I got back to the Furnace Springs Motorlodge, Roy was sitting outside the room with that crazy Karl from Indiana. The motel had set out metal chairs and a round metal table crowned with a dirty orange ashtray the size of a cereal bowl for their road-weary patrons, and that’s where they were – smoking and drinking beer and acting like they were best friends.

“Holy hell, Sally. Now you’re in trouble,” I whispered to myself as I roughly moved the car’s shifter to the P.

I just sat there in the car for a minute looking at them looking at me. Roy had shaved his face baby-butt smooth, and he had a red bandana strapped to the top of his head. That creepy Karl would take a sip of his beer, laugh, and then oddly turn his head to look at me. It seemed he was somehow reading my soul as if my thoughts were brightly etched in braille and his eyes were dirty fingertips.

Roy finally got up and came over and opened the driver’s side door.

“What the hell, Sally? Are you getting out of the car?” He looked over at creepy Karl and they both just laughed.

“You’re drunk!” I snapped.

He stumbled backward as I got out of the car. “Hell yeah I’m drunk. Me and Karl over there are having ourselves a little party. Why don’t you put them groceries up and join us?”

I slammed the car door and went around to the trunk to get the bags of groceries.

“Are you going to help me?” I said to him.  

“All right, all right. Let me just go set my beer down.”

Once inside the room and with the door closed, I confronted Roy.

“Why in the hell are you carrying on with him like that?” I angrily whispered.

“What’s the big deal? I’m just being neighborly and having a little fun.”

“He could be trouble for us, Roy! I thought we were supposed to be careful.”

“He’s just a lonely old dude down on his luck. He’s harmless.”

“What if he’s not?”

Roy looked at me and shook his head. “Well, after what you did to him, I figured it was the least I could do.”

I glared at him.

He raised his voice. “That’s right. He told me you promised him a ride and then ditched him when he wasn’t looking.”

“He was creeping me out, Roy.”

“It made him suspicious.”

I brushed past him in frustration and worked to put some of the things I got at the store in the little refrigerator the motel people had there. He watched me intently as I moved around the room.

“I was just trying to mellow him out, Sally. It’s no big fucking deal! Let’s just get through this hot ass night and we’ll be gone in the morning, and we’ll never have to see him again.”

“Fine!” I finally said.

“Good. I’m going to take a piss. Take him some more beer and try to be nice.”

He put a can in my hand and slapped my butt before going into the bathroom and closing the door.

I went outside and creepy Karl was sitting there quietly smoking a cigarette. He eventually turned his head to look at me.

“Hi there,” he said.

I set the beer down on the table in front of him and he started to glow. He reached for it, popped it open and took a long drink.

“Why don’t you sit down?”

“I’d rather stand, thanks.”

He shrugged and took another sip of beer. “Suit yourself.”

I started getting more uncomfortable by the second and I finally went to open the room door.

“Roy!?” I called out.

I could hear the shower running. Why was he taking a god damn shower at a time like this!?

“Something wrong?” Karl asked.

I closed the door.

“No. I was just wondering what Roy was up to.”

“Oh. That Roy of yours has been pretty nice to me. Unlike some other folks around here,” he said in that high-pitched fluty voice.

I knew he was talking about me. Of course he was.

“I’m sorry about that. I’ve got a lot on my mind.”

He slowly shook his head in agreement. “I’m sure you do.”

And because he said it with a hint of accusation, I asked him, “What do you mean by that?”

He looked at me and snickered like he was busting to tell a secret. “I know who you are.”

My heart started thumping in my chest.

“You don’t know anything about me, mister.”

“Well. I don’t really have to. You see, nowadays the world does the knowing for me. I don’t need eyes when there’s other eyes all around. And I don’t need to do the hearing when all this technology does the listening for me. And then you know what they do, Sally?”

“What?”

“They send it out. And it flows through the wires, and it flows through the ground, and it flows through the air on its way to everyone’s brain,” he said, oddly fluttering his fingers in the air. “And then those people do the same, and then some more people do the same again, until everyone in the world knows everyone else’s secrets.”

“What the hell are you talking about, mister.”

“I’m talking about all the cameras and the phones and the televisions and the computers and all these other miraculous devices gifted to us by the star people. Everywhere you go and everything you do – somebody somewhere is watching and listening and spreading it like butter on warm toast that eventually runs off the edge and gets into every crack and crevice in the world.”

“You’re fucking paranoid.”

He chuckled strangely and shook a crooked finger at me.

“No. I’m not. But you should be.”

Roy suddenly opened the door and came out. He was eating Lucky Charms like a bowl of dog food.

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Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 2)

Author’s Note: You can read the first part of the story here: Love and Thunder in the Jailhouse (Part 1)

We came upon this place on the edge of the desert that didn’t even seem real. It just suddenly came into view on the horizon and off to the left, lying there like a dead body in a waterless gully. It was a place that laid flat among the desert heat shimmers and bruise-colored stones and hills and the whole place glowed a creamy orange yet predicted possible death for us.

Roy Essence and I tried to stay cool in the heat. After getting some gas and picking up some beer and junk to snack on, we rolled down a road on the outskirts of this broiled town called Furnace Springs. We couldn’t believe people actually lived in this place. More so me than Roy since he’s lived in a jail off and on so much of his life. This town seemed to have had its back broken by some vengeful god’s hammer. It seemed so damn depressing and lonely and void of life. But here it was for some reason that we couldn’t figure out. But I suppose that’s true for most places on this Earth. Except the nice places that people like me never get to go to. Maybe that will change with Roy Essence at my side.

We finally came upon the motel we had seen advertised on a beat-up billboard on the I-10 – The Furnace Springs Motorlodge. It was a small place painted a peeling green and white with about 20 rooms. The doors were colored hell-red and so the whole place looked like a bad devil-spit-on Christmas. There were only a couple of other cars in the parking lot, and I pulled into a space near the office. The red neon sign was aglow with warning: VACANCY.

“You go in and get the room, Sally,” Roy Essence said. “I’ve got a worse reputation and shouldn’t be seen.”

“Are you sure it will be okay?” I asked him.

He looked at me with a slight smile and placed a strong and reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Sure it will,” he said. “It’s just life. It won’t last forever.”

I don’t know why I did, but I took comfort in those words. And so, I walked into the office, and I needn’t had worried because the untidy and nervous little man behind the counter wasn’t really paying much attention to me. He was eating an apple and watching car racing on the small TV he had there.

He slid a book in my direction and told me to put down my personal information like my name, address, and phone number. I just made it all up. I started to enjoy making things up about myself and my sorry ass life.

I paid him in cash and I got a key to Room 13. Isn’t that special and fitting? Roy Essence chuckled about that.

The room itself was small and dingy and smelled of stale cigarettes and old secret sex. The bed bowed in the middle, and I supposed it was from all the weighted thrusting that must have gone on during the last four decades or so.

I put down my bag on a folding silver metal luggage rack and went into the bathroom and peed. When I was done and washing my hands with the little piece of white soap, I looked at myself in the mirror. I think I must have forgotten myself because I barely recognized my own face. My eyes seemed to have faded from a shimmering blue to a washed-out gray, like little unimportant stones resting in my sockets. My hair was a scraggly, wind-blown tangle of crushed field straw. My skin was speckled by the passing of time tainted with too much struggle. My lips were sunburnt and lacked any sort of shimmer. I wasn’t the same sweet Sally Dibbs I once was, but then again, maybe I never was.

When I came out of the bathroom, Roy Essence was sitting on the edge of the bed holding the TV remote in one hand and a can of cheap beer in the other. He was aiming the remote at the small, old-time boxy TV sitting in a metal tray affixed to the wall by metal arms that allowed you to move it so you could see it just how you wanted.

Roy was wearing a pair of my husband’s blue jeans, a pair of his white socks, and one of his t-shirts. It was weird to see him like that. It was unsettling in one way but uplifting in another. Uplifting as in I finally achieved my desire of filling my husband’s clothes with another man’s body and soul. Someone better and deeper and more real and brave and full of life.

I sat down beside him, but he paid me no real attention because he was watching the news now and they were talking about us. They showed our pictures and they said we were fugitives and that I was a bad person because I had allegedly facilitated the escape of an alleged murderer. It was going to be real bad if they ever caught us. And I guess in the back of my own troubled head, I knew that someday soon they probably would.

Roy Essence pushed a button on the remote and the television went silent and dark. He turned to look at me.

“You know what I could go for right now,” he said in a real serious way that almost scared me.

“What’s that, Roy?” I asked.

“A god damn bowl of cereal.”

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