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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