Saturday, January 16, 2010

Forward Motion

Even on a slow day, you can accomplish something. I sometimes get down on myself if I don't reach my word count goals, but then I have a day like yesterday. I was just flat out sick, under the weather even. I did nothing. The slow days and short days aren't that bad, because at least I'm moving forward.

Today was great. I hit my word count early and feel so much better, it's like a different me. I wish I had sucked it up and done something yesterday, it feels like a whole day wasted. Oh well, I'll get over it :)

Well, since I've been gone for so long, I haven't posted any of my writing like I was planning. So, I think I will actually post one of my short stories today so it can fill out some space on today's blog.

Here ya go, please forgive the formatting. Blogspot isn't very format friendly.

Never, Ever Bring This Up Again:

Just off of Nevada’s Highway 50, somewhere between Carson City and Fallon, an eighties model Toyota pickup sat on the side of the road. It was a red pickup, and its tires were caked with grime and dirt, and the bumper, on the driver’s side, was bent upward and pushed through the now broken headlight.
There were two men in the truck; the driver, with his arm leaning out the window, covered in what looked like mud, holding a cigarette, and one passenger, just sitting still.
“Never, ever bring this up again.”
“What, do you think I’m an idiot?”
Matt, the driver, was stocky and tall, with tattoos covering his thick arms. Although he was still in his mid-twenties, his hair was thinning noticeably, and already peppered with grey. “Jesus,” he muttered as he exhaled the smoke from his cigarette.
The passenger, Jeremy, was just as tall as Matt, but thinner and with a full head of hair. Whenever they had gone out drinking together, Matt jokingly referred to Jeremy as the “bait,” using him and his classic good looks to draw in the ladies. Not tonight though, no jokes or ladies tonight.
The inside of the truck stunk horribly, even after they had rolled the windows down. It was the filthy smell of whisky and smoke, but there was something more to it. Something awful and too sweet that made their tongues click, and their gag reflexes shutter whenever they breathed too deep.
Jeremy just stared out the passenger side window, afraid that looking at Matt while he spoke would make him lose control, and vomit. “What do we do now?”
“First we gotta go clean up the truck, and pull that damn bumper off.” Matt took one last drag and then flicked the butt out into the desert. “Then, we gotta get cleaned up, and get ridda these clothes.” He grabbed the front of his shirt, showing Jeremy the dark, oily stains.
“What about the shovel, do you think it’ll clean up?”
Matt started the truck and pulled another cigarette from his shirt pocket as he thought about it, “I guess we’re gonna hafta toss that too.” He lit the cigarette and took a long pull from it before he continued, “I mean, a shovel’s supposed ta get dirty, but there ain’t no accountin for the blood, is there?”
“No, I guess you’re right,” Jeremy shifted in his seat as Matt pulled the truck back onto the highway, glad to get more fresh air into the cab. As the cool air hit his face, he knew that the whisky had finally worn off. He could feel the wind pushing on the broken skin beneath his eye, where Matt had hit him earlier. Although it stung, he was glad for the feeling, glad to know he was no longer drunk.
Matt noticed as Jeremy touched the skin lightly, trying to estimate the size of the wound. “How’re you feelin over there?”
“It’s a bit tender, but to be honest, I’m just barely startin ta feel it.”
“Yeah, I figured ya wouldn’t be feelin it much when I hit ya.” Matt looked at his friend for a moment, a hint of sorrow in his eyes, “I am sorry for that,” he pointed at the sore, “but you were gettin’ pretty hysterical… and you were startin ta freak me out.”
Jeremy watched as the truck’s remaining headlight turned onto the gravel road that led to his house, “Don’t worry ‘bout it, I needed it anyway. That’s the only point of the whole thing I can even remember without it bein’ all fuzzy, ya know?”
“Yeah, well… that might be a good thing.” As they pulled up to the little garage next to Jeremy’s place, Matt realized his cigarette had gone out in his hand. As he relit, he gave Jeremy a serious look, “We can’t ever talk about this, can’t bring it up, ever.”
Jeremy nodded, “Do you think I can get one of those?” he asked pointing to Matt’s cigarette.
Matt pulled another of the cancer sticks from the pack in his shirt pocket, “I thought you quit,” he taunted as the corners of his mouth began to turn up.
“Yeah, well…” He lit the cigarette and took a long pull from it, enjoying the nicotine as the smoke trundled though his mouth and into his throat and lungs. “My daddy always told me not to be a quitter.”
Matt opened the door and began to get out of the truck’s cab, grabbing the keys from the ignition, “Well, you and your daddy need to get the toolbox outta the back of the truck so we can get this damn bumper off.” When he closed the door, his movement caught the motion sensor, activating the flood light on the front of the garage, illuminating the front of the truck and part of the driveway.
Jeremy got out of the truck quickly and tried to kick some of the mud and grime from his shoes before grabbing the toolbox. It didn’t come off easily, and when it did, it came off in great chunks that made a nasty slurping noise when they hit the ground.
Trying not to think about the gunk too much, he reached into the bed of the truck to find what he was looking for. It was an old toolbox, all metal and heavy, with rusted corners and a creaky handle that made him grunt as he lifted.
“Oh, Jesus,” came Matt’s voice from the front of the truck. “This mess is gonna take all night.”
As Jeremy made his way to the front of the truck, Matt stood back, looking at the damage with both hands resting on top of his head. “Is it really that bad?” Jeremy followed Matt’s eyes to the offending spot as he set the toolbox on the hood.
At first, all Jeremy saw was the mutilated bumper, covered in mud. As his eyes adjusted to the artificial light, though, he realized that the stain was dark red, not brown as he had first thought. It wasn’t mud. There were stringy clumps of it crammed into the creases in the metal, and covering the busted headlight and fender.
Jeremy threw up, splashing whisky and bile at his feet and onto the toolbox. Matt jumped back quickly to miss the splatter, turned away from the mess, and covered his mouth and nose with his hand. “Jesus, Jeremy! What the hell!?”
Jeremy coughed and spluttered, dropping his half smoked cigarette to the ground. He turned away from Matt, leaning into himself with his hands on his knees, waiting for the burning in his nose and throat to go away. “I’m sorry, Matt, I dinna mean ta… I dinna know…”
“Damn it, man! I aint cleanin this crap up myself. You better just get your head on and get over it, real quick,” with that, Matt walked to side of the garage where a hose was hung, neatly on the wall. He unwound the hose and began dragging it back to the truck, glad for the wash gun on the end.
“Why’s it so stringy, Matt?” Jeremy was beginning to stand straight again, wiping his mouth as he said, “I didn’t know it… blood, I mean. I didn’t know it would get all stringy like that.”
Without any warning, Matt began spraying the ground at Jeremy’s feet, trying to clean the vomit away from the truck. “Blood aint stringy, you idiot. That’s the hair… or… you know what I mean.”
Jeremy’s throat clinched, fighting back another attack, “Oh god… what did we do?” His voice cracked and tears started flooding down his cheeks. His torso began quaking as it was rocked by the sobs issuing from his chest.
“What did WE do?! You little bastard!” Matt dropped the hose, which stopped spraying immediately after the trigger unlocked, and stomped toward Jeremy. He grabbed the sobbing man by the front of his shirt and slammed him onto the hood of the pickup, knocking the wind out of him.
“You best shut yer damn fool mouth! You’ll either get yer head on, or I’ll beat yer brains in right here. You hear me?” Still pinning Jeremy to the hood with his left hand, Matt slapped him across the face with his right, bringing a stream of blood from the freshly closed wound under Jeremy’s eye.
“I’M SORRY… I’M SORRY!” cried Jeremy as he cowered and squirmed, trying to get out of Matt’s vice like grip.
Beginning to raise his hand to strike his friend again, Matt caught himself, and stopped. He released his hold on Jeremy’s shirt and allowed him to slide off the hood and onto the ground. He clenched his teeth shut and took in a deep breath through his nose as he pulled another cigarette from his pocket. “Lets just get this mess cleaned up, and then you can go to bed, sleep it off.”
Without speaking a word, or even trying to staunch the blood that was flowing down his cheek, Jeremy slid the toolbox under the bumper and got to work taking it off. He loosened the nuts under the fender without much trouble, and in minutes, the bumper was unattached and sitting on the ground at his feet.
“Now, we just gotta get that stuff cleaned off,” said Matt as he dropped the butt of his cigarette into the puddle of vomit and water. He took his pack from his shirt pocket and tossed it on the hood. Then he unbuttoned his shirt and took it off, wadding it into a ball in his hand. “Might as well get some use outta this before I gotta chuck it, huh?”
Jeremy followed suit as Matt picked up the hose again and used it to soak the shirt before spraying the fender of the truck. When Jeremy approached, with his shirt in his hand, Matt soaked it for him and then both men knelt in front of the pickup, and got to work cleaning it.
The work was long and messy, taking just more than an hour to complete, and both men were silent until it was done. They both stood, tossing their ruined shirts on the ground, and leaned against the truck.
Matt chuckled as he pulled his last cigarette from its pack, “I guess you really didn’t quit, huh?” he said as he pointed to the small pile of butts that had gathered from the two of them smoking as they worked.
“You know me, I always try and do what daddy taught me,” replied Jeremy, laughing for the first time that night.
Matt walked toward the garage again, this time grabbing an old aluminum garbage can and carrying it back to the truck. “What are you gonna say if somebody asks about that eye?”
Smiling slyly, Jeremy felt a tinge from the wound as he answered, “I’ll tell ‘em the truth. I’ll tell em, I don’t remember much, but the guy that hit me was big… and ugly.”
The two men laughed and harassed each other as they filled the garbage can and used the hose to rinse away what they didn’t want to pick up. When the work was done, they stood in the driveway, watching as the sun rose above the mountains that surrounded the valley they were in.
“Jeremy, you know we have to be careful about this, right?”
“I know. Never, ever bring this up again. I get it.”
Matt reached into his front pocket and grabbed the key ring. “Well here ya go, then, these are yours. I’m gonna walk home, I think.”
Taking the keys from his friend, Jeremy smiled, “Thanks, Matt, for everything.”
Only a few yards down the driveway, Matt turned, “If I find out you ever drive like that again, it’ll be your body I bury in the desert,” with that, he waved and began his walk home.

-Ken Lindsey
posted 1-16-2010