The Ride

So, yeah, it’s night, and I’m running back to the truck stop we passed, and I don’t know what I do now, just I gotta ditch my aunt, ‘cause she saw the dead girl. She’s somewhere behind me, not back in the car, and she’s saying weird shit and shouldn’t be running down the highway on her own, but I got other stuff to think about, like what they do to murderers who are also teenage girls and whether I go to hell now and if that even matters, ‘cause she’s right, I am a monster. I didn’t mean to be, but I literally am. I stop running so I can think about that.

I don’t know how far it is to the truck stop, but headlights get bright behind me, and a car pulls up. I don’t even have my thumb out. Dude’s got a mustache and a car from a car show, and he dresses like it’s Mad Men, but he seems like a dad and he smiles like he knows me. I go with it for now. I got my knife.

In the car, I say, “Hey, change the station,” ‘cause there’s creepy classical music, and he says, “It bothers me, as well.” He says, “Believe every word I say, because it’s all true. We are not headed for Mexico, but you can think that when you can’t believe me.”

He peels out, but outside the car is slow, and I worry about grabbing my knife right away, and I say, “Hey, you’re going fast, OK?” He says, “We are going in impossible directions.”

For a second I think we’re on Astronaut Mountain and the dad is a muddy skeleton and he’s not even really driving, ‘cause his hands are in the air. The classical drowns out the tracks, and he told me he didn’t like it, but he’s dancing.

That’s just a second, and it’s gotta be some kind of panic thing, ‘cause he’s the same dad as always, just lighting a cigarette and straightening his mustache, and his car puts along like it’s worth enough to take care of. I feel like we’re still taking dips, though, and he looks like Wiltner Dasney now that I think of it.

He says, “Let’s try another.” The radio picks up a different station, and pirate songs poke through the classical, and the AC starts blasting.

“Can I turn that off?” I say and pop the vent closed, but it’s cold now.

“It’s wet,” he says. “I’ve never felt wet air conditioning. Neither have you.”

Then for a second there’s two skeletons, the real one in the boat and the fake one stabbed into the cave. It’s hard to get back to Nebraska at all. When I get there, it’s daytime and it looks like we made it to Mexico, which doesn’t make sense.

I say, “I think I went crazy.”

“No, Taylor,” he says. “That’s not how crazy works. Wake up. Last time.”

The car’s gone again. We’re on top of the painted cement Brokeback Mountain, and Dasneyville’s down there, and that looks normal, but outside it’s all on fire, and I knew it would be. The skeleton’s sitting cross-legged, and I’m hugging the paint. I figure he’s the one doing this, and I worry I literally gotta get my knife.

He says, “You never had a knife. That’s the nightmare you prefer.”

I reach and, yeah, my purse is nowhere. Around then I’m crying, and I don’t know why. It’s not ‘cause it’s all on fire out there or ‘cause what that means. I think maybe I’m trying to believe that last part where I never had a knife, where then being in hell would be easy. It would literally be too good to be true.

He pats my hair. His hand’s bone, and he stinks like dying, and the classical’s doing a creepy finale, but it still feels like he’s a dad. He leans in close and says, “Would you like to be part of a quiz show?” And, yeah, that doesn’t make sense either.

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