The Chariot

Photo by Cindi Primm

Paul was already gone when we pulled out in a borrowed truck. He left for work at 4am. There was a note.

I’ll be gone when you guys leave. Probably better that way, because I’m going to cry when I get back and the house is empty.

I argued for Colorado, which means we were bound for Reno. Will’s boss and buddy, Craig, had work waiting for him there. Leslie and Markus would be headed west in another month, by the northern route, back to her hometown in Rochester, Minnesota. Their journey would involve more stops and happy adventures, Paul Bunyan statues and crooked houses and such.

At dusk, the empty fields blurred into dark shadows of trees and fencelines outside the window. Will was quiet and intent on the road, so I stared out the passenger window and thought of Josey Wales and Missouri boat rides. The Show-Me State. We hit St. Louis by nightfall. My Siamese, Hagar, was fed up and crying in her carrier. Our drag queen neighbor called her Ha-gre when he came over. He also made suggestive comments about Will’s long fingers. I didn’t know if I would miss any of it except Paul and my family at the French Quarter Food Shop. Will didn’t want to stop for the night in the city, so he pulled off at a shady motel on the outskirts. We had to smuggle Hagar into the room.


The following day we crossed part of  Kansas, which was a whole lot of nothing. We spent the night in another roadside motel, but this one had a swimming pool. It was moving towards Fall, and the water was cold. Will popped his head out of the room to check on me. It felt good. I can count on one hand the times this happened. Maybe things would be different out west.

It was a little nothing town. We went out to explore and, I thought, to eat. The strip club was right on Main Street. They didn’t have food, just some girls behind glass and some salty old men. 

It was a quiet trip the next day. Will didn’t talk much sober. We filled up the tank and switched places at a gas station. I grabbed snacks, a cup of coffee, and drove.

“Hey, did you pay for gas inside?” he asked.

“No. I thought you did.”

“Shit.”

We were relieved to cross the border. We were spending the night where Will’s sister was living with a military guy and her two kids in Colorado Springs. I didn’t know Danae well, then. I didn’t know she was the devil. All I knew was what Will told me, how she used to play “Hell is For Children” for him when he was little. How he lived with her when she was a dancer in Jacksonville and the kids were so hungry the boy was eating a stick of butter. Danae and Will picked up beer and proceeded to get drunk immediately, joked about the altitude and alcohol content. They were awfully chummy for hating each other so much. And Danae was chock full of stories about Will’s past conquests.

“Remember that one girl you picked up?” she said, and told the story about the dumb girl.

“Oh, yeah. She gave me a decent hand job in the car.”

I wished I was drunk as fuck and on a bus anywhere.

“Oh, baby, you aren’t crying are you?” Danae asked. “Will, you better take care of your girl.”

The next day she took us to see rock formations, kissing camels. The military guy and the kids were silent shadows of people.

We headed north through Denver and into Wyoming the next morning. The soundtrack of our entire journey was Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.

Barrooms and bedrooms are just faces and faces and names,

One’s for the pleasure and, lord knows, one’s for the pain…” .

Wyoming went up and down through open plains and rock cliffs. I didn’t know there was so much empty space in the US. It was like another planet.

I had been begging Will to stop somewhere, anywhere. Finally, he pulled off at a roadside attraction. We gave six dollars to a small, wrinkled woman with a perm. The ground out back was pickled with prairie dog holes, and it was funny to see them pop their heads. They were the only free things there.

I got sicker and sicker. There was a coyote, a fox, a mountain lion, all in barren steel cages with no toys, pacing manically to and fro as they smelled the air and looked out on the hills.

“Oh, God. Let’s leave,” I said.

I shook with fury for 50 miles.

“I think you should turn back. I think we should go back tonight and let them out, then burn it down.”

“You wanted to stop there.”

We switched off and he fell asleep. There was a detour that wound me through the streets of Salt Lake City, in a complete circle, it seemed. The afternoon sun glinted on the lake. 

The sky turned pink and orange on the western horizon far across the salt flats, which were tinged blue, the sky overhead beginning to show a star or two, rock hills black across the flats. There was something amazing there — miles and miles of words along the road, spelled out in pitch pebbles. Love. Peace. Names linked together with plus signs, as temporary as the lovers who put them there.

He hit the first casino across the Nevada border. I couldn’t get him out until it was too late, and he was slurring and shouting. I drove him to the motel. He went inside with the cat and locked the door. I knocked. Tried to sleep in the truck, knocked again. After an hour he answered.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“Let me in.”

Next morning, he drove the rest of the way to our new home. The valley opened up before us, a dust bowl, with dark tangles of sagebrush scattered here and there on the hills.

A Story of Love and Friendship

By Trask B.

I hated my wife when I first met her. 

It was 6 in the morning, and I was walking to my bus stop for the first time. I had just recently moved to Florida, and had been attending the school, firmly establishing myself as the new kid/ yankee that talked funny and no one liked, except for the only two people who were nice to me, because I was too new to know to ostracize them yet (high school is cruel).

I had yet to go to this bus stop, because we had been living in temporary housing until we found an apartment. So now, I walk to this new bus stop, with the full understanding that everyone there already hated me. It’s pretty much pitch black,and warm muggy in the way that only Florida can be in late January. 

Then I run into these three terrible bitches Abigail, Mary, and Libby. Libby had the audacity to show her absolute loathing of me by saying “Hello!” which was clearly a ploy to lure me into some cruel joke (high school is cruel). I walked by silently, not taking the bait. Mary said something to the effect of “Fine, don’t say hi, dick. I didn’t want to talk to you anyway.” [She was] clearly disappointed that I hadn’t fallen for their devious prank, what ever it may have been. Abby just giggled, which set Libby to giggling, and Mary seethed. Mary always seethed. I’m not sure Mary ever forgave me for not saying hi back. Libby giggled harder at Mary’s seething, which made Abby giggle harder.

I couldn’t stand that laugh. A laugh clearly directed at me. The laugh of an evil, plotting, cold hearted witch, with undertones of “you just wait, I’ll embarrass you horribly one of these days.”

Later, on the bus, as the sun began to rise, I got my first glimpse of the giggling tormentors. This solidified it of course. A beautiful girl. Stunning really. No reason a girl like that would talk to me without ulterior motive. Alabaster skin, blood red lips, chestnut hair and green eyes that were full of seduction and mischief. A girl like that is no friend of the new kid.

Months later, I got my first job at Winn Dixie, and behold, this little waif was my lead cashier. Now lording her power over me, and still with that constant grating giggle, and mischievous grin. But somehow, she was never mean to me. Obviously the long con. 

Thomas William warmed to me, and after awhile it came to light that he was fast friends with the demon woman. Perhaps, she was not as bad as I had thought. And seeing her dressed in her little Winn Dixie uniform became more and more sexy each day (sucker for a girl in uniform). 

Eventually, I began to walk her home after work. Eventually, I decided I wanted to hold her hand. Eventually, I decided I wanted to hear that damn giggle every day. Eventually, I knew I couldn’t live if she didn’t kiss me. And she, like the vile temptress she is, rebuked every advance I sent at her. I left my girlfriend (under extremely cruel conditions, high school romance is more cruel than high school alone). Eventually, with the help of  (A–), I won Libby’s affection. For which I will always be in debt to her.

(A–) came up to see our family for the first time in years. She took my wife on a much needed vacation, to see the most inappropriately named ocean on the planet for the first time for both of them. She made Libby play dress up, and took pictures of her in the woods. She made my wife smile in a way that I haven’t seen her smile since we were teenagers. I had missed you (A–), (omitted).

Below are some photos (omitted) throughout the years of these girls, who no matter how separated in distance, always find a way to reconnect. And despite any distance in time, will always share the same heart and soul.