Saturday, May 30, 2009


This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Covert." Away we go!

Dud wasn’t drunk. Not anymore, at least, and not yet. But he was still mad enough to pound the wheel when the gas light came on and we were in the middle of goddam nowhere, the land dry and brown like toast and probably cow bones and vultures everywhere.

“Gas!” he said, like that would fix it. “Gas!”

When he pounded the wheel I could see the sunburn blisters on the back of his hand. You’d think thirty years hauling traps and don’t you forget it would have sealed his skin like leather against the sun. But apparently not. And now he was working himself up, though it was early for his afternoon fit.

Thirty-eight more miles of Gas! and wheel-punching and we came to a dusty little gas station in the middle of dusty little nowhere. A few big rigs idled in the shade, and we rolled up in neutral, Dud goosing the car like it was a dying horse.

We’d left Virginia four days ago. Four days of heat and sunburns and the sour stink of sunwarmed whiskey. Dud had got it in his head that we’d go to California.

He didn’t say it, even when he’d had a few, but I knew he was thinking of Mom.

Dud was pumping the gas, swearing at something or other, and I got out. When I felt the air I got right back in. I’d sweated through my tank the morning we left, and now it felt crispy and hard on my skin. Awful.

I heard footsteps on the gravel, and an old truck driver-looking dump of a man came shambling over. I gave him my hard look, the one that teachers always shrank away from.

He looked away and wiped his mouth.

“Plates say Virginia,” he said.

I’d had it. I kept staring. The trick was not to blink. Like a hawk or a mean cat.

“You—” he began, and looked away again. Dud had his back to us and I could see his jaw moving. Christ, even his ears moved when he talked to himself.

“You folks need some help or something? Here.” And he came forward slowly, like he was a kid, and held out his hand.

Not this again. The five was soft and slightly damp, like he’d been holding in his pocket or, more like, his big red hand.

Dud wasn’t looking. I took the bill and stuffed it into my cutoffs.

“What do I have to do for it?” I knew how this worked but we needed the money. I needed the money.

His eyes were the color of tobacco juice and they trailed over me.

“No,” he said. “Take it.”

The pump stopped. Dud jiggled it back.

“Just take it. For ... whatever.”

All that day, driving through the heat that made the road shimmer and the sky hurt with blue, I thought of the crumpled five in my pocket. It felt sneaky. It felt like the beginning of something. Dud didn’t know and it felt good. Covert.


AD said...

o_O I think you boggled me completely outta my wits!!


happy SS

Anonymous said...

SO good. your character has a great voice in this. I hope you share more of this story, your writing is excellent. -Meg

Tumblewords: said...

Great - really enjoyed this piece - your character is wonderful!

Babs said...

I feel the sweat dripping down my back and my hair plastered to the back of my neck with that $5 bill wadded up like a damp tissue in my pocket. Great descriptions. Man, it's hot and humid!

ThomG said...

Great description and detail. Wonderful dialogue. Great character development. I could have read more, yeah.

Mothers in Arms

Andy Sewina said...

Atmospheric little story, well described!

Shari said...

Left me wanting more.

S R Wood said...

Thanks, everyone. I've been wondering for years if I could do anything with this voice. Finally I decided to quit thinking and give it a shot!