AlvernoINK Spring / Fall 2017 - Page 75

Excitement spilled between us. We were on the open road heading north in Wisconsin. The warm air spilled in as I rolled down the window inviting in one of the first signs of summer. Unusually the radio was off. We enjoyed the quite ride occasionally blurting out ideas about what we wanted to do.

“Do you want to go camping?” he asked raising his eyebrows, his eyes smiling at me.

“With what? We have no tent?”

“We can camp out of our car, buy food along the way.”

I nudged him. “You come up with the best ideas, you know that?”

As we sped down the empty road, I reclined my seat and moved my bare smooth chocolate brown feet onto the dashboard. The sun high in the air was beaming down on our faces. My arm was over my eyes shielding them. Golden fields sped by, distant sounds of cows mooing and motors running intermingled. Neighboring houses became further apart nestling in farm land and thick trees.

Down the road, the outline of a small shopping area appeared. The area stretched for no more than a mile long and was complete with one of everything. I took my feet off the dashboard to get a better look. My brows met as I noticed there weren’t many people. Strange. Especially for the middle of the day. The diner had one waitress and two other people sitting on opposite ends of the restaurant. Few lights flickered in otherwise darkness. The bookstore looked closed. The post office had a sleeping hound dog lying on the middle of the floor. Someone was coming from the back office but I didn’t see who it was because Trey turned the car into the gas station across the street. He parked the car by a gas pump and stood half way out with one foot in the car.

“Do people still pump your gas?”

“Just because we’re in the country doesn’t mean we’re in the olden days.” I pulled on his shirt to get back into the car.

“Well, what do you want to do?”

“I want to get something to eat. Wanna try the diner?”

“Naw!

Let’s get what we need and bounce. I pump the gas, you get the groceries?” he pointed at me.

“Sounds good!”

He leaned in for a quick kiss.

I didn’t have to go far. The little mom and pop market was right next door. I grabbed a green basket next to the fruit stands in front of the shop. I tossed a few oranges into the basket before heading in. The bell chimed. Hunched over was an old woman with a loosely coiled peppered bun perched on top of her small head sweeping the floor with a straw broom with her back to me.

“You know the rules, no one comes in here until…” her voiced cracked until I interjected.

“Excuse me, what rules are you talking about?”

Her back stiffened but it only added half an inch to her small stature. Slowly her head turned around. A weary smile spread across her frail thin lips. Her smile was sweet enough but her eyes said I didn’t belong here as they cut back to the floor. I know those eyes. I am not without experience. Being black, I’ve learned not to internalize it. Quickly, I grabbed everything we needed. Her eyes bounced around. She wasn’t even trying to hide it, maybe her old frame kept her from actually following me but it didn’t stop the hole from burning into my skull. She sighed from time to time which picked open a deep wound within my chest with every gust of air that was released.

“Hey baby!” Trey popped in. “Need some help?”

He met me at the counter. I slammed the basket down. I was relieved but still burning.

“How much do I owe you?” He pulled out his wallet as the old woman rang us up.

“That’ll be $34.94.”

Trey handed her the money.

“You people passing through?” she crackled as her eyes darted between us.

“Yeah, we might linger a little bit,” I gritted through my teeth.

Her eyes dropped and her thin lips became even thinner. She handed Trey the crumpled change and shoved me the bags.

“Quick is always best.”

I held my tongue until we got into the car. It took Trey all of ten seconds to calm me down; he had that effect on me.

“Baby! I’m sure she didn’t mean it, you know these country folks don’t see black people that often. You probably took her by surprise.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. The sweet feeling of joy spilled onto those wounds and they became scars again.

“They only see us in those square boxes with the fat ass,” he laughed. His wide stretched smiled had a way of making me feel safe. He cupped my right cheek in his right hand and planted a kiss on my left cheek. “You’ll be alright baby. You know I have your back.”

“Since childhood.”

Dusk was rapidly approaching.

“We should find a place to park,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m getting tired.”

Up ahead we spotted sparkling lights and as we got closer, cars, tents and a mobile home were scattered between spacious trees.

“Is that a camp ground?”

“I don’t know but it looks like a good place to stay the night,” he turned into an opening and stopped some distance away. “I think we should introduce ourselves?”

I stared into his eyes for a few moments considering our options. The distant pain from the grocery store was swirling in my chest. I don’t think I could take any more if these people were the same way. I looked over at the group. However, we should announce ourselves so we can alleviate suspicion. We are intruding on them.

“Your silence tells me you want to wait.”

A smile formed on my face as my eyes drifted back into his. He leaned in closer. “How about we uh-”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Those people aren’t going to see us.”

I shook my head.

He shrugged it off. “What did you buy for dinner?”

“We can have sandwiches, I bought ham and cheese, your favorite just without the bacon and ranch.”

After dinner I grabbed the quilt from the back, we reclined our seats and while the heat blew on us he ran his fingers through my hair.

“You know, we really deserve this trip. I know things haven’t been easy and -I love you and will do anything for you. We’re in this together.” His big, round, full lips left a warm impression on my forehead.

Trey was the first to fall asleep, like always, I usually stayed up pondering but today was very exhausting that I fell asleep right after him. Sometime later I awoke. I turned off the heat and midway from lying back down rapid movement caught my curiosity. There were two men hunched over a fainting fire eagerly whispering. They kept stopping to raise their heads to look around. It was clear to me they were having a disagreement. The tall red headed man shot up in frustration and stomped into the mobile home leaving the blond haired man to sit before the growing ashes. Eyes stinging, I laid back down slightly alarmed. The night did not go smoothly for me, it seemed like every twenty minutes or so I was jolted out of my slumber because the branches on the tree next to me kept cracking. It always seem to be in the same area. Annoyed, I figured it must be the owls. I was hoping the branch would just snap off. Why did they have to be by my window?

The next day, the suns light shot its beams in the corner of my eyes and through my grogginess I crept out of sleep. But what creeped me out was about a dozen people standing in front of our car staring at us with expressions of curiosity, uncertainty and exasperation. I quickly nudged Trey. He didn’t open his eyes but he answered me.

“Tavia,” he moaned.

I nudged him again but harder.

“What?” he croaked.

“You said you wanted to meet the neighbors.”

His eyes fluttered open. “What the hell?”

I pulled the handle on my door but it only opened an inch. A thick branch was lodged in between the door and the tree.

“Crap!” I slammed the door shut and climbed out the driver side behind Trey.

“Hey, what’s going on ya’ll? I’m Trey and this is my girlfriend Tavia,” his huge hand engulfed mine and brought me closer to him. “We got here last night and-”

“When last night? We didn’t see anyone pull in,” a short but well-built man with tan skin and short curly black hair stepped forward. He looked us both up and down.

“Just after it got dark and-”

“How did you get here?” A tall blond woman asked from within the crowd.

“What do you mean?” I thought that was a stupid question to ask and I let it be known in my tone.

The tall blond woman stepped through the crowd and walked towards me. “I mean, we haven’t seen anyone pass through here in almost a week!”

“And-and-,” an Asian man struggled to move through the crowd. “Things went missing last night, my watch for example and my wife’s bank card went missing. They weren’t missing before last night.”

Trey jerked his body in defense. “So? What does that have to do with us?”

I stepped forward but Trey had a hard grip on my hand which prevented me from moving any further. “If we stole from you, do you think we would still be here?”

“Maybe you ran out of gas,” said the first speaker with his arms crossed across his chest.

“What? Man we filled up yesterday! What are you talking about?” Trey boomed.

“How would we know that?” The first speaker shrugged his shoulders as he took a few steps forward passing the tall blond woman and coming face to face with Trey. He made an exaggerated thoughtful face. “Maybe you syphoned the gas while I was sleeping , put it into your car, decided you wanted to stake out to see what else you could take, fell asleep and got caught. What do you think amigo?”

Trey stiffened. “I think you need to get up out my face with all that crazy talk man!”

“And what if I don’t-”

I quickly stepped in front of Trey. “Hey! That’s enough! We didn’t steal anything. We parked here last night because we saw all of you here and thought it would be a good place to stay. Apparently we were wrong.”

“What do you mean you haven’t seen anyone in a week?” Trey questioned.

The crowd was quiet. The first speaker looked over his shoulder at them then looked back at us. “What we mean is that you are the first people we’ve seen pass through here in a week.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Is this some sort of camp ground?”

“No,” the first speaker said. “We’ve been stranded here more or less. So, you don’t know anything about my gas huh?”

I answered before Trey could. “No! We filled up last night before we got here.”

“So prove it, where’s the receipt?”

I looked at Trey. His jaw was set tight. “I ain’t got it. There was no one at the register in town so I left the money on the counter and bounced.”

The crowd stood in silence.

The first speaker raised his eyebrows. “If you say so. I don’t know how our stuff magically disappeared but if what you’re saying is true then we have nothing else to talk about.”

“We can go through their car-” suggested a voice within the crowd.

“Fuck you!” spat Trey. “Ain’t nobody touching our shit!”

“No, no” said the first speaker. “Let’s leave them alone.”

Trey and I stood there until the crowd dispersed back into their tents and vehicles.

“That was some bullshit,” Trey squeezed my hand before he let go and slammed the door shut.

“I know,” I rubbed his back.

Trey walked over to the trunk and sat down. As soon as he did the car took a deep dip and Trey rolled off the car.

“Trey!” I rushed to his side and knelt beside him. “Are you okay?”

“Other than my arm, I think I’m okay.”

As I rubbed his arm, I looked at the car and saw that the back tire was busted. “Look! The tire is busted.”

His head snapped over. “That’s impossible! I just got brand new tires not even two weeks ago.”

“We didn’t run over anything did we?”

“No. Man-”

“It’s okay, we’ll get through this. Is the spare in the trunk?”

“Yeah.”

I popped open the trunk. I saw the tire but none of the tools. “Where’s the jack and cross wrench?”

“Is it seriously not in there?”

“Yeah.”

Trey got up. He looked through the trunk and came up empty handed. I walked to the front of the car and speculated whether I should ask them for help or not. It might start another fight. My eye did catch the tip of a roof off into the far distance.

I beckoned Trey. “There’s a barn or something over there,” I pointed. “Do you think they might have tools?”

“I don’t see why not. I can go check it out.”

“No, I’ll go. You should rest up your arm and stay by the car. I’m not much of a threat.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Hurry back and make sure to call me if anything happens.”

I made sure to avoid the group as I left. I entered into the thicker part of the trees by our car. Eventually, the trees turned into tall grass and corn stalk as I pushed through. In a wide space I came across a wooden open shed that was as big as a barn. There was a big open space for an opening, the walls surrounding it didn’t touch the ground or the roof and from what I could see there were lots of tools and farming equipment. Looking around, I saw no house in any direction there was no one I could get permission from. I figured it would be alright if I borrowed some tools and brought it back later. I entered in. I was amazed by how clean and organized the place was and the wooden floor didn’t creak as I walked. There was, however, a particular stench that I attributed to the smell of the country. Still, it was strange. I spotted a jack in one of the middle open stalls on the far left side of the shed. I grabbed it and turned to look for a cross wrench.

As I took one step forward, I immediately jumped back as a brown matted head that was wet with dirt, twigs, grass, rocks and God only knows what else, popped out of one of the stalls on the far right of the shed. Taking shallow breaths in, as he slowly crept out, he shook them out. His head darted up searching for something above him, his was medium built body was tattered and bruised, I could clearly see the gashes and the purple and blue lumps on his skin through what was left of his white shirt. His blue jeans where more put together, only, his left pant leg was shredded in perfect strips down his leg so it fell open and swung around him as he wobbled. Dark blackish dried blood streaked his injured leg that gave away some as he continued on.

My natural inclination was to call out to him but before I could he dashed out of the back entrance. He didn’t get very far. I heard a thud as his body hit the ground. I could see him underneath the wall that was a foot off the ground. I left the jack and made my way to him. I was stopped in my place when my ears were stung with his blood curdling screech. Unnaturally, he got back on his feet in a flash, almost like he was pulled up by strings.

SHRWING!

His head only, frozen in a moment of terror, catapulted into the shed, spraying behind it a trail of fresh blood and pale bits of shredded flesh.

My body stiffened.

THUD!

A pair of heavy feet landed on the ground where his body laid lifeless. The heels where wide and elevated a few inches off the ground and the calloused claws pressed firmly into the ground gripping it. They disappeared in an instant. I took in short burst of air and slowly turned around. My heart went numb and my mind gave no directions. Instinct took over. I was sprinting, in the wrong direction, away from the camp. My legs jerked me every which a way until they focused on the billowing smoke. It was coming from an unknown source. People had to be there. They just had to be there. They really just had to be there. My life depended on them being there.

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