F Newsmagazine’s Flash Fiction Literary Contest
We were in the car not too far from where we were going, we were going to the Grand Canyon cause someone somewhere told us it was a beautiful thing to behold, said it exactly like that, like they had a stick up their ass, and we didn’t have anywhere else to be so why not. I said, pull over I have to pee. You said, there’s nowhere to stop here, and I said, I don’t care I’ll pee right here on the seat if you don’t. You loved that car, that shit show of a car. You loved that car more than life itself. So you pulled over and I peed behind a rock on the side of the road cause I was trying to have some decency. You could still sort of see me, it wasn’t that big of a rock, but I didn’t care and you pretended not to see cause you were a gentleman, well sort of—at least you were the most gentlemanly man I’d meet so far in my life.
Look at this, I said. I was standing on the rock I’d just peed behind and smelling the pee which was a smell I sort of liked which was something I hadn’t told anyone before—I was thinking of telling you at that moment—but instead I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket. I found this in the bookstore yesterday, I said, it’s the only thing I ever stole in my life, cross my heart, hope to die.
Well, except gum once, except a ring once, but a cheap one. Snapped in two inside my pocket. I unfolded the piece of paper. I held it up high so you could see. I ripped it out of a book, I said.
You looked at it real hard and you said, what is it? And I said, it’s a picture of a hairless guru, that’s what it is, like a hairless dog. A hairless guru sitting cross-legged with his eyes almost shut but you could see a little bit of the white at the bottom, just a little. And you said, why’d you take it? You didn’t say it in a judge-y way like you cared about a book no one was gonna read, but in a curious way, and I said, cause I like to look at it. Cause I saw it and I wanted to keep looking at it some more. That’s all. I said, people don’t have to have reasons for everything. I said, my dad used to shoot pigeons in the backyard and string ‘em up on the clothesline. I said, my mom used to pull up pieces of floor when she got bored and she got bored most of time. We had a dirt floor kitchen by the time I finished fifth grade.
You were quiet for a minute, just staring at the guru. Then you said, I sometimes get the feeling I’m not alone when I guess I am. You said, once I got the feeling and I talked at it, didn’t hear voices or nothing like that, but they didn’t care. You didn’t say who they was but I could see them anyway like a big shadow or a statue or something (everyone says I got too much imagination, it’ll get me in trouble, and they probably told that to you too) and you said they took you away and you met someone there in the place they took you away to. You met someone there who got his brain so fucked on PCP that he thought you were a chicken, which sorta seemed right to you in that time and in that place, so you clucked at him in the hall and cause of that they kept you in there longer. But it was fun while it lasted, I guess, you said, the chicken part. When I got out, you said, I pretended like I was alone when I wasn’t, when I was with other people. For instance my brother, you said. For instance at the grocery store or the movies, you said. You said that even now, here in this car, you sometimes pretended to be alone when I was right there next to you, which is why, maybe, you were such a gentleman. Maybe. I thought that but didn’t say it out loud. I said it to myself.
After, we kept driving and stayed quiet and listened to Christian talk radio cause nothing else was on. We were in the middle of nowhere and the preacher said, you all are going to the fiery reaches of hell unless you repent right here right now sinners you all. I remember those words now and will for the rest of my life. I looked out the car windows and there was flat everywhere and no signs anywhere and the only people were you and me and I thought, mmm hmm. I thought, mmm hmm.