guns, ammo, bait and pizza
drove like twisted fiends in torrents of Midwestern snow. Ghost-barreled
bullets shot straight toward the windshield, spinning our brains
in reverse motion. We were impatient. We couldn't swim. The radio
fuzz was climbing. The last sardonic verse of the apostolic right
had crept its way into the white noise of the a.m.
"There comes a time when you are left alone. No comfort or
fear, no words to be spoken."
Like a metronome, the wipers etched out the beginnings to an end,
just an unwavering hum crawling up the base of your spine. I turned
to my friend to see if he was sleeping. He wasn't. Somehow the absence
of light had affected our ability to speak. Silence spit like a
pipe organ for what seemed hours. The sun had been lost for days.
I turned my head back to the swirling vortex of the road and stretched
like a bored feline.
"You alright to drive?" His words shredded the hush.
"Yeah, I'm good." Yet another lie. We were both dizzy
Apparitions kept winding their way through our foggy skulls. Hours
back we had decided on an alternate route, one that supposedly would
split our time in half. A single-lane road carving its way through
some of the most beautifully treacherous terrain, illuminated by
a big, pale orange moon.
We were committed.
Our car was small. It was bent and stubborn. The front end was
smashed, the driver's side had collapsed inward. The brakes hissed
like cornered snakes and the hood had to be tied down after we realized
the distinct possibility of it taking flight into the darkness.
And I kept thinking of the fall. The snow was so thick the radio
voices had threatened to issue citations to anybody driving on the
white of the roads. One small distraction could send us into a fiery
departure from all we had come to accept. It seemed such a lonely
idea, to die both figuratively and literally lost.
Our stomachs were boiling from the mud-slick coffee at the roadside
stations. Our thoughts were drawn to the dying bright lights of
the stars. It was a beautifully wounded scene, although separate
eyes may have told a different story. Semi beams would come barreling
around the thin side of a mountain with a snakeskin boot on the
gas and amphetamine glory in the gut.
I was too cautious to laugh. All of the lonely were out at this
hour, talking themselves out of sleep while seeking some source
of redemption. We were all headed somewhere for some reason but
most of us just got used to the idea of transition. The perpetual
in-between thin-skinned day-job peddler reeling in the promise of
a moment of a better day.
Eddie was staring out the window with his Docs on the dash. He
was listening to the road. I had been as well. The hypnotic engine
was beginning to bury its yellow daggers into my crumbling heart,
making me feel close to what it is to be alone. A caged sort of
gospel rained on me while a choir of lunatics sang their mournful
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Eddie now had the bemused look of a child on his long, taut face.
We were right in the belly of something, as our little toy car trotted
along the blinding snow. The moon was laughing. It crept in and
out of the crevices in the sky.
Eddie reached behind him and grabbed a beer. "You want one?"
"Sure," I mumbled.
I was used to going against my better judgment. I had decided to
let the storm be my sanctuary. I released all my faith into apathy
a difficult spot to be in because I had no idea where either
of those virtues lie.
I was headed to my father's place, the 50-year-old man who 26 years
ago sent me swimming into some cavernous and potentially dangerous
place where I sat perfectly still for nine months meditating and,
just as I approached a perfect thought, I was pulled out of my universe
into a bright, exaggerated world.
We passed through a tunnel. I held my breath. I had the perfect
photograph in my head. Light captured in darkness revealing its
feminine side. The rest is too hard to explain.
"What about your dad?" Eddie asked, offering me a hit
from his embellished flask.
"What about him?" I accepted.
"You gonna call him?"
"Naw, things are starting to look familiar."
Truth is, nothing was remotely familiar. The storm had already
put us a day behind schedule and I knew that I should call my dad
to tell him that everything was alright. But our relationship was
Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of some relic, some huge degenerate
building that would stare back at me like an untidy suicide. Then,
just as I would ease in to reminiscing of my days spent, I'd find
myself second guessing my faithful instinct which had proven to
be a circular, tedious bore.
It had always seemed a desperate town to me. Gray patches of sunlight
would sit like a somber crown over the dirty rag streets. Tight-fisted
boys walked squarely toward the cemetery bars to share a smoke with
the dead. It was as if there was no ambition. Anyone could play,
anyone could devour the mundane, but nobody cared to. Working-class
heroes, drifting minutia, all of the miraculous had seemed buried.
To think I was going back again. My father is a strange man. He
feeds off routine. I am scared of routine. I am his lazy son. I
am his only son. It was one in the morning and I was lost in a white
night. Voices collapsed in my head. A dead deer beside a speed-limit
sign played like a dream.
Winding through some dissonant meditation, I found myself swerving
to the left of the road. I quickly pulled back from the ether and
stopped the car. I stared directly ahead, clinching my jaw. The
radio had been feeding back for some time, sketching erratic lines
in my skull. I abruptly turned it off and sat still, stricken by
some crushed delirium.
I turned to look over at Eddie. He calmly pulled another hit from
his chrome flask.
Then, suddenly, like a couple of possessed clowns, we began laughing
at each other irrepressibly. We were mad. Ice was collecting on
the naked trees outside. I felt embarrassed for them. There were
coffee stains on our teeth and gardens on our faces. An abandoned
barn leaning heavily to one side struggled to preserve its dignity
in the torn light of our high beams.
Eddie was tall and awkward in the seat beside me. Tears were welling
up in his eyes. We laughed for what seemed hours and, within that
time, everything felt as if it was OK.
"Wh ... where the fuck are we?" Eddie could hardly make
out the sentence trying to restrain his deep guffaw. "This
is outer space land, man. Did you see that fuckin' sign back there?"
I had no idea what he was talking about.
"Who the fuck would have a shopping list with guns, bait,
ammo and pizza on it?"
"What are you talking about?" The absurdity of the question
extended our crazed fit.
"About a mile back, there was a little corner store that had
a big neon Las Vegas sign out front that read 'GUNS AMMO BAIT AND
PIZZA.' I mean, what the hell, man, that ... that is some outer
"You were seeing things. Too much cheap whiskey."
"Fuck if I was. Turn around. It's about a mile back, bright
as the sun. You're the one floating on whiskey if you didnt
"This is Tennessee, afterall."
"I thought we were in Ohio. Either way man, we need to go
back and investigate."
"No," I argued. "We're almost there. Let's just
"Almost there. You dont even know what state you're
in. Come on. I need some bullets for my pistol, anyway."
The laughter began to subside and Eddie stared at me like a little
boy with a slingshot in one pocket and a dead bird in the other.
I took a deep breath. There was no point in arguing. I turned the
car around and drove.
It was just over a mile up the road and, sure enough, a neon sign
fit for Bellagio stood erect, shadowing the small store it was advertising.
"See? Crazy as hell." His face was all lit up and mischievous.
We pulled into the gravel parking lot next to an orange International
with a gun rack mounted on its roof and a rendering of the Tasmanian
devil on the hood.
"I don't think they're open," I said.
Eddie turned to me and began singing.
"The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout ..."
It was frigid outside. We walked around to the front of the store,
passing the flickering sign that buzzed like a country of mosquitos.
We pulled at the door, setting off a symphony of old rusted bells.
They were open.
return next month for part 2