“What dissolute habits…” I muttered into my knapsack.
“You can’t even spell dissolute, first off, second–”
“Ha. First off.”
“You’re a moron,” Vuru slammed the gas pedal and swerved past a crawling
“More like creeping.”
“Listen, I’m having a hard time,” I said. “Don’t you get it?”
“Yeah, I guess so. But look, we’re in the desert. What could beat that?”
I raised my eyebrows and looked out the passenger window. There was so much sludge and debris.
“Can’t we stop for a little wash?”
“No,” Vuru stared straight ahead. “No way.”
“Okaaaay. Don’t know what that’s about but look.” I pointed to the road.
Out the window we saw a bedraggled looking guy.
“Let’s get murdered today.”
When he fell (and literally fell) into the backseat of our van, the conversation took off.
“Where’re you going?”
Vuru fiddled with the dome light (falling apart) and the lighter.
“Hey you guys got a cig?” Murderer called from the backseat.
“I’m Pen. Short for Penelope. But nobody calls me that. I’m just telling you because I’ll probably never see you again.” I said and put down my knapsack.
When I turned around to look at the guy again he shifted his gaze. He had a funny hat. Blue, like a cheap rayon, almost see thru blue, kinda like a top hat but not really. Weird. And his clothes were dingy, yes, but something was off about them.
“Who’s she?” he asked.
“Oh my feisty blondish photo negative? That’s Vuru.” I pulled my hair into a ponytail and turned to wink at her but she missed it. “She’s not nice like I am.”
“Talkative, are you?” Vuru asked.
“Where’s the brassy knob that turns the spike for the wolf. The wolf call?” he asked.
Vuru eyed me and fiddled in the middle compartment. “Just like I thought…” she muttered.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Well hey Sam, how’d’ya do?”
When I reached back to shake his hand he flinched like a hangdog.
“You hungry?” Vuru asked and I noted the exit sign, the usual, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, this time a Red Lobster. In the middle of the desert? I thought. That was unbelievable.
“We’re not technically in the desert you know,” Vuru said.
“I like those cheddar biscuits. Everybody likes those cheddar biscuits. They just won’t admit it.”
I turned around and stared at his hat some more and looked around for his bag. “You mean “yeah” you’re hungry or “yeah” you like the cheddar biscuits too?” I asked.
“Where’s your bag?”
“This is so weird.” Vuru mumbled and jerked the window handle. “So fucking weird.”
I stared at her. “Weirder than last time?”
“What the biscuits?!” Vuru jerked into the next lane. “You want the biscuits or not?”
“Hey, Vuru, calm down man, he’s just getting his stuff together. Hot out here.” I said and tried to guess the look in his eye. “Too much wind?”
I pointed to the rolled down windows but he didn’t answer. Just stared down at the floorboard and then out the window. Then he sat on his hands.
Vuru slammed on the gas again and I watched the speedometer ram up to 70. Kinda high for the van.
“Uh, hey, Vuru. You alright?”
“I want a fucking biscuit,” she edged up to 80. “I wanted one of those fucking biscuits.”
She stared straight ahead.
“We could always turn around. Get off here.”
“What’s a fucking biscuit anyway?” Sam chimed in from the backseat.
Oh god. Wrong time to form a coherent thought.
“Who’s driving?” Vuru slowed down the van.
“Me,” he said.
Vuru peered through the rearview at Sam. “You’re interesting now.”
He stared back at her reflected eyes.
“Why are you here?” she asked, “and don’t give me any of that wolf shit.”
Sam picked up his duffle off the floor. There it is!
“I’m here to save you,” he said.
Vuru laughed until the van crept down to 60 and tears slid down her face.
“Hand me that water bottle,” she said.
“We already used most our rations.” I said and pulled out the card. “We can get more in two days though,” I hitched up my shorts, “Not very long.”
I handed her what was left and glanced back at Sam. I felt kinda bad for him, but not really, just a little.
He had taken off his cheap hat and was stirring it with a stick. Where’d he get that stick from? It was kinda short anyway but pretty thick.
“Magician?” I watched him stir whatever he was stirring slowly. “Nice.”
All I saw was the top of his head but finally he looked up at me dead on. His eyes were the darkest blue I had ever seen, a bad ocean.
“You mean omen.”
“Who said that?”
“In the hat.”
“We don’t like that.”
Vuru slammed on the brake and veered us off to the side.
“Okay. Get out,” she said.
“Yeah…” I chimed in hesitantly. “You’re not fun anymore.”
“Nobody is,” he said.
“Okay, let’s go.”
Vuru slammed the gas and we almost took out a lone Mac.
“Hey Vu take it easy.”
“Hey Pen shut it up.”
“What’s gonna happen now?” I turned back to Sam and looked at the top of his head again since he was staring into that hat. His hair was shiny blonde, kinda like Vuru’s but a little more whitish, almost grey.
He stared into the hat and stirred it. I glanced over at Vuru to make sure she was okay but she didn’t even look angry, smiling even. Not a good sign.
“Hey Vu maybe we can get some Wendy’s up the road…”
Sam leaned over from the middle seat and tapped the stick against the window.
“Everywhere’s a desert,” he said and pointed out the window. “Everywhere’s a desert,” I said and looked out the window.
“Yeah, we know, Murd,” Vuru said. 75.
“No, everywhere’s a desert,” he said.
“Uh, put the stick down Sam.” I said.
“It’s for stirring,” he said and leaned back. “Where’s the knob for the spike? You know it.”
I looked out the window. “Everywhere’s a desert.”
Suddenly Vuru slowed down.
“Rest Stop!” she yelled.
I touched her arm and looked at the lighter.
“Listen Vu, we said no more smoking, right?”
“Right,” she said.
“Everywhere.” I heard from the backseat.
“Everywhere,” I mumbled.
We pulled into the long parking lot.
“What, you gotta pee?” I asked.
She stared straight ahead. “Nope.”
“I’ll be back.”
“You’ll be fine.”
Vuru slammed the driver door and walked quickly to the bathroom.
Sam closed his eyes.