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The dust settled soon after the car passed. I watched it go, plummeting down the empty highway. The sun blazed over head and I coughed. It hadn’t been to long, I was only standing here for an hour or so. The only part of waiting here that I really didn’t like was the heat. I was from the city, Southern California had nothing for me, but I was stuck out here as long as I couldn’t find a ride. A truck drove by, but I had no intention of asking him for a ride. One time when I got in a trucker’s cab, he beat the s*** out of me and threw me in the back. I had to chew the rope in order to get away, and I can only think what would have happened if I hadn’t. Another ten minutes came and went, I yawned and wiped the sweat off my forehead. A car pulled over on the side of the road, and I walked towards it.
Hey. I said. Where you headed? The man was swarthy and tall. He was at least twice my size, but he looked friendly enough. He tossed his cigarette onto the blacktop and shrugged his broad shoulders.
Anywhere. He said. I just need to go. He never took his eyes off the road in front of him, even when the engine was silent. The man turned to me. Get in, he said. So I did. He had a radio tuned to some country station, and another one with a microphone type thing.
It’s a police scanner. He told me when he noticed my curious look. And every so often through bursts of static came a voice throwing around codes I couldn’t understand. I was silent, there was nothing for me to say. But with an uncomfortable shift in my seat, I realized he was staring at me.
Are you thirsty? He asked me. I nodded my head without saying anything. There’s beer in the back. He said, looking back to the road. I reached into the back seat where there was a blue cooler full of beer. I got a can for myself, and one for the man, but he rejected it.
I can’t drink, I’m driving. He said. It never stopped anyone else before, but whatever. I finished the beer and didn’t say anything, there was nothing for me to say.
What’s your name? He finally asked me.
Smith, I told him.
What type of name is that?
A last one.
So what’s your first name?
The man laughed and scratched his head. I’m sorry, he said.
No, my name is ridiculous, it’s Malachy.
Oh. The man said. I’m gonna call you Smith.
Alright. I said. What’s yours?
Blue. He said. I didn’t ask any more questions. Do you want another beer? He asked me. I nodded, and he gave me another.
The hours passed, occasionally we would talk, mostly we didn’t. I drank, and he drove, never loosing that intense look in his eyes. And he finally pulled over at the side of the road and got out.
I’m gonna sit awhile. He said, lighting up another cigarette. He offered one to me, and I took it. It tasted funny, I assumed it was a menthol.
Where you headed? He asked me.
As far as I can get. A city would be nice.
I’m going to Mexico. He said. I’ll drop you off in Phoenix or Tucson. I nodded, feeling my head get heavy.
He kept on giving me a beer, when ever I finished. I was really dizzy before long and I held onto the side of his car for support when I walked.
It’s alright. He told me.
Yeah, I said, no idea what he was talking about. Then everything got dark and I didn’t know what to do.
My head burned when I woke up. I felt my limbs, heavy with exhaustion and dehydration. I couldn’t see, but this was because I was blind folded. I tried to pull it away from my eyes, whatever it was, but my hands were bound to. I struggled. My back hit the side of a building, I think. My swearing and thrashing was silent compared to the sounds of cars and horns and sirens in the background. And then I was free. I ripped off the blind fold and the cord and found I was alone. There were my clothes, and my bag, thrown against the bricks, and I sat here, hung over, naked and angry. I couldn’t remember why I was here, I couldn’t remember the last thing I had done either. The confusion made me angry. I got dressed and walked away, there was nothing else I could do.