by Ivan Fischer
I’m waiting in the lot in front of the Gas n’ Go in my truck with Boyd, and we’ve been here for almost two hours. We spoke to Greg Spence the other week and he said he’d be pulling through on his way out to a survey south of town a ways today. Boyd and I have been calling Spence every week looking for some kind of work-- on a well service crew or maybe a pipe gang or something-- but it’s been damn near three months since either of us had any real work. Spence said he’d be here at seven-thirty but it’s nearing nine-thirty and there’s still no sign of him. Boyd’s tapping his boot on the dashboard and sucking his teeth; it’s driving me nuts. Lots of guys have been out of work lately, rise and fall in the industry or something people are saying, but we’re hoping Spence can finally bring in a lead. Nine-forty-seven, we finally see Spence’s white Chevy pull into the lot, so Boyd and I head over to where he’s gassing up. He sees us coming, waves to us; looks kind of nervous as he does it.
“Hey Spence, what’s the word? Tell me you got some good news.” He doesn’t take his hand off the gas pump as he starts to shake his head. Boyd spits on the concrete and grinds it with his boot.
“Sorry boys,” Spence yawns, “I’ve still got nothing for ya.” I look at Boyd, who’s turned away from us and paced a few steps toward the highway. For a minute nobody says nothing, the only sounds are from trucks pulling out, and some kind of bird croaking in the distance. “You boys might try calling Sloane next week, but this work shortage goes across the board.” Spence screws his gas cap back on shakily, and some fuel drips down the side of his truck, which I smell suddenly. “Anyways, good luck guys,” Spence snaps as he gets in the Chevy and starts it up. Boyd is still looking away as Spence pulls out of the lot and disappears down the highway.
I start back toward my truck, Boyd lags behind a few steps. We both worked for the Sloane project last year, but we got fired on an account of having some booze hidden away while we were up in a “dry camp.” We figured it was no harm, but they had a dog sniff down all the rooms, lots of guys got fired that week. We know Sloane has us on a “Do Not Rehire” list somewhere. We both go back to just sitting in my truck when we see this guy wander out into the middle of the lot, craning his head around. He’s kind of mangy looking, shouldering an old duffel bag with a pair of boots dangling around his neck by the laces. Suddenly the guy spots us and starts out towards my truck with a sort of limp. I sigh as he gets near, probably just another out-of-work son of a bitch looking for a handout. Maybe he isn’t so different from us, but he looks pretty old to be a labourer. He gets to the truck, motioning me to roll down the window, which I do, but only half way.
“Hey fellas,” the guy says, his tongue clicks against his teeth as he talks, “looking to make a bit of cash?” Suddenly Boyd shoots up in his seat.
“What did you say? What do you mean?” The old guy rubs his beard a bit, his grey crooked teeth flash.
“I missed my ride earlier, I need to get out to Bisher’s camp, I’m a welder, see.” The guy won’t look right at us when he talks to us. We don’t say anything, the guy keeps talking as he reaches into his jacket pocket. “Listen, I’ll give you boys two hundred bucks, and I’ll gas up your truck on top of that if you can take me out to Bisher’s camp.” The guy’s eyes dart from side to side while he scrapes the ground with his foot. “I need to go there now. Right now. What’re you sayin?” The guy pulls out a handful of bills. I shoot a look at Boyd.
“Yeah, yeah, sure, we can do that, throw your stuff in the bed!” Boyd spurts before I even have a chance. The money was enough incentive.
“Thanks buds,” the guy says as he scuttles around the truck to toss his gear in the box. Boyd climbs into the half-cab backseat, the guy takes shotgun. I wheel over to the diesel pump while the guy gets out to unscrew the gas cap. The guy’s really jittery, watching the numbers on the pump go up, glancing at the highway every so often. Boyd looks more relaxed now, though he’s probably just excited about finally having any sort of cash come his way. The tank’s topped off and the guy heads inside to pay; I see a few crows picking at something smeared on the other side of the parking lot. The guy comes back with a pack of gum before I wheel us out of the lot heading west out of town.
The guy’s chewing his gum like a jackhammer, and we are on the road for a good twenty minutes before he talks. “My name’s Terry, Terry Davidoff,” he spits out through his gum.
“I’m Cole, and this here’s Boyd,” I say as I shrug toward Boyd in the backseat. He waves a couple fingers without taking his eyes off the window.
“You boys working then?” Terry asks. I shake my head. “Oh yeah, lots of guys out of work these past few months. I see ‘em everywhere. Lots of guys outta work. I just came out of retirement. There’s a shortage of welders. I haven’t been doing much anyways. I’m not married, and I got no kids. I decided to get back at it. I mean hey, I’m not dead yet.” Terry looks out over the prairie as he talks. He smacks another piece of gum in his mouth. “You want a piece Cole? Boyd?” We both shake our heads. “I appreciate the lift though, real swell of you.” Terry pushes his hands deep in his pockets leaning forward in his seat. “You boys ever worked on the Res near Bisher’s?”
“Nah, we did some work for Sloane near there, but we weren’t deep into the Res.” Boyd shakes his head when I mention Sloane.
“Oh yeah, I know about Sloane. I heard they run a tight ship. Yeah hey, I was working a job on that Res up by Bisher’s a couple years back. We had a site way out there, I mean it was proper deep in the Res, it took damn near half a day to get to it. So we’re drilling on the edge of this huge iced over lake for about a week, but every morning we get back, something’s gone wrong. We had cables go missing, hoses being torn open, dents on the doors like someone’s been bashin’ on them. So I go walking along the lake at the edge of the lease site one morning, just checking things out, when I see a bit of cable in the snow. It looked like it was chewed on or something, and I kept walking up the bank and I found a couple more pieces of it. When I got to the top of the bank, I saw something red near the trees.” Terry pauses to stick another piece of gum behind his teeth. “Anyways, I went down to see what it was, and I shit you not, it was a pretty grisly site. There was this cow down there, but it looks like it had been hacked to pieces. It was all twisted up, with its skin off and there was this stench that I won’t ever forget.”
“Holy shit.” I look over at him, but he’s staring out the window still.
“You bet,” Terry chirps. “And you know what the weirdest part about it was? There were footprints around the cow. I don’t mean animal footprints, no, and it wasn’t boot prints neither. It was like someone was walking around barefoot in this cow’s blood in the snow. The footprints went into the trees somewhere, but I went back to the site, and we cleared outta there the next day. I’ll never forget a thing like that. Never.”
The entire truck goes quiet except for Terry’s chewing. Boyd’s tracing an X in the frost on the window, then he glances at me for a quick second in the rearview. I shrug before looking back to the highway.
Soon enough we get to Bisher’s and drop Terry at the bus stop. “I can catch a shuttle to the site from here. Thanks again for the lift boys,” Terry says as he places two hundred and fifty bucks in my hand. He snatches his things from the bed, taps on the tailgate twice, then heads to the depot. On his way over he spits his giant wad of gum onto the pavement, which a couple crows immediately begin to pick at. Boyd climbs back into the front seat grinning at me as I hand him the cash.
“What a fuckin’ weirdo,” Boyd says. We both have a laugh. “At least he had the cash.”
“He was a genuine motor-mouth. What the hell was he on about?” I twist my hand on the steering wheel.
Boyd sticks the money into his pocket. “What do ya say we grab a sixer and some dip before we head back?” I nod.
We spend a good chunk of the afternoon drinking and smoking in Bisher’s. The chew is cheaper here, so we grab a couple tins each while we watch the semis pull in and out of town. We’re both half cut when we decide to head back. It’s starting to get dark. We head southbound out of Bisher’s for about fifteen minutes when we notice the oncoming cars keep flashing their beams at us as they pass. Most of them flash three times quickly. This means “Road Checkpoint,” so I slow down and pull to the side of the road. I’m driving with a suspended license on account of drinking; Boyd’s was taken away when he smashed his truck into a weigh scale station last winter. It’s going to be dark real soon and we see the blue and red flashers in the distance now. We don’t want to wait out the check stop, so I pitch the idea that we take a township road through the prairie and go around the main highway. We figure we can take a range road back down once we think we are past it. Terry had filled up our tank, so Boyd agrees that we should just take the township road around the cops. We see township 33 up ahead and I take a left turn off the highway onto the frosty gravel road.
This township road takes us along to the tree line, and soon we have trees on either side of us like a tunnel. The sky’s pretty clear and the visibility isn’t too bad. Boyd says we should aim to take range road 65 or one close to it when we see it. The snow starts to look blue as the sun sets while the sky clouds over. I keep my eyes on the road, watching for the range road sign or any deer. We’ve been driving for a good while, Boyd says he thinks we must’ve passed it. We’re about to turn around when the headlight catches something in the distance. We keep going a little farther; it’s probably a sign marking a road. As we get closer the lights glint off the thing a few more times until we get near enough to see what it is. It’s a house, or maybe a barn or shed. I drive right up to it; the road turns into a turnaround in front of the old house. We’re sure we went too far now, but I have to take a piss, so I shut off the truck and get out. Boyd gets out too and heads toward the old farmhouse door. I follow after Boyd; he’s already inside. The house is gutted. There isn’t any furniture except a collapsed table, and most of the cupboard doors have been torn off. Boyd finds a staircase and climbs it, while I keep to the downstairs. I hear Boyd’s footsteps above me and I shout to him
“Found anything?” He doesn’t say anything for a minute, then shoots back, “Just birdshit. You?”
“Nothing.” We leave the house and walk around the outside to find an old toolshed, but it’s got nothing in it either. The roof of it is caved in on a bunch of rotten looking wood pallets covered with some straw. Boyd calls to me, so I head over to where he’s standing behind the house. He’s in front of a tarp with a couple logs laying on it.
“Help me move these” Boyd asks as he grabs onto one of the logs.
“What for?” I say as I spit on the tarp.
“C’mon, Cole, just help me. We’re all the way out here, may as well take a look, hey?”
“You think there’s anything worth seeing in that old cellar? I mean shoot, the house was pretty beat.”
“We won’t know unless you help. C’mon, man, let’s have a quick look.” I shrug, and take an end of the log. We toss both logs aside, then Boyd pulls back the ratty old tarp to see a cellar door hatch. Boyd goes to open it but it’s stuck. “Get the crowbar,” Boyd barks. I grab the crowbar from the truck, feeling a bit more excited to get this thing open. I stick it between the doors and crank on it a few times before switching off with Boyd. It cracks and groans as we move the crowbar up and down the crack between the doors. It’s starting to get pretty dark when it finally gives and we yank the wood doors back. There’s a small staircase that leads to another door. This one’s got a padlock on it which looks really new compared to the house.
“What else do you have in the truck?” Boyd asks.
“Nothing that could cut through that.” I prod the padlock once. Boyd lifts the padlock before he lets it slam against the door. “I bet my powersaw could get through it.”
I glance to Boyd, “Where the hell are you going to plug it in?!”
Boyd pauses. “We can borrow McGivern’s genny and come back tomorrow. We gotta get this thing open.” We know McGivern from Sloane. He would’ve been fired along with us, but we didn’t rat him out. Since then, he was kind of at our mercy. We walk back up the small staircase and head for the truck. It’s pretty dark once we’re back on the road, Boyd’s looking in the side mirror at the old farmhouse as it fades from view in the distance. The sky clears again after a while and we can see some northern lights on the edges. After an hour or so we break the treeline and spy the range road 65 sign bent over in the ditch.
“I guess that’s why we didn’t see it,” Boyd chirps as we turn onto the narrow road. We’re driving for another twenty clicks or so when we see a dark shape on the road. I stop the truck, we see in the headlights that it’s a dead deer. “Fuckin’ deer’s nearly covering the whole road,” Boyd says as we both climb out to move it. It’s a buck, four point, and decently fat. Boyd grabs onto the antlers while I try to lift the back legs. Some of his guts are spilling out; I get some blood on my hands.
“Shit,” I say to Boyd, “this guy’s still warm.” Boyd grunts and we drag it toward the ditch. “Hmm, fresh kill.” I wipe my hand off with some snow as we head back to the truck.
We get back to town and see a couple ambulances and a few police cruisers outside the hotel. It’s probably just another fight outside Bennington’s Pub. I’m steady as I turn the truck away from the scene and head for Boyd’s trailer. We head inside and Boyd goes straight to bed. I collapse on the couch to get some rest as we are aiming for an early start in the morning.
Boyd wakes me up for coffee around six thirty. He’s got the news on. He slides me a plate of eggs and toast. The news guy is saying that it will drop to minus forty-six with wind chill the next few nights, then goes on to another story about a missing Native girl. We hear about missing Native girls every couple weeks it seems, but I almost never hear of any of them being found. There was one story a couple winters ago where they pulled a girl out of the river just past the bridge. The news said that the river was so cold that it preserved her for easy identification. We also heard about a project manager’s seventeen year old daughter going missing near Bisher’s one summer, but they found her in less than a day, spun out in a motel with some local junkies. She wasn’t Native though. I never hear about people going and looking for them. This story says that two more girls, one fourteen and one nineteen, have been reported missing. Boyd shuts off the T.V. as he finishes his toast.
“More missing squaw girls? What a fuckin’ surprise.” Boyd hisses over a sip of coffee. “It’s hard enough to take care of your own these days, who has time for these fucking Indian games? ” I don’t say anything, and make my way to the bathroom for a quick shower while the coffee cools.
I finish my coffee and help Boyd load up the powersaw, as well as a floodlight, a hacksaw, and a couple flashlights. Boyd says he called McGivern, he’ll meet us at the Gas n’ Go in an hour. I grab some bread, cheese, cold cuts, a couple cans of soup and we head out.
We’re waiting on McGivern for over two hours when he finally shows up. Boyd’s pretty pissed, but we need this so he puts on a calm face as McGivern loads up the generator and jerry can.
“You boys finally found some work then?” McGivern squints in the morning light.
“Something like that,” Boyd nods, “thanks for the spot.”
“It’s my pleasure boys, just take good care of her” McGivern winks before waving on his way back to his truck. Boyd’s heading in to the station to grab a couple packs of smokes and jerky, so I lay back in my seat to dose off a little. I picture what’s behind that door; some sort of valuable antiques, or maybe army stuff. I picture a big pile of shells, boxes of grenades, old machine guns hung up on the walls. I wonder if it’s some kind of valuable metal, silver or copper, maybe even gold. Who knows what someone could have hidden out there? If they went through the trouble to lock it down, it’s got to be something good. I’m suddenly shaken awake by knocking on the window. There’s this old Native lady standing beside the truck. I can hear her through the glass; she’s mumbling in the wind. I just want to get rid of her, so I roll down the window part way to hand her a few bucks from the dashboard and half a tin of chew. I can’t tell if she’s smiling or cringing, but I can see her teeth are all crooked like the old fence posts on the roadside. She reaches in her pocket and pulls out a giant black feather, slipping it through the window onto my lap before she waddles away through the windy parking lot. It’s a raven feather; the biggest one I ever saw. The ravens north of here have no predators so they get bigger than normal ravens. Boyd says he saw a raven tear apart a line crew’s lunch kit from the back of the truck one summer and carry most of it off. There are all sorts of pests in the summer; ravens as big as eagles, blackflies as big as hummingbirds that take a chunk when they bite. It almost makes me prefer the cold of the winter. I tuck the feather above the sun blocker; Boyd’s on his way back with smokes and jerky.
“What did that old Squaw want?” Boyd mumbles over a mouthful of jerky.
“I dunno, cash I guess. I gave her a few bucks to get rid of her.”
“C’mon, Cole, we don’t have enough money to be giving it out to every damn chug looking for a free ride! We’re not even working right now.”
“Yeah…yeah I know,” I start the truck, “let’s just get going.”
We head back to the farmhouse much faster this time since it’s not so dark. There’s no sign of the dead deer, somebody must have cleaned it up. Soon enough we are surrounded by tree line. We see the farmhouse in the distance against the white snow. The wind bites at us when we get out at the farmhouse to unload the genny and saw. We lost a good chunk of time waiting on McGivern, but we finally get started on the door. I fire up the genny, its sputter echoes across the field toward the trees. Boyd hooks up the powersaw and starts at the padlock. It’s a tough lock, it spits sparks as Boyd goes at it. It’s pretty slow going as we take turns leaning into this thing as the saw screeches. I take a break to make some sandwiches as Boyd keeps at the lock, but in between the saw sound I think I hear a dog barking in the distance. I figure it’s just my ears ringing from the saw. We each have a sandwich and smokes before I get on the saw again. I go to fire up the saw, but then it suddenly cuts out. Boyd goes to check the genny, it’s out of gas, so he goes to grab the jerry can out of the truck.
“The can’s fuckin’ empty, Cole!” I scramble up the stairs over to Boyd, who’s standing with the empty jerry can upturned in his fist. “Didn’t you check it?” I take it from him, shaking it.
“I thought McGivern would have told us if it was empty, for fuck sakes,” I toss the jerry can into the snow as Boyd slaps his hands over his face.
“Your truck is a fuckin’ diesel, isn’t it? Fuck…” Boyd starts pacing, hands tucked out of the wind.
“Do you think we could finish off the lock with the hacksaw?” I say as I grab the old hacksaw out of the truck.
“It’s worth a fuckin’ shot,” Boyd snatches it from me and heads back down to the lock. He starts cranking on the padlock with the old hacksaw, but the going is slow. We switch off sawing for a few hours, soon our hands are both blistered. It’s getting cold too, but we keep at it. I’m pacing with a smoke as the sky starts to get dark when I hear Boyd shout from the stairwell “I got it Cole!” I ditch my smoke in the snow and run down the staircase to help him pull the door open.
We pull the door back, looking into a dark room. I flick on my flashlight, dragging it across the cellar as we walk in. It’s really musty in there; I can’t see much of anything except an old chair in the corner with some dried paint buckets against the wall. Boyd’s got his light on now. We can see the entire room pretty clearly. There’s not much to see at first, but then at the far end of the cellar we see a doorframe with another shut door. Boyd heads over to it quickly grabbing onto the handle.
“Ah fuck, there’s another fuckin’ lock on this door.” I get close to see the lock in Boyd’s hand, except this one isn’t a key padlock, it’s a combination lock with five digits.
“Shit. We’ll be here all night if we use the hacksaw on this,” I say as Boyd holds the combo lock. The digits are all set to zero. 0 0 0 0 0. Boyd starts to rotate the first couple columns. “We gotta get some more gas for the genny anyways. We’ll come back tomorrow and get this one open.” I point my flashlight at the door, starting to make my way out.
“Wait, Cole,” Boyd snaps. “What if I stayed here and tried different combos while you went back for the gas?” I stay silent for a second.
“What, Boyd, you mean tonight?” Boyd was already spinning the digits on the lock.
“It’s got five columns. That means it will be a max of 10,000 guesses. It’s a shitload of guessing, but if I get the right combo before you get back with the gas it will save us a lot of time.”
“Are you sure, man? I won’t be back for a while.” Boyd doesn’t take his eyes off the lock, and keeps spinning the digits. “Boyd?” He doesn’t look up. “Hey, Boyd?”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. It’s not a big deal.” Boyd says, still fiddling with the lock.
“Okay, I’ll get going then,” I say. “I’ll grab some more food too.” Boyd nods once.
I leave Boyd with the half loaf of bread, a few bags of jerky and smokes from the truck before I get back on the road. It’s starting to get dark again as I watch the house fade into the distance, moving at a good clip down the narrow road. I feel a bit uneasy as the house slips from view, but I figure I won’t be too long. The wind’s blowing the trees on the roadside so they wave like black fingers against the sky. It’s darker now and snow’s starting to fall as I reach the range road 65 sign. The sign’s easier to see now, the snow must’ve been blown away, maybe the wind even stood the sign back up a little. I keep on driving through the snow, wondering how far along Boyd is on the lock.
When I get back to town I head straight to Boyd’s trailer. On my way to the door I see some footprints heading around the trailer in the snow. I follow them around back where they stop by Boyd’s bedroom window. Beside the window somebody’s upturned a garbage can like they were standing on it to peek in the window. I take a quick look around the yard, but don’t see anything, so I turn the garbage can back over. Once I’m inside I pour myself a glass of water while I grab a couple bags of chips and some leftover roast beef to put into a bag. While I’m getting the bag, somebody knocks on the door.
I freeze for a minute and just listen, but the knock happens again, this time louder. I see a golf putter by the sofa, which I pick up before heading over to the front door. I pull it open a crack, leaving the chain lock fastened. There’s a cop standing on the other side.
“Hi there,” the cop says with a sort of grin, “are you Francis Boyd?”
“No, sir,” I mutter, “and he isn’t here.” The cop nods slowly.
“You sure he’s not here?” the cop prods me.
“Yeah I’m sure. He’s not here. Anything else I can help you with officer?”
The cop looks over his shoulder, then turns back to me. I don’t see a cop car, and wonder where he parked.
“Well when you see him next, get him to give me a call. We’d like to have a word with him down at the station. Just a chat.” He hands me a white card with “Constable Aaron Schaefer” written on it. “You have a nice night now.” I shut the door as he walks away. I wait another fifteen minutes before heading back to the truck. Headlights switch on a few blocks behind me, I keep my eyes on them, making an extra left turn. I sigh as the car keeps going, relieved that it’s not following me.
I finally get to the Gas ‘n Go and start fueling up my truck while I get my yellow jerry can from the backseat. The sky is a bit clearer now, I can see pretty decent northern lights above the town. It always reminds me of gas spilled in a puddle or a ditch, with green and purple moving around in patches. I don’t take my eyes off the sky as I switch the nozzle to the jerry can and fill it up too before heading into the station. I grab a pack of peanuts and some chew on my way out, packing some dip into my cheek. Across the parking lot I see a Suburban pull up to a crowd of Native girls with the window open. The guy in the car is handing something to them, probably some crystal or P, after which the girls scoot off one by one except the last one, who gets in the car. It slowly rolls out of the lot down the road. I walk across the dark lot to the dumpsters to take a piss. Behind the dumpsters I see a pile of cardboard with a few empty beer cans, and just past that there are a few pairs of shoes. They’re pretty small shoes, they’ve got flower patterns and purple stripes. Definitely girls’ shoes.
Four janky looking Native boys across the pump are eyeballing me on my way back to the truck, so I hop in quickly to get gone. They look like the same kids in the summer out by the edge of town huffing gas and laying out in the ditches with the rags still draped over their faces. I peel out of the lot back down the highway towards the turnoff and towards Boyd.
The snow is really coming down on my way back down the township road. It reminds me of a screen on the computer where I took my construction safety course after I’d left the computer alone too long. I think it’s supposed to be stars, but it looked more like snow to me. I roll down the window to have a smoke, but as I do it the raven feather tucked under the sun guard comes loose and drags across my cheek before flying out the window into the snow. I nearly choke on my cigarette as I steady the truck again. Something scampers across the road in the distance. It crawls like a cat, but it’s much bigger, maybe a lynx or bobcat, or something. It’s gone to the tree line before I get close enough to be sure. The snow makes it hard to see anything at all.
It’s a good while before I see anything, but then I spy a flicker in the distance. It’s got to be Boyd’s flashlight coming out of the cellar, so I know I’m almost there. The dark tree line peels back a bit as I approach the tiny light, then the dark shape of the house’s silhouette is in my headlights. The house looks much bigger in the dark. I shut off the truck and get out, the wind chews at my neck and hands as I pull the jerry can from the truck heading for the lit staircase. Boyd’s there, at the end of the room still hunched over the lock; he doesn’t even look up as I walk over to him.
“How’s it going?” I ask him as I start to bring over the genny and powersaw from the doorway.
“I tried more than 4000 combinations,” Boyd says, finally turning to face me. I see the food and smokes by the door haven’t been touched. “I heard something from the other side of the door. I think it was a tapping or a humming, but it was really quiet.” I stare at Boyd for a minute, before approaching the door and putting my ear to it.
“Do you hear it?” Boyd asks, and I shake my head. I didn’t hear anything other than the wind.
“It’s probably just the wind. Definitely a spot where rats would be too. Let’s get this thing set up then,” I say as I get the genny in place. Boyd nods at me, and walks over to the jerry can to unscrew the lid.
“Are you fucking kidding me, Cole!?” He shouts so loud that I drop the powersaw on top of the genny. “This is fucking diesel!” Boyd kicks the jerry can over; the grimy diesel scent fills the cellar.
“Fuck me!” I say as I lunge to stand it back up. “I must’ve fucking spaced out, man.” Boyd’s vexed now, and he doesn’t look at me as he walks back toward the lock in the dimming light. He reaches out, getting right back at turning the dials on the lock. I just stand there, the smell of diesel makes me feel a bit sick.
“Let’s go back to town and get some gas, alright?” I say to Boyd’s turned back. He doesn’t say anything. As I start towards him, he finally speaks.
“I’ll stay. You go.” It’s getting real late, but Boyd’s glued to this lock.
“Are you sure? It’s pretty fucking late.” He doesn’t say anything, but just keeps rotating the lock. “Boyd, this is fucking nuts. You need to take a break…”
“What’s fucking nuts is the fact that you’re too fuckin’ spun to know the difference between gas and diesel!” Boyd whips around shouting, his eyes seem to vibrate in his skull.
“Alright, man,” I exhale, trying to calm him, “but I’m leaving you my flashlight, yours is looking kinda dim,” I put my flashlight beside his. He nods once before getting back on the lock. I head back out into the wind, through the dark to my truck.
I get going fast, I want to be back as soon as I can, but I keep my eyes fixed on the tiny flicker of the flashlight in my rearview mirror. It gets smaller and smaller as I drive toward the tree line. I’ve got my eyes on the light, then I notice it suddenly goes out. For a split second I want to turn back, but I figure he’s probably just switching over to my flashlight, or hopefully taking a break to have something to eat. I don’t want to piss him off any more than I already have. How could I have fucked that up at the pump? I try to shake the frustration. I look ahead now, and see something on the right hand side of the road near the end of my headlights’ reach. It’s a dark shape, it looks like it’s moving. I squint to see as I get closer. I can see now it’s somebody walking with his back turned to me. I slow down a bit, it’s an old fellow with a dark black braid going down his back. It’s a damn long way to anywhere from here, but he hasn’t got his thumb up to hitch or anything. He looks over his shoulder once into my headlights, but then turns off the road and heads through the snow towards the tree line. As he slips out of sight I notice he isn’t even wearing a jacket, and it’s got to be almost fifty below.