Karen clutched the wheel, her eyes dead-set on the road ahead. She could hear her children fussing around in the back, but somehow they seemed far away. The radio hummed, John whistled along with the melody, but they too sounded far away, like Karen was somewhere else, and the voices she heard were merely echoes from a great distance. She could not shake the image in her head, the man with the pale blue eyes, so pale they were almost translucent, and feeling of fear and trepidation she felt radiating off him like heat from a lamp.
John’s voice jolted her back.
“You okay, Karen?” he asked. “You look a little pale…”
She continued to stare at the open road.
“I’m fine,” she flatly replied.
“You still thinking about that guy from the bar?” he asked hesitantly. John had many wonderful qualities, many talents and strengths, she thought, but empathy wasn’t always one of them.
“Leave it alone, John. Please.”
Gabriel piped up from the back, “I want an Ice Cream.”
John ignored his youngest son for a moment. “I’m just saying…”
Karen furrowed her brow. She was trying not to get angry, trying to fight off the overwhelming feeling of dread. She was on the verge of panic – the man from the bar had her so rattled she found she was fighting off tears – and focusing on the road was the only thing keeping her from collapsing into a heap of desperate sobs.
“Leave it alone,” she insisted.
Michael joined in the chorus. “I want an Ice Cream, too!
“Goddamnit, Michael,” John said under his breath.
Karen was startled by his outburst.
* * * * *
Charlie Madson took off his cap, wiped sweat off his brow.
“Colder’n shit, innit, Bill?
His attempt to make a joke didn’t sit well with Bill
“You say so, boss.”
Charlie looked over at Bill, irritated.
“Now don’tchoo go pissin on my parade jus’ cause you in a foul mood,” said Charlie. “You just mad cause you didn’t get no pussy back in Carson City.”
Bill sighed, “There weren’t none to get. You were chattin’ up the only pretty one in that whole town.”
Charlie chuckled as he thought back to the wild night of drinking that had ended up with Charlie waking up in a strange woman’s hotel room and Bill spending the night in the truck, sick than a dog.
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Bill,” said Charlie, egging Bill on. “You gotta take what ‘choo kin get.”
Bill continued to stare listlessly out the window, watching the countryside that never seemed to change.
“You say so, boss.”
Charlie was losing his patience, “I said stop it with that shit, Bill–”
Before Charlie could finish there was the distinct Chunk! of something popping free of its housing; the truck lurched suddenly and then righted itself.
“Fuck was that?” asked Bill.
“How the hell should I know?” shouted Charlie. “This ain’t my truck.”
Bill was genuinely concerned. “Think we should pull over an’ check it out?”
“Dammit, Bill, I told you we ain’t pullin’ over!” insisted Charlie. “Something probably moving around in the back.”
“I don’t know, boss–” started Bill, but Charlie cut him off.
“We’ll stop when we get to the city,” said Charlie. “I said it’s nothin’, so it’s nothin’. We can’t waste no more time just ‘cause you got your panties in a bunch.”
“You’re the boss, boss.”