The Next Bus To Tombstone | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Scary Bookmark and Share

The Next Bus To Tombstone

The Next Bus To Tombstone



Dallas Releford



Tombstone, Arizona was the town billed as “the town too tough to die” and since he was a kid, Larry Smith—an aggressive history buff if there ever was one, by the way—had always wanted to go there.

      On a cool night in September he found himself alone, walking down a long deserted stretch of West Texas highway. As far as he could remember, if he could recollect anything at all about his past, he was on US 180 when something occurred and he’d had to walk. He couldn’t remember what or why? He’d been having trouble remembering events in his life for a few days. It was as if he had just been born or had awakened from a very long sleep. He thought his troubles might be connected to the hot days and the cold nights. Even though he had a severe headache he wasn’t a bit tired, and he should have been. Walking for so long was a tiring experience. With as much energy as a twenty-year-old kid, he trudged on as coyotes and maybe even a few wolves howled from the foothills around him.

               Every shadow seemed to be a different shade of blue light cast on the landscape by a pale moon that hung high in the eastern sky. His world was like a painting that a mad artist had put on a large canvas using different shades of the same color, blue. For a while, as he walked down the paved highway that didn’t even have a centerline he was sure that he was only dreaming, that the road would end and he would wake up in his warm bed back in Charleston, West Virginia.

               The fact the coyotes seemed to be moving closer to him didn’t worry him as much as rattlesnakes. There were probably dozens of the heat-seeking, slithering monsters on the road ahead soaking up what little heat was left in the pavement from the hot sun of the day. He thought there might be a few scorpions out there too and only heaven, and a few wizards knew what else roamed this deserted land.

               Those things, no matter how dangerous they were, were not the worst of his fears. What really terrified Larry the most was that he could not remember how he got here or why he was walking down a lonely highway at night. All he could remember was that he had left Charleston last Wednesday driving a new cherry red Mustang. Bits and pieces of his trip before he reached Austin began to materialize. After Austin, he couldn’t remember much. And, something else bothered him too. Where were all the cars and trucks, the big rigs that normally traveled paved roads? Since he had been walking along this highway—and, he thought that must have been for hours, or days—he had not seen a single vehicle, not even a kid on a bicycle.

               As his feet pounded the pavement and he considered what few options he had, he thought that he should turn around and go back. Maybe there was something back there that would rejuvenate his memory. Where was his Mustang? Had it broken down and he had started walking to get help? Had the sun caused him to lose his memory or perhaps he’d had a stroke? If so, how long ago was that? Larry’s “sense of time” seemed out of place and fuzzy.

               So, here he was on a long, country road walking to somewhere, maybe to nowhere. Larry was sure that this road had to end somewhere. The other possibility was, and his only hope, that there was at least a town nearby where he could get a cold beer and maybe a hot bath to wash away the Texas dust. Another question nagged at him like a small dog chewing his pants legs. How did he know he was in Texas? He could just as well be in New Mexico or Death Valley.

               Feeling a sense of urgency to get to a place he knew nothing about, he kept walking feeling cool air blow across his face. He had a feeling that someone was behind him and that someone dangerous was behind him and that was the reason for his urgency. He’d had that feeling before, except he couldn’t recall all of the details. There must be a reason why he felt pressured to be somewhere else except he could think of nothing. All he knew was that the person trailing him meant him harm.

               It seemed to him that the farther he walked the easier his past memories came back to him. He was sure he had been a radio talk show host on a Charleston station. His show had been syndicated on more than five hundred stations and he had millions of listeners across the nation. That’s the way it had been until he verbally attacked a democratic senator over the air. Faced with federal pressure he’d been forced to resign. Was that senator or some of his cohorts after him? Was that the reason for his fear? Hadn’t his mother warned him that his mouth would get him into a lot of trouble? She had been correct, of course, except it had also made him very rich. Still, he had not been happy until he infuriated the left wing radical senator who wanted to be President of the United States. He had known you could not disagree with those kinds of people, yet he’d done it anyway. Was he brave or just plain stupid? Perhaps, he was just patriotic, he thought and let it go at that.

               Larry marched on down the highway pretending he was General Longstreet leading thousands of exhausted troops toward a little town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg. The rocks, plants and hills all around him were drenched in blue light from a moon high overhead. Sometimes, he wished the moon would go away. He hoped to make a surprise attack on Union forces, when he found them. The moonlight betrayed his position and that frustrated him.

               Would General Longstreet be walking down a road in West Texas when generals usually rode horses? When he turned around to see where his horse was, for a brief second, nothing more than that, he saw thousands of gray-clad soldiers marching behind him. Before they vanished he realized that they were bony skeletons staring at him through dark, eyeless sockets.

               He was no longer at Gettysburg and no longer looking at an army of skeletons. He was alone again. Larry thought maybe that he should have been a writer. His imagination was immaculate, to say the least. After all, what was life except an electrical-chemical process that took place in an organ called the brain? With two legs for mobility, two hands for tools and other senses, the brain could accomplish much. Without the hands, legs and sensory organs, it was useless. It was these things that endowed him with an imagination. Was he just the product of someone else’s imagination? He found the thought funny so he laughed. His laughter echoed from faraway mountains disturbing the quietness of the night.

               “Why am I here?” The ancient question erupted from his trembling lips as he continued walking. Pounding pavement to nowhere and yet, somewhere. He knew it would do little good to look up at the heavens where countless stars winked at him. They would not provide an answer. There would never be an answer.

               Bored, Larry ripped a limb from a nearby bush and tossed it on the ground. Someone had dumped a wine bottle on the road. Knowing it could blow a tire and cause a wreck he reached down, picked it up and tossed it into the ditch. Curious because he had not heard the bottle fall or break, he turned around only to see the bottle still on the pavement and the limb was on the bush, unbroken by his hands. Nothing had changed so Larry assumed that he had simply thought that he had broken that limb (and had not) and that he only thought he’d thrown the bottle in the ditch, and had not. Feeling that his brain cells might have been damaged back there on the highway somewhere, he walked over and gave the bottle a swift kick. This time he was sure the bottle had gone into the ditch like a bowling ball going into the gutter. When he glanced at the pavement again, the bottle had not moved at all.

               “It will drive you crazy,” a sweet voice said from behind him. “The moon and gravity has something to do with it.”

               Stunned, Larry turned around. “Hi, Melody. What are you doing here?”

               “I’ve been here all the time. You were just too busy thinking to notice me.”

               That hardly seemed possible that he would ignore or not see his wife, he thought. Her soft brown hair wavered in the quiet breeze that had now gotten a chill to it. When she looked at him her blue eyes sparkled like two diamonds. Her skin was as pale as cream and her full lips were as pink as a rose. Melody had been the most beautiful bride he’d ever seen. They had only been married for two years when they decided to make the trip . . . to . . . where? Tombstone, was that it?” Larry was sure that Tombstone had been their destination although he could not fully understand why they wanted to go there. “Gravity? Do you mean I could kick that bottle all night and never move it?”

               She smiled. Her white teeth glistened in the moonlight. She wore a long blue print dress that the breeze tossed around her legs. “It’s something like that.” She paused and looked off into the distance and then she looked at Larry. “I love you so much.” She took his hand in hers. There was a sadness written in her voice. “I have to forgive you for anything you ever did to me in the past although I can’t remember much about anything you did. I guess we have had a good marriage. We’re made for each other and nothing can ever separate us.”

               Stopping in the middle of the road, Larry took her in his arms and held her. Melody was the only thing he had ever wanted. Something about her and the solitude they shared at the moment made his penis as stiff as a broomstick and as hard as a rock. Larry looked at the desolate landscape on both sides of the road and wondered if Melody would want to make music on one of the large flat stones that were abundant. Then the thought of rattlesnakes seeking warmth under rocks, or on them, killed his desire for sex in a heartbeat. “I love you too. How long have we been on this road? I don’t seem to remember much.”

               Melody took his hand when he released her. “A long time. Some things puzzle me. It seems like we have been walking for days and yet—”

               She hadn’t finished the sentence when he spoke. “And yet, the moon hasn’t moved. I noticed that too but never really thought about it until you mentioned it. I don’t even remember a sunset. The sun just disappears and the next thing I know, the moon is there. I suppose it is like we’re in Limbo; walking constantly, but never getting anywhere.”

               They had walked some more completely forgetting the stationary bottle on the road that was bound to the earth by an invisible force. They stopped now facing back toward where they had come. The straight band of pavement narrowed until it disappeared in the mountains in the distance. Melody kept the questions coming. Larry knew she was inquisitive and intelligent and guessed that was one of the many reasons he’d married her. “What else?”

               Larry thought for a moment trying to put his thoughts into perspective. “I don’t get tired, for one thing, no matter how long I walk.”

               She took his hand and held it in hers. “What else?”

               For the first time a look of concern came to his face. “I haven’t seen another living creature, not even a bug. I heard coyotes, except I never saw them.” Then he looked deep into her eyes and thought terror reigned there. “Are we high on drugs or did we have a terrorist attack and they released gas that is making us have hallucinations?”

               She sighed. Then she shivered. He could feel her tremors in her hand. “I don’t know anything except we’re having an abnormal experience of some kind that we don’t, and possibly cannot understand.”

               Larry thought she knew more than she was telling him. In two years of marriage, he’d learned much about her. Even though they had only been married a short while, if you could call two years a short time, he knew how she was, how she turned out after he married her. The trip to Tombstone had been an appeasing trip, one meant to give them time to get their lives back together after the death of their three-month old daughter, Sherry. She had died from Spanish Flu. Her death had been long and agonizing. Larry had watched her die knowing he could not do anything to help her, or to keep her in this world where she belonged. He could do no more for Sherry than he could when his mother passed away. Melody had taken the baby’s death hard. The void that had been left in her life was not easily filled with his kind words and the love he offered her. He had buried himself in his work and the rift between them had grown wider. The loss of his job had somehow pulled them closer. He needed a shoulder to cry on and she was willing to provide it. Filling part of the void the death of their baby had left he suggested they go on a long vacation and she agreed. After that, he could remember nothing. Now, they were in a strange place without any recollection of how they got there. Or, why they were here. “You must remember something? Where are we going?”

               “I don’t know.” Her voice seemed calm and not frantic at all as he expected it to be. “Maybe we aren’t going anywhere.”

               Larry had to consider that for a brief moment trying to figure out what she meant and to accept anything as possible until it was proven impossible. Perhaps he hadn’t been headed anywhere his entire life. They were walking again feeling as if they were on a treadmill that only had one speed. Larry thought about the bottle and wondered if gravity had something to do with their peculiar predicament. They both heard the engine at the same time. Turning around they saw headlights in the distance. Whatever it was, it was moving slow and it was still far away. They could barely hear the murmur of the diesel engine but they both knew it was there in the stillness of the night.

               “I think it is a bus. Maybe we can catch a ride,” she said.

               They stood watching as the lights came closer bouncing up and down as the vehicle hit potholes and climbed hills. “How do you know it’s a bus?” Larry stared at the headlights. Maybe it was a bus. He hoped that it was a big Greyhound, if those things were still around.

               “It’s too close to the ground to be a big rig and too big to be a car or small truck.” She sighed. “It’s a bus.”

               Standing side by side on the brim of the road they waved enthusiastically as the vehicle approached. Larry closed his eyes holding them shut for a good ten seconds. When he opened them the sun was shining and it wasn’t a bus he saw. What he did see was a large black tractor pulling a flatbed trailer with two desert storm armored trucks on it. He thought they were called MRAPS or something like that. Somebody had told him the acronym meant, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles. He knew they were armor plated vehicles on their way to the Middle East, either Iraq or Afghanistan. They were painted sand brown, the color of the desert where they were going. Startled, he opened his eyes just as the black truck passed by them. The moon was out again and the truck was driving through a blue haze that almost looked like smoke.

               Fog, he thought. Except, most of the fog surrounded the truck.

                “It is a truck.” Melody yelled at the driver even though the chances of him hearing her were slim. “Stop! You can’t leave us out here in the middle of nowhere.” Standing in the middle of the road with her arms hanging loosely down by her hips, she stared at the black rig, looking defeated. “You just can’t.”

               Larry closed his eyes again. It was dark and the truck was gone. Opening his eyes once again he saw the red brake lights come on and heard the airbrakes when the vehicle came to a sudden stop. Maybe there was a god, or at least, guardian angels, after all.

               “He saw us.” Melody grabbed Larry’s hand and pulled him toward the truck. It had come to a complete stop about thirty yards away. They broke into a steady, fast run. They were afraid that the driver might not wait very long. “Let’s see if we can hitch a ride to a better place than this. There must be a cold beer waiting somewhere.”

               They had reached the rear of the flatbed and were headed for the driver’s side of the tractor when the door opened and a big man with a bushy beard stepped down from the cab almost falling off the step in the process. Even from that distance, Larry could see that he wore blue faded overalls with a bib and shoulder straps.

               “He’s getting down to greet us,” Melody said struggling for breath after the long run. “He can’t be that bad if he’s that courteous and anxious to meet us.”

               But the big-man-in-the-big-rig didn’t seem to give a crap about two hitch hikers on a lonely country road running from somewhere to nowhere. Larry felt his heart sink lower in his chest as Big Man unzipped his fly and stepped off the road and crossed a wide drainage ditch finally ending up in a blue field under a blue moon.

               Melody stopped dead in her tracks. The cab door was open and a CB radio blared with distant voices. She could not understand any of the voices and ignored them. “He didn’t even see us. All he wanted was to take a piss.”

               Larry felt her disappointment. Were the words Melody said true? Had the driver seen them and chose to ignore two desperate travelers? “It doesn’t matter now. He stopped and maybe he’ll give us a ride if we talk nicely to him. You always told me to be nice to people.”

               The driver, now known to them as Big Man—because he weighed at least two-fifty—stumbled across the ditch zipping his fly as he came and fell flat on the pavement. “Mary, if you keep making me fall down we’ll never get to El Paso. Just take it easy on Old Jones, will you?”

               “The bastard is stoned out of his skull.” Larry walked closer. “I can smell marijuana on him strong enough to knock an elephant on its big fat ass.”

               Melody stepped up beside the driver. He was still on the ground struggling to arise. “Hey, mister. Can we hitch a ride with you to the next town?”

               The old man mumbled something and rolled over on his back with his eyes focused on the stars above. “Mary . . . that was a bad wreck back there, a bad one . . . yes, it was a bad one. Never saw one like that. It’s a good thing you were with me, Mary. Now maybe you can get out of my head long enough for me to get up and put myself behind that wheel or we’ll never get to El Paso.” He rolled over on his side facing the ditch again. “Then when we’re rollin’ down that highway again you can drive those memories from my mind.” Grunting like a fat hog he rolled over and managed to pull himself up on one knee. “Dang it, M-Mary, you are doing it. You drive the memories away and I’ll d-drive the t-truck.” By now he was standing upright staggering from side to side. A slight breeze might have sent him crashing into the truck.

               Larry closed his eyes and wished he hadn’t done so. Jones was a skeleton in a gray button down cotton shirt and wearing overall pants with a bib and shoulder straps. Larry’s blood felt as if it was turning to ice water in his veins. Startled, he opened his eyes again and was relieved to see that the old man looked like any other drunk he’d ever seen. Turning to Melody, he placed his hand on her arm. “He’s so drunk he didn’t even hear you.”

               Melody walked up to Jones and grabbed his arm. The old man ignored her and climbed into the truck as if she didn’t exist. “Hey can you give us a ride?” When he didn’t respond, she raised her voice just as he started the diesel engine. “Hey, we want a ride. Do you mind, mister?”

               Larry was still pondering his strange ability to see into some other world when he closed his eyes. Was he seeing into another dimension or was it just his imagination? Then something else came to mind. “Melody, do we really want to ride with him?”

                 “There isn’t anybody else,” she protested. Grabbing his arm she pushed Larry around the front of the truck toward the passenger door. “Quick, get in. Maybe we can talk to him and sober him enough so he can drive.”

               Melody was up the steps and had the door open before Larry could launch his own protest. Something about this particular truck sent chilly fingers crawling down his spine like slimy worms. The smell of diesel fuel and the rumbling of the idling engine made everything seem real and he knew he wasn’t dreaming. He’d never experienced odors in his dreams. Still, he couldn’t explain the troubling visions when he closed his eyes. It was like switching channels and living in two worlds. Where had he seen this truck before and why was he so terrified of it.

               There was room enough in the big cab for Melody to share the passenger seat with Larry. Her slim body, often admired by construction workers and bankers alike, fit snugly between Larry and the console.

               Larry reached up and turned the volume down on the CB. A few seconds later, the volume increased until it was where it was in the first place. Remembering the incident with the bottle, he whispered a single word into Melody’s ear. “Gravity,” he said.

               Melody smiled and quickly turned her attention to the driver. “Where are you going?”

               Jones, who had used up his stash of marijuana sometime after he left Dallas, now reached under his seat and pulled a bottle of bourbon out and held it in front of his face like the dirty bottle contained liquid gold. Holding the bottle close to his mouth, he kissed it. Licking his lips he managed to remove the cap. “Well, Barbara, if Old Mary couldn’t do the job then I’m sure you can.” Fumbling, he managed to get the cap off the bottle. Taking a large drink, he belched and almost gagged. Throwing his head back, he laughed. “Yep, that was sure some accident. The cops said I caused it but we both know better than that, don’t we Barb?”

               “This old man is not only stoned, he’s absolutely crazy,” Larry said remembering the skeleton in clothes that looked a lot like Jones. Was what he had seen a premonition of another wreck, one in which the old man would die? “Melody, I think we ought to get out of this rig. I’m having bad feelings here. Nothing is right and everything’s wrong.”

               The driver capped the bottle and stashed it under the seat. His belching had turned to an occasional hiccup. Gunning the engine, he slowly moved the rig forward. “Lot of weight back there. Those armor-plated humvee’s weigh many tons. That’s why I couldn’t stop. Why, that man and that woman in that fancy machine saw me, and they shouldn’t have pulled out in front of me. I couldn’t stop. No, t-they s-shouldn’t have done that at all. You can’t stop a rig like this on a dime, until you have to take a piss anyway.” He laughed again.

               “Come on Jones.” Melody tugged at his arm. He didn’t seem to notice her. “Please stop and let us out.” He pushed down on the accelerator ignoring her. They were doing forty miles an hour now. The rocks and trees were rushing past them. Even though the highway was level, except for a few small hills here and there, the truck was already gaining speed. Melody looked at Larry with a concerned expression branded on her face by fear. “He’s so stoned he don’t even know we’re here.”

               “He hasn’t known since we first saw him, Melody. I wonder why that is? Gravity?” Larry noticed, although it didn’t really seem important now, that a faded yellow centerline had appeared where none had existed before.

               “I don’t friggin’ know unless he’s a ghost. I guess that would explain a lot of things. Don’t you ever watch television? He doesn’t hear us. He don’t see us. Is it possible the marijuana and whiskey made him blind and deaf?” She paused and watched the road ahead through a dirty window that had been neglected for too long. It appeared as if Jones liked to collect bugs and judging from the “bug graveyard” on the windshield, he had been collecting them for a long time. Several dozen of them were smashed on his window. Shaking her head, she spoke. “He keeps talking about a wreck. What’s that about, anyway? Did he cause a wreck and he’s feeling guilty about it? Was he killed and what we’re experiencing is a phantom?” She looked at Larry searching for an answer. “Larry, what other explanation is there?”

               Larry was watching the road roll under them like a large conveyor belt that disappeared under the truck. Larry glanced at the speedometer. They were doing sixty, sometimes a little more than that. That old Rolls-Royce engine was getting a good workout tonight. It wasn’t the speed that worried him as much as the driver did. Old Jones was still talking to himself and by now he was probably craving a drink or wanting to take another piss. “As good an explanation as any, I guess. If he’s a ghost, then how can he drive a truck?” He wanted to tell her about his weird visions except he didn’t think there was time. “Let’s hope he slows a little, especially for those curves up ahead.”

               Melody pushed her body closer to Larry. “I don’t know about any of that. Maybe he’s trapped between two dimensions. You used to talk about multiple universe’s, didn’t you?” Before Larry could answer she continued. “Part of him is able to grasp solid objects while he is unaware of some things around him, such as us. He doesn’t see or hear us because we exist in the real world and he hasn’t completely crossed over to the unreal world yet. I guess that makes as much sense as I can get out of this brain of mine.”

               “I guess it does,” Larry admitted. “He keeps talking to somebody. I don’t think those people are real. It sounded as if the was calling marijuana, Mary. I think that the rest of the time, he’s talking to himself.”

               Melody cringed when she became fully aware of their predicament. The truck was moving faster with each passing moment and they were trapped inside a metal coffin rolling down the road at almost seventy miles an hour. If they didn’t do something soon—although she didn’t know exactly what that might be—they would crash and they’d join Jones in the next world. What could they do? She could smell the old man and something in his odor made her lean closer to him. The smell of marijuana and sweat burned her nostrils. Something else was there too and she had to take a couple more whiffs of his rancid odor before she recognized it. The thought of her discovery nearly paralyzed her. Looking at Larry she spoke like a person who had just been shot. She could barely draw fresh air into her lungs. “There’s something else we need to discuss, Larry.”

               Wondering what could be worse than speeding down the road at seventy miles an hour with a maniac, or a ghost at the wheel and no way to stop him, Larry looked at her with a worried expression on his face. By now, his face was pallid, almost the color of fresh snow on a January morning. “What now? We have to stop this guy, Melody. We have to make him realize that he’s going to kill us and himself too, if he isn’t already dead.”

               “I think he’s trying to commit suicide, Larry. He doesn’t know he’s already dead so he’s trying to kill himself. Perhaps he’s been suicidal for a long time. He’s eaten up with cancer, probably colon or stomach cancer. I can smell it on his breath. He smells like rotten meat that’s been left out in the sun for a long time. He knows he’s dying. That’s the reason for the wreck. He was too drunk to drive, so he hit a car or something else. He was drunk then and he’s sure drunk now. He’s suicidal and that’s the reason he’s driving so fast.”

               Larry stared ahead as the road continued to rush under them. His mind felt like a whirlpool sucking all his thoughts and energy into a bottomless void. The weird road, the motionless moon and the mad driver who mumbled about a wreck somewhere back there behind them rushed through his mind. “How do you know he has cancer? Are you sure?”

               “I can smell it. My grandfather died of colon cancer and he had the same odor.” She put her hand on Larry’s knee. Her eyes pleaded with him to do something even though she didn’t know what she wanted him to do. “My aunt also died of stomach and ovarian cancer. We could smell it for weeks before she died. Larry, what are we going to do?” Her voice sounded panicky now.

               Larry sighed and closed his eyes. Bright light exploded into his world and what he saw was more horrible than anything he could have imagined or dreamed in one of his many nightmares. The sun was shining and he was in the driver’s seat of his new cherry-red Mustang. He could smell the newness coming from the leather seats. Melody was in the seat next to him. They were passing a can of cold beer—right out of the cooler full of ice cubes that was locked in the trunk—between them. Melody’s beautiful eyes were flamboyant with life and she was smiling for the first time in months. He knew deep in his heart that their marriage was going to be all right and that was okay by him. They would go to Tombstone, like they planned, and then perhaps they would spend a few weeks just roaming around the West making love every opportunity they got. As he looked at her creamy white skin and the joy in her precious face he knew they would be stopping in the next little town up ahead and checking in at a hotel. His penis was rock hard and stone solid.

               Melody emptied the can and tossed it into the back seat into a cardboard box that was almost full of beer and Coke cans. She held another one between her legs. Removing the metal tab she took a big swallow and gave the can to Larry. Before Larry could get a firm grip on the ice-cold can, she let go of it. The can fell into his lap spilling cold beer on his straddles and his rock hard penis. The distraction diverted his attention away from the long straight road ahead of them.

               Ahead, on his right was a small shopping mall with a store and a Speedway station. The lot was gravel. A car with two teens in it pulled out in front of them. Larry’s left foot searched for the brake pedal. A large black tractor-trailer was rolling down the asphalt highway swerving over the centerline and occasionally hitting the brim of the road stirring up dust and throwing gravel. It took a few chunks of the curb out as it came barreling toward them. 

               Larry found the brake—even though he was pissing his pants by then—and pressed his foot down on it. Hearing crunching metal, the sound a beer can makes when you put your big foot down on it hard—he knew where the can had lodged, under the brake pedal. Without brakes the Mustang slammed into the front of the vehicle that was now pulling out onto the highway knocking it aside. The vehicle the teens were driving spun around and went into the ditch on the other side of the road. The sudden impact caused Larry to lose control of the Mustang and the vehicle crashed into the big rig, head on. On impact Larry’s eyes flew open and he screamed.

               “What’s wrong?” She took him in her arms and petted him like a young child. “Were you sleeping? That’s what it looked like to me, that you fell off to sleep.”

               Larry knew he had little time to explain. The old codger was rollin’ on down the highway at eighty miles an hour. Larry reached down and felt of his crotch. It was wet and it didn’t smell like beer. The old man was singing Runaway, an old song Del Shannon had released in the early sixties and again in 1986 as a different version. Larry loved the song Del Shannon had sung except he didn’t like the way the old man sang it at all. “I know,” he finally whispered, with tears in his eyes. “I know.”

               “You know what?” Melody had a look of puzzlement on her face.

               “We’re dead, Melody. The old man is alive, for now. We were drinking and I was distracted when you dropped a can of beer in my lap. I hit another car that pulled out in front of us. The truck hit us head on. The driver was drunk. He could barely hold this rig on the road. He has felt guilty about that and continues to drive himself toward death, as fast as he can. Of course, the fact he has cancer doesn’t help matters much.”

               Melody looked past him through the passenger window. It was all coming to her now, the wedding, the beer and the accident. It was becoming clear as the rig left the road and turned over six times like tumbling dice before finally coming to rest. A coyote howled in the vast desert of restless spirits.

* * *

Later, Larry, Melody and Jones walked down the long road toward an unknown destination.

            “It wasn’t your fault, Mr. Jones.” She looked at him and patted his shoulder. “It doesn’t matter anyway. We’re together now and soon will be somewhere special. Maybe we’ll end up in Tombstone.” In the far distance they could see a blue ball of light on the horizon as bright as a thousand suns. “That’s Tombstone,” she replied as if she’d been there before.

            Larry looked back over his shoulder before returning his attention to the blue light. “Does anybody know when the next bus to Tombstone rolls in?”


The End


Sorry about the formtting  The indentation is way off.



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