Thursday September 11th, 2014

The exercise:

Write about: the detour.

Tomorrow morning's market harvest will be interesting, as berries are pretty much done and we don't have much else to bring from the garden other than cherry tomatoes (which won't take long to collect).

I'm sure I'll find some way or another to make it take longer than it should though.


Our collection of road maps were still strewn across the double bed in our cramped motel room when we came back from dinner. A part of me had hoped the cleaning lady would have trashed them during her daily visit, like how yesterday she'd tossed the last three pieces of my pepperoni pizza that I'd planned on eating for dinner.

No such luck today.

"We need to make a decision eventually," Crystal said as she flopped onto the atlas bed. "We can't stay here forever."

"We know where we want to go," Tammy pointed out, "we just have to figure out how to get there."

"Without the cops finding us," I added, oh so helpfully.

"So it's either a straight shot, get there as fast as we possibly can," Crystal told the ceiling, "or we take a detour or two or three, make sure nobody is on our trail, and get there a little later."

"Yeah, but how much later is a little later?" I asked, allowing an armchair to catch my fall. "Every extra hour on the road means more chances of something going wrong. Flat tire, engine failure, random police check..."

"Some idiot stealing the van," Tammy said, "and all the money therein."

That gave us all pause. I think that was the moment we knew we would skip the detours and go all out for our destination. The moment that led to all others that would follow it. The cute boys at the gas station outside Lewistown. That horrible waitress in Reno who spilled coffee on Crystal's gun hand.

The moment that sent us on our tired, doomed voyage toward the police roadblock south of Fresno.


Greg said...

Perhaps you could lovingly polish each tomato as you pluck it from the plant, whispering a soft apology for disturbing it? That could add an hour or so to your harvesting efforts :)
Ah, a prequel to your roadblock story! I'm quite pleased to know more about the intrepid trio, their love of pizza and their ability to think about the right plans to make but still not carry them out. They're an interesting little bunch, and it's becoming clear that their back-story is well worth the telling!

The detour
The sign on the fence was rusting at the corners and the paint was faded, bleached almost, by the sun, but the letters on it were still readable. Keep out. On the other side of the fence the grass was short as though mown, and the ground sloped upward in a landscaped hill that was clearly intended to hide whatever was inside the fence from prying eyes. On this side of the fence the grass was long and wet, catching at trainers and soaking socks and feet as Jude and Monty trudged along. The occasional crusty cow-pat had caught them out already, and there was a smell in the air that might have been Nature but was more probably manure.
"This isn't much of a short-cut," said Jude finally. He was short for his age, and still showed signs of acne. They stumbled over a hassock hidden under the grass, edged round a broad-branched tree that dripped cold rain-water on them, and then stopped. Pressed up against the fence was the corpse of a sheep, its wool maggot strewn and its head a white skull.
"Maybe we should call it a detour," said Monty. He walked closer to the sheep. "Think it died of natural causes?"
"Does it matter?" Jude kept his distance. "Its dead, and it stinks."
The corpse seemed to writhe slightly from the action of the maggots. "Well, it's right up against the fence isn't it? And its probably good mutton."
"It's dead. Leave it alone."
Monty kicked the skull, which didn't move, and then came away. "Fine," he said, "let's see if we can find a way round this bloody fence. It wasn't on the map."
"Yeah, I know," said Jude. "I think we're just going to have walk all the way round. It's a bloody long detour."
They walked on, unaware that behind them the sheep was dragging itself slowly to its feet, tiny blue sparks glowing in the darkness of its skull.

Anonymous said...

Prompt: the detour
He kept the brown paper bag close to his side, just so he could feel the fine wrinkles against his skin. The weight there was reassuring. Gary knew the bottle of port, and all that it promised, was with him. It would make for a nice night thinking about her.
He came to the intersection of Bend and Tabbish only to find that in the time it took him to leisurely walk three more blocks to the Wine Emporium, a pipe had burst on Bend, causing the road to be blocked while workers attempted to fix it before it got dark.
He sighed and turned on Tabbish. He’ll just take the long way back to his apartment. Gary squeezed the bottle closer to his thigh.
Tabbish was a street unlike any other. For some reason, many of the towns’ homeless made the street their unofficial residence. One such resident gave Gary the stink eye as he passed by.
“Off to a party, are we?” The homeless man snickered. He was wearing a thinning grey long-sleeved shirt, wool gloves, and a knit hat. A couple of garbage bags were strewn over his lap as a makeshift blanket.
Gary tried not to respond. He continued down the street.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!”
A step farther away, then another.
“Fine. Don’t help a brother out. See if I care.”
Gary was almost at the end of the street, so close to turning down Harrison.
“It’s not like you just found out your best friend died yesterday.”
Fuck. Gary stopped and turned slightly. He could see the homeless man out of the corner of his eye. He half expected another smirk; a sign he was being played. Instead, the homeless man was looking at the trash bags on his lap. His shoulders were trembling.
“How did he die?” Gary asked, more out of morbid curiosity than actual concern.
The homeless man looked up, his eyes wide. Very slowly he said, “Tommy was diabetic. He couldn’t get his insulin. That shit costs money, you know?”
Gary found himself walking towards the man. “Why didn’t he just go to a clinic? I’m sure they would have given him some.”
He laughed. “Naw, man. Those clinics aren’t as good as they’re cracked up to be.”
The brown paper bag was still against his thigh. Gary tightened his grip on the bag. Maybe he didn’t need the port after all. He sat down next to the man, fighting the revulsion of that homeless smell, and slid the bag down the bottle.
“How about we celebrate Tommy’s life, then?”
The homeless man shook his head. “Naw, man. Tommy’s life was shit. Same as mine. Let’s celebrate that he’s finally out of this hell. Hopefully he hasn’t found himself in a new one.”

Marc said...

Greg - yes, that would certainly have extended the morning's work. Perhaps I'll try that tomorrow :P

I'm actually quite enjoying going backward with this story. I might have to put together a few more entries, see just how far back I can go with it.

Wonderful details, as always, leading to a delightfully creepy ending. I wonder where the sheep shall go from here?

Ivybennet - I was expecting a rather different ending when Gary was forced into a detour. I like yours much better :)

Great details and progression, some really nice work here.