September 8th, 2008
He’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Must’ve been just a second or two, because his truck never strayed from its straight course. Then again, since he crossed into Wyoming’s Great Plains, he’d been going straight. He shrugged his shoulders, squinted at the road, and stuck his left ear out the window as far as it’d go. The blast of cool air punched his cheek and he thought he could make it another hour or two. Lucky he woke when he did, because he felt the truck drag as it negotiated the rising elevation. Soon, he’d be in the mountains.
He used to love these quiet rides from Denver to Cheyenne and back again, but since his baby daughter was born, it was harder and harder to leave home. He knew his wife hated these two weeks a month when he traveled, and he had yet to tell her that his company was extending his jukebox route to South Dakota. More miles, more bars, more scraggly towns. Truth be told, it didn’t bother him much, he’d always liked being in motion, but now with the family…
A gas station’s sickly glow beckoned from the road, piercing his reverie. He’d better fill up. He’d run out of gas in the mountains before, and had to wait until morning for help. And while he didn’t scare easy, something about the dark, quiet solitude unnerved him. A truck idled at the pump as he pulled into the station. He rolled out of the car, still a little groggy, and shuffled to his fuel tank. He’d just about topped off when a thin young couple approached him.
“Hey man,” the woman stayed back as her boyfriend or whoever held out his hand.
“Hey.” He replaced the pump and wiped both hands on his pants. He knew this type. Always asking for a ride. And he always gave them one.
“We need to get to Denver, man. Can you give us a ride?” The guy looked desperate, and his girlfriend seemed just plain embarrassed.
Hands still on his pants, he hesitated for a second. He’d promised his wife he wouldn’t pick up any more hitchhikers. Not after what happened in Sheridan. But these kids could be like his own one day. And he always liked to be a help. “That Kenny,” they said in the jukebox biz. “Always willing to lend a hand.”
“Sure,” he smiled at the girl. “Hop in.”
Kenny owned a small Ford truck and though it was cramped, he hid his surprise as the man slid in right next to him. Too close, he thought. The girl huddled against the window.
“We’ll be in the mountains soon, should be in Denver by the morning.” He smiled at them both this time.
“That’s great,” the man mumbled. “Thanks man.”
Kenny made light conversation as the car climbed the foothills. The girl didn’t say much in return, but her boyfriend responded to every question easily, usually before she could speak.
Silence soon descended over the group, the road’s bumps providing adequate noise. Still, Kenny turned up the radio. “No man,” the hitchhiker twisted the radio knob. “If you don’t mind.”
As he gave the kid a surprised look, Kenny saw the knife. The guy didn’t look up, and seemed absorbed in cleaning his fingernails with the blade. Kenny held his breath. This was unexpected.
Nobody could say Kenny wasn’t a good judge of character. It’s one of the reasons he made such a great salesman. But he didn’t see this coming. He sped up.
The mountains had absorbed them miles back and in these parts, guardrails weren’t so common. Kenny inched the odometer up, and swerved close to the cliff’s edge.
“What are you doing, man?” The kid’s voice trembled a bit.
“You put that knife away.” 75, 80 miles per hour, he wasn’t about to slow down.
“Why would I do that?” The shake in his voice belied his terror.
“Because if you’re going to kill me, we’re all going down.” Kenny didn’t look at the girl.
“You’re joking. Why would I kill you?”
Kenny didn’t answer. The truck began to shake under the increased speed.
“Fine, fine. man! It’s gone!” The kid threw the knife in the back of the truck.
“That’s better,” Kenny slowed the truck to a stop. “Now get out.”
“You’re letting us out here? We’ll freeze to death!” The kid was just a kid after all.
Kenny smiled. “Oh you’re getting out,” he answered as he reached into the back. “But it’s not the cold that’s going to kill you.”
Now…for yous guys this PROMPTuesday:
Tell us a story! It can be long, short, true, false, silly, honest, colorful, quiet, meandering, punchy, ANYTHING! No need to keep to the 250 words, but if you do go over that word count, please post in your blog and leave us a link here.
As for the “Rules”:
- Please have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Together, let’s rediscover the simple joy in the writing process.
- Post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.