Authors: Patty Maximini
E.M. Tippetts Book Designs
To Jennifer, whose soul is the sister of my own.
Like books, true friendships transcend the limits of space and time.
“The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.”
Viktor E. Frankl –
Man’s Search For Meaning
moan comes from behind me and I freeze.
Please don’t wake up.
I peek over my shoulder and see her beautiful face framed by a halo of bright pink hair resting on one of the pillows. Her parted lips are pulled up in the corners in that subconscious fully-sated smile women sometimes get after a night of rolling in sheets. And man, this woman deserves it. Being less drunk and more frustrated than usual, I took her in every position and orifice available, and it was fun. And kinky. And overly loud.
She would be the perfect girl, if only I knew her name or cared about the perfect girl. I don’t, and that’s one of my life rules: sex should be casual and, preferably, anonymous
Glad her eyes are still closed, I carefully bend over and finish tying my Converse. Silently, I stand and walk to the other side of the room, where my suitcase and satchel are already waiting by the door. I take one final look at her naked body, my lips pulling to one side in a pleased smirk, and exit without leaving so much as thank-you note. No reason to get sentimental, right? Besides, I’m a firm believer that giving a damn is for nurses, philanthropists, and suicide hotlines. Since I’m not any of these, I don’t burden myself with thoughts of what she’ll feel once she wakes up. I have too much shit on my mind to worry about.
My biggest concern at the moment is putting an end to my exile and resuming my life.
I’ll admit that the hiatus from my life has been fun. Hell, it’s been a blast, but after four months of living out of a suitcase and constantly moving from one small town to the next, from one shitty-ass hotel to the next, I’m sick and tired of this shit.
In all honesty, I think that anyone who chooses to spend a life in a small town has got to be bat-shit crazy. The silence, the niceness, the
feeling of everybody knowing everybody is maddening. The only thing keeping me from losing my mind is the fact that a handsome out-of-towner with a fancy sports car is like catnip for small-town lady parts. They get crazy and I get lucky like I’ve never gotten lucky before, which is saying a lot, since I’ve never been one to struggle to get laid. However, as fun as the whole sex-fest has been, I miss my apartment. I miss my friends. I don’t really miss my job, but I miss my life.
Determined to get it back, I call Dennis—my boss and father, in that order—while I enjoy the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, which consists of doughnuts and coffee. I get his voice mail and office secretary, but as per usual, no Dennis. I leave messages I know he’ll forget to respond to, slam my phone down on the tabletop, go get more coffee and search online for some inspiration as to where to go next. Within two minutes of searching, I give up.
Still a little buzzed from last night’s drinking binge, and experiencing a new level of annoyance toward my life and my father, I take a half empty bottle of Jack from my satchel and pour a large dose in my coffee.
“Jack Daniels: the cure to all evils,” I recite my favorite life rule out loud. The elderly couple sitting at the table next to mine give me the evil eye, making me consider introducing them to my middle finger.
“Sweet Home Alabama,” the only Lynard Skynard song I know, blasts through the speakers of the old stereo placed in the linoleum counter where the doughnuts are. That’s a state I’ve never been to, and it’s not that far from my current location, which is a couple of hours outside of Memphis.
I take another sip from my Jack and coffee and decide that since fate has decided to step in, I’ll let it. The next song will determine the town I’ll end up in Alabama. I have no idea how or if that’s going to work, but I’m going find out.
I refill my travel mug with coffee—and Jack—as the next song starts to play. Weirdly enough, it’s a song my mother loved, “Jolene,” by Dolly Parton. I walk to the table, where my phone is and type Jolene, Alabama in the GPS app. When the device informs me that such a place exists, I smile.
If fate is a real thing, which I’m now convinced it isn’t, this little stunt just qualified it as a son-of-a-bitch.
The road I’m driving down is so deserted it makes me feel like I’m living years into a zombie apocalypse, and that the few people still alive are hiding somewhere trying to survive—kind of like I’m doing now, in a roundabout way. To make matters worse, I just passed the sign welcoming me to Jolene, Alabama. Population: less than my high school graduating class.
After no less than a minute driving down Main Street, I realize that the zombie-apocalypse road was a mere preview of the weirdness of this speck of land. In the past four months I’ve been to a ton of small towns, but this one seems like something that came straight out of a sitcom, or a horror movie. I’m still undecided.
I’m well aware that I was left jaded by spending my entire life in a metropolis such as Seattle. However, it’s not possible for a place to be this picture perfect, and it’s for that reason that I don’t trust it. I don’t trust the people strolling the streets and talking under the canopies of manicured trees that line the sidewalk. There’s a town square with a white bandstand, and I even see a little girl with pigtails, a dog, and a cone of ice cream. I just spent five hours driving, and the hangover has worn off, which leads me to believe I’m really hungry and hallucinating.
All I want is to turn Greta—my beloved car—around, bolt out of this town, and tell fate it can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. But, unfortunately, Greta needs gas and I need food, otherwise we risk getting stranded on Zombie Road, and without a grocery store around, I may have to eat a zombie just to survive. Goddamned fucking shit!
After driving two more blocks, I finally see a Shell station on my left. There are only two gas pumps, and I’m amazed to see they are modern and digital, with a self-serve option and everything. I was expecting those old circular ones we now only see at museums, junkyards and in collectors’ homes.
I park Greta next to the second one, kill the engine, and step out into the sticky, unbreathable, hot air. My hands become clammy in seconds, and sticking one in my jeans pocket to retrieve my wallet becomes unnecessarily complicated.
One more reason to get the hell out of here.
“Good afternoon, Son. That’s a nice car you have there.” The raspy voice startles me as I program the pump. Or maybe it was hearing the word
being directed at me that caused me to jump. The last time I heard it was never. Dennis has always been a big believer in calling someone by their name, instead of the title they hold.