Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Far Out Trip on Interstate 10

Michael Sedano

Marvin Hendrickson sits up suddenly alert. “Red” is about to call it a night and deadhead back to H.Q. when the open road materializes into a dark glistening blur racing East on the 10. The trooper figures he’s been counting flowers on the wall and spaced out, otherwise that damn thing came out of nowhere.

Red thrills at the push of gravity when the roaring engine races down the onramp, the vehicle an extension of his determination. They say shit like that in training.

Betsy Ross smiles when white headlights swing onto the pavement off the fast-disappearing Tonopah ramp behind the Tesla. Betsy nudges Andrea. Andrea speaks quietly, “start recording.” Betsy slows and eases over to the side of the road where she puts the Tesla in park.

Marilyn Hendrickson’s red-headed youngest boy-child smiles at two bobble heads in the vehicle. Women drivers are the best kind of stop. They all cry, and with the really desperate ones, you can get lucky. And here we are in the middle of nowhere, not calling it in, just us girls. Marvin remembers his Training Officer’s drawling advice, “Boy, you’d be surprised how many college girls like that back seat boogie instead of a moving violation.”

Marvin’s mind runs through a dozen scenarios, none nice at all, as he walks slowly to the silent luxury wheels. Give them time to sweat. Marvin grins at the thought of the women’s asses sweating into their panties.

The trooper stops at the rear license plate. The driver’s window rolls down silently. Marvin reads loudly, “Californicate”, adding, “now there’s a suggestion.” The Tesla wears current tags and all its lights shine steadily. The passenger window remains up, the bobble head unmoving.

Hendrickson’s thick-soled boots lift his height and his ego. He steps heavily to coax a crunch from the deep roadside gravel. The two bobble heads don’t move a muscle. “Do not move.” He adds, “Please.” Marvin feels his command presence already cowering the bobble heads, he can afford to be courteous. Red feels a pang of disappointment when neither head twitches. Neither turns to him when he marches to a stop at the door.

Marvin’s heart races and his groin warms. Even in the enclosing darkness of the fancy car’s interior the passenger’s golden-blonde beauty glows as if illuminated from within. That dress hides nothing. Her seatbelt is attached, point for her, and stretched diagonally across two exciting breasts. Two points for me. Driver’s belted.

Trooper Hendrickson didn’t like Mexicans and he especially didn’t like Mexican women driving hundred thousand-dollar cars. Hot as the blonde friend is, that doesn’t cut the dowdy dark-brown bitch any slack. Red has a sour taste in his nostrils that a second before smelled of a flowery musk perfume.

“Papeles,” pause, “License, registration, proof of insurance. English?”

The bitch remains silent but turns to establish direct eye contact with Marvin. He doesn’t move. The woman’s eyes move slowly down the khaki uniform. Marvin’s hand grows warm around his Glock when her eyes pause. The nondescript brown woman sweeps her gaze to focus on Hendrickson’s ornate bull riding belt buckle. She exhales slowly and locks her eyes on Marvin’s. His hand tightens around the Glock. It is ice cold.

“My license is in the white purse in the back seat.”

The driver’s lips don’t move. Marvin can’t identify the accent under the soft voice he hears. The trooper leans his head into the window for a better look at the blonde. She has turned her head to stare into the open desert. Good goddamn she is fuckable as they come. The blonde’s shoulders start, her hands grip her hot white thighs where that short red skirt has ridden up.

“Ma’am, do you have ID?”

What’s she doing with the beaner? The driver’s hands squeeze the steering wheel. Furtive movement. Red Hendrickson reflexively jumps back pointing at the driver shouting, “Bitch, keep your hands on the steering wheel!” Just like training, Marvin thinks, as his hand unsnaps the holster and in the same motion pulls his Glock.

Andrea says nothing but turns to look at the shadowed face of the trooper, her expressionless face bright against the dark glass behind her. Marvin steps forward, expecting compliance, his adrenaline wary for any threat.

The driver bitch stretches her fingers. Marvin jumps back again, again he raises the pistol, this time he points the muzzle at Betsy Ross. His thumb twitches against the safety lever. One in the chamber, nine rounds in the magazine. Red feels powerful, the look in his eyes says, “Go ahead, make my day.” The bitch is a statue.

Aiming at the driver’s frozen face, Marvin moves around the front of the shiny Tesla. Scuttling his feet in the sand as if wary of a sting ray in the surf, Marvin's empty thoughts chant “Choo, choo, choo.” He stops and faces the Tesla.

“Get out of the car.”

He hears himself issue the command automatically. Marvin feels as if he’s watching himself watching as the gull-wing door lifts in a smooth arc in a cloud of perfume. He watches eagerly a pair of diaphanous legs swing out the door.

Andrea Ross remains silent as Betsy eases her Tesla back onto the 10. Betsy was right, and Andrea doesn’t feel like confessing her glee to be wrong.

Five miles to the Tucson cut-off, hoping not to suffer the silent treatment all the way to El Paso, Betsy decides to take the gentle approach.

“So the center-fold blonde body works better than your J-Lo, que no?” When Andrea doesn’t reply, after a few miles Betsy adds, “You look good in uniform, mi’ja.”

Andrea doesn’t say a word. The pale red-headed Arizona trooper sitting next to Betsy pats his Glock. The uniformed trooper fades into shadow to be replaced by brown Andrea, glowing and brunette in a shining red hootchie dress.

“That’s a hell of a lot of trouble for bad-tasting country food, Mom. But I did get a kick out of his final thoughts.” Andrea touches the screen.

Red Hendrickson stands paralyzed in soft off-screen glow that brightens with its approach. He looks into the camera and thinks, “Uh-oh, I done fucked up good this time.”

“Well, duh, you think so?” Betsy Ross laughs.

“There’s the cut-off Mom. Speed it up, I’m hoping for some Indian food.”

“Did you say you Hopi?”


The bubble gum lights had warned-off helpful spectators until the cruiser’s battery died sometime before 0421 hours, when Sergeant Ernie Zeferino hung a U across the divider and parked behind the darkened Dodge Charger. Red Hendrickson, major fuck-up, failed to make end-of-turn muster. No wonder I have to come out here and find his ass. Add poor maintenance to his credits.

Marvin H. “Red” Hendrickson, Class A fuck-up, was nowhere in sight. Only a total idiot can get lost in those flatlands. Ernie doesn’t bother to get to higher ground. Not a case of lost anymore. Search and rescue has the job now, I have mine: Two cruisers by the side of the road, two disappeared troopers. Now number three lands on my watch. Fake news, but someone’s gotta investigate, disconnect the fucking dots.

“Gallup, Flag, and now right here in Tonopah,” Billy Martinez takes notes. Two miles east of Tonopah Road. The City Editor is having a bad day with the network down and needs Billy to gumshoe the state troopers for any information on Red Hendrickson. Sergeant Zeferino has lead.

That’s why the City Editor called me in. Asshole. Billy counts three before measuring his response. He’s my padrino from Confirmation. Pause. Swallow. He’s not part of my life. The sealed lawsuit picks away at Martinez’ brain. The City Editor ignores the cub reporter’s discomfort. “Go out there and get some news, Nosy Bear!” Take a lens and get me some art on scene.” Ha, ha, Billy thinks bitterly, nosy bear and art.

Jimmy Olsen couldn’t get anything interesting out here. Billy Martinez looks across the flatlands and counts three species of chamizo, the bush semi-informed anglos call saltbush. That’s what they see. Billy identifies three species of Atriplex. Jimmy likes facts. Right now, it is one hard and true fact there is nothing to photograph where Zeferino found the car. Presumably, the trooper disappeared here, too. Billy scuffs his feet in the road litter, “choo choo” skips in and out of his head before he hears a voice echo, “Use the force, Luke.” William hears himself say the words aloud.

“Choo Choo Choo Choo,” Billy’s feet scuffle through the sand turning up detritus where technicians had taken plaster casts of top-line Michelins, a Tesla. Martinez rehearses the facts in the report. Red Hendrickson’s Cat’s paw heels track to the driver side of the imaginary Tesla. Red stops. Next, the soles head around the invisible Tesla where Hendrickson stops. Evidence techs lift a plaster heel print from the packed earthen berm off the front of the imagined Tesla. Red Hendrickson must have stood here and looked into the windshield with a full view of the interior and the Suspect, or Suspects, the report concludes.

Martinez squats like a Korean campesino and stares into the hard noontime light. The empty distant roadway shimmers with rising heat waves that resolve into a low-slung Tesla speeding out of the night. What did Red Hendrickson see that night?

Billy opens a flood of imagination. The Harpies, Eagle-clawed women swooping out of the heavens seizing you and carrying you away. The stories of kids who go around a mountain trail and disappear and all their desperate parents hear is their baby’s voice screaming mommy mommy coming from the air somewhere. Did a chupacabra snatch Red? Facts, Billy says aloud, facts.

Billy Martinez rolls out of the kimchi squat to lie on his back. He points the lens at the edge of the berm and visualizes that moment three nights before. Red is standing on his right foot, his left knee bends with that leg on the berm. The night sky filled with stars, there wasn’t a moon, what did Red see when he looked into that Tesla? Billy’s vision blurs. The landscape is a painted canvas that deforms and is sucked into a vacuum hose leaving only darkness. The reporter struggles to gather the facts that unfold before him.

Red scuffles his boots around the front of the Tesla. Outlined by the cruiser’s beams, the Tesla’s color changes like a chameleon with prismatic skin throbbing in and out of visibility with bursts of impossible color.

The image in the trooper’s mind makes William gasp, his breath kicking a fine sand into his nose.

Marvin Hendrickson’s nose wants to sneeze. Where’d that come from, fuckin chameleon skin? Prismatic, what the fuck is prismatic? The blonde is smiling at me. The wing doors opening slowly, a praying mantis. A foot touches the ground, a creamy alabaster calf. Here she comes.

Red looks down. His trousers bundle around his ankles.

“I did that.”

Red hears a sweet melodious voice, innocence with a sinful smile in it. But the golden blonde woman rising from the Tesla doesn’t say a word. She stands in darkness, her naked body emitting an inner glow.

Marvin Hendrickson’s mouth falls open in an epiphany of clear-headedness.. The glowing naked figure wavers like highway mirages before parachuting out in a translucent jellyfish mantle wearing a sparkling red hootchie dress. The billowing Andrea collapses around the off-balance deputy. Red Hendrickson tumbles over the berm landing face first in the sand. The cool wet skin coating him begins to burn. “Uh-oh, I done fucked up good this time. I can’t breathe.”

Technically, his last words are “I can’t breathe,” Betsy added, but let’s go with uh-oh.”

Andrea keeps the deputy’s body as her own for an hour while she digests the shiny belt buckle with only a little discomfort. She decides to keep the J-Lo body. As Betsy argues, the sexpot look has universal functionality. The blonde looks cheap. Why Betsy insists on taking her grizzled litigator look remains Andrea’s lasting puzzle. It explains the lean and hungry look.

Cub Reporter William Martinez lies face first in the sand smelling Red’s astonishment. His nose sneezes loudly. Sand and grit blow back into his face. Billy opens his eyes and turns and raises his nose toward clear air. He puffs and spits sand over the berm. Down here, this wicked patch of earth smells of Chanel 21 and shit. Billy can’t get the movie out of his head. The hootchie blonde sweats a cloud of Chanel 21 that materializes into that shimmering medusoid mantle collapsing onto the paralyzed uniform. Coated in throbbing jello that insinuates itself into every fold and crevice of the trooper’s body like a shrink wrap machine, the writhing figure melts into the mantle.

Where did that come from?, Billy wonders. The reporter sits cross-legged leaning against the berm, blowing sand off the lens when tires pull off the road onto the sand behind him. Over his shoulder, Billy makes out a dazzling Tesla coming to a stop. A good Samaritan, Billy smiles. People are good.

1 comment:

Concepcion said...

Delightful! Gracias, Michael!