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Fiction

Road Trip


In my enlightened state, I am ten Chinese men with an Abacus.


This is not just a trip, this is the trip. If my Sophomore Calculus teacher could see me now, I’d get an A. That simpleton Einstein be damned with his Theory of Relativity, I’m solving Riemann’s hypothesis. Put that in your pipe and toke on it, Albert.


I wipe dust from the lenses of my shades.


I stare in the rearview.


My pupils, dark, black flying saucers stare back at me.


In front of my ragtop, the school bus burps exhaust clouds and turns West at the light. I almost follow, something about heading West, but I keep to the crooked road, North.


Above the horizon a vapor trail reminder of a jet transforms into the shape of a New Years' dragon, its horned head hisses, its tail curls tight into a question mark.


Fireworks, smoke, endless days of revelry, food, drink, point North to Grand Strand.


I ask my passenger to kindly fasten his seatbelt, hold on, Nellie, “Prepare for takeoff,” I say shading my eyes with the mirrored aviators.

Six cups of double-caffeinated expresso pulses through my veins. Rich, high-octane racing fuel, shoved, shoveled, gorged… into the combustible chambers of a one-purpose machine. My mind races.

Speed, A-me-hoe, that’s what we need,” said my trusted companion on all trip’s psychedelic, Enrique Montanan, his brown fingers white-knuckled against the dash of the Coupe de Ville.

“No thanks,” I say in an unknown tongue, “The coffees doing the trick.” The words come out part ancient Egyptian, part binary, a series of dots and dashes, ones and zeros morph themselves into black and white pictorials before my eyes. The hieroglyphics of a future language expand. The cartoon projects on the de ‘Ville’s windshield, the predecessor of the dash-cam, the fighter-pilots pop-up display.

“All in a day’s work,” I think to myself.

“What you say,” says Rique.

I hadn’t said, only thought.

EUREKA! I thought. In my enlightened state, my mind converted thought to sound, waved them out to the universe, sharing my genius…

My thoughts appear like a cheap magic trick. The heat from the sun’s rays bakes the fog from the cloud around my brain. Invisible ink appears in a balloon.

I am cerebral! 

“Eureka, that’s in NoCal, Brudda,” he says, “Unless you mean Eureka Springs.” A brief pause as his mind flips through pages of fifth-grade geographical literature. My New Age mind imagines him, searching through notes, scribbled in number two pencil, the ghost of long-ago graphite words between the lines, outside the margins, smudged by his fat fingers come to life…Microseconds pass before I hear him say, “Arkansas. Sure, if you wanna, but we need to turn west.”

I project my thoughts, North, over the river, and through the woods. Myrtle Beach perhaps, the land of the Canadian Tourist, Endless Calabash Buffets, Microcosms of a game played with a stick and a ball…My mind remembers windmills and clowns, Mini-golf. 

 He’s thrown in a tape of Iron Butterfly. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida attacks the air inside the de ‘Ville. He’s tone-deaf to my thoughts.

“SPEED,” he says again and insists we need all things amphetamine. Stimulation, energy, endless days without sleep. These things he tells me, essential for a road trip of this magnitude, wherever the destination, California, or Arkansas.

“TURN LEFT, young man,” he shouts.

He grabs the wheel and rotates it West. The axis center responds and the flying de ‘Ville transforms from fowl.

We fishtail.

The elongated orb that is the de ‘Ville turns left, crosses the line, short-strokes to a stop in the parking lot of an all-night diner.

A neon sign flashes - Chicken & Tuna.

We go inside. The waitress brings water. We hadn’t ordered. Rique’s mouth sealed, his voice mute. My mind hadn’t yet projected the thought of water.

Another dimension, I think, calculating how much we have to spend on food, drink, body sustenance for the trip.

Rique sips. I see the muscles of his throat expand and contract as the liquid flows from mouth to stomach.

“Speed,” he says. “Is this the place?”

I ignore him.

The waitress comes, hands us menus. Again, without thought, or verbalization from Rique, or me.

Rique opens his, flounders around a bit, says, “Tuna melt, two, on wheat, toasted.”

She looks at me.

I think, Chicken basket, white meat…

She stares at me.

I try to hide my thoughts, but my mind can’t resist the joke, I’m a breast man. It follows white meat without a comma.

She doesn’t blink.

She asks me something. “Whatta you having, Sir?”

I stare back. Give her my order again, The Chicken Basket, White Meat, write it down if you can’t remember…

She taps her pencil on the table. A professional she drums the eraser so as not to break the business end of her livelihood. It’s a number two, well-worn, the graphite sharp, teeth mark’s visible on yellow…

I have sudden thoughts of a youthful version of myself and her, both of us less well worn with more hair and teeth, the non-sag versions of our present carbon-based caricatures, walking up the steps of the Number Nine bus at the corner of Jones and Harrison. Number Nine was the same color as the waitress’s pencil and her teeth marks reminded me of chipped paint, rust, the declining state associated with age, fast living, addictions, the general misuse, and overutilization of all organic objects.

Band practice over, she places the pencil in her mouth, chews it a moment.

I’m light-years away from the diner, watching her gnaw a pencil along a pot-holed road on the way to West Elementary. I grab at the thought that radiates from my mind, but it imprints itself in a balloon rising from my head. I tighten my grip on the string and reel it in, but the helium-filled thing expands, floats above me, flashing about her possible other oral fixations.

“What’ll it be, Mister,” she says.

Again, I think thoughts of Chicken.

She grabs the menus and heels off.

Ten minutes go by before she returns with Rique’s sandwiches.

He eats in silence.

I think, yes, a thumb-sucker this one.




July 02, 2021 15:10

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4 comments

Jadon Ng
05:34 Jul 09, 2021

Hi, your story was part of my critique circle, so I'm here to leave my comments. Love the way you use descriptions, how your protagonist is perceiving everything around him and think's he's doing high-level math or entering different dimensions each time. Speaking of your protagonist, he's almost full of himself? Per se? I like how he thinks of himself as a telepathic genius when he's probably just high(?) in reality. That being said, it did take me a while to figure out what was happening. To confirm it, he's on a road trip with his buddy...

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Dr Stafford
20:21 Jul 09, 2021

Jadon, Thanks for the critique. The piece started out as a single word I was fixated on, Abacus. Someone at lunch one day asked, "What's the name of that thing...." it got stuck in my head, so, being too hot and humid to mow the lawn I opened up my Chromebook and wrote the first thing that came to me. Continued on a bit from there, saw the writing prompt, and thought I might conjure up something acceptable. It is disjointed, more than I wanted it to be, but being under the gun timewise, it was sent in as is, or lose the opportunity. ...

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Dr Stafford
20:21 Jul 09, 2021

Jadon, Thanks for the critique. The piece started out as a single word I was fixated on, Abacus. Someone at lunch one day asked, "What's the name of that thing...." it got stuck in my head, so, being too hot and humid to mow the lawn I opened up my Chromebook and wrote the first thing that came to me. Continued on a bit from there, saw the writing prompt, and thought I might conjure up something acceptable. It is disjointed, more than I wanted it to be, but being under the gun timewise, it was sent in as is, or lose the opportunity. ...

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Dr Stafford
20:22 Jul 09, 2021

Jadon, Thanks for the critique. The piece started out as a single word I was fixated on, Abacus. Someone at lunch one day asked, "What's the name of that thing...." it got stuck in my head, so, being too hot and humid to mow the lawn I opened up my Chromebook and wrote the first thing that came to me. Continued on a bit from there, saw the writing prompt, and thought I might conjure up something acceptable. It is disjointed, more than I wanted it to be, but being under the gun timewise, it was sent in as is, or lose the opportunity. ...

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