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  • Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    Ethical Aspects of Animal Husbandry
    by Craig Terlson

    A collection of short stories where the humour runs dark and the slipstream bubbles up.

     

    ...imagine if Raymond Carver called up George Saunders and Joe Lansdale, and they all went drinking with Neil Gaiman.

  • Correction Line
    Correction Line
    by Craig Terlson

    “… it's clear that Terlson is way ahead of the curve in terms of crafting an engaging premise that reaches for elevated territory and reinvents enduring archetypes of action and suspense.”  J. Schoenfelder


    "Sometimes brutal, often demanding and always complex, this novel will repay the reader who likes their assumptions challenged and is happy to walk away from a book with minor questions unanswered but the big ones definitely dealt with! It’s likely to satisfy those who enjoy Hammet and/or Philip K Dick and who like their fiction very noir indeed."   Kay Sexton

     

    "I love a novel that you can't put down, and this is one of them."  L. Cihlar

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Friday
Jun142019

As I feared...

Well, as I feared what may happen is that I got busy with other projects and have been letting this one slide.

Truthfully, as a writer it is hard to get read by anyone - I totally get it. I am bombarded by things, good things, that I plan to read, should read, want to read. But there's too much.

So with that, I am thinking of closing down Bent Highway. Sigh, yes, again.
But if you are reading it, and digging it, and do really want some more chapters - then comment below, and I will consider.

Lately, it has felt just a bit like writing into the void. And again, I get it. That's what blogging is, hell that's what writing is.

Enough said. You want more, give me a shout.

Peace.

Sunday
Jun022019

Chapter Eight - Ditch

The hum of tires riding asphalt reverberated through my body, my skin vibrating like current running through wires. Chalk girl took another long pull on the bottle of Mezcal, finishing it. Ahead of us, Walt drove on, once in a while peering in the rearview to see if anyone was following – like, for instance a group of hat wearing men, or a Nascar lover with a shotgun.

“You went back, L?”

Sound felt disconnected again. It took a minute to realize it was Walt that asked the question. Damn sure that wolf-dog could talk.

Chalk girl slumped back in the seat.

“Just drive.”

My leg started to throb and a line of blood appeared under my jeans.

“Why does this keep happening?” I asked her.

She stared straight ahead.

“Where does he think you went?”

She turned and stared at me, studying my face.

“You really don’t know, do you?” She looked away again. “I guess that’s why you weren’t there this time.”

“Some things should not be revisited,” Walt said. “They will change but not in a way that you want.”

The line of blood on my leg thickened.

“Wait. The trailer fire – you were running.” A cut scene flashed through my head. Chalk girl in the field, eyes wide, tears streaming down her face, running toward me. I pounded the side of my head with my fists. “Damn. Sorry, it’s just not there.”

“I can make the change, Walt. I can do it.”

“The trying will take it’s toll,” Walt’s voice dipped down and became guttural. “We’re coming out.”

“What do you mean we’re—”

My voice was lost in the rushing wind that sliced through the car, and somehow, through my body. My veins rippled under the skin, blood being pushed upstream, against the normal flow. I blacked out. I think. Small explosions of light appeared in the darkness and the flash of a face that I recognized, but could not name, floated above me – or what I thought was above. It was if someone threw me in a washing machine and hit the spin button.

*    *    *

When light returned, I was upright, and walking down a gravel road. Ahead, a figure emerged from the ditch, her black jacket like a drop of ink against the vast wheat field behind her. She stood and waited until I reached her side.

“Where’s Walt? And that dog?”

“I guess we split at the rip. He might be up the road. Or he could be decades away. It happens.” She pointed to a crossroads in the distance. “You recognize that?”

“The road? This place? No, I don’t think so – why would I?”

“Well, it’s not in my memory. Rips sometimes take something from our past, or future… though that almost never happens. That’s where we come out. I am pretty sure I’ve never been around here before.”
She started walking and I followed. The wind picked up, a flashback to what happen before the rip – but this was a warm breeze, washing across the field, ocean-like. The blood on my leg had disappeared again.

“Where did Walt not want you to go?”

“You’ve been there – more than once. It’ll come back to you.”

“But he said you shouldn’t go there. That it would take its toll. What did—”

“Walt plays the father figure too much. And who would want a guy like that as a father any— shit, look out.”
The cloud of dust, which only seconds ago had appeared on the horizon, was now a white half-ton barrelling toward us. She grabbed my shirt and we both dove towards the ditch. We tumbled together down the side, skin burning against the gravel of the shoulder and then slamming into the soft dirt. Her elbow jammed into my eye, and pinlights filled my vision. She rolled away from me, and I glimpsed a line across the back of her neck, a healed over cut. Freshly healed over.

The ditch was only a few feet below the road. I got onto all fours, pain shooting across my back, and watched the truck skid to a halt. It did a police turn and gunned it. It felt so close, I swore I heard the pistons knocking. I waited to be pinned under the tires. Then, just like watching the pellets from the Nascar guy’s shotgun, bits of gravel hung in the air, then slowly arced away from the truck. It was like watching a ship split the water. The half-ton was only a few hundred yards away, and engine was revving hard – yet, it still hadn’t reached the ditch. My head turned, and I heard frames click, Zapruder-like, until I landed on her face.

“Who is it?”

The wind had suddenly picked up, and I barely made out her voice.

I clicked back to the truck. It had a decal on the side – it moved slow enough that I could study the letters that hovered above a roughly drawn paintbrush. Lester’s Paint and Repair. What the fuck? Lester? As in my mom’s lazy ass, bourbon drinking, wife-beating brother?

The truck did a slow skid and I ducked as the gravel floated above my head.

A man got out of the truck. He wore paint splattered overalls, a John Deere hat with even larger paint stains and tall shiny black shit-kickers. A Mexican lizard was stitched on each one. Whenever he’d come and visit, those cowboy boots were the only clean thing on him.

He towered above me on the edge of the road, slapping a tire-iron in his palm. What’s with all these people that think those are weapons?

He was talking but the words didn’t synch with his mouth.

“City — slicker — faggot.”

“Uncle Lester?”

My voice was small, lost in the now howling wind. He kicked at the road, spraying my face with tiny stones that sped up and slowed down. Something rumbled behind me. I turned, still in the frame-by-frame fashion, to the half-submerged figure behind me. She was sinking into the ground, which had opened up into a too neat, too smooth crevice. I heard the pair of shit-kickers step behind me, and the whish of a tire iron slicing through the air.  

The lips bowed and mouthed a word.

“Rip.”

Then she was gone.

My head made contact with a two-foot long bar of iron.

I leapt, fell, dove, spun into a black pit.

And I was gone too.

 

<<<<>>>>

 

New Chapters of Bent Highway will appear weekly (or more) at this blog.
Please, comment, share, or give a shout on twitter. (Or like the link on facebook... people are still on facebook, right?)

Direct links to all the chapters here.

Sunday
May262019

Chapter Seven - Mezcal

   

“Under seat.”
    Walt’s voice dipped down and warbled like he was going over those bumps in the highway that warn you that you’re drifting into the ditch.

    “Look,” he said. Again, his voice seemed like he coming from a broken radio.

    I reached under and pulled out a dusty bottle, no label, just some yellowish liquid. Oh yeah, and the worm curled up at the bottom, nice and neat and dead. Hopefully.

    “Mezcal.”

    “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. You don’t expect me to—”

    “Drink.”

    We hit a real bump on the highway and the bottle leapt out of my hand. I grabbed it before it flew into the front seat and nailed the dog creature, who had been staring at me since I picked up the bottle. I spun off the top. The fumes ground out the sides of my nostrils and ended up somewhere behind my eyes.

    “Understand.”

    So I guess Walt was going to give it to me one word at a time. A piss shiver ran through me, I nodded cheers to the dog-creature, tipped the mezcal bottle back and took a long swallow. To say it burned would not give enough credit – the liquid tore down my throat and incinerated everything left behind. Hmm, not bad. I had another long pull, letting the worm float toward my tongue, its bumpy exoskeleton banged against the sides. I brought the bottle down, swallowed and watched the worm float back to the bottom.

    The road became smooth. It didn’t even feel like we were driving any more. Telephone poles whipped by, creating a black and brown paint stripe against the sky, before they slowed down enough to notice small black birds balanced on the wires, and then sped up again.

    “Squeeze-time.”

    I gave my head a shake. It was a different voice. Shit, was that Walt? Or did the dog just say something?

    “What did you say, Fido?”

    I knew that wasn’t the name, but what the hell did I know.

    “Things will speed up and slow down. It can be hard on the head.”

    I leaned forward, blood rushed through my head. I looked up, watched the dog’s mouth move, and then fell back into my seat.

    “Say Walt – your crazy hooch is making the dog talk.”

    “A long rip on this part of the road. We’re riding it. Don’t trust what you see.”

    “Whatever. Bow-wow.” My voice was slurred. I felt like a sixteen year-old on his first drunk. How had that happened that fast? I closed my eyes. “Hey Walt, ask the dog why his kind hates cats so much.”

    A low chuckle.

    “Sound will change on you too. Hard to pinpoint the source. Waves echo and bounce along a rip, you will start to understand, but only when you are in tune.”

    I opened an eye and saw Walt’s lips moving not quite in sync with what he just said.

    “How come your voice is different? And this is the most I’ve heard you say at once. You just toying with me, Walt? Let it spill Chatty Kathy.” I sat up, pushed the heels of my hands against my temples. “Shit. You were going to tell me what just happened.”

    A car whipped past us going the other way, faster than a car should be able to go.

    “OK, let’s start with the guys in the hats. What was their deal?” I asked.

    “You are hearing all of what I say now. The gaps were not places you were aware of— but now, and on this part of the rip, while you are starting to understand, you can see and hear. Same as last time.”

    “I’ve been here before?” Now my voice warbled.   

     “You were down here twice. It happens.”

    “Down? Wait, it’s filling in now. We were in that bar, me and her. And someone was coming at me – the cowboy with the big-ass knife. But then it was you – coming fast from across the room. What did the cowboy see.”

    “It happens near rips. That’s how I first found them.” Walt reached across and stroked the dog-creature’s head.

    His words were matching his lips now, though the voice was different than the times before.

    “He doesn’t talk does he?”

    “Not usually.”

    My own voice had straightened out. Everything around me was in sharp focus. Fastest drunk I’ve ever had.

    “What happens by the rips, Walt?”

    “Aggression. Sometimes just people with bad tempers, arguments. Sometimes worse. The one you called the cowboy probably wasn’t even sure why he wanted to do it.”

    “Do what?”

    “I had to get you out of there. It wouldn’t have been good. She shouldn’t have taken you there.”

    Her white face drifted through my mind. I saw her handing me a drink, and then she faded in the ice.

    “Where is she now?”

    “Not sure. She didn’t follow.”

    I spun off the cap of the bottle without thinking and took a couple of swigs. I was either getting used to the fire, or all my nerve endings were fried.

    “What the deal with the booze?”

    “It helps. It fills in some things.”

    “What was that thing you told me? I know you said it before, and now it repeats in my head once in awhile.”

    "You straddle the line, your body, your blood, needs to be in both places.”

    Something tugged in the back of my brain, it was stronger than deja vu, I pictured myself at a bar, a line of glasses, and Walt repeating what he had just said. Outside my window a tall white globe rose on the horizon. At first I thought it was the sun, or maybe the moon. The sky was darkening. The letters formed into Texaco.

    “You’ve told me all this before. How will I know when this is new?”

    “The memory gaps will start to fade, but they won’t be gone completely. You’re not made that way. None of us are.”

    “But why? Why are we riding the rips? Who else is?”

    “Not as many as you’d think,” he said.

    Walt pulled our car into the gas station. A long sedan was pulled up next to one of the pumps, and a bright yellow Charger was next to that. I didn’t know much about cars, except Chargers. I’d always wanted one.

    “Wait a sec. Those fedora guys. Where – when were they from?”

    “Can’t really identify years on the highway, maybe the 40’s.”

    I pointed outside.

    “74 Charger. Last of the great muscle cars. I always wanted one too,” Walt said.

    “How do you—” I stopped and answered my own question in my head.

    We pulled in behind the Charger and the dog-creature let out a half-growl, half-bark, half-voice from the deep. I cranked my window down and poked my head out to get a better look at the vintage car. Though, I guess wherever, shit, whenever, we were it wasn’t an old car. Maybe we’d made a left turn at the 1940’s and ended up in the summer of love. No, wait, that was in the 60’s. Damn, should have paid attention during that American history class.

    I damn near decapitated myself on the window when Walt slammed it into reverse, spun into a two point turn. A blast echoed off the back of the car. The right tailfin, the one near just ahead of where my head used to be, disappeared. I looked out the front windshield and saw driver. He wore a Nascar hat, wife beater, and black Levis and held up a pump shotgun, levelled square with Walt’s forehead.

    Damn if time didn’t stand still.

    And I don’t mean it felt like it.

    It did.

    Then like someone released the pause button, there was a squeal of tires and Walt gunned it right toward the guy pointing the double barrel. He fired and I swore I saw every pellet zipping through the air. I waited for the windshield to explode, followed by Walt’s head, then mine.

    And waited.

    What the hell?

    The car swung out in a long arc and I watched the pellets float by. Walt reached across in front of the dog-creature, still cranking the wheel, popped open the passenger door and clipped Mr. Nascar. He spun around like a pissed off ferret, the gun flew out from his reach and he hit the ground. The gun went off again when it hit, but I couldn’t see where the blast went.

    “Damn. Knew I knew that car.” Walt’s huge hands gripped the wheel.

    Again, I found myself peering out the back window and watching a scene of two people exiting the Charger and bending over the guy laid out on the ground. His neck was bent at an angle that necks shouldn’t go.

    “How could you know them?”

    I studied Walt’s face, deep lines from his eyes led into the corners of his mouth. He was the type of guy where you didn’t know if he was a hard-living forty, or a fit sixty… or a two hundred year old fucking druid. No idea. He seemed taller outside, if that was possible. Behind the wheel he still looked like a big guy, but outside when he took on the fedoras he was massive.

    When he didn’t answer, I asked him again.

    “You mean you knew them from before?”

    “I’ve met a few others like them on the highway.”

    “Others? Wait – why are you doing it? Why are they…who are—”

    Questions knocked against the inside of my skull as I tried to take in what Walt had been telling me. Somehow this highway, and maybe others had places, rips, that led to another time. Einstein aside – could I even be thinking this? Okay, we were moving through space, and at the same time… time. Outside it had become too dark too fast.

    My head swam, and in a weird way I felt the effects of the mezcal seep into me again. I figured what the hell and grabbed the bottle. I took a long swallow and let the worm bob against my tongue. Then I swallowed the fucker.

    I didn’t do it as some macho thing. Walt had slammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop next to a lone hitchhiker. The headlights lit her white face glowing against a black leather jacket. The dog-creature gave a soft bark. I slid over in the seat as she joined me. She took the bottle from my hand.

    “Buy me a drink?”

 

<<<<>>>> 

 

New Chapters of Bent Highway will appear weekly (or more) at this blog.
Please, comment, share, or give a shout on twitter. (Or like the link on facebook... people are still on facebook, right?)

Direct links to all the chapters here.

Thursday
May162019

Chapter Six - Fedora

"What kind of vehicle is that mister?"

"Never seen one of those before."

"Says Ford on it – but not like one I ever saw."

"It's a truck," I told them.

"Like hell. No truck I've ever seen."

They took turns speaking and staring at first my truck, and then at me. The one with the baseball bat didn't speak. He just paced around the vehicle, or as they called it, vee-hick-kill.

"You guys on the way to some sort of show? A live play, or some weird renaissance fair thing, but out of 19--"

I stopped talking when the guy with the bat smashed out one of my headlights.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" The one with the squarest, biggest melon of a head, barely contained by a black fedora, pointed a finger at me through the open window.

"And what kind of words are those – ray nonsense?"

"You making fun of us, fella? You want some nonsense, we'll bring you some."

He smashed out another headlight. Then the guy with the tire iron tipped his grey fedora back and swung down on my hood. I pulled the door handle and smashed all my weight against it. I caught the lead fedora in the small of his back. He let out a whoomp sound and hit the asphalt. I sprang out of the truck without one single plan in my head.

"Grab the son of a bitch."

A fist swung toward me, and then a fiddle swept through the air. It clipped the side of my head and stung like hell. I felt a line of blood slide down my forehead. On reflex, I kicked out, caught somebody in the knee. I heard it crack. Whoever it was, they hit the ground with a scream. I tried a spin kick - don't know where the hell that came from, maybe some long ago martial art movie – and made contact with a face. When I tried another one, Tire Iron guy grabbed my ankle as I spun around in mid-air. He brought the hunk of metal down on my back. He was in a bad position, so it wasn't a full hit, which was a damn good thing. I stumbled, trying to hold it together.

In the midst of swearing and a rustle of bodies I was slammed against the truck, and then pinned like a kid's insect project. The end of the Louisville smashed into my guts, left me wheezing for breath. Spots of light hovered at the corner of my vision. I gasped for air, blood reached my nose and then my bottom lip. I pushed against the arms holding me, Louisville and tire-iron guy. They drove me back against the truck. It hurt like hell, but I figured if I could fight back, then they hadn't broke anything. Yet.

Lead fedora, the black-hatted fridge head, was up and breathing heavy into my face.

"Sammy. Pop the hood on this jalopy."

Fiddle-guy opened the truck door. He let out a whistle.

"Take a lookee at this." He swung his arms back at his friends.

"The hood Sammy."

"Yeah, well where the hell is it? I've never seen anything like this. Oh, here we go. What happens if I pull this?"

The hood popped just as another vehicle was heard coming down the highway. It was coming fast, engine revving, and all of us looked up. It was another antique looking one, but some sort of sports model, roadster, I think they were called.

Things moved slow and fast at the same time.

 The car fishtailed, slammed on its brakes and slid across the road. My attackers swore as gravel from the shoulder sprayed up, hit their chests and necks. A rain of pings sounded against my truck.

The man was up and out of the car, but not as quick as the dog through the window.

"What the hell?" Louisville man unpinned me and swung and missed at the beast as it leapt for his throat.

My arm throbbed. I knew that animal.

A shotgun was racked. Black fedora man stopped in his tracks. The man in front of the roadster was tall. No, he was gi-fucking-normous. He swung the gun around and fired at one of the antique car's tires. He pumped once, and shot out the other one's.

He racked it one more time and swung it back at us.

Nobody said a goddamn word.

A boot slid against the gravel. It sounded like an avalanche.

"Car."

He was talking to me.

"You want me to just leave the--"

"Car."

The dog had Louisville pinned on the ground, teeth bared, a low growl that sounded like violence could erupt at any second. The bat sat alone on the road. Black fedora man looked back at the other two. Fiddle guy still on the ground, cradling his knee, shook his head.

"We don't want any trouble there, big fella."

"Good."

"This one a friend of yours?"

The gi-normous man raised the shotgun so it was in perfect line with black fedora man, then slid it out in a small arc, pointing at each of them, dipping down to focus on the two not standing.

"Shit. He's going to kill us, Pete."

"Car."

My guts ached as I walked over to the giant's car. I went in the back door. The man walked back, keeping the shotgun trained on the four men. Once in the car, he whistled. The dog growled, bared his teeth again at Louisville – though with his eyes slammed shut he might not have seen it. Then another whistle, this one lower -- and the dog that looked like a wolf jumped through the window.

The driver spun a u-ball on the highway. I watched the fedoras through the back window. Nobody moved at first, then they all moved together. There were no motions towards us, nobody shook their fist and ran down the road like you might expect. They gathered around the one I kicked, helped him up, gave him his fiddle. They all dusted themselves off.

I leaned forward in the car.

"I heard your name is Walt."

"She calls me that."

I waited for more explanation, or even what his real name was. I know he was the one L had introduced me to, the one who had the way to escape. I was having a helluva time putting together, and it was really starting to piss me off. But I guess when Walt showed me whatever the fuck he showed me, my brain got scrambled. I hoped that wasn't a permanent thing, because I had kind of grown fond of knowing my A, B, C's, and the capital city of Slovenia. Did getting unleashed in time mean that I lost all the stuff I thought I knew? Or did I just figure out that none of it mattered one shit.

"Listen, Walt. Those guys in the cars and whacking sticks. Are they out on the highway like me? Did they go through a rip or did I? I need to get a foothold here. So, you wanna tell me what the fuck just happened? "

"Something that will always happen."

"What?"

The giant drove the car and refused to say anything else for miles.

"Walt, when am I gonna make sense of all this?"

"In time."

"I'm getting damn sick of that word."

 

<<<<>>>> 

 

New Chapters of Bent Highway will appear weekly (or more) at this blog.
Please, comment, share, or give a shout on twitter. (Or like the link on facebook... people are still on facebook, right?)

Direct links to all the chapters here.

Friday
May102019

Chapter Five - Truth

So chalk girl had a name, or an initial at least. I ripped the note off the steering wheel, slammed the truck door and cranked the engine. Drive. What the hell else was there to do? Lately, driving was the only constant in my life. The only thing that moved me forward.

I thought back to that day I had cut out from Harold and his Lime Green Slurpee. Or it might have been a Big Gulp, who knew, who cared? I had lived in the same town, with the same hockey rink, same bar, the same beer on tap, and the same shoe leather pizza. I stayed in the same place all those years, but I was still adrift, never really at home. After both my parents died and my sister left town for who the hell knows where, the sadness moved into a lingering depression, and then a deep apathy settled in and stayed.

I know a part of me longed for another time, any time, just not my time – I couldn't imagine an age that was any better than any other. I didn't long to go to a simpler time like the oldsters were always saying. The future wasn't that appealing either, with it's flying cars and pills that gave you a full meal in one swallow. But I wanted to live in some other time when life made more sense. Or at least something that was more beautiful, or maybe it was about more simple, or both. If I was honest, I didn't know what the fuck I was looking for. I just knew I had to get the fuck outta Dodge.

I didn't hit the road looking for adventure. I didn't have romantic notions of long twilight drives on open roads with stars shining down on me like God's pinpricks of truth or some crap like that. Truth was listening to the smack of a grasshopper nailing your windshield and brushing away his fronts legs with your wiper, or hitting a bump that used to be a racoon and now was part of the road. I was surrounded by life, fields of wheat, barley and mustard, creatures scooted through the long rows, birds overhead flew in arrow formations, swirling with wind. And there was death everywhere – hawks that plucked mice from the field, bobcats that ripped apart rabbits on the run, plants that withered and collapsed back into the very ground that birthed them.

I let my mind drift between those two states of being: alive and dead. Which one was I escaping from? I had done the alive thing for more than thirty years. I considered plowing into a speeding locomotive just to try the other state for a while.

I was in the midst of picking out which railway crossing when I met L.

It all came back, flooded in, the whole conversation, her face, those great lips, the smell of the bar in Clarksville. Everything.

     "You want to talk about it?"

     That was how she introduced herself.

     "You're assuming I have problems," I said.

     "We all do, but I think you have more than most." She sipped a glass of clear liquid. "But let's start with me saying that no matter what happens, you're not getting in my pants. Just put that the fuck out of your mind."

     "Fine with me." It had crossed my mind. "But what's the point of telling you anything? It could all be bullshit. A line of mistruth. I can pretend to me anybody."

     "Try me."

     I told her about my life the last few years. I started out trying to make it more interesting than it was – but then she reminded me of the pants comment. Right. So I laid it out. Bored as hell. Waiting for something interesting to happen, or someone to put a gun to my head, or possible do it myself.

     "What about you? What's your deal?" I asked.

     She drained her drink, motioned at the bartender and crossed her legs.

     "Similar story, maybe mine had a bit more rape and abuse in it. Fear creates a kind of boredom. So does anger."

     "So what did you do?"

     "Well, I thought about the bullet to the head approach. Until I met a guy who showed me the ultimate escape."

     "You're a junkie."

     "Sure, call it that. But not like you think. I met a man named Walt. He showed me a way to escape this plodding life, where one second follows another, and then that drips into a minute and hour, into a month and a year. Before you know it, you're in the rest home watching the Price is Right. And you actually give a fuck who wins the showcase."

     I laughed.

     "Never thought of it that way."

     I watched her drink for awhile.    

     "So who's this Walt guy? Can I meet him?"

     "Sure. But you'll have to get pissed first." She motioned to the bartender again, pointed to her glass and to me.

     A table full of shots and glasses of draft later, I fell into a wide crack in the floor – that's the only way I can describe it. I don't remember much of the journey through it, dark outlines of people, a lot of country music. As weird as it all was, the twangy guitars and vibrating mandolins made sense. I landed in the middle of a field – or I stood up in one anyway.

     It was high noon, just like in that old oater. I swore I heard a clock ticking, but it could have been a mind-retina burn from the movie. A tall figure came toward me, walking through waving prairie grass. A wolf trotted beside him. When he was just about on me, I saw that the wolf was just a dog, or at least part dog. Icy blue eyes stared at me like I would look good with a gash in my throat.

     I glanced behind me. Chalk girl had not followed me into the crack.

     "Sun."

     The voice rippled through the air, a deep bass that I felt in my chest. I bent my neck, held my hand across my eyes and peered into a dagger of light.

     "Son."

     I couldn't figure out if he was talking to me, the dog, or just pointing out the obvious. Just then the ground swelled underneath me, I lost my balance as it rolled. Flat on my back, I felt a series of diminishing ripples move under me and away. It was like being on a small boat. Except I wasn't.

     "Wave."

     I stood, my knees still a bit shaky, getting my sea legs, in a wheat field.

     "Where is this?" The field stretched out in every direction, not a building or a road in sight.

     "Straddle the line, your body, your blood, needs to be in both places."

     I was surprised when the giant man strung together so many words. I gave my most intelligent response.

     "What?"

     The dog moved toward me and I flinched.

     "Both places."

     I relaxed as the animal brushed up against me, nuzzled my hand just like the German Shepherd I had as a kid. Something flashed in the hand of the giant that Chalk Girl called Walt. I let out a scream that I didn't know I was capable of producing.

 

 

     I clenched the steering wheel remembering the pain. Was it the blade or the dog's teeth that sunk into my arm? And what happened after that?

     I was shaken out of the memory as I braked to avoid a couple of cars crossing the highway. They must have been on their way to an antique show. I never was a car guy, but I guessed these were from the forties, and still in mint condition.

     Now that I thought of it, which city were they headed toward that would have a car show? And why didn't I remember the highway being this rough before? I flicked on the radio to try and catch a local station. More country twang of course, but at least this had a bit of a swing to it.

     "Well there you have it ladies and gents, that new sound we've been hearing a lot of lately, from Bob Wills and a fine group of fella's called the Texas Playboys. Sweet sweet melodies."

     New sound? I recognized the name and was pretty sure the guy they mentioned had been dead for years, decades even.

     I leaned over to twist the dial, my hand stopping as I slammed on the brakes. The two antique car owners had turned their cars around and formed a barrier across the road.

     My truck squealed to a stop. Two men got out of each car. White shirts and suspenders, sharp creased pants with neat cuffs, all of them wearing fedoras, all of them smoking. But what most caught my eye was the tire iron one of them carried. Another slung a Louisville slugger over his shoulder, the third guy held clenched fists at his sides. The last guy held a fiddle, but not like he was about to play it.

 

<<<<>>>> 

 

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