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« Chapter Eight - Ditch | Main | Chapter Six - Fedora »
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?”

 

<<<<>>>> 

 

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