Monday, June 10, 2013

River (Pt. II, revised)


Driftwood hadn't finished --he wasn't even close --when Flo gave out with a gasp and hung suspended above him, shuddering like a landed fish. Her face contorted as if in agony, blind eyes open wide. A short eternity passed while Driftwood observed and calculated. Then it was over.

She tumbled into the passenger seat.

Driftwood dropped his head back and grinned, watching as she pulled her skirt down over her knees.

She leaned against the passenger door, breathless. Her eyes darted toward him, but he looked away from her and peered at the sky through the windshield. The day promised to be bright. He pulled a pair of sunglasses from off the sun visor and put them on. She was still watching him.

"We need gas," he said. "I got the can and hose in the trunk." He swiveled his head, scanning the area for a car to siphon.

She seemed to be waiting, but he didn't say anything. "Did I surprise ya?" she asked, finally.

He peered at her over the top of the sunglasses. "Sweetheart," he said, "it wasn't no surprise. I knew how it was gonna go between you and me the moment I laid eyes on you." He winked.

Her half-smile dried up and blew away and Driftwood was satisfied that she understood him well enough. If she'd sensed the knife sheathed at his shin, it hadn't slowed her down any. It didn't matter anyway. He knew she knew about it --about the knife --and that was what was important.

They sat in silence. Turbulent waters roiled beneath the surface of Flo's face.

"Where we going?" she asked, finally.

He didn't look at her. "Followin' the river," he said. He hooked his thumb northward. She sank back into silence.

A scene developed through the windshield. Joggers in sweatsuits ran along the esplanade. A young man with a shaved head pedaled a tricycle rickshaw up the bike path that ran away to the south. Near the drinking fountain, Driftwood saw Eddie slumped on a bench. An old Mexican woman in skirts and shawl stood near the makeshift restaurant speaking to two dark-skinned children. She pointed a crooked finger toward the car where Driftwood and Flo sat. The rosary beads around her neck danced. The children looked from her to the car, then back to her, their faces solemn. 

"What about him?" Flo asked. She nodded in Eddie's direction.

Driftwood shrugged.

"This is where he was going" she said. "Portland."

Driftwood shrugged again. "Looks like he got here," he said.

"It's his car," she said.

His smile was broad and lurid. "I don't know about that, honey. But I know he ain't drivin'," Driftwood said. He saw by the way she frowned that she was thinking about the knife.

She'd seen it when he was washing it in the sprinkler at the rest area where he'd first found them. She was standing near the public restroom watching as he held the blade in the water. He'd seen how her eyes had devoured it--the sleek steel blade, the bolstered handle, the serrated spine. She was held transfixed as Driftwood rubbed away the dark stains with his thumb. She saw the knife before she ever saw Driftwood's face. That was good.

More people arrived on the esplanade. A family stood at the trailer ordering food from the Mexican behind the counter. Beyond them, Eddie was speaking with the bald rickshaw driver. The steady stream of joggers swelled.

"This is not a good place for gas," Driftwood said. "I'm going to find some." He pulled the handle of the door and put a foot outside on the blacktop. Eddie and the rickshaw driver looked his way.

Driftwood paused. The car key was not in the ignition. He pursed his lips in thought.

To be continued... 

Read Part I here.Read Part II here
Read Part III here
Read Part IV here.
Read Part V here
Read Part VI here
Read Part VII here
Read Part VIII here
Read Part IX here.  
Read Part X here
Read Part XI here
Read Part XII here.  
Read Part XIII here
Read Part XIV here
Read Part XV here.  
Read Part XVI here
Read Part XVII here
Read Part XVIII here.

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