by Mark Spencer


Rick squints through the dirty windshield at the narrow road, a splash of gray in the headlights. He turns at every crossroad, then finds himself descending a long Kentucky hill, no driveways, no houses, no barns, no shacks--nothing on either side, just a continuous drop, trees close to the crumbling edges of the asphalt. Finally, he hits bottom and crosses a one-lane, wooden bridge over a frozen creek. Then, abruptly, he's at a dead end.

Huge pines cancel out the light of the moon and stars. The Marquis's headlights reveal tree trunks, a barbed-wire fence, and what looks like a tractor lane or maybe just a footpath. He begins turning Walter's goddamn boat of a car around and hits a tree stump, then a fence post. He bites his lip, squints into the side-view mirrors, swears.

He's gotten the car partially turned when the back tires abruptly drop into a steep ditch. They spin against grass and dirt as he gently taps the gas pedal. He stops trying, sighs, smacks the steering wheel. Then his foot smashes the gas pedal, the engine roaring so loud he can't hear himself screaming, until the tires are spinning in air. After he lets his foot off the gas, he just breathes and trembles for a while as the car idles warily, and the mingled sounds of the engine's roar and the tires' whine echo through the hollow.

He pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. The screen says "NO SERVICE." He laughs, decides it doesn't matter. Who would he call anyway? And he doesn't even know where he is.

He rubs his face, looks bleary-eyed out at the darkness.


He jerks awake. The heater is still blowing hot air on his shins. The car stinks of Brut aftershave and Ben Gay.

He thinks of Walter lying face down on the frozen grass and Linda kneeling beside him and screaming like a sorority girl in a slasher movie.

Rick pushes that image out of his mind by thinking about the Goth girl he picked up before he went to Walter's to confront Linda again, the way Goth Girl's nipples were as dark in contrast to her pale skin as her deep-purple lips, the way her breath caught when he reached into her black skirt. He looks at his hands. On his left hand is some of Walter's blood. He raises his right hand to his nose, and he can still smell Goth Girl.


You're God. You're God."

Rick caresses her, but her flesh feels like plastic, and he starts shivering. "It's so damn cold in here."

He wakes up shivering, freezing. The Marquis is no longer running. The windows are frosted over, the sun shining through the ice crystals and dappling the beige vinyl seats with rainbow colors. The wind beats against the car.

When he tries the ignition key, it's no good. The gas gauge is on "empty." He rubs his face. He hugs himself against the cold, watches his breath dissipate against the windshield.

He shoves the door open, gets out. The sky is hard blue, and the sun hurts his eyes. He looks at Walter's car, the dents he put in it with a hammer, the spray-painted phrases: "BOLD DICK! HAPPY NEW YEAR!" Rick vandalized it yesterday morning in Walter's driveway by painting "OLD DICK" on it. When he went back last night, Linda had painted the "B" in front of "OLD" and added the "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" He had a hammer in the tool box of his pick-up and decided to use it. Pretty soon after Rick got started, Walter came out of his house and handed him the keys and, in his polite and shaky old man's voice, asked Rick to take the car to his shop and repair everything. He even said "please." But Walter ended up lying on the frozen ground, and Linda was screaming, and Rick took off in the Marquis because it was a few yards closer than his truck and the police sirens were coming fast. At least, that was the reason he gave himself at first for taking the Marquis, but now he thinks he maybe took it because Walter took Linda. Either way, Rick considers himself stupid or nuts.

Near him, nailed on top of one of the fence posts is a rusty mailbox. On its side is a name in black paint: Pugh. About a hundred yards away, on the other side of the rusty barbed-wire fence, are a sagging black barn and a run-down, one-story house with a low tin roof, wispy rags of smoke rising from a crumbling brick chimney.

A gust of wind shoves him toward the house, and he turns up the collar of his coat. A loose sheet of tin bangs on the roof. A dozen cats come at him, crying. A frayed power line swings and crackles and sparks where it makes a tenuous connection to the house. In the yard a thirty-year-old Chevy pick-up sits cock-eyed with a flat tire.

He glances at the barn, then immediately looks at it again. He squints at it, touches his chest with his blood-stained finger tips.

Taking a deep breath, which hurts his chest, he continues on toward the house, looking back a couple of times at the barn. Near the house, below the sparking power line, a dead cat lies on the ground, stiff, fangs bared, front paws scorched.

Rick's boots are loud on the wooden porch. When he knocks, a small glass window in the door rattles. He can see a living room with light from the fireplace flickering over the florid wallpaper and dark, heavy furniture.

He waits and gently kicks the cats away. He knocks again. A spark sizzles down from the power line. He looks at the barn, stares. Turning back to the door, he tries the doorknob. It's locked.

He looks at the Chevy pick-up, then at the barn again and sees a rusty gas can near the big, closed doors and heads across the weed-stubbled yard. Liquid slushes inside the gas can. He unscrews the cap and sniffs.

He looks toward the house, at the smoke coming out of the chimney. He puts the gas can down and swings open one of the barn doors and steps inside. Hogs squeal and bang against the sides of a wooden pen. Rick blinks as his eyes adjust to the dimness.

The hogs are starved looking and wild-eyed, lifting their snouts toward him, begging and trying to bite.

In another pen a dead cow lies on its side, its neck awkwardly stretched away from its body, its eye wide open, its tongue lolling out.

"What the hell?" Rick says aloud.

He turns away and finds himself stepping into cobwebs. He spits and slaps the cobwebs from his face and hair and coat. Then he sees it--what he sensed, felt, when he first saw the barn. Near the wall opposite the doors is a car covered by a black tarp. It's barely visible in the shadows. He steps back to the entrance and opens the other door to let in more light.

Then he approaches the car, wide-eyed. It's the shape of a roadster. He licks his lips.

He touches the tarp, then looks around toward the open doors. The pigs are grunting but not going crazy any more.

His hands tremble a little as he begins to lift the tarp. When he exposes the front bumper and grill, the shock of what he sees causes him to drop the tarp and stagger back. "Jesus. Sweet Jesus."

He steps toward the car and gently and slowly lifts the tarp farther back, his hands shaking.

When the car is completely uncovered, he steps back to take it all in.

A 1956 Mercedes SL 300 Gull Wing.

The white paint lacks luster, but there are only small spots of rust around the wheel wells and a couple of small bubbles of rust on the chrome bumpers.

"Sweet Jesus."

He reverently opens the Gull Wing doors: the driver's door first, lifting it up slowly, then walks around the back of the car to open the passenger door, lifts it up. Then he steps back.

"Sweet Jesus."

He steps close again and lays hands on the hood, closes his eyes for a moment. Then he opens the hood and tentatively, shyly, touches a belt, a hose.

He steps back from the car, takes in its lines, its whiteness. He can see what it will look like restored. His vision is so vivid that it's as though the job is already done. He sees it sitting beneath the bright lights of his body shop, his life-size poster of Marilyn Monroe, naked and smiling, on the cinderblock wall above it.

He removes the cover of the carburetor, sets it on the ground, then flicks the valve that controls the gas flow.

He steps back again, just looks for a while.

He makes a plan, sees it. He speeds along these hilly, twisting roads--"BOLD DICK! HAPPY NEW YEAR!" on the driver's door.

He finds an auto parts store, goes in, and starts piling what he needs on the counter: spark plugs, hoses, belts, a case of oil, a set of socket wrenches . . .

The employee behind the counter–-a young girl maybe, cute like Goth Girl--watches as Rick adds a grease gun and a large can of transmission fluid. Rick waves his checkbook. "You take checks, don't you?"

He lowers the hood and slips inside the car behind the steering wheel. He touches the seats, the dash, the steering wheel.

His foot presses the gas pedal. He looks out the windshield over the long hood, squints, trying to discern the straightness of the car's front end. He sinks back into the seat, adjusts the rearview mirror. Then he notices that the key is in the ignition, and he wags his head. "I'll be damned. If this isn't my lucky day." The words are like puffs of smoke against the steering wheel.

The Mercedes races along a country road, green fields stretching in all directions; the engine has a throaty growl. The sky is pale blue, the sun bright. He looks out over the hood as he races along, shifts gears, gracefully negotiates curves. The hood ornament gleams.

But the throaty growl of the Mercedes starts to sound different.

Rick listens, frowns. "What the hell? What's wrong, baby?"

Gradually, the strange sound becomes clearer.

His vision of the summertime country road melts away. The wall of the barn comes into focus, and he sees a rusty pitch fork hanging on it.

Hogs are snorting.


Rick knocks on the front door again. Waits.

He walks around back, and when he tries the kitchen door, it swings open. The linoleum floor is scarred, and in front of the 1920's sink, it's worn through to rotting wood. The wallpaper has green and yellow vertical bars, is grease-splattered and peeling from the room's corners.

A couple of glasses and a bowl sit on the counter next to the sink. The bare light bulb on the ceiling has a string dangling from it and flickers off and on.

"Hello! Hello! Anybody here? I've got some car trouble. Hello?"

On an old wooden table is a half-eaten piece of toast.

In the living room, there's a threadbare sofa, a wingback chair that leans with a broken leg, a beat-up end table. The hardwood floor creaks as Rick crosses the room. Then he stands in a narrow hall. At each end of the hall a door stands open. Through one door he sees the foot of a wrought-iron bed and a pair of pink slippers. Through the other he sees a walnut dresser. On its top is a cracked mirror, in which he sees his face fragmented into three parts.

"Hello! Anybody home? I've got car trouble."

Rick steps back into the living room. The wallpaper is a jungle of lush florid images. Like eyes, reddish petals or buds or something peek out from the shades of green. On a small table next to the fireplace, in which embers smolder, is a black rotary telephone.

He calls Linda's cell.

"Hello," she says.

"Listen, baby–-"

"You asshole bastard!"

"Listen, I found this car–-"

"Where are you?"

"I'm across the river in Kentucky. I found this–-"

"Wally's in a coma."

"Then he's okay?"

"No, he's not okay. He's in a coma. The doctors say we'll just have to wait and see how he is when he wakes up."

"Well, then he's going to be okay."

"Maybe. Maybe not. He had to get nine stitches. And he's got this knot. It's real ugly. And the doctors made me leave when they found out I wasn't a relative. They thought I was his daughter, but then his daughter showed up."

"Well, Jesus weeps, Linda."

"You stupid bastard. He might have brain damage."

"It was an accident. Now listen to me--"

"Wally's not a young man. When he wakes up, I'm going to make him press charges. He knows this judge that was a student of his and–-"

"Listen, baby. I've found this car–-"

"Jesus Christ, Rick. Do you really think I care? And where the hell is Wally's car?"

"This car I found will make everything all right. It's a fifty-six Mercedes Gull Wing. A Gull Wing for Christ's sake."

"A what? What do I care? I could have you put in jail right now."

"If I get this car and restore it and sell it, baby, we could pay off the credit cards, the house, the truck, everything, and have enough money left over for you to buy anything Wal-mart's got."

"What are you talking about?"

"How would you like to move to California? You were born there–-"

"In Bakersfield, so what?"

"We could live in L.A. or San Diego maybe. On the beach. Get away from these goddamn cold winters. This Mercedes is worth half a million dollars."

"Half a million dollars?"

"Yeah, baby. Half a million. Maybe more. Ask Walter if he's got that much in his teacher's retirement fund."

"Wally's a genius. Wally's good to me. Wally wants–-"

"Come on, baby. Half a million. We can move somewhere warm and start over."

"The last couple of days you've really proved what a psycho you are. What if Wally doesn't make it?"

"I'll buy you a red Mazda Miata for starters."

"I don't know, Rick. It's not all about money. What if Walter dies?"

"It was an accident. You saw yourself it was an accident. The hammer slipped out of my hand. I was just trying to hit his car."

"He wanted to have babies. You never did."

Rick doesn't know why, but he has never told her that ex-wife number 3, Mona, made him get a vasectomy. Mona was terrified of getting pregnant and losing her figure forever. Then Mona left and married a guy with a Hummer, and now she's popped out three kids. And she still doesn't look bad. On his honeymoon trip to the Smokey Mountains with Linda he saw an interstate billboard that said "LIFE CHANGES. VASECTOMY REVERSAL GUARANTEED." He told himself he'd look into it some day.

"We can have ten babies. I need you, Linda."

"I care about Walter and I've made certain promises--"

"Promises? You're married to me ."

"You already bought this car? This gull bird thing?"

"I found it on this rundown farm. I'm here now. Nobody seems to be around. When the hillbilly who lives here shows up, I'll jew it out of him for a couple hundred bucks."

"You really think you can?"

"If nobody shows up before I can get it out of here, I'll just take it. Jesus, baby, this is the find of a life time. I'd kill for this car."

"This all sounds half-baked, Rick. I don't know . . ."

"It might be half baked, but, baby, it's in the oven. This car is mine."

"I don't know."

"Half a million dollars. I swear. I promise. Things will be different."

"Okay. Maybe. You get it worked out."

"Oh, baby, you won't regret this."

"I'm not promising. I told Wally–-"

"I love you, Linda."

"Oh, Rick, why do you have to do this to me now? I've got to go. I've got to see if the doctors will let me see him. His fat daughter is with him now. She can't stand me, and the feeling's mutual. She's forty and just let herself turn into a porker, and she put her fat face right in mine and had the nerve--the nerve--to blame me for Walter getting hurt. You think I'm a bitch? Wait till you meet her ."

"Why would I meet her? Let her take care of him. You go on home to our house. I'll call you as soon as I have everything worked out."

"I don't know. Maybe. I can't think straight. Bye."

He puts the phone back in its cradle and looks around the room, watches a cat silently slink past the doorway that leads to the hall. A second cat slinks past right behind the first.

He reaches in his coat pocket and pulls out a crumpled napkin.

He picks up the phone again and dials.

"Yeah, hello."

"Ah, yeah, this is Rick, the guy who . . . . Is this . . . ?

Goth Girl gasps. "You called! I didn't think you would. Wow!"

"Hey, listen, I–-"

"I don't know when my mother will be back, but if you want, you can come over and see me . . ."

"Well, I can't right now . . ."

"I'll get naked for you."

"I wish I could, but I'm out of town at the moment, and I found this car. It's going to make me a lot of money. It's going to make me downright rich."

"Is it the Batmobile?"

"Better. And, anyway, I'm sick of this cold weather."

"Yeah, it sucks. When it's like this there's nothing to do but like kill people and fuck and commit suicide."

"Yeah, like I said, I'm fed up with cold weather. I'm thinking I'd like southern California better."

"New Orleans. That's where you should go. Witch doctors, voodoo, vampires, live jazz, live sex shows . . ."

"Okay. I can do New Orleans. You want to come with me?"

"What? What? Wait a minute. You're asking me to run away to New Orleans with you?"

Rick pulls back the curtain on the window and looks out. Clouds are churning up in the east. "Yeah. Sure. Why not?"

"That's way too cool."

"So you'll come?"

"When you picking me up?"

"I've got to do some things. Figure out some stuff. I'll call you back later."


"I'm not sure. Tonight, I guess."

"You really are like God. Man, you're my savior. Jesus Christ. Can I call you Christ? Can your nickname be Christ?"

"I'll talk to you later."

"Okay, J.C. You're really going to call back? You're not just bullshitting about all this stuff?"

"I'll call you. I promise. Just give me some time."

"Okay. Jesus Christ. I–-Oh, shit, my goddamn mother just got home. I gotta go. Bye. I love you."

"Wait–-what's your name?"

She has hung up.

As he's putting down the phone, glass shatters in the kitchen.


In the kitchen a cat is standing on the counter. A broken glass is on the floor. The cat looks at him and starts hissing.

"If I had a mouse on me, pussy, you'd be the first to get it."

He walks back to the barn. The wind is blowing even harder. His teeth chatter.

The hogs are going crazy as he walks into the barn.

"Somebody ought to feed you guys."

Then he stops in his tracks and stares at the Mercedes.

The restored Mercedes speeds along a beach highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Rick's wearing sunglasses. The Mercedes is bright white. He looks over at the passenger seat, and Linda is next to him. She's wearing a pink bikini and big pink-rimmed sun glasses. She says, "I thought you were going to sell this car."

Rick shrugs, smiles. "Yeah, maybe."

"Where we going?"

"I don't know. Malibu? The French Quarter?"

"French Quarter?"

"Yeah. Live jazz. Sex shows, too."

Rick is driving the restored Mercedes slowly through the French Quarter. The Mercedes is shiny black. People on the sidewalks are stopping in their tracks to stare.

Goth Girl is in the passenger seat. Rick has his hand on her thigh. She's wearing a black miniskirt and black mesh stockings and deep-purple lipstick.

"Where we going?" she asks.

" I don't know. I don't know. Does it matter?"

Rick walks to the driver's door of the Mercedes and starts to get inside, but there's a horrendous noise–-an explosion–-and the world tilts, hard.

He's on the dirt floor, splinters and dust raining down on him and twirling in a shaft of light stabbing through the newly created hole in the barn's wall about a yard above the car's uplifted doors.

The pigs are screaming and throwing themselves against the walls of their pen. He presses his hands against the sides of his head because of the ringing in his ears. Somebody is talking to him, the voice barely audible through the sounds of the pigs and the echo of the explosion. Sulfur burns in his nose.

Still on the floor, Rick turns toward the open doors and sees a woman silhouetted against the light. She's holding a shotgun.

Rick waves his right hand. "Hold on."


"No. No."


"I . . . I was just looking at your car. I want to buy it."

Rick slowly stands up, his arms raised, his palms out. "I want to buy it. I want to buy it."

She steps closer to him, the shotgun pointed at his chest. She squints at him. "You're the devil."

"I'll pay good money. I'll give you a thousand dollars. Write you a check right here right now." He reaches for his checkbook in his back pocket.

"Don't you!" She thrusts the gun barrels toward his face.

"You were in my house."

"I knocked and I hollered. I was looking for somebody so I could buy the car."

"You used my phone."

"I'll pay for the phone calls."

Rick slowly brings his left hand forward with his checkbook in it. "I'll give you fifteen hundred dollars for the use of your phone and for your car, ma'am."

She takes another step forward, and Rick sees her more clearly. Her eyes keep darting between him and the car. She's about forty-five with spider webs of fine lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth. Her hands are small, and her ankles are slim and bare. On her feet, she's wearing just dirty pink slippers. Her old heavy coat is the only thing that gives her bulk. Fixed up, she might be pretty.

She lowers the gun so that it points at his crotch.

"I restore old cars. I bought a sixty-eight Camaro from a guy not far from here about a year ago." Rick smiles.

"What you do to those doors?"

He turns and looks at the gull wings, then turns back to her. "I just opened them."

"I never seen 'em like that."

"Really? You never opened the doors?"

She shakes her head. "No."

"They . . . they look like . . . like angel wings, don't you think?" He smiles.

She sneers, and Rick sees that her teeth are the color of rust.

"Look like a woman on her back with her legs spread up in the air."

He looks at the car again, can see what she means. "Well, maybe . . ."

"My big bubba bought the thing 'bout thirty-five years ago first thing when he got back from the war. He put it in here and started diddlin' it. Daddy used to say Frank slept with it." She pauses and looks in the direction of the dead cow.

"Can I talk to your brother?"

"Next week or so he shot hisself in the head. Daddy just let it be."

"Oh. So it's your daddy's? I'm sure he'd like to sell it."

"Daddy passed on years ago."

"Then it's yours to sell. I'll write you a check for two thousand dollars."

She raises the gun, pointing at his chest now and squints at him. "Daddy would of blown you to kingdom come with the first shot."

Rick tries to smile. "Hey, you think we could get on friendlier terms?"

"What you mean? Friendlier? You ain't no friend of mine. I don't know you from Adam. Far as I know, you're the devil. Friendlier." She spits, puckers her lips, and raises the gun so that it's aimed at his face.

"I didn't mean anything. Nothing, Ma'am. Nothing. Just that you got that gun pointed at me, and all . . . all I want to do is . . . is buy this car from you. Buy it for a right fair price."

"Looks to me like you're here to rob me. Waltzin' into my house."

"I'm . . . I'm on my way to visit my mama. And I got lost last night, see. And I got stuck in your ditch out here and then ran out of gas. I spent the night in the car. I near froze. My mama's probably worried sick. I mean, she was worried sick. That's who I called on your phone. My mama."

She closes her eyes, her brow furrowed.

"My mama, she's the nicest Christian lady you'd want to meet. She brought me up to be–-"

She opens her eyes, jerks the gun higher, and pulls the trigger.

Rick is on the dirt floor again, splinters raining down on him.

The hogs are going crazy.

She snaps open the shotgun across the crook of her arm, reaches into her coat pocket, and slips two more shells into the chambers.

She shouts, "I say you come here to rob me! And steal this here car!"

On his knees, Rick takes a breath, chokes, coughs. "No."

He presses the palms of his hands over his ears. "Damn ears won't stop ringing."

"Don't you swear at me."

"I wasn't . . . I want to buy the car."

"Steal it."


"And rape me!"

"That's crazy. That's just plain crazy." He stands up. His hands are up, palms out. "I'm gone, lady." He looks at the Mercedes. He looks over at the hog pen.

She turns her head toward the hogs. "Shut up!"

"You need to feed those things." Looking back at the Mercedes again, Rick takes a step toward the open barn doors, stops. "Five thousand dollars, lady. Think what you could do with five thousand dollars."

She snaps the gun closed and shoots out the windshield of the Mercedes.

Rick screams and drops to the floor. "Jesus. Jesus." The pigs ram their heads against the sides of their pen, squealing and snorting.

"Shut up! Shut up, you beasts of Satan!"

"Jesus Christ, lady! Jesus Christ!" He looks at the car, at the woman, at the car again.

"You like women on their backs?"

Rick is slowly standing. "No. No."

She looks puzzled. "You don't?"

He breaks toward the doors, but she's on him before he takes three steps, clubbing him across the face and on the head with the gun's hot barrels.

He falls down. Dust and straw swirl. He's on his back, trying to deflect her blows with his hands and arms and manages to get a grip on the gun barrels. He tugs. She kicks at him with one of her dirty pink slippers, and it comes off. Her toenails are long and cracked and as brown as her teeth, and they scratch his face. With one hand, he grabs one of her ankles. With the other hand, he continues to try to wrest the gun away from her. He gets his knees under himself, rises up some. She starts to fall backwards, staggers, regains her balance. His hand has slipped down the barrels of the gun toward the trigger. She loses her balance again, yelps, spits a curse from between her brown teeth.


The shotgun bucks, and there's the horrendous noise and a flash of light and a spray of wetness like when Linda would come out of the shower and playfully fling her hair in his face.

Rick is on his knees and his elbows, his hands pressed over his ears, his head pounding with the echoing noise. His eyes are squeezed shut, and he sees pinwheels and colorful sparks. His nostrils burn.

The world spins. Images slide by: Linda screaming; Goth Girl saying, "God! God!"; the Mercedes racing down a desert highway; pig snouts up close, snorting and snapping.

The ringing starts to subside. Rick wipes at something wet on his cheek, looks down at his black coat. He's speckled with blood and bits of flesh.

He turns his head very slowly.

She lies on her back. He first sees her feet, one bare, the other still in a pink slipper. His eyes travel up her body. Her dress is hiked up, her knees knobby and pale. His eyes slide past her tightly buttoned coat.

Where her face was is a gory pit that steams in the frigid air.

He twists away. Vomits. Spits. Wipes his mouth. Then he rolls onto his back. Great plumes of breath ascend from him. He watches these plumes for a while, then closes his eyes.


When he opens his eyes, his face feels tight and tender. He moans as he sits up. He looks at her corpse. He gets to his feet and furiously kicks hay over her. When she's completely covered, he bends over, his hands on his thighs, breathing hard, and he spits.

Then he straightens up and looks at the Mercedes.

He walks over to it, touches the driver's side fender, gently brushes off pebbles of glass from the shattered windshield.

He raises the hood, looks at the engine, reaches out and takes hold of two distributor wires, sliding his fingers along them.

Rick recalls running his fingers along the wires of an unrestored, rusty T-Model Ford in his shop. Linda was there, looking on. "If a car can be restored, it's like I can feel a pulse," he told her.

Linda gave out with a little poodle bark of a laugh. "You bullshitter."

"No, really. I can. Take this wire and hold it between the tips of your fingers."

Linda rolled her eyes but took hold of the wires.

"What they feel like?"

"They feel like wires."

"Can't you feel the heartbeat?" She giggled. "You've sniffed way too many gas fumes, Ricky boy." Then her laughter swelled.

Rick's laughter swells to the top of the barn. He's still bent over the engine of the Mercedes. "Oh, Linda, baby. You don't know shit."

He stands back, looks at the car, smiles. He lowers the hood and brushes glass off the driver's seat.

Then he slips inside. He pulls the doors shut, and he cranks down the driver's window.

He grasps the steering wheel and looks out over the hood. He sees the old pitchfork on the wall, but it soon fades away.

He speeds along a winding country road with wide-open, green fields on either side. The hood of the restored Mercedes is red. The hood ornament gleams.

The Mercedes comes to a rise in the road, gracefully negotiates another curve, then enters a lush forest.

The pitchfork comes back into focus. Rick is smiling. He reaches up and picks a tooth from his hair and flicks it out the window.

He raises the door and gets out. He goes over to the hog pen and looks in at the hogs. They squeal and snort. He looks around at the pile of hay under which the woman's body lies.

After he brushes the hay away from her feet, he drags her by her ankles toward the hog pen. The hay falls away from her legs and torso but sticks in clumps to her bloody, faceless skull.

When he gets her to the pen, the hogs squeal louder than ever. He drops her legs and turns away, breathing hard. Then he makes himself turn back to her and lifts her head-first onto the side of the pen. For a moment she is slung over the top of the low wall of the pen, her upper body in, her lower body out.

He lifts and shoves her legs, and her entire body falls in. The hogs are immediately all over her.

He watches for a moment, then walks outside, and the wind slams him. He staggers, braces himself against it.

He looks at the bright, cold sun. Walter's ridiculous Mercury Marquis lies in the distance. He can hear the hogs fighting over the woman's corpse.

He thinks about Walter staggering on his frozen lawn, blood on his forehead, then falling forward onto his face. He can see Linda kneeling next to Walter. Then he finds himself looking down at his blood-speckled boots. The hogs are not as noisy now. They're making mainly smacking noises, only occasionally snorting.

He turns and walks back to the doorway of the barn. Standing there, Rick looks at the Mercedes. The sounds of the hogs fade.

He approaches the Mercedes, thinking he'll paint it black like the Batmobile. He stops about half way to it and picks up a pink slipper. He steps toward the hog pen and tosses it in.

Then he turns back to the Gull Wing and approaches it.

He opens the hood and, without hesitation, spreads his body across the engine, face down, something gouging his side-–but no mind--his arms above his head, his face close to the exposed carburetor. He inhales deeply the fragrances of rust, gasoline, oil, and grease, tasting her, on his lips, on his tongue, pleading, Live for me, baby. Live.


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