SHORT STORIES FOR A RAINY AFTERNOON
Most of the planes were overbooked for the Christmas Holidays in the winter, and the drive was always a dice toss due to the unpredictable weather. I had seven last minute gifts all wrapped for my brother’s tree in Elko, Nevada. That was where I was headed, since being an aunt to his swell kids was one of my great pleasures.
The morning was very cold, but clear, and the weatherman gave me a go ahead sign with his fine forecast for the next five days. I considered it a bit of luck at this time of the year, since usually the roads could be quite treacherous in December.
The car was packed with my bags, some snacking food, and the wrapped holiday gifts, plus a new digital camera I was going to try on Christmas morning when the kids unwrapped their gifts.
My drive toward Las Vegas was routine, but it always got interesting when I turned north off Interstate 40 and headed up Highway 93 into the long stretch of unpopulated country. It was a good route to Elko, but certainly not a major highway by any means. Thus, I always kept my tank on the full side and did not like to get the mark below half. Most towns were few and far apart, so I had a few favorite spots for my meals. The gas station and café were coming up in another hour, so my stomach looked forward to a good dinner there.
After I paid the cashier for seven gallons of regular, I walked out of the blustery cold December air and grabbed a small booth by the front windows, facing my car. The comfort of the heat in the small café made me a bit lazy, and the waitress took my order. She brought me a small steak with a baked potato, applesauce, and string beans. I immediately dug into my dish and was fully enjoying each bite when a strange hippie looking man of around thirty plunked down across from me on the opposite side of the table. He asked for a ride north, but I informed him I never picked up strangers and told him to try some man, or truckers headed in that direction. He gave me the creeps with his long greasy hair and shaggy, dirty beard.
Not even a trucker would want to share any close space with him. I asked him to leave since I was still hungry, and wanted to finish my dinner in peace. He continued to sit in my booth until I caught the owner’s eye, and he came to my aid. I explained that the man would not leave my table, and wanted a ride. The owner was a nice looking gentleman, and he told him to move his carcass away pronto and stop bothering his customers. When I went into the rest room, I took my time and peeked out the door to make sure he was gone. Then I breathed a sigh of relief and was ready to resume the drive north.
I clicked my remote to unlock the door and slid behind the wheel of my car just as the passenger door opened and the greasy creep pointed a small Saturday Night Special right at my chest. “Back this car up right now lady, or you’re toast.” Believe me, the car jumped back, and I threw my gears into drive and flew up Route 93 as he kept pushing the gun in my ribs.
When we hit the desolate part of the lonely drive, he made me pull off the road and ordered me to move to the back of the car. He took my purse, grabbed all the bills out of the zippered compartment, and asked for the rest of the money. I had to tell him I did not carry that much cash and used my charge card when I was traveling.
He pushed me against the trunk, as he opened it with the key, and gave me a quick shove so I fell on the suitcase and Christmas gifts, and he slammed the lid tight over my scared body. He yelled that one scream, and I would be cold stone dead in the market. Thank heaven I had a warm jacket, for it was getting dark and very cold in the high desert air. I was shaking from fear and the cold, and because of the darkness could only go by the feel of things, and remembered the football stadium blanket I kept in the left hand corner of the trunk. I recognized the soft texture of the material and tossed it on my cold legs and feet.
As I fingered the small gifts, I searched frantically for my brother’s box, which was in the bottom of the garbage bag with the rest of the boxes of candy, cookies, gifts, extra Christmas wrapping paper, and scotch tape. I fumbled in haste trying to feel the right size, for his was the smallest box. I expected the creep was waiting to find a lonely turn off up a dirt lane, so he could shoot me, steal the car, and leave my body for the packs of hungry coyotes that wandered the barren desert. I could not seem to get my hands on the small gift at the bottom of the bag due to the confining darkness of the enclosure. I was a prisoner alone with this repulsive stranger, and he was sure as hell going to kill me.
My hands were still running through the collection in the garbage bag when the car slowed down and made a right hand turn. Then we were on a dirt road, for stones were hitting the undercarriage of the car’s body, and the road became quite bumpy.
As I raced to find my brother’s gift, my fingers hit the smallest box under the collection of the whole Christmas pack. I pulled it up through the candy and cookies and opened the box in haste as the car’s acceleration slowed to a crawl. I pulled out the Damascus knife with the turquoise inlay handle and quickly opened the blade.
I rushed to push the blade through the bottom of my pocket so just the handle would be handy to my reach. My arms were not that strong, but my legs muscles were like hard rocks from walking up and down the high hills behind my house, at a high altitude. When he pulled the lid open on the trunk, my legs came flying out with a strong kick, since I had cocked my knees back for extra power. He went flying backward and hit the hard ground. His gun went off, but he was in no position to aim.
As soon as he was halfway on his feet, the Damascus blade sliced him from his left kidney to a deep slash across his stomach. Since I personally had honed the blade to a razor sharp edge while I was sharpening my kitchen knives, I knew it was superior to any I had used in my slicing jobs on roasts and turkey. It was an expensive gift, and the best blade you could buy.
By then I had kicked the gun out of his right hand, which left him pleading for help and a doctor. I wiped the blood off the blade on a Kleenex and closed the knife so I could drop it in my pocket. The moon was low in the sky, but his figure was outlined on the ground with his hands on his bloody intestines.
As I walked toward the car, I turned and yelled, “Merry Christmas Creep,” and clicked the key in the ignition and headed north for a store with camping gear, so I could buy a Swiss Army knife for my brother. If I could just stop shaking before I arrived in Elko, I could tell everyone it was the usual nice trip up Route 93.