Friday, March 6, 2009

Bye Bye Blackbird

Buck stopped in surprise at the sight of the young girl enjoying the unseasonably warm day in a lawn chair, a shotgun draped across her lap. She sat in front of a small parking lot half full of cars. Behind the lot was severe looking brick building with a sign planted to the side proclaiming it "Calvary Christian High School." The girl had a sign by her too, a handwritten poster board reading "ALL CARS 100 DOLLARS, NO HAGGLING!" Buck crossed the street, she smiled and stood to greet him.

He noticed a young man sitting on top of one the cars a gun tucked into a shoulder holster, Buck nodded at him and turned his attention to the girl. She was to the point, "100 dollars, no less, cash only, and it's yours, you can keep whatever you find in the car." Buck guessed that the pair had nabbed any jewelry or cash left in the vehicles but nodded. Another figure sitting in one of the cars caught his eye. She was an older woman who looked like she hadn't slept in days, she was staring out in front of her oblivious to anyone or anything. He noticed a basketball jersey knotted twisted in her hands like a rosary. Buck looked at the girl, he was surprised to see her expression soften, "That was her daughter's car, I thought she'd take the car away but she's been coming everyday and just sits there for hours and then goes home."

The girl cleared her throat "So you interested or not? Better act quickly people are starting to jack up the prices now that everybody's trying to get the hell out of dodge, they think it's safe in the country."

"I'm trying to get the hell into dodge," Buck cracked.

He was curious about this girl, she looked to still be in her teens, her partner not much older. He wondered about the woman in the car, he realized for a journalist he had been lacking an essential curiosity. He had been building a strong case of just how much he was lacking over the past two weeks. He looked at the cars, very few had broken windows, the pair had lucked out with a slate of cars unlocked or easy to break into. His eyes settled on a red Mustang.

He had always wanted that car, he remembered tearing up the back roads of Indiana in his cousin Gerry's model, a beauty in solid black. The roar of the engine competing with the hair metal screaming from he stereo, fry containers on the floor, and on rare occasions when the gang would park to watch the stars in a lonely field a smoldering joint in the ashtray. Buck smiled remembering how Tom wore his Slayer shirt until it dissolved in the wash.

It seemed long ago, it was long ago. The girl interrupted his reverie "All the cars have gas in them." That settled it, he could still have found a "freebie" but finding one with a drop of gas in the tank was another matter as people had begun to hoard anything valuable. "The red one," he said, handing her a crisp 100. The youth on top of the car rooted around a bag at his side and tossed the keys to Buck.

She smiled "excellent choice, good luck and take care." He was oddly touched, she seemed to mean it, "You too, the both of you, stay safe." "We will," she said resting her shotgun against her shoulder. Buck opened the car door, "What's your name?" The girl debated answering him, "Sylvie," she said, almost embarrassed, she tilted her head towards the young man, "he's Joe." "Thank you Sylvie and Joe," Buck closed the car door and turned the key in the ignition.

It turned over without a complaint and Buck saw it had over half a tank of gas. Good enough for now, he could find a gas station that was still open later. He looked once more at the older woman, she had not moved. He pulled out of the lot, the younger two watched him go. He looked around the interior of the car, the owner had been a boy, a pile of clothes where crumpled in the passenger seat, Buck guessed these were the clothes of the owner tossed aside when the two had done their sweep of their find. He couldn't bear listening to the news right now, and doubted the youth had anything than the sanitary over processed sounds of Christian pop. He was surprised to find a Beatles mix CD when he looked at a handful of discs tucked into a case on the dashboard. He popped it in and drove into the Chicago darkness.

"Blackbird" wound its melancholy way through the whole of the car and twined itself into Buck's thoughts and he realized he was singing along. The imposing brick heap of the high school faded into blur in the rear view mirror and disappeared.


SchrodingersDuck said...

Very nice. You can actually imagine something like this taking place - it feels like a proper, human reaction to disaster, and the mixture of opportunism and goodwill that goes with it.

Anonymous said...

The characters seem so much more real in these few paragraphs than they did in an entire LH&J book. Thanks for your insightful imagining.