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But I knew Edna was right about it, that we shouldn’t take crazy chances. Little Duke’s tired of it too.” Where the car stopped rolling was some distance from the town, though you could see the clear outline of the interstate in the dark with Rock Springs lighting up the sky behind. The lights in the mobile homes seemed friendly to me, and I knew right then what I should do. “Edna can’t drive that car,” Cheryl said from out in the dark. And when I started, she steered it straight off into the trees, and I kept pushing until we were twenty yards into the cover and the tires sank in the soft sand and nothing at all could be seen from the road. She had a sweet nature, and I recognized that this wasn’t her fault but mine. “You stay right here, and I’ll go over to that trailer park and call us a cab,” I said. ” Edna said, her mouth wrinkled as if she’d never heard anything like that in her life. He was a vet and crazy as a shit-house mouse, and I was glad he wasn’t in for all this.I had kept thinking of it as my car and not the ophthalmologist’s, and that was how you got caught in these things. I figured I could worry about breaking down and let other people be happy for a change. You could hear the big tractors hitting the spacers in the overpass, revving up for the climb to the mountains. “There’ll be cabs,” I said, and tried to smile at her. “Just get the baby in the car,” I said, trying to be patient.
It was that very enthusiasm, in fact, that made me keep the car one day longer instead of driving it into the river and stealing another one, like I should’ve done and had done before. When I turned the motor over, it started right away and the red light stayed off and there weren’t any noises to make you think something was wrong. “Little Duke tinkled where I tinkled,” Cheryl said, and laughed.
Where the car went bad there wasn’t a town in sight or even a house, just some low mountains maybe fifty miles away or maybe a hundred, a barbed-wire fence in both directions, hardpan prairie, and some hawks riding the evening air seizing insects. I let it idle a minute, then pushed the accelerator down and watched the red bulb. I looked back at her, and she had on her turquoise bracelet and Edna’s hat set back on the back of her head and that little black-and-white Heinz dog on her lap. “You’re two of a kind,” Edna said, not looking back.
I’d gotten us a good car, a cranberry Mercedes I’d stolen out of an ophthalmologist’s lot in Whitefish, Montana.
I stole it because I thought it would be comfortable over a long haul, because I thought it got good mileage, which it didn’t, and because I’d never had a good car in my life, just old Chevy junkers and used trucks back from when I was a kid swamping citrus with Cubans. I ran the windows up and down, and Edna told us some jokes and made faces. Her features would light up like a beacon and you could see her beauty, which wasn’t ordinary.
I got out to look at the motor, and Edna got out with Cheryl and the dog to let them have a pee by the car. But there wasn’t any light on, and I started wondering if maybe I hadn’t dreamed I saw it, or that it had been the sun catching an angle off the window chrome, or maybe I was scared of something and didn’t know it. Edna was usually good with Cheryl, but I knew she was tired now.
I checked the water and checked the oil stick, and both of them said perfect. We hadn’t had much sleep, and she had a tendency to get cranky when she didn’t sleep. “Rock Springs, Wyoming,” Edna said with conviction. You won’t have to do anything.” “I’d hope not,” she said and looked the other way.
I don’t know what was between Edna and me, just beached by the same tides when you got down to it.
Though love has been built on frailer ground than that, as I well know.
The West has it all over everywhere for sunsets, even Florida, where it’s supposedly flat but where half the time trees block your view. And I said, just to be joking, ‘I’ll roll you for that monkey.’ And the guy said, ‘Just one roll? He was just some guy passing through, I guess a vet. I’m letting my mind wander.” “That’s perfectly fine,” I said. It’s got more strength in its fingers than you got in your whole body.’ He said people had been killed in Vietnam by monkeys, bunches of them marauding while you were asleep, killing you and covering you with leaves. “Don’t you care anything about that awful thing that happened to me? “I put her in a green garbage bag, put it in the trunk of my car, drove to the dump, and threw her in the trash.” She was staring at me darkly, as if the story meant something to her that was real important but that only she could see and that the rest of the world was a fool for. Everything in the plant was white, and you could see that all the trailers were painted white and looked exactly alike.
“It’s cocktail hour,” Edna said after we’d driven awhile. ’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ He put the monkey down on the bar, picked up the cup, and rolled out boxcars. He got a strange look on his face—I’m sure not as strange as the one I had—but he looked kind of sad and surprised and satisfied all at once. I didn’t believe a word of it, except that when I got home and got undressed I started looking over across the room at Mary on her chair in the dark watching me. And after a while I got up and went out to the car, got a length of clothesline wire, and came back in and wired her to the doorknob through her little silver collar, then went back and tried to sleep. And so can Edna and so can Little Duke.” I looked over at Edna, smiling, but she was staring at me with eyes that were fierce with anger. ” Her mouth was drawn tight, and her eyes kept cutting back at Cheryl and Little Duke, as if they had been tormenting her. “I thought that was an awful thing.” I didn’t want her to be unhappy. A deep hum came out of the plant, and I thought as I got closer that it wouldn’t be a location I’d ever want to work in.