In Brief—The author’s dream fades into that place between sleep and wakefulness. A story grows in that creative space.
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream—
I dream of a writing assignment. The dream segues into that space where creativity lives…
A Story Creeps In—
It’s another skillet hot day as the black BMW speeds down the narrow road toward the distant mountains. The desert is flat, broken only by rocks, dry washes and sparse vegetation. The road shimmers with heat waves that seem to transform it into water that forever moves ahead as the car passes. A rusting sign reads LAST STOP FOR 100 MILES. Beneath it reads GAS and in smaller letters, REFRESHMENT. Beyond the sign appear a couple of dingy buildings that threaten to collapse with the next strong wind.
Glancing at the fuel gauge, the driver slows to pull up next to the aging pumps. Adjusting his baseball cap and Ray-Bans, he steps out of the shiny BMW, and begins filling the tank. Maybe middle-thirties, he has an athletic body that screams wealth and a trainer: designer jeans and snug T-shirt display a muscular frame. On his feet are boots in tooled ostrich leather. On his right hand is a glittering pinky ring. His arrogant bearing says this is a man not to be trifled with in the boardroom or the bedroom. He seeks to persuade; if he can’t persuade, he seduces; if he can’t seduce, he buys.
As the tank fills, his dark eyes fasten on a young woman who sits with an open package of Doritos in her lap sipping a soft drink. Perhaps twenty-two with sun-bleached blond hair pulled back in a pony-tail and tanned skin that speaks of ocean surf, she wears faded cut-offs, a tank top that reveals a colorful butterfly on the swelling of her left breast while aging flip-flops cling loosely to her feet. Next to her on the bench rests a backpack, her only possession. The man’s thoughts turn to seduction.
With the tank full, he ambles over. “Hitchhiking? She nods, thinking of the whiskered beer-bellied truck driver who smirked as he said, “Put out or get out.” She got out.
“Hot day. Going to get hotter.” Still no answer. “Not many people take this shortcut, so you may have a long wait.” Another pause. “If you’re heading for the coast, I’ll be happy to have some company.” At last she responds, “Los Angeles? Sure, I appreciate the offer.”
They walk to the BMW. He holds the door for her. She pauses, gives him an assessing look, then slides into the luxurious passenger seat that smells of fine leather. The car heads west toward the distant mountains.
A few minutes later, the car pulls to a stop. As in the past, the driver uses all his persuasive skills. The young woman politely turns his smooth persuasion aside, so he switches to seduction mode. When at last he resorts to buying her assent, she nods at the offered price, smiles and gets out of the car taking her backpack with her. They head for a clump of brush atop a small rise about two hundred yards away. Well-hidden from the road, he kicks off his boots and begins to remove his designer jeans while she removes her tank top and reaches inside the nearby backpack.
Sweating with desire, he turns to find her bare to the waist pointing a small pistol at him. “Well. Stud, it’s not going to turn out quite the way you expected.” Hampered by his partly-removed jeans, he lunges at her, tearing at her breast. “Bitch. I’m going to get what I want and no little girly pop-gun is going to stop me.” Wincing in pain from the assault, she jumps back out of his grasp.
POP. POP. POP. Three well-spaced little holes appear in the chest of his form-fitting T-shirt. Looking down at the spreading red stain with a quizzical expression, the man’s eyes glaze and he falls, twitches twice and lies still. Without emotion, the young woman slips into her tank top, retrieves the keys from his pocket and walks back to the car. Unseeing eyes stare at the desert sun as the sound of a BMW fades away.
The young woman pulls the shiny car to the curb in an exclusive Beverly Hills neighborhood. Slinging the backpack onto her shoulder, she locks the doors and calmly walks toward Sunset Boulevard, disappearing into the dark. Three days later, the car is towed away.
Seasons pass. A stained and tattered T-shirt blows across the road coming to rest at the base of the post bearing a rusty sign that says LAST STOP FOR 100 MILES.