Supermarket, On the 10
You donít know who she isójust another girl in another
supermarket at two in the morningóbut this time, instead of
hesitantly meeting her blue eyes, her brown eyes, her colorless
eyes as you pass each other on the cereal aisle, each of you
behind lumbering, cagey carts, this time you stop suddenly and
cock your head, and with what you hope is a debonair kind of
smile, say, "Do I know you?"
And when she snorts and starts walking again, you remember why
you donít stop girls in the supermarket at two in the morning.
Back in your car: youíve gotta think of something to do,
somewhere to go, someone to touch and taste andówell, to talk
to, first. So you switch on the green radio and it stares at you
as you drive, a conglomeration of glowing dashes and decimals, and
you get annoyed and turn off the radio, but the display still
blares the time
2:21 2:21 2:21 2:21 2:21 2:21 2:21 2:22 2:22 2:22 2ó
at you, so you fumble in the glove box and weave through three
lanes and onto the lumpy, rocky shoulder and back, and then you
find the electrical tape and rip a length off with your
disintegrating teeth and strap it over the display, and the
numbers are gone, and you can drive again.
But you canít, because back there, behind you, are more
lights, and this time they are mists of red and blue and some
white, swiveling in your head like electric Globetrotters, and you
skid to the shoulder and dust rises past the windows, and the
lights filter through it like sunlight illuminating all the things
you breathe but donít want to know about.
So he knocks on your window with stiff knuckles and you open
the door, and he pushes it shut again and leans on it, and makes a
circular, roll-down-the-window motion, and you shrug and
say, "Itís broken," and he doesnít hear, so you
repeat, and then he steps away from the door and you open it.
There is a blast of cool, wet evening air, and he stands in the
gap between your door and your seat and says, "Donít get
up, sir, just stay there," and you havenít even unbuckled,
and you tell him so, and he makes a crack about you making a crack
at him, so you shut up and stare at your steering wheel and notice
a crack in the plastic just under the word airbag, and you
now have to worry about the airbag billowing out at you while youíre
drumming on the wheel to Led Zeppelin.
As if I need to worry aboutóyou begin to think, and then
your brain kind of stutters when the cop breathes in your face and
says, "Sir, I wonít ask you again; give me your license and
registration," so you angle yourself awkwardly in the seat
and fumble your license out of the wallet, and then reach for the
glove box and his thick, California-hairy hand clamps around your
wrist, and he says, "What are you reaching for?"
"My registration," you think you say, and you did say
it, it just came out a little fuzzy because youíre worried now
that youíve stained your trousers, which is just one more thing
on your list of things to worry about, so the cop lets go and you
get the crumpled registration papers and hand them over.
You donít know how long you sit there waiting for the crunch
of cop-footsteps to return, because youíve taped the clock over,
which you now realize was a silly thing to do because youíll
have to smear away the gum left behind by the tape when you rip it
off. So you leave the tape.
The cop comes back, his boots crunching like they did when he
walked away, and his body lurches into your lap as he stumbles
over a rock, and he scrambles up and apologizes to you, shuffling
dust off of his uniform with those annoyingly ugly hands, and when
you look at him and think, Well, that was interesting, he
interprets it as put-outedness, and he hands your license back and
your registration back and after a quick fumble of fingers, a
small snow-pile of shredded paper. "Your ticket," he
says, and he crunches away again, and when he falls and goes,
"Oof," you close the door and skid away and wonder if
you showered him with rocks.
Youíre on the 10, just driving, the stars buried somewhere
beneath radioactive clouds and the roars and flashes of planes
cutting through the clouds, trailing pink and yellow jet streams,
and you see a girl thumbing it under the Long Beachó10 Miles
sign, and you swing off into the dirt and she comes to your window
and makes the roll-it-down motion, and you open the door
instead and say, "Itís broken," and the girl starts to
ask, "Where you headó" and then she sees your face,
lit up in the cargo light, and she snorts, and you remember why
you never stop for runaway girls on the freeway.
Jason Gurley, 22, lives and writes in Nevada. His work has
appeared in a number of literary journals, including The Paumanok
Review, Palimpsest Magazine, Liquid Ohio, Salon
and The Bay Review. He is the editor of the fiction quarterly
Deeply Shallow (www.deeplyshallow.com)
and is writing his third novel.