The first installment is on this blog too. — AB]
Vandergrift P. Shinott, jowly of face but solid of body, strode out the side door of the truck stop restaurant into the cool Oregon evening. It was unusually clear for this time of year, and dry. The moon, a lovely crescent, was about an hour past rising, and Shinott would get a nice view of it most of the evening as he pushed on toward Boise.
Shinott slowed his pace toward his company’s only asset, a semi with the words “Vandy’s Transport” done up in jaunty script on the cab doors, above the words “Nationwide Service” and “Tullahoma, Tenn.” Such a nice evening, and he was not tired. No rush. He pawed another pork rind out of the bag in his hand.
But as he ambled toward the edge of the truck lot, where he habitually parked to avoid snooping eyes from looking into his sleeper windows, he saw something unusual enough to make him stop the pork rind midway in its course to his mouth. Not the two guys — one definitely black, the other dark, but not as much; maybe Mexican — discovering a flat tire on their old car, which was parked about 30 yards past Shinott’s truck. No, it was what happened next, after Shinott had taken two purposeful steps to go help. What he saw stopped him cold and made him drop the pork rinds.
The second the chagrined black guy turned the key in the trunk to get to the spare, the trunk lid flew open like an explosion and the black guy doubled over like he had been hit in the stomach. Instantly, a man in torn jeans and a dirty gold sweatshirt emerged from the trunk, fell over the rim onto the pavement, and scrambled to his feet. He had a tire iron in his hands, and now he crouched and swung it, baseball style, at the black man, who had managed to get up from flat on his back to propped on his elbows. When the tire iron found his jaw, though, he went back down like a popped balloon.
Meanwhile, the Mexican, who had been looking for something in the front passenger seat, drew his head out of the car to see what the hell was going on. Shinott saw him stop for a second, then reach back in the car and quickly pop out with a pistol.
Shinott dropped into a semi-crouch, expecting to need to find cover. He glanced at his truck, which was about 30 feet to his right. By the time he glanced back, the man in the sweatshirt was just letting fly with a huge right-handed heave of the tire iron. It flew end-over-end and clipped the Mexican in the shoulder, sending him spinning and howling while the gun bounced on the concrete. The Mexican dropped to the ground in pain.
The sweatshirt guy looked around frantically. Shinott was frozen, watching him. Who should he help? This one-man wrecking crew from the trunk? Or the guys he was abusing? But wait a sec. What the hell did they have him in the trunk for?
This freed Shinott’s feet from being cemented to the pavement, and he dashed to his truck as best he could in work boots and too-tight jeans. He slammed himself into the seat and fired up the engine, watching through the windshield as Sweatshirt ran and just in time, Mex reached up from where he had been writhing on the ground and grabbed his ankle. Sweatshirt pitched forward like he had thought touchdown and been unexpectedly dropped for fourth and four. The Mexican got up and walked toward his gun, which was about midway between Shinott’s truck and Sweatshirt, who was rolling on the ground and grimacing.
No he wouldn’t. At a truck stop? Even out on the perimeter, there were all these lights. This is what Shinott thought as he saw the Mexican reach his gun, pick it up, cock it, and level it at the prone Sweatshirt.
Sweeeeeeeet Jesus McCree. He’s gonna do it, Shinott thought. He set his jaw, downshifted, and got going.
I don’t wanna kill anyone, he thought as he built speed. But I don’t wanna let anyone get killed, either. He got to 20 feet from the Mexican and slammed on his brakes. He had timed it just right — the cab stopped just in time to bump the Mexican and knock him down, but not hurt him badly.
“CHIT! Wat da fahck?!” This, from the downed would-be shooter as Shinott jumped out of the cab, walked calmly to the Mexican, kicked his silver gun a few feet away, and then kicked the Mexican himself firmly in the gut.
“Gaah-AHHH, mudderfuggin’ hayseed! Mine your own beezness!”
Shinott did not answer. He was busy helping Sweatshirt to his feet and getting him into the passenger side of his cab. As he closed the door and began to go around to the driver’s side, he heard a dull pop and felt something on his neck like a bunch of mosquito bites all at the same time. Not even enough to be stunned. He looked at the Mexican, who had retrieved the gun and, evidently, fired it. Shinott was more annoyed than hurt. He put a hand to his neck. Tiny blood pinpricks, like he got with an old razor.
“Shit. Izzat all the ratshot y’all kin afford?” he said to the Mexican. He got in his cab and drove away as the Mexican stood watching, sweaty and breath heaving.
Shinott got out onto the interstate and got up to speed, glancing occasionally at the panting man slumped in the passenger seat. He had a bruise on his head and a nosebleed, but otherwise he seemed alright. Only partly conscious. After awhile, Shinott reached for the wallet that was half out of the man’s pocket. Sweatshirt did not resist. Shinott looked at his drivers license.
“Well, Mister Asa Crandall of…” (he paused to check the road) “…Annapolis, Maryland. You are one lucky man.”
“Please,” drawled Crandall thickly. “Ace. Not Asa.” There was a long pause. “And thank you.” — Adam Barr
Copyright 2012 Adam Barr