A disenthralled E-book Flash Fiction And Images From The Road
CREDITS “Flashdrive: A disenthralled E-book” was created by edited by Walter Conley. Presentation of material copyright©2011WalterConley. The E-zine “disenthralled: a literary journal” copyright©2009-2011WalterConley; “Introduction” coypright©2011WalterConley. http://disenthralled.net All rights to fiction and photography contained within held by respective creators. Do not use without express written permission.
FOREWARD In 2010, I posted a short entitled “Roadies” at the Six Sentences/Ning writers’ group. The story was inspired by a character named The Sporter of Stitches, created by Nicole Hirschi. “Roadies” later appeared online at Pulp Metal Magazine. I was born and raised in New England. When I was twenty years old, a friend and I bought a used car and drove to California on a whim. I had no family out there, no personal contacts, no money, no job lined-up. I simply took to the road and found that, despite all the hardship I encountered, I had at last found my place—which was no place at all. That first big road trip led to meeting my wife, having a child, learning how to drive an 18-wheeler and fix a tractor, being published as a writer, crewing on film and TV sets, making friends in other countries. A few years later, I decided to hit the road again. This time I brought along a wife and daughter. We packed up and did it three or four years after that, with the addition of a son. And again. And again. To her credit, as we’ve loaded the trucks and repeated this half-assed venture over the years, my wife has always been willing and strong, confident that things will turn out for the best. I never stress about it—which, I admit, is completely irresponsible—but it’s just how I’m made. Being in one spot too long makes me antsyy and there only seems to be one cure. I love being on the road. I love to drive anything with wheels. It’s not a Gearhead thing. I didn’t grow up working on cars or hanging out at the Speedbowl on Wednesday nights. It’s a Driving thing, pure and simple. It’s about that endless spool of asphalt, the hum of fraying tires, so-bad-you-have-to-wince local radio stations, fast food napkins tumbling out the windows…. Publishing “Roadies” gave me an idea: Why not assemble a modest chap or E-book along the same lines? It took a while to happen, but here it is. Photography by Sarah R. Bloom. Fiction by Peggy MacFarland, Robert Crisman, Carrie Clevenger, Quin Browne, Laurita Miller and Yours Truly—I’m breaking my own rule, here, of not publishing my work as an editor, to include the piece that set this in motion. I’d tell you to buckle-up and enjoy the ride, but the seatbelts don’t work. Walter Conley March 1, 2011 Louisa, VA
HIGHWAY MEMORIAL by Peggy McFarland Rerouted water creates a clear corridor. Commuters speed by, as do others on their way to dentist appointments or grocery stores or spinning classes or wherever. Maybe they notice where the pillowed sky merges with the distant wavering black; or the sunlight glints bouncing off informative green or brown or blue signs; or the lifeless fur breaching the solid white line. Maybe they insulate themselves from exhaust fumes and blurred colors by sniffing jar-candle cut-outs, or listening to Jake & Stinton's Morning ear detritus; or peek at a seat mate's animated gestures; or sip an eleven-syllable beverage that burns fingertips more than it burns the tongue. Maybe, by a sidelong look for an exit confirmation and a facetious hallelujah for the added lanes, they see the remnants. Skeletal trunks with splintered limbs and twig claws, stripped but for a shred of bark, stranded by the swamp, reed skirts camouflaging waterlogged roots, stuck in agony's pose until rot allows them to crumble; traffic fatalities unmarked by devoted white crosses.
DRIVING AURORA by Robert Crisman
Seattle homicide cops Ray Martin and Mike Schindler cruised up Aurora that night to check on the wars. Aurora shoots north out of downtown and winds on forever. It's garish and tacky with neon and greasepits and the whole fucking way. Tons of motels and the pimps, dope, and hos that go with them. Stop 'n Shop heaven… They drove past the Sun Hill Motel off 85th. Most rooms in this place held a dopeman. Two scuts stood huddled in front of the place, one counting out change. The other looked into the courtyard with eyes that said they were still a tad short. Up five more blocks to 90th Street. A cluster of rockheads crossing the street, everyone peering this way and that. Tunnel rats, holding turf behind enemy lines. Schindler sang, or tried to: “Oh the night life, it ain't no good life, but it's my life.” Martin laughed. “Man, don't. This job's hard enough as it is.” “Not as hard as theirs is.” “True, true.” They drove past the graveyard, Evergreen-Washelli, up by 120th. “I wonder if they've got a dopers' section in this place,” Schindler said. “They'll have to expand pretty quick if they do. Tear down some of the motels they got on this stretch.” “Shit, leave 'em standing, turn the rooms into sepulchers, that'll do it.” “Shit, turn 'em? Those rooms are already sepulchers, man.” They both had to laugh as the oncoming traffic and neon bipped by them.
FLY by Carrie Clevenger “You know what?” We lay facing one another on the hood of the Charger, the warm metal chasing off the chilling night desert air. I smiled. “What?” “Sometimes I wish I could fly, y'know? Just spread my arms, and they become wings and then I just...fly.” He passed the joint to me and I inhaled deeply, holding it in before relinquishing possession to him again. I loved his face—dark eyes, framed by long dark hair; caramel
skin. He claimed to have Cherokee in his blood, and I could see it. I watched his mouth when he talked. It was a careful speech—precise. Daniel and I weren't really boyfriend and girlfriend, just friends, soul-mates, something. A star fell over his left shoulder. “I know a way I can help you fly, at least for awhile,” I said and rolled off the side of the car to the ground with a yelp and then burst into laughter when I saw his face peer over the side down at me. “You alright there?” “Yeah, give me a hand. I'm going to help you fly.” ### The air must've been freezing, but he was wearing a flannel shirt, loose jeans and heavy-soled boots and he seemed okay. I gave the engine a little more gas, riding directly over the dotted line diving the state highway in opposite facing lanes. The Charger galloped eagerly up towards 55, and Daniel's hair partially obscured my view. “Now whatever you do,” I'd told him, “don't stand up.” He'd nodded and sat on the center of the hood, atop the scoop, the thick black stripe, a painted guideline of where to remain to stay safe. Granted, hood-surfing isn't exactly safe, but it felt a lot like flying. We were stoned as could be anyway and judgment was definitely impaired. The secondaries opened up as I gave it more gas, pushing the speedometer up to 65 and pressing him against the glass. He kept waving his left arm, urging me to go faster, faster. Over sixty was definitely getting into the danger zone. I blinked—I'd spaced out, and he was trying to stand up at that speed. I couldn't brake suddenly. I'd throw him forward. I took my foot off the gas, but he'd already spread his arms. I peered up through the windshield and watched in horror as the wind lifted him off his feet and swept him up. I slammed on the brakes, and tore the door open to get out and find him. The car rolled a bit on its own with no hand-brake engaged, but I didn't care. Above, I saw his form dwindle as he flew away from me.
NEAR MISS by Laurita Miller The road through the park is always deserted at this time of night. Sometimes I just need to get out here, alone in the dark, in the quiet. Nothing but the long stretch of deserted road and the hum of my tires on the tarmac. There’s no one out here but me and the late night joggers. That’s how I like it. These night time drives help me unwind when things get difficult. It’s easy to lose myself in the silence, the darkness, the gentle winding of the road. It all happens in an instant. One moment the road is empty, then suddenly she is there, eyes and mouth open wide in terror. The seconds she stands frozen are perpetual. At the last moment she jumps out of my path, still clutching her iPod. In my rear view mirror I see her with her hands on her knees, taking great gulping breaths. She quickly shakes it off and hurries back onto the jogging trail. I drive on, heart pounding, hands slick on the wheel, mouth dry. That was a close one. I try to steady my shaking breaths. It’s alright. It’s okay. I’ll get the next one.
ROAD RAGE By Quin Browne Iâ€™ve never been fond of cars. For most of my childhood, they were moving steel jail cells that encased my family...dad at the wheel, mother making bologna sandwiches on white bread with that nasty orange sandwich spread, chips, warm Barq's, myself and my brother, the Golden Child, who always ignored the magic line down the middle of the back seat and encroached on my space, intent on his preferred sport; driving me mad. Once a month, Dad would drive down the two lane highway, north from New Orleans to Monroe 300 miles away, both he and my mother smoking like trains, talking over the sound of the wind as it came through the wing windows. They were both fresh from a 40 hour week, kids and cases thrown in the car, a dash to avoid the traffic. Mother's voice was an Mississippi accented flow of sound...Dad's a responding grumble... hashing out the day and week and eventually, their lives together, working themselves up to arguments that would do Edward Albee proud... they were masters of that biting cruelty. The funny thing is, when Mother touches on those days, she insists they were speaking sotto voce, and we didn't hear anything. However, I remember fights, the words floating on the scents of smoke, JuicyFruit gum and Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume to settle on my brother and I in our places in the back--I was trapped there, while it all swirled, smashed and sank on me. To this day, any of those scents makes me ill, especially when confined to a car. The trunk of our Chrysler held their overnight bags for our stay at my paternal grandmotherâ€™s home-small suitcases as the trip would only be for a weekend-and the Coleman ice chest, packed with ice to keep the muffulettas from Central Grocery for my MawMa along with the olive salad in a separate container, cannoli from Brocato's on Carrollton, and Creole cream cheese... all her favourites from the city she was born and raised in. Sometimes, we brought boiled crabs or crawfish, if they were available on the way out of town, in shacks along the road on the bayou. There was no air conditioning in our car. When we complained about the heat, Dad's standard joke was that we had 475 conditioning.. four windows down, doing 75MPH. For as long as the light held, I read, my book pressed close to my nearsighted eyes. Sometimes, I'd watch the fields go by...wondering who worked in them, what they looked like, how their lives went, seeing the shacks in the middle of cotton fields, with lines of clothes stretched out behind them. I'd watch the corn fields go by, loving that the rows between looked like the long legs of someone running as we drove past.
We were quiet and obedient on these trips, our attitudes shaped by fear of parental anger. I've always said the behaviour of children in cars has decreased with the removal of the bench seat. No longer do you see cars hurtling down the highway with some mother's bottom framed in the windshield as she dealt with the recalcitrant children in the back seat of the family sedan...add to this is the knowledge that there was a good chance she wore a girdle and stockings, balanced a lit cigarette, kept her high heels from puncturing any of the upholstery and never smeared her lipstick proved her dexterity in this job. Truly, this is a lost art form. We followed Louisiana Highway 61 and the dark up through LaPlace, Baton Rouge, St. Francisville, Sarpy, eventually connecting to another two lane highway, all of them dark trails that cut through small towns. Windows open, we could smell magnolias and poverty on the moist night air when we stopped those few times my dad allowed, the milky beauty of one unable to override the weight of the other. Running to the bathroom, our feet would crunch on the crushed shells that make up so many walk ways in the lower portion of the state. We'd breath in the heavier bayou air, fearful of the shadows formed by the single yellow lightbulb, the moths that caught in my hair, the men who leaned against the RC cooler and spoke in some patois we didn't know, and of what we swore were alligator eyes staring out from the slime covered water. The night wove on, the conversion between my parents dropped in volume, still holding the tone of feeling trapped in their lives, all of it edged in smoke and pain. I closed my eyes, with their song of sadness and anger lulling me to sleep. It was the only time they ever sang together.....
ROADIES by Walter Conley IT IS THE LAW: As the Sporter of How Many Stitches is driving, he controls the stereo. He’s been looping one song—“Kicked in the Taco,” by Frank Black—since we left Petersburg, two-and-a-half hours ago. The Sporter is a mess; I know better than to ask why. There is so much blood coming through his shirt I can hear it move when he sings. He lights a cigarette, without offering me one, squinting through the smoke, the smoke-coated windshield. And when I sock him, it’s not because of the tune itself, which I kind of like; it’s because his piece of shit car only has first and second gear, so, instead of hearing “Kicked in the Taco” maybe a hundred times, at full volume, over the whining ping of the engine, I’m going to have to listen to it three or four hundred more, which will probably be too many.