A clatter in the doorway behind me. I freeze, holding the orange juice in my mouth. Now that I have time to really examine the taste, there are subtle hints of the dish soap used to clean the glass.
I slowly turn my head almost all the way around, scanning the room. Nothing. My free hand reaches down my side and slides my pistol out of its holster. My eyes dart around the room as I hear another clatter.
A grey blur darts across the room. I spin, splashing orange juice on my face, and futilely empty a magazine across the floor, always half a second behind the speeding goddamn rodent.
“Jesus Christ!” Todd shouts, walking in from the other room holding his ears, “I was sleeping you asshole!”
“Sorry,” I say, relaxing and replacing the pistol, “I thought I saw a mouse.”
“Well did you get the bastard?” he yawns, scratching at his eyes.
“No,” I sigh, shaking my head.
“Of course not,” he groans, “Well who gives a rat’s ass? We’ll be out of here in two days anyway.”
I gasp. “You think they’re rats?”
I can’t get rid of the damn tape. Lord knows I’ve tried. I’ve thrown it in the trash only to find it on the ground the next day. I’ve buried it in the yard only to have the neighbor’s dog dig it up. I’ve thrown it in the river only for it to wash back up against the shore a few days later. I tried burning it once, and that seemed to work, but a few weeks later when I was cleaning out my fireplace I found it buried under the ashes. I went to Bakersfield one week to visit my sister and I found it in my suitcase.
Whenever I’ve shown it to anyone, they’ve just said things like “Great effects!” or “You really outdid yourself this time!” or “You ought to get a studio to look at this!” I tell them that it’s real and they just laugh.
I’ve asked Frank about it. He was there when it happened. We were doing some location scouting and thought it would be great place to shoot…all you have to do is watch the tape to see how wrong we were.
“You made the movie without me?” he frowns, pretending to be angry. “Who’d you get to help you?”
“You’re there!” I shout, “You’re in the video! You remember what happened that night!”
He just gives me a weird look.
Why is he pretending he doesn’t know what I’m talking about? Does he just not want to admit the truth about what happened? Sure, we’d all be better off if it wasn’t real, but I know it’s real…isn’t it?
Todd had a problem. He was addicted to pills.
He wasn’t addicted to pills in the way that you might think. He wasn’t addicted to painkillers or sleeping pills or antidepressants or anything specific like that, he was just addicted to pills. Didn’t matter what it was, if he saw one he had to take it. Couldn’t help himself.
It had gotten him into trouble in high school when he started taking his sister’s birth control pills and he had to get breast-reduction surgery. His parents put him in rehab and it worked for awhile, until one day his dad left his Viagra on the counter.
He’d been to rehab a number of times, tried detox, psychotherapy, nothing worked. A therapist once told him it was phallic. For Todd, the pills represented testicles and his obsession revealed his repressed homosexual tendencies.
“Fuck it,” Todd told him, “If you’re gonna tell me shit like that I’ll stick with the pills.”
After that, he gave up trying to find a cure.
I always gave Todd the pills my psychiatrist gave me. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, antibiotics, antihistamines, you name it. They didn’t ever work for me, and Todd enjoyed taking them. Plus, I knew eventually my doctor was going to get tired of me and decide to write me a prescription for something deadly. I felt a little guilty every time I gave Todd my newest prescription, but I figured that he’d probably OD one day anyway so it’s not like it’d really be my fault.
Plus he kind of got on my nerves.
blow job, the door of the stall said, flash lights three times. How the hell does that one work? Some whore hangs around this rest stop all day every day waiting for someone to catch her message and flash their lights? Bullshit. If anyone’s hanging around waiting for someone to flash their lights they’re not gonna give you a blow job. That’s for sure.
I step out of the stall door and walk over to the sink and squeeze some god-knows-what chemical mix they call soap out into my hand. I’m struck with dread as no water comes out of the faucet when I turn it on. My worst fear is squeezing soap into my hand and then finding out the water’s been cut off. What the hell are you supposed to do then?
Outside the restroom are a pair of asian men, babbling to each other in some unintelligible language. I always hate being around people who speak a different language. You can never tell when they’re talking about you.
“Jesus Christ,” Stevens mutters as I slip into the passenger seat, “What the hell are they standing around for? Why the hell would anyone stand around at some goddamn rest stop?”
“Flash your lights three times,” I tell him.
“Why?” he asks, but does it anyway.
The asians stop talking and look at us.
“Well shit,” I muse, “It just might work.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” he asks suspiciously as he watches the asians get into their car and drive off. “Look at that, they weren’t even waiting for anyone. What the fuck were they doing?”
“What the fuck are we doing?” I ask as a police cruiser exits the highway and drives towards us. “Damn pigs saw us flash the signal. They’re after us now.”
He starts up the car and starts to drive away.
“Act casual,” I warn him.