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Places I Hang Out

Hammer Down

She was maybe fourteen when she first knocked on the door of my cab. Damn young even for a lot lizard. 

I rolled across and opened it and asked her, "What?"

"Nothing much. Name's Nora. I need a ride north…"

"Alright. I'm heading out in an hour. Be here."

"You a good man?"

I didn't answer, just stared. She looked away.

Don't sing about tomorrow because I already know I've lost you. 

She was punctual.

Underway, I cranked the tunes.

"Hope you like Waylon, little girl."

"What's a Waylon?"

I damn near busted a rib at that, while she gazed ahead with no expression on her heart-shaped face. 

After I got a breath, I asked her, "So, you a runaway?"

Ain't much for social niceties, as it happens. 

She didn't say nothing for a long time, and I was beginning to think she hadn't heard me over the outlaw uproar coming from my speakers when she finally answered.

"Not running away. Running to. I got me a man to kill."

Follow the endless poles and you'll hear our song humming in the wires.

My turn to think I heard wrong. I looked across at her, looked away, looked again. Her pretty face hadn't changed a jot, her eyes fixed on the unspooling ribbon of the eternal blacktop.

"Thinking I might've heard you wrong just now."

"You probably didn't. But I'll say it again, mister. Got me a man I need to kill."

Here's a thing. They're all lot lizards to me; I don't tell apart the ho's from the lost souls, the thumbers, the runners. Excuse the pun, but I don't truck with the former. I'll pick 'em up if I want the company, but it's strictly hands-off. I ain't stupid. Plus, each year they seem to get younger. Probl'y 'cause each year I seem to get older... ain't no mystery to it, really. But this life's a lonely one, and these girls often surprise me, make me laugh and sometimes even make me think about all the lives out there veering onto the shoulder, waiting to get bit by gators. Hell, I like their company, even the pissy ones who bitch about my choice in tunes.

"Alright. Look, miss. Back there you asked me if I'm a good man, and I never answered. But the fact is, I ain't entirely a good man. I done some bad things here and there, things I sure ain't proud of, but I ain't never been a party to no murder, so I'm thinking I'll let you out, no offense meant. There's a stop maybe a half hour up ahead that ain't no pickle park, so you'll be alright. And maybe you can think about shit while you're there and come to some different conclusions.”

"Sure, mister, I ain't offended. Ain't no murder, though. It's a mercy killin'."

Be damned if I wasn't curious, but I held my tongue and the big road kept on rolling and the music kept on twanging. 

Sing me a song of death. What do you love? The miles fill up with dread. You won't resist.

I glanced again, and her expression had changed for the first time; on her doll face was a full-on grin, wide as a toad's, made me think of some real bad thing, and I felt a tremor inside me and stood on the pedal, wondering if I should just hit the shoulder and unload her right there, be done with it. But I kept on going.

Hammer down and stack them eights. Ten-four, my sorry ass.


To be continued?

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