Truck stop image credit goes to The Huffington Post
Green note: What do you do when you’re busier than a racoon in tall corn? You call on a pal for a guest post, is what: Richard Godwin is a kickass crime, horror, and kitchen sink author and this here is a shortened-up version of one of my early favorites of his. Thank you for obliging, Richard : )
PICK-UP by Richard Godwin
Beyond the stained window the hissing scar of the highway looked deserted. Patty felt she was in the wrong town with no visa. The diner was empty apart from the guy in the corner. He’d been eyeing her all night. Patty was used to eyes on her, sometimes they felt like insects crawling across her deadened skin.
‘I don’t suppose you have a light?’ he said, walking over to her.
‘Sure,’ Patty said, flicking her Zippo, hiding the stain, snuffing it out. ‘Spare a cigarette?’
The waitress bristled past, all swish of starched uniform and the click of over chewed gum. She looked at them out of the corner of her eye, a slight curl of her lip.
Patty stepped outside into the mix of ice cold and diesel fumes. After the initial silence, they started the smokers’ chat. Weather, journeys, directions, bitching about this and that, and then he said it. Just like that. No interlude, no build up. As if he was ordering a pizza. ‘Last night I killed a man.’
He took a deep drag and blew it skywards then turned and looking her right in the eyes, said, ‘A guy got smart. He was nobody, really. I shot him. Twice.’
Silence. And just two burning cigarette ends in the cold and the smog. A truck whizzed by.
‘Why you telling me this?’ she said.
‘Cause there’s one thing I always feel like doing after I kill someone.’
‘Yeah. An’ that’s fuck a sweet young thing like you. You looked good to me in there sitting over that coffee. Thought you was gonna hit that waitress. First I thought maybe you was a dike, seeing how you kept looking at her, but I figured what would you want with a used up old whore like that? Then I saw those little gloves you’re wearing and I knew for sure you ain’t no dike. Those hands are made for one thing, sweetheart, and that’s whipping up its head in my pants. That coffee must have been colder than a frigid ass. ’Nother smoke?’
He held up the cigarette packet.
‘Thanks. Though, I ain’t gonna sleep with you.’
‘No. I ain’t askin’ you to sleep with me, honey.’
‘Just so’s we understand that.’
‘How old are you anyway, out here alone on the highway?’
‘That right? There’s a bad dude out there, in case you ain’t heard, he’s been chopping women up. Much badder’n old Jim. I don’t kill ladies, just fuck them.’
‘I can look after myself.’
‘Maybe you need me to look after you.’
‘What are you gonna be, my sugar daddy?’
‘Heard one woman got her throat opened up real bad. Out here, alone, just her thumb in the air and only her poontang to pay. They call him the maniac trucker, although I hear this guy drives a pick up.’
‘Thank you for the smoke,’ she said, walking back in.
Inside, the waitress stared at her from behind the counter, hands on her hips. Just another anonymous judge. Patty watched her stare fade. The waitress went out back. Patty felt weak and as she tried to remember the last time she’d eaten, and Jim walked in, laughing, almost dancing across the diner to where she sat.
‘Come on, darling, we can do it in the john,’ he said.
The smell of pizza drifted across the air.
‘How much you got?’
‘I knew you were a pick up. I reckon you’re worth a hundred.’
‘Hundred and fifty.’
He peeled a stack of tens out of his wallet and laid them in her palm.
‘I’ll see you in the john,’ she said.
After a few minutes Jim made his way there.
She was standing at the back, past the urinals, outside the only clean cubicle.
Jim walked in and put a broom handle against the door.
‘Well, hallelujah baby.’
‘Come on,’ she said, walking into the cubicle, pulling down her jeans.
‘You’re safe with me.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I can always tell, now come on get it while it’s hot.’
‘You’re as sweet as cherry pie, ain’t you?’
His zip made a harsh sound in the empty john. She saw endless miles of road as his skin made contact. She thought she heard someone trying the door as he entered her. She looked over Jim’s shoulder at a fly crawling across the graffiti. She felt the cold wall against her buttocks as he stopped.
He winked and ran his finger across her cheek.
‘Told you I ain’t the maniac trucker.’
Then he looked down at her right forearm and shook his head. There was a jagged scar running through the tattooed word “Mom”.
After he left she heard a pick up drive off as she checked herself in the mirror.
She was thinking about food when the door swung open and the waitress walked in.
‘I knew it,’ she said. ‘I saw him leave, I’m calling the po-lice.’
‘Why you such a bitch?’
‘You just made a big mistake, you ho.’
‘You don’t get to call me no hooker, you’re just a fucking waitress.’
She was trying to leave when Patty grabbed her hair. She spun round and struck Patty hard across the face.
‘I wish that killer would pick you,’ the waitress said.
She had one fist clenched in the waitress’s uniform as she pulled her switchblade from her pocket and opened up her throat. The blade was still moving in the air as the waitress spurted blood on the wall, staggering round with her eyes popping. And Patty watched her fall, one hand on the floor, reaching for something she never found.
She stepped over the body and out of the diner and hailed a passing truck.
Jim went back the next day and heard the waitress had been killed by the maniac trucker.
Every time he took a piss there, he thought of the hot little tattooed thing he’d screwed, as the steam rose from the urinal like a mist.
Richard was born in London and obtained a BA and MA in English and American Literature from King’s College London, where he also lectured.