Five Miles from Texas

It was dark in Oklahoma when the warning for my car battery came on. The lit symbol glowed orange, contrasting against the green glow of the dash giving my speed. I used my phone to thumb in a google search. I know little about cars and google gave me less.

Piece by piece my car’s electronics shut down. I lost the radio, the dash, and then my power steering and headlights. They cut out just as a semi passed me, the car barely under my control. I muscled the wheel to keep me off the big rig but still hurtling toward an exit. I coasted onto an off-ramp and was able to swing to the shoulder. I could see the makings of a tiny town maybe a quarter mile down the road. I stepped out and got to walking. The air was warm, the world black. A sign set in stone welcomed me to Thackerville, America.

I was on my way to Texas to make $7500 having drugs tested on me in Austin. I was five miles from the Texas border but many more from where I needed to be come morning. This study was good money but also a reason to drift. I was signed up for a drug study in Minneapolis but it was delayed two weeks so I found this one in Texas. I was circling the Midwest to sop up cash and life experience before heading back to where I lived on the Left Coast. I left Minnesota figuring that even if Austin didn’t cash out I could enjoy the warm weather before getting drugged up in the Midwest. But for now I was lost between the two, broke down in darkness.

I walked into town to see if there was an auto shop or at least someone who could point me to one nearby. The town was small, maybe a few hundred people, and looked like a beat-up version of my own origins in the flatlands of North Dakota. At its edge were grass fields and across from those a couple low-slung homes. I transitioned from the shoulder to a sidewalk. The town greeted me with an auto shop bearing the name of brothers. This was great. But on further inspection I was convinced it’d been shut down for years. The building was broken and its insides piled with junk. I tried the number on the sign. It was disconnected.

I started walking to the convenience store on the next block but it appeared to be closed. Behind it lay train tracks. Across the street was a school where a few cars congregated. In time they turned on their lights and pulled away. A group of teens, some riding in a pickup box, squeeled their tires in delight. They ripped up and down the main drag a few times. I tried remembering if I’d locked my doors. I thought of waving them down to ask for assistance but decided against it. They were drunk and I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do. I tried a few side roads but this was a town whose central business seemed to be the gas station — one with old pumps and no shop.

I thought I’d try my luck with turning the car key to see if she’d start. If not I’d sleep on the side of the road and figure out a tow in the morning. Morning was when I had to be to Texas. It seemed that just like that my drug money was flushed off to fuck and I’d be sleeping in the trunk. As I started back to my car I called my sis to see if she could look up tows and mechanics. As we spoke on the phone three dogs from a house on the edge of town took notice of me and gave chase.

I ran into a field and the three dogs kept after me, snarling, barking, giving signs they’d attack as a pack. I turned toward them and started screaming, looking for a stick or clump of dirt to fend them off or fuck them up. The dogs ranged from small to large but it was the middle one who ran up and bit me. He sunk into my leg but my jeans were tough and later I learned he barely broke the flesh. I kicked at him and ran off, the dogs still barking but no longer in pursuit. I got back on the phone and told my sis what happened. Christ what a night.

I turned my car key and the engine choked as if its lungs were full of┬ácum. Still, it found the power to sputter itself to life. It’d been sitting for close to an hour and I took this as a sign that things were okay. I got on the on-ramp and before I even hit the interstate the systems began their shut-down sequence once again. A mile later was the exit for a shuttered rest stop, its entrance blocked off. I rolled up to the barrier announcing Road Closed. Aside this was a belt of trees and snaking into those lay a dirt road. My car was dead but I slipped it in neutral and pushed it past the treeline. This was so as to be out of view and save me the hassle of a trooper knocking at my window.

I made a bed in the backseat, so tired and drained, unsure of what the next day held. I had a bit of money in the bank but anything more than five hundred would leave me stranded in a strange land. I wouldn’t know what was wrong ’til morning. I just knew I was five miles from Texas and couldn’t wait to be done with Oklahoma. I put in earplugs but could still hear the rumble of late-night semis passing by. I curled in the backseat, bitten, fucked, and ready for sleep. It took its time to arrive, to carry me away from Oklahoma.