Something About the Devil’s Pickup
legs ached and his asthma threatened to choke him into a gasp that would give
him away. RJ’s yellow Chevy pickup sat
monument-like in the dirt road.
ridden his bike to the top of Mootry Hill. Andre wouldn’t give a rat’s
ass about RJ, a
doper and dirt bag, if it weren’t for his pickup. Josie, slobbering over
him in the cab, was his
no,” his stepmother said when RJ was in high school. “He’s
simply misunderstood.” Arlene came on like an earth mother seeing
innocence in all youth. Ha ha, New Mom.
Andre explained RJ sold crystal meth and
bought vodka for kids, but she wouldn’t listen.
doors opened and the couple orbited to the back of the truck.
not here?” RJ demanded.
maybe we’re not alone.” She was wearing
cut-offs and a sleeveless top. Flip
flops on her feet in the woods. Not
began pulling at her shirt and pants.
in the dirt, RJ. Jeez, you’re terrible.” Josie gave a defensive ha-ha, wiggled her butt and took a
step away to peel her clothes.
on that door.” RJ pulled a
weather-beaten wooden door out of the brush a few yards from where Andre hid. What
was a door doing at the top of the hill,
Andre wondered. Mootry Point was the end
of the trail for many things.
watched with sick curiosity as RJ flopped on Josie. She resembled the frog he
had to dissect in
biology. It was the first time he had
seen Josie naked, making conflicted thoughts tumble through his mind.
RJ or Josie said a word. Josie lay like another
piece of trash discarded in the woods.
get me a towel from the truck,” RJ said, rolling over.
my panties? Oh, goddammit, you kicked
them in the dirt.”
told you to get me that towel!”
not going to run around naked in the town park.”
slapped her in the face. It sounded like
a piece of steak tossed on a countertop.
“Bitch, I tell you to do something, you do it.”
that’s the last time you’ll slap me. I’m
hit her again, knocking her head back.
“Just get out of my life, Josie.”
scooped up her pants and shirt and hobbled robot-like to the trail head, working
to get her toes through her rubber flip-flops.
“Bastard!” she screamed. Her last
word ended in a sob.
was maybe two or three years older than Andre.
Hard to be sure since RJ had been left back one year and quit school as
soon as he could. Thing was, RJ was
blessed with being six feet tall, about 190 pounds and movie-star handsome. Andre
was self-conscious, asthmatic, a skinny
kid who could only envy RJ. Josie could’ve
had any guy she wanted, but RJ’s magic lay in the Chevy pickup.
oohed and aahed over his 1960 Chevy C/K mustard yellow pickup. It had big-ass
bogger tires on chrome rims
and eight yellow spotlights on the roof in a row of manic happy faces. RJ had
also done something to the straight
six engine that made it purr like a kitten at the curb and growl like a lion as
it laid rubber in first gear. The truck
more closely resembled a fire-breathing yellow dragon than a workhorse for
watched as RJ pulled on his pants, propped up the door and lay back to soak up
the sun. And whiskey. And smoke.
Then more whiskey before his head hit the door.
Andre inched out of the bushes. Three
things collided in Andre’s mind: RJ
wasn’t going to wake up for a long time, he’d made Josie cry after treating her
like an exercise machine, and there was a roll of duct tape in the truck bed. He
began pulling off long swaths of tape, wrapping
it over RJ’s legs and around the door, working his way up to his waist. RJ
didn’t stir when Andre drew the tape over
his arms and chest.
“Try to get
out of this one, asshole,” Andre
whispered. Before leaving, he rolled up the
truck windows. If the predicted storm arrived,
he’d be personally offended if the truck were to get soaked.
fine, Mom,” Josie repeated. Andre’s
stepmother persisted, inveigling the
girl-woman into giving up information.
have a bruise on your cheek. It was boy
trouble, wasn’t it?” Arlene McManus was
wearing puce today, puce-colored cropped pants and tight-fitting top with a
décolletage deeper than Fairfield County women usually wore. She stood with
her wrist hooked provocatively
on a hip, making Andre recall a kid saying, “Mrs. McManus is a thong
mommy. Can’t stand the fact she’s not a
bruise. I mean, my God.”
stalked up to her bedroom.
woman sighed dramatically and stared at Andre.
“Your father’s in Afghanistan, Andre, so I’m delegating you to be the
man of the house, in a manner of speaking.”
knew the complications of being brought into the family fray. “So?”
I’m asking you to talk to Josie and see what’s wrong.”
rolled his shoulders. “Nothing I can say
that Josie hasn’t heard before.”
cop didn’t appear for three days. In
that time, Andre had worried that RJ would storm up and beat the shit out of
him. Maybe that he’d gotten so pissed in
his little lizard brain that he’d simply leave Josie.
was returning from work at the bakery when Matt Riorden pulled up at the curb.
I need to talk to you.”
categorized Riorden as a “nice guy” who had played quarterback for the Panthers
when Andre was a sophomore. He had dated
Josie once or twice before RJ came into the picture.
about RJ Kaminski.”
about RJ?” She ran her fingers through
her brown hair.
came to the door, shivering in the cold snap.
Josie leaned against the porch column with her arms behind her back.
hasn’t been home for the last coupla days.
shook her head.
his truck? Can’t miss that yellow beast,
can you? Or hear it.”
seen his truck either.”
when’s the last time you saw him?”
Riorden inched closer, staring at Josie as though he were following a lesson
plan for interrogation. “Time and place,
we drove around a couple days ago, then he dropped me off.”
Lie! Andre put his
inhaler into his mouth and
Danbury. Stopped in the Sycamore Diner.
RJ likes to show off his truck.”
stared. Maybe he didn’t notice Josie
rubbing her nose. Finally, he said,
“Well, you let me know if he calls or you see him.” Then he turned
back to his squad car.
the hell happened, Andre wondered. Andre
hadn’t taped RJ’s nose and mouth. Anybody
could’ve gotten out of that duct tape by chewing himself free or
breakfast on Saturday, Andre shouted upstairs, “I’m gonna take my bike and get
some exercise!” The announcement was all
he needed to communicate, as though the small ranch house was a recording
took forty minutes to get up to Mootry Point.
Sweat pouring into his eyes belied autumn’s chill, then he spotted the
truck. The yellow dragon was now twenty
yards off the trail, pushed down an incline, dustier from wind and snow but still
wondering where RJ was. Then he saw him,
farther off the trail under a pile of brush and leaves. He pushed aside the
branches. RJ’s eyes were closed, still impersonating the
coasted downhill the whole way home. Thinking.
Who moved the truck? Who camouflaged RJ’s body? Hikers coming by wouldn’t have seen him. Probably
not seen the truck either. Somebody had rolled the truck down the hill
and covered the body.
rest of the week, Andre scrutinized his half sister. She’d return from
work late and, once, smelled
of beer. Didn’t go out socially.
Slept more when she wasn’t working.
was playing a video game when he felt a damp hand on his neck. He looked up,
ready to curse Josie, then saw it
was Arlene who had helped herself to Josie’s wardrobe. A too-tight sweater
and a push-up bra made her
look like a dollar-store Dame Edna.
are you happy?” He smelled whiskey on
her breath. “I want so much for our
family to be normal. Till your father
comes home and we’re all together.”
teeth gently tugged at his ear. “Then
try to act happy. Give me a hug
now and then. Show some appreciation for all that I do.”
heart beat faster. What did that ear
bite mean? Arlene wasn’t unattractive,
but his stepmother for
Chrissake! “I gotta go,” he said.
park worker discovered RJ’s body on the first warm day in March. Small
animals had gnawed at him, so the News-Times had to rely on a photo of the
truck the police impounded. The paper
printed a map of Tarywile Park with an X to mark RJ’s mortal end.
came back with another officer, asking Josie the same questions. Again, Josie
afterwards, he heard Josie on the phone.
“I’d like that,” she cooed. “Awesome. So, Saturday night?”
that would be some hotshot who wants to cuddle and huddle?” His eyebrows
went up in little half moons.
Riorden asked if I’d like to go out. Not
that it’s any of your business.”
kinda my business. I called the police
station when the story got in the paper.
Told them RJ had been a good friend and mentor.”
shrugged. “RJ didn’t have any police
record, but they found weed in the truck.
That made it a drug bust so the cops confiscated the truck. I put in
my bid. Riorden said something to the chief, and he
said I could have the Chevy if I paid Blue Book price. No need to wait for the
buying RJ’s truck?” Josie’s eyes got
I told Riorden I really, really wanted it for sentimental reasons. My
dear stepsister’s old boyfriend, et
cetera, et cetera.”
Josie, I want you to be nice to me. It’s
the least you can do after killing RJ.”
never! I never!” Her eyes
for hiding his body and pushing the
truck off the road.”
eyes opened up like olives on a white plate.
nice. I’m your alibi.” He
walked out of the room, knowing he’d
delivered his best line ever.
thoroughly cleaned and waxed the truck.
Registration and licensing went through DMV without question. The clerk
even sympathized over the loss of a
friend. “Can’t ever tell how many
crazies are out there,” the DMV lady said.
flowed through Andre’s body every time he turned the ignition. The engine’s
throaty growl became a woman’s
ecstatic moan when he’d roll in or out of the school parking lot. “This
is what it means to be an American,” he
told a friend. “It’s not what you got in
your head or pockets, it’s how many cubic inches under your hood.”
to the lot after classes, he saw Deirdre running her hand over the fender.
Andre, help me? I gotta get over to the
Mall and pick up some pictures. I need a
ride, pretty please?”
clique of students had labeled Deirdre Owens “Snow White” for her resemblance
to Disney’s black-haired naïf. Someone
said her white skin looked like a condom filled with skim milk.
is RJ’s truck, isn’t it? He drove me
home once. What an egotistical jerk, but
I’m sorry he got killed. Sorry about
your sister, too. You know, cause they
were going together.”
been worse for RJ.”
guy in Brookfield years ago. He put his
wife in the wood chipper. That’s worse.”
I can’t believe you said that!” Deirdre
laughed so that her breasts jiggled.
night, Andre asked Deirdre to the movies.
Running out of words was the problem, but Deirdre didn’t mind his
silences when she was in the truck.
to get a cup of coffee and talk some?” she asked afterwards.
shrugged. “Whatever. You
It’s Saturday night.”
had sodas and hamburgers at the Sycamore Diner.
The lot was full of Chevy Bel Airs and modified Model As and a sleek
early Thunderbird. Andre warmed to the
glow of recognition when someone said, “Nice wheels. Nineteen sixty one
he said. “Drop center ladder frame is
why it sits lower. Independent front
suspension.” Deirdre tightened her grip
on his arm
first hints of summer wafted up the hills as Andre felt a weekend, a Disney
princess, and the sexiest truck in Fairfield County were all waiting.
for a drive?” he asked on impulse.
didn’t feel awkward letting Deirdre direct him to Candlewood Lake. Her
instructions seemed instinctual as she
pointed to turnoffs and dirt roads.
here,” she said. Then she was in his
arms and pulling on his shirt.
deserted Andre’s mind as her hands rubbed his chest. Blindly, he began
tugging at Deirdre’s
clothes. “I want to eat up the world
tonight,” he whispered, not knowing what the words meant.
Josie said plaintively, “borrow your truck so I can run errands?”
kind of errands?”
petulant moue touched her lips. “I
absolutely have to get to the bank.”
the matter with your car?”
making funny sounds. Kind of er-er-er
when I back up.”
looked up from the TV set. “Might be a
wheel bearing. But no to the truck. I
have to pick up Deirdre.”
Riordan. He’ll take you anywhere.
Why don’t you stop off at Mootry Point while
you’re at it?”
stiffened. “What’s that supposed to
he said, “I saw you humping RJ in the woods.
It wasn’t RJ’s fascinating personality.
It was his truck you wanted. ”
mouth worked like a fish out of water. “You tied him up.”
smiled. “Somebody’s little joke, duct-taping him. But someone else
pushed him into the woods so
he wouldn’t make it through the storm.”
and Deirdre were inventive at finding places to make love. Nice also that Arlene
embraced Deirdre like family,
inviting her to dinner, having whispered chats, even borrowing her clothes. “Love
that pink jacket,” Arlene cooed. “I need to know where you got it.”
too tight in the shoulders,” Deirdre complained. “Whyn’t you
take it? My Mom’ll buy me something else.”
was indifferent to Arlene as long as she didn’t put her cougar moves on
him. Josie settled into a relationship
with Matt Riorden. The episode with RJ didn’t
come up again.
family. Just like a TV show.
came a week later. Friends from Newtown invited
Andre and Deirdre to share a bottle of spiced rum. As Andre stumbled upstairs
to bed after
midnight, Josie said, “You’re bagged.
Gonna have a big head tomorrow.
Want some pills to avoid the hangover?”
he asked stupidly.
Alka-Seltzer, but pills.”
the pills into the bathroom, stumbling and dropping most of the blue capsules
in the dark. He swallowed the
remainder. Ten minutes later, he rushed
back to the bathroom and began retching.
Cramps seized his stomach in a vise-like grip. At the sink, he looked
at the bottle Josie
had given him. In shock, he saw the container
had Arlene’s rat poison.
breakfast, he worked hard to say “Good morning” to his stepmother and the stepsister
who had tried to murder him.
school, he sat in the Chevy debating whether to make an anonymous call to the
police. Josie had no alibi for the
afternoon when she’d pushed RJ and the truck into the woods. He could
pin a murder rap on her. And if he was dragged in, what did they call
it? Justifiable homicide. She’d
tried to murder him.
he said out loud. But he chewed on the thought
through dinner before driving to Deirdre’s house.
up, baby?” Deirdre slid into the
thinking about my weird family.”
stared into his eyes. “They’re not
weird. I like your mom.”
thong mommy of Fairfield County?”
not nice. She works hard while your
dad’s in the Army.”
changed the subject. “Nice weather.
I’m going up to the lake. Okay?”
lips curled into a grin. “Can’t.
If I don’t stay home and clean my room
tonight, I’ll be grounded.”
a tragedy, Andre thought. Everything in
the right place — the truck, a little money, a Saturday that could last forever
— but no girl.
she called in her sing-song voice.
he sat in the truck seeing paradise draining away. Moments later, a Ford Taurus
pulled up across
the tree-lined street. Startled, he saw his
stepmother extend a long leg onto the pavement and ease her body after it. He
went cold, squinting in the growing darkness
at her high heels, cropped pants and Deirdre’s too-tight pink jacket.
I want to talk to you.” She leaned into
his window until her face was inches away.
He smelled whiskey on her words.
“You owe me an apology. I demand
respect from you while you live under my roof — our roof — paid for by your
father in Afghanistan.”
tumbled in his mind. Two words came out,
but they were the wrong ones. “Hoochie
My own stepson saying…? Andre, I
have tried to make you like me, even a teensy bit, and all I get is…is manifest
lunged forward, her mouth closing over his in a sucking kiss. Her arms wrapped
his neck like fleshy
tentacles. “Andre, tell me you like me
even a little…?”
sharp crack broke the still air.
Arlene’s eyes opened wide, witnessing something unseen, as she dropped
to the asphalt.
you, Deirdre! Damn you, Andre!”
Josie’s shout echoed in the darkness.
not Deirdre,” Andre croaked. “It’s your
mom. Deirdre’s jacket, your mother.”
had never heard a scream like the sound coming from Josie’s throat as she
peered at her mother’s face, screamed again, and put the gun to her
temple. A second shot reverberated in
jumped from the truck, stepping on Arlene’s hand, and reaching down to touch
this how it was supposed to end? A
had the truck, but now there were three dead people. Maybe he could simply drive
away, keep on
driving until he ran out of road. He’d ask
Deirdre to join him. Even if she refused
he’d have the truck and the truck would have him. It was the American
dream, to let your
troubles stream out onto the open highway.
was sorry they were dead. But they’d be
dead for a long time and he had to go on living. He put his key in the ignition
and the truck
seemed to respond with love.
# # #
Walt Giersbach’s fiction has
appeared in Bewildering Stories,
Big Pulp, Corner Club Press, CommuterLit, Connotation
Press, Every Day Fiction,
Everyday Weirdness, Gumshoe Review, InfectiveINk, Lunch Hour Stories, Mouth
Full of Bullets, Mystery Authors, OG Short Fiction, Over My
Dead Body, Paradigm
Journal, Pif Magazine, Pulp Modern, r.kv.r.y, Short
Fiction World, Short-Story.Me, Southern Fried Weirdness,
The Short Humour Site,
Wilderness House Literary Review, The World of Myth and Written
Word. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue,
published by Wild Child <www.wildchildpublishing.com
>, were available from online retailers
until his publisher
ceased operations. He served for three decades as director of
communications for Fortune 500 companies, helped publicize the Connecticut Film
Festival, managed publicity and programs for Western Connecticut State
University’s Haas Library, and moderates a writing group in New