Fiction · 07/08/2009

And Took Him Down Where He Got the Bends

The sun bent a-blurry on the Pacific Coast Highway. Charlie and Jim looked into the closest star and tried to blind themselves, but they hadn’t the guts. Charlie pulled to the side of the road.

“There goes that idea,” Charlie said.

“I see blobs of paint,” Jim said.

“We’ll get going in minute. Try to think of something else.”

“We already skipped running off the into a tree or slamming into an oncoming car.”

“Just keep thinking.”

Soon, they took off again, wearing sunglasses and not at all looking hip or cool.

“We can leave the drugs for them to find,” Jim said.

“Don’t be stupid. They’re following us. They know we’ll run out of gas. That’s all they’re waiting for. Then they’ll get the drugs.”

“We can just pull into a gas station.”

“That’s where they’ll shoot us. Everybody’s gonna run when they shoot. They’ll have time to get what they want.”

“I don’t wanna kill myself anymore. I’d rather go to jail.”

“Then we’ll go to jail. First, we gotta get there.”

“How much gas?”

“Too much to stop yet.”

The road curved back and forth and pushed the car to and fro; it was not a road for the nerve-stripped. . Charlie lost his composure, and they went into the other lane and then came back into their own. The blue sky, immovable and mute, seemed without end, as if the weather would remain the same wherever they went.

“Why’d we do it,” Jim said.

“Money.”

“We could have just sold it the usual way.”

“They weren’t playing by the rules,” Charlie said. “We thought we’d give them lessons.”

“That was stupid.”

“You’re right: We’re stupid.”

Charlie sped up. The road fought the car, for it wasn’t a very good car and couldn’t handle the physics.

“Why go so fast?”

“We’re stopping at the first police station.”

Again, Charlie accelerated. The wheels were on the skids, Charlie’s hands tight on the steering wheel.

“Jail sounds good right now, better than anything.”

“Shut up and watch for police stations.”

The next curve was too much for the car. It spun in a circle but clung to cliff side, banging into the railing, which took out a tire. Charlie drove on the rim until they were off the road. They sat in the car for a minute, looking at the ocean and the cliff. Then they got out and put their hands on the car as if they might heal it.

“There’s nowhere to go,” Jim said.

“We’ll take the road.”

“But they’ll get us for sure.”

“Then we’ll walk down the coast. Let’s go down to the coast.”

“Won’t they find us there?”

“We’ll disappear.”

They crossed the road and climbed over the barrier, then stumbled down the rocks and through the weeds. A hundred yards farther and they reached the shoreline. They looked back and up and saw that they were probably still visible from the road.

“They still won’t see us,” Charlie said.

“How’s that? We’re in the wide open.”

“We’ll walk in the water ‘til we’re up to our necks in it.”

They walked into the waves. The water was cold, but they kept walking. Soon, only their heads were visible.

“They can’t get us now,” Charlie said.

“Yeah, but how long can we stay this way? We might hit a slip and drown.”

“We’ll keep walking this way until dawn. Then we’ll go back to the shore.”

“We’ll drown for sure at night.”

“You wanna get shot or worse?”

“No, I just wanna make it to jail.”

“We’re not going to any goddamned jail.”

“Then where we gonna go that they won’t find us?”

“Just walk. Just keep walking and walking and walking.”

“We’re not going back to the shore, are we?”

“There’s sharks,” Charlie said. “Maybe stingrays. And then there’s walking. Keep walking like we just got out of jail, like we’re free.”

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Paul A. Toth lives in Sarasota, Florida. He is the author of three novels. The majority of his short fiction and other works, as well as information on ordering his novels, can be accessed from www.netpt.tv.