Scenic Overlookby Todd McKie
The piney air was thick and hot. Moonlight seeped through the windshield, glazing his big ears and wide forehead, his pursed lips. The pale light traced the piggish curve of her nose, stained her cheekbones and throat a soft blue. He leaned back against the seat and said, You're an x-ray of yourself.
She made a fist, all knuckles, and pushed it close to his face. Hey, watch it, Buster! she said.
He smelled her tropical lotion. She felt his breath on her fist and pulled her hand away, fumbled in her purse for gum or cigarettes.
It was only a metaphor, he said. Don't take it wrong.
Keep your stupid metaphors to yourself, she said. She shook a cigarette out of the pack, put it between her lips.
He looked out the window. He saw, far below, lights from the town where they both lived. Street lights, traffic lights, lights from homes and apartment buildings, pizza joints and bars. A red light blinked at the top of a radio tower. Green lights marked an iron bridge and, out beyond the river, rows of headlights moved east and west along the interstate.
He tried to picture the people in the cars and trucks. Families on vacation looking for a cheap motel. Little kids asking, When are we gonna be there? Husbands heading home but wishing they weren't. Truckers high on pills to keep awake. Lonely women listening to the radio for company and counting the miles.
He turned to look at her and laughed. You gonna eat that or smoke it?
She plucked the cigarette from her mouth and waved it around. I can't find my lighter.
Well, I guess you better eat it, then, he said.
She threw the cigarette out the window. Do you still want to?
Want to what? he said.
You know—fool around. That's why we came up here, isn't it?
I dunno. I'm not in the mood.
You're a total downer, you know that? Why can't we ever just have fun? she said.
We have fun. We have plenty of fun! But as soon as he said it he realized how pathetic he sounded.
He watched her peel the wrapper from a stick of gum. When she put the gum in her mouth and began to chew he imagined not just her teeth, but bones and cartilage too, muscles, blood vessels and the fatty tissue below her skin, all moving and working at the sticky lump.
He started the engine. He switched on the headlights. The car shot forward, tires screeching and fishtailing as they hit gravel at the edge of the highway. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel and pushed hard on the gas pedal.
She grabbed for her seat belt. Slow down, for Christ's sake! Do you want to get us both killed?
He didn't have an answer for her. But maybe he'd come up with one in the mile of asphalt that twisted and plunged toward the valley below.