I lounged by the Coke machine, face, hair, clothes grimed with dust from riding in the back of a farmer’s pickup for forty miles. My sweat-wet Tee stuck to me, back and front. I plucked at it as I stared across the glare of the garage forecourt.
There wasn’t much out there. A flat plain stretched away under a searing sky, red-rusted and spotted with stumpy trees like the face of an acne’d teenager. Distant hills made for a better view, lifting range after range, echoes weakening to a soft-edged smoky haze.
The lone pump in use stopped with universal abruptness. The user, out of my sightline, noisily jiggled the nozzle, slotted it back in place with a clunk. That’s when I took notice of the car itself. Especially its plate, which must have sent a subliminal message to have me thinking of the softening hills.
No number, like the only echo in the world belonged on that car. As a Brit, I quietly mocked the worship of the V whatever engine in this part of the world. No mocking this beauty though. Fifties, early sixties? Long as a swimming pool, tail fins stolen from a jet rocket and a wraparound silver grille wide as a shark’s mouth. Pale pink. A Monroe car, all heat and glamour. I stood for a closer look.
‘She’s a beauty, eh?’ A more organic beauty of about the same vintage walked towards me, perfectly balanced on four inch heels below leggy cut-off jeans. She jangled a heavy set of keys in slim, red varnished fingers. Giant sunglasses held back waving hair bleached by sun, or chemicals. Cheekbones as sharp as the car’s tail fins.
‘You betcha. My twin.’ She smiled an American white dazzle. ‘El Dorado, ’62.’
She gestured over her shoulder at the car. A pale band on her ringless third finger told me part of the story. Trading on the country’s renowned openness, I tilted my head in the direction of her hand.
‘You might say that.’ She waved the hand, dark brows arching. ‘His was fire hydrant red.’ Her smile flattened into a grimace. ‘He drove it off into the sunset, the required pretty young thing tucked into his side.’
A story as old as those mountain ranges.
‘He was sorry too.’ She pulled the sunglasses down, peered over the edge. ‘Later.’
I wanted to hear the rest. She seemed a woman who could sculpt sharp, deadly edges into revenge. I relished the anticipation with tingling spine.
She left me speculating.
‘If you scream long enough into darkness,’ was all she said, ‘darkness starts screamin’ back into you.’
I pressed my sunburned lips together and nodded, feigning wisdom beyond my gap year status.
Her glittering red lipsticked smile relit. ‘Offer you a ride?’
This story was the winner of the ECHO themed flash competition from September 2021.
About the author: Cheryl Burman came late to writing, inspired largely by where she lives, in a beautiful forest. Over the past few years she’s published a children’s fantasy trilogy, a slim collection of short stories (several of them prize winning/commended) and a women’s fiction novel which is being met with positive reviews. In between getting on with two current projects, she’s much involved in her local writing scene including working with students in local schools to encourage their creative spark.