“Enchanted” by Austin McLellan
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Austin McLellan’s Tual wants to head out of Colorado and into New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.
by Austin McLellan
The cop’s fingers were as thick as the sausages he stabbed with the fork and stuffed in his mouth. Probably as greasy, too, Tual thought as he drank coffee in a booth. He watched the cop sitting at the counter.
It was early morning in south Colorado, town of Alamosa. The diner where Tual sat with the cop and a skinny waitress and an old, browned farmer didn’t have a name. A windstorm blew their sign down last year, but that was okay. Everyone knew the name.
Except Tual. He didn’t know the name of the joint and didn’t care, except it was open and had coffee. He had driven all night, down from the mountains near Leadville, where he had killed Mason. It was good work—earned him ten K up front, with twenty due on delivery. Yeah, they wanted Mason in Albuquerque, wanted the body. For proof? Bullshit. They just want a good laugh, Tual thought.
So when Mason was dead, Tual rolled him in black plastic like a big cigar and stuffed him in the trunk of his Chevy. Then he drove all night, almost making the border, but got drowsy. And this diner was open and had coffee.
The cop turned toward him, chewing toast. He squinted. Tual looked away. He’d heard that pot was legal in Colorado, but not entirely. Smoking was okay, but they didn’t like transporting. He looked at his car outside, carrying Mason.
The waitress came and refilled his coffee. Tual sipped it, but it was hot and he gasped. The cop looked again.
“Must be passing through.” It was the farmer. “Everybody in Alamosa knows Greta makes it hot in the morning!” He cackled like an old hen, his denim overalls jiggling. Tual managed a grim smile, thinking, Shut the fuck up, old man.
The cop stood from the counter, hitching his belt, heavy with a pistol, blackjack, steel cuffs, and rounds.
“Morning,” Tual said, acknowledging the policeman.
“Morning,” the cop replied. His face said nothing. His eyes were as blue as the snow in the peaks. Then he wiped his face, handed the waitress a five, and said, “Have a nice trip.” He exited the diner, slamming the door behind him.
The farmer cackled again. Tual shot him a bitter frown. It chilled the old man, and his face sagged like Mason’s sagged when he’d finally died.
Tual paid and left. Outside, the blue sky was radiant overhead. He was still at 7500 feet. He climbed into the Chevy, glancing at his New Mexico plates and their slogan: Land of Enchantment. If only he could get there. He drove back to the highway, where a sign read New Mexico—Thirty Miles. He tried to relax, reaching for the radio, but no. He wanted everything to be quiet, especially his mind. He lit a smoke and tried to forget about that stupid farmer back there. Forget about Mason in the back, too.
Another sign: New Mexico—Ten Miles. He passed a big Airstream. Two kids ogled him from the windows of the trailer. He noticed his speedometer—84 mph. He was jittery. Damn that coffee. He backed off to 65, then lowered his window, letting fresh air rush in.
A final sign: Leaving Colorado. Tual smiled, feeling his pulse slow as he climbed a long grade, the sun warming his face. At the summit, the pink and green mesas of New Mexico appeared on the horizon. But something bright flickered in the road ahead, at the bottom of the hill. Maybe another silvery Airstream. Or a dust devil? Or something enchanted, as they say in New Mexico: magical, from another world, a wonder?
It was a squad car, and there was no turnoff, no exit. Tual’s gut sank as he eased off the gas. Beside the car stood a man—the cop from the diner. The Chevy rolled to a stop.
The cop approached, tugging his belt. “Morning again.”
“Heading to New Mex?”
“Fine.” The cop circled the car.
When he came back to the window, Tual said, “Sumthin’ I can help with, officer?”
“Naw. Just lately we’ve seen folks running dope outta the mountains to Albuquerque. In Chevys.”
“Oh, man. That’s awful. Well, you know, there’s lots of Chevrolets on the road these days. Everywhere. Yep. Nothing special about a Chevy—” Then Tual noticed his hands on the steering wheel. They were white. Damn that coffee.
The cop noticed too, with his blue eyes, and said, “Mind if I check the trunk?”
AUSTIN McLELLAN has published fiction at AkashicBooks.com and in the Bangalore Review, Stepaway Magazine, and the Monarch Review. His drama King Henry, Mayor is a finalist in the 2014 Tennessee Williams Play Contest. He has recently completed a noir novel, Twenty Grand, set in Memphis. In a previous life, Austin taught English and writing at universities in Asia, Europe, and the United States. He has also operated an art gallery, sold used cars, developed software, and acted in a Shakespeare play. Currently an unemployed capitalist, Austin lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where he redevelops real estate in the inner city, and writes. He has BA, Philosophy from Rhodes College; MA, Literature from the University of Memphis. More about Austin and his work at www.austinmclellan.com.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Mar 13, 2014
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