The lost highway
Achoo! Pookie rubbed his red nose and looked around the saloon sleepily amazed how similar it looked to the one in the town he just escaped from.
“Ya know, they say when you sneeze it means people are talking about ya” Canard said as he sat opposite him in a booth whittling a piece of wood.
“What are you whittling?” Efron asked.
Canard smirked “You’ll just have to wait and se-“
He was suddenly cut off by the weird dog thing Garfield biting the end of the bit of wood and fighting to take it.
“Hey ya dumb whatever ya are! Let go” He said as he tugged at the bit of wood the dog was gnawing on “Ahh you’re drooling on it!”
Efron hid her snickering behind her hand.
“What are you laughing at?” He said.
“You’re funny” She said.
“Yeah I’m hilarious, would you buzz off kid, go play or something” He said shooing her away.
Efron giggled childlishly and disappeared from sight.
He turned around in his seat furrowing his brow and cocking out his lower lip. “That’s better, I think you and me need to talk some more”
Pookie sniffled not looking at him “About what?” he said petulently.
“About what we do next?”
“’We’ there is no ‘we’, I don’t owe you nothing.” Pookie said in a disinterested way.
“I saved your life back there” Canard had an easy meaningless smile.
“I don’t remember that” Pookie raised an eyebrow and waved his hand away.
“Yeah back in the cave- nevermind, it’s not important, what’s important is we need to find someone who can look at that weird mark on the kid and tell us what it means?” He said emphatically, his movements overcooked exaggerations like he’d put too much thought into them.
“Why do we need to that?” Pookie asked with his eyes closed.
“To propel the plot dummy”
“I know a mutual friend of ours who might know something.” He spoke a little softer and seemed to lean forward.
“What’s in it for you if we take her to see this guy?” Pookie reclined in his seat with his arms folded and his eyes half open.
He looked around before leaning in more “I owe her”
“I don’t get it.” Pookie sighed.
“The guy owes me a favour, if we can find him maybe he can hook the kid up and we can part ways.” Canard almost whispering now.
Pookie sneezed again.
“Or we could just kill eachother” Canard said letting a little ice slide into his voice as he leaned all the way back in his seat.
Pookie’s eyes narrows and his fingers crawled closer to his sword that was resting under the table between his legs.
Canard eyed him and gripped his whittling knife firmly.
They both turned to see Efron pointing her gun at them “You promised you wouldn’t kill eachother!” A look on her face like someone was turning the car around not going to get icecream.
They looked at eachother “No we didn’t” They both said in unison.
“Yeah you did, when we were in that cave and I saved you from the zombies and there was like a cave in. And we thought it was all over but then the leader was all alive and like ‘I’m gonna get you rawr’ and I shot him and saved you both”. She said in a matter fact chipper way rising at the end as if expecting applause.
“Literally none of that happened” Pookie said as he rubbed his nose.
Canard just shook his head.
“So you’re just gonna kill eachother, that’s pretty boring” She huffed stomping her feet.
“You got a better idea?” Pookie asked cocking his head to one side.
“I just might” Efron said. She quickly cracked open the revolver and proceeded to empty the shells into her dress which she held out at the bottom to catch them. When she was done she snapped the heavy chamber back into place. “There’s one bullet in this gun, you each take turns pulling the trigger at your own head until one of you blows your brains out.” She said throwing the gun on the table like it was a chew toy. “But if neither of you are dead after four turns you have to both be my bodyguards for life, deal?”
“Ey esse’ I challenge you to a duel hombre!”
“Who me?” Efron said starry eyed “What’s a duel?”
“No not you!” The stranger said “This gringo with the funny face!” The man said as he pointed at Pookie who looked like he was going to sneeze again.
They turned to look at the stranger, a rotund Mexican of average height wearing a sombrero and a flannel shirt with imitation snake skin boots. A big ridiculous moustache on his face, his smile sporting what looked like gold teeth.
He waited for them to say something but they just continued to stare at the odd character waiting for him to burtst into song.
“Ahem, allow me to introduce myself. I am Juan Sandwich phillysub Ramirez of the infamous Ramirez brothers, known as the masters of swallowing. Surely you’ve undoubtedly heard of us” He said smirking and putting on a posher accent trying to sound like zorro or something.
Efron, Pookie and Canard all looked at him and shook their heads.
“Nomatter, after I kill the wasteland famous Pookie the clown, killer of a thousand men. My name will live on forever.”
“Look guy, we kinda just got done with a wacky misadventure so can you just buzz off and come back later?” Pookie sighed.
“-Long ago when we were very young we dreamed of being in the circus, fame and fortune, travel and the women-”
“He’s already doing an anime backstory monologue” Canard said dryly. “Is this what I sounded like?”
“Ah crap” Pookie said. “Come on buddy can you give us the cliff notes?”
“Huh?” Juan froze his lips pursed, sweat beading on his forehead, totally dumbstruck by the heckling.
“Summarize” Canard said.
Juan cleared his throat and began to speak plainly, all the theatrics drained from him. “Me and my brothers were rejected by the Ringmaster because he said our act wasn’t original enough. But, if I kill you he’ll have to let us in and then we’ll be super famous and get all the chicks.”
Pookie looked around the table and back at Juan and sighed. “Ok, lets get this over with I guess.”
“That’s what she said” Juan remarked.
Canard looked at him shaking his head “You’re a terrible character.”
“Margherite, where you going” Banjo’s sighed sounding too tired to argue standing in the door to her personal tent. Despite being the daughter of the ringmaster and having her own tent which was a luxury in itself, it was surprisingly sparse. It had taken time and dedication to strip it of all luxury and accoutrements that accompany circus royalty. All that remained was a simple cot style bed with a large trunk at the bottom and a nightstand with a picture turned the opposite way.
Margherite looked back from the bag she was hurriedly packing said nothing and got to quickly shoving clothes into her pack.
“Look, I know how you feel about him but-“
“Who?” She said despondently.
“Pookie” Banjo seemed to wince even saying his name.
Margherite laughed and opened her steamer trunk. She started rifling through a huge assortment of different weapons. “This isn’t about Pookie, I’m going to find that idiot Coldslaw before he gets them both killed.”
“Is that right?” Banjo raised an eyebrow and scratched his stubbly cheek.
“Yeah, got something you wanna say about that?” She turned in a crouching position to scowl up at him, like a little angry dog.
“You know I do” He laughed. “You think Coldslaw can kill Pookie?”
“No, do you?”
“Depends” He said thoughtfully turning so his back was resting against a tent pole. “In the ring with rules, no, Pookie wins every time, but out there in the ‘real’ world where there are no rules, who knows?”
Margherite sighed softly over the sound of her rummaging through her trunk.
“Are you in love with him?”
“Now what’s that got to do with anything?” She said spitting with a fiery ambivalence, turning her head so one eye was looking at him in utter disgust.
“You just don’t get, you were born here, you’ve never left this tent. You don’t know what it’s like out there, you think it’s crazy here you have no idea how crazy it can get in the real world.” Banjo shouted, indignant, incensed by her, pointing out through the opening of the tent, to the real world.
“I can handle myself” She said as she slipped a spiked baseball bat into her bag.
“You know I can’t let you go?” He shook his head but remained where he was.
“Is that right?” She smirked as she slid the strap of the bag over her shoulder.
“Your dear old dad will pull this whole place apart looking for you!” He said emphatically. “and then when he doesn’t find you there’s no telling what he’ll do. It’ll be chaos”
“So what? What’s wrong with a little chaos?” She smiled tilting her head to the side.
“You think you’re getting back at him so you don’t care.” Banjo sighed and let out a breathy laugh “Belligerant spoiled brat kid fucking things up for their parents, what a tired plotline.”
“You can’t stop me” She said like the bratty kid she was.
“I wouldn’t even want to, I just needed to tell you how stupid you are, even if you knew already.” He smiled at her as she struggled to get past him and out of the tent.
He watched her go smiling and then dropping it abruptly like it weighed a tonne.
It was midday and the sun was beating down on them but it was still relatively cool with just enough heat to warm the hair on your arm and bright enough to blind.
Outside of the saloon in this bordertown that had no particularly interesting landmarks. Apart from a water tower that was standing up straight. Pookie was slouching and looking bored as he stood about five feet away from the weird stranger who was beaming with his hands on his wide hips.
Efron stepped in between with what looked like an empty can of beans.
“Ok when this can of beans hits the ground then you can fight, or whatever.” She said looking back and forth at each duelist, her mop of red hair blowing in his face as she squinted from the sun oppressing her freckled cheeks.
Pookie scratched his cheek and put his thumb through the ring pull on his sword. He yawned and closed his eyes as he was standing right in the direction of the sun. All he could see was the stranger’s fat shadow stretching out behind him, but right now he didn’t really care.
The stranger smiled smugly as he saw his advantage. “I see you have resigned yourself to death. I assure you, you do so at the hands of a master, now we begin.” The stranger said as he cleared his throat and then belched loudly “Sorry”. He then tilted his head back and the others watched on from the sideline in astonishment as they witnessed his ‘act’.
The man as far as they could tell was unarmed but he stood to duel all the same. Now he was acting very strangely with his head tilted all the way back and his mouth wide open making strange gagging sounds. Canard and Efron and Garfield watched on in a transfixed amusement. They saw his throat bulging like a frog’s and his stomach also was moving in and out strangely.
And then something started to come out of his mouth, something shiney and slick.
“Is that?-“ Efron said.
“A hilt of a sword” Canard answered.
It was the hilt of what looked like a rapier or duelling sword protruding from the mans fat mouth.
“I see why he didn’t get the job now.” Efron stood with the can in her hand forgetting for a second why she was holding it. She watched Juan halfway between amazed and disgusted, mostly disgusted.
Canard nudged her.
“Oh yeah” She said as she hurriedly and without aiming hucked the can up in the air under armed as high as she could. Which was surprisingly high for such a skinny kid.
“Nice throw.” Canard said
“Thanks” She beamed.
“Woof” Garfield concurred.
They both followed the can as it fought gravity through the heavens only to slowly succumb and begins it’s tumble back down to terra firma.
The hilt was almost all the way out now, an exquisitely decorated duelling rapier with gold leaf covered in bile and stomach acid.
Pookie yawned and wasn’t watching the can, just continuing to find new places to scratch himself completely disinterested.
Canard, Efron and Garfield all followed the can with their heads with bated breath. As it arched and fell straight down, slowly tumbling and building speed.
“Oh no” Efron said as she saw the trajectory of the can.
The can came down and playfully bopped the end of the rapiers guard sending the blade unceremoniously back from whence it came.
“Oopsie” Efron said.
The stranger balked and staggered and smiled awkwardly sweating profusely “Is ok, is all ok.” He said right before he took a few stumbling steps and fell flat on his face. The blade of the rapier sticking right out of his-.
“Is that coming out of his?” Efron asked.