Henry stood in the gravel parking lot, waiting for the spins to finish with him.
enry stood in the gravel parking lot, waiting for the spins to finish with him.
He watched the dust swirl in the wake of a departing semi. He found it impossible to focus on any one object as the world slowly twisted around him. Nothing seemed real. The air was too hot and the sunlight too metallic. It was ruining a perfectly tempered headache. He dug his thumbs into his eyes. It didn’t help.
When he dropped his hands, he saw something dark materialize in the settling dust halfway between himself and the depression-era gas pumps. He shaded his eyes beneath his forearm. It looked like a dress shoe. He hobbled over and picked it up.
Though now permanently deformed from a recent encounter with a truck’s tire, it was obviously the mate to the one he was wearing. Strangely, this one still had its laces. With some effort, he managed to wrench his bare foot into it.
He again shaded his eyes against the nuclear sky and took a long, careful look around. He was pleasantly surprised to find absolutely nothing familiar about his location.
He stood in the gravel lot between a beat-up old gas station and a ramshackle bar whose motif was suspiciously country-western. Squatting in an empty field directly across the two-lane highway from him was the shell of an old white stucco garage with blown-out windows and the words ‘County Jail’ spray-painted comically above the door. This quaint picture of Americana was colorfully framed by miles and miles of pretty much nothing else but rocks, dust, and scrub. The only signs of organic life were a couple mangled balls of dead brown vegetation bouncing their way merrily down the shoulder of the road.
“Tumbleweeds,” he whispered, “Henry, what have you done?”
He turned toward the ramshackle bar. Three pickups and an SUV sat baking in the gravel immediately outside it, none of which was his. The dusty license plates all suggested he might be in New Mexico, though they offered no specifics about where in that desert wasteland he might be or how he may have come to land here.
It seemed this time he’d skillfully exceeded even his normally professional-level recklessness. The blackout was a simply brilliant touch. He’d somehow managed to reenter the atmosphere hundreds of miles from home, touching down with no socks, no belt, no tie or jacket, no car. Put all together, it was an award winning accomplishment indeed! Aside from the fact that he still had a pulse, this was by far his best outing yet! Bravo! A round of applause, please!
He squeezed the back of his neck and attempted to rock the pain out of it. That vice wasn’t giving up on his head. If he was ever going to dig himself out of this mess, he needed medicine. And that bar moldering over there on the other side of this parking lot wilderness was his best hope for treatment, country-western motif notwithstanding.
He grabbed for his wallet and found an empty back pocket. His phone was gone as well, most likely hiding in the lining of his jacket, which was most likely lurking in the backseat of his car, which was almost certainly on its way to parts unknown without him.
To his great disappointment, he did find the wad of a twenty-dollar bill in his side pocket. It was the only foible to an otherwise perfect plan.