In the sticks

The car died along a lonely road fifty miles from anywhere. The frustrated driver got out of the car after banging the steering wheel with his hands and yelling a number of expletives. He popped the hood. Fuming smoke and the smell of smoldering plastic and boiling metal billowed out. The driver unintentionally inhaled deeply and turned around covering his mouth in a failed attempt to control his hacking cough. He fell to his knees on the dirt shoulder of the road. Recovering from the bad air he reached for his cellphone. There was no reception. More expletives came from his mouth and he pounded his hands in the dirt. In the process he dropped his phone. He picked it up after regaining his composure only to discover that the impact had somehow caused a permanent power disruption. Furious he chucked the phone into the thick woods next to the road. He turned around and walked back to the car. He kicked the tire and reeled backwards from the stinging pain he suffered in his foot. Settling down once more he reached for the door handle and found the door locked. The windows were up and the keys rested in the ignition. He screamed out furious expletives in anger and violently shook the car by lifting the handle up and down spastically. The hard plastic door handle snapped off and the driver fell backwards landing hard against the tarmac of the road.

Slow to rise the driver lay down in mild hysterics wondering why he had taken the absurd shortcut in the first place. To save time of course, he had places to go and no time for the desolate countryside. He needed to follow leads and make contacts. Why did his boss make him go so far to make such a miniscule sale? So what if the client was a long time customer. The driver could have made ten sales that day in the city and suburbs. To expedite his flight back to civilization he took a road suggested by an elderly local at the last gas station many leagues back. The elderly local claimed the shortcut would save the driver two hours time. The drive involved crossing an abandoned military base condemned by toxic waste and the odd live ordnance. Sure the shortcut was illegal and rarely traversed as the elderly local explained, but the driver didn’t care. He had to be somewhere important other than Podunk.

After brushing off his dignity, the driver circled the car like a stalking beast searching for another entry point. All doors remained locked as well as the trunk. He slapped his hands on the top of the car and buried his head in his arms in frustration. The sun beat down and the hot metal of the car’s black surface burned slightly. The driver briefly relished in the singeing pain he felt and watched his droplets of sweat sizzle on the metallic surface. Faintly by staring into the car top the driver could make out his reflection and the glare of the bright baking sun, which created a glare in his eyes. Spurs of strange colorful light entered his sight due to the powerful beams of the sun. He felt disoriented. He turned and sat down leaning in the shadows of the car wondering what he should do. He was thirsty and licked the seeping sweat developing around his lips. The heat grew irritating and stifling. He felt as though he could chop through the humid air with his hands. There was a bottle of water in the car, but how to get to it and then what? He couldn’t stay by the car. There was no telling when the next car might come along. It could be days he felt. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the buttons on his shirt to alleviate his overheating body. He looked over into the dried drainage ditch at the side of the road and noticed a large stick. He went over and picked up the thick solid piece of wood. Holding the wood in his hands he shook it and took a swing as if batting for a baseball. This will do, he thought.

He strode with confidence over to the driver’s door of the car. After taking a deep breath the driver held the wood up high. Ferociously he began bashing at the window. He repeated his motions several times to no avail. The window remained intact. His anger boiled and his heart raced with fury. Expletives streamed forth at a vile level. He resolved upon a new plan. With a crazed look in his eyes he ran across the road with the stick. He took pause and held the wood out before him. He breathed deeply. Suddenly like a charging doughboy running with a bayonet, the driver erupted into a frantic sprint. Primal screams from his belly bellowed all the way while he dashed forward. With his extreme momentum he plunged the wood through the window upon impacting with the car. The wood shattered through and the driver banged violently against the car. The driver gripped his side and bent over to catch his breath. With a grimace he stood erect once more and wiped the dripping sweat from his brow. He turned around with a brief feeling of elation upon viewing his triumph. Eager to get inside he carelessly reached through the hole in the window and scraped his arm deep against the shards of broken glass. Droplets of blood seeped from his abrasions to mingle with the thick flow of sweat rolling down his right arm.

Only after opening the door did the driver realize the stream of blood. He yelped in pain and noticed several shards imbedded in his right arm. In vain he tried to remove the shards. Instead he drove them deeper. He felt a strange tear in his arm. That’s not good, the man rationalized. A gush of blood spewed forth. The blood quickly soaked pieces of his clothing with thick coats of red. Frantic the driver took off his shirt and attempted to swathe the gaping wound. Binding his tourniquet tighter with his belt he felt as though he had stemmed the blood flow down to a trickle. The right arm felt limp and immobile. Working through his new seething pain his dry salty mouth reminded him of his original intent for the bottle of water. Using his left hand he opened the car door fully and leaned inside to retrieve the bottle of water. Holding the bottle with his left hand he unscrewed the top with his mouth. Greedily he guzzled down the bottle of water to quench his thirst. Temporarily satiated he leaned back against the car for a few moments.

Flies began to buzz around his limp arm attracted by the sweet smell of coagulated blood. He felt too weak to fend them off and looked up at the sun whose rays inundated him with stifling heat. He decided to lie down in the back of the car to determine his next action and attempt to escape the flies by shutting the door. The front seat contained shards of glass that the driver felt too tired to trifle with removing. The flies soon discovered the shattered window and flew in mass towards the driver’s wound. The buzzing noise of the flies and the insulating heat of the car grew too strong to ignore. He exited the car and went around to the passenger side of the car hoping to find the last vestige of shade from the scorching sun. What could he do he pondered between winces of pulsing pain. The car clearly wouldn’t start. In either direction there was no sign of humanity. The thick woods on either side of the road looked impenetrable and who knew what dangers lay inside. He slunk against the car certain he would die in this miserable lonely place of nowhere. He wanted to live but had no recourse to his current plight and began to cry. He felt pathetic and compromised by the surrounding elements.

Hours passed and the driver stared vacantly into the woods feeling faint from loss of blood and dehydration. The penetrating sun subsided as dusk drew near and the air felt steamy from the heat of the day. The sounds of insects and animals starting to engage in their nighttime activities encroached upon the driver’s ears. Stinging mosquitoes left welts on the driver’s sweaty hot body, but he paid them little attention feeling too weak to feign concern. His vision faded in and out of the encompassing darkness of night.

Nodding back into the realities before him, the driver caught a glimpse of a light out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if it was the light that would lead him to Heaven or Hell. He stirred in an attempt to fight the light and turn away from it. The light kept coming faster and closer. The light shone right upon the driver. He realized it was the light of a stopped truck. A voice asked the driver if he was okay. No, the driver retorted and looked up to see a man in military fatigues. The military man asked the driver why he was there. The driver weakly replied a shortcut. The military man mentioned something about the area being federal property and then noticed the driver’s wound. Quickly rushing forward to attend to the driver, the military man exclaimed that the driver needed medical attention immediately. The military man pulled the driver up from the side of the car and lugged him to the truck. Sitting in the passenger seat the driver felt a sense of relief and hope as he took a big gulp of water from the canteen the military man had passed him. Feeling refreshed the driver asked the military man where they were going. The military man said back to Podunk.

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