Rush hour traffic in Fresno

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photo by Stacey Warde

by Greg West

“YOU THINK YOUR DICK’S MADE OF GOLD?!?!” Anne yells, bare heels pounding the triple-digit pavement, tears sizzling down veined face, half-smoked Benson & Hedges between trembling fingers, threadbare nightie she’s been in for days, crawling up old white thighs. She’d have kept coming too, if she hadn’t had to stop and cough. She was up to three packs a day.

At the stop sign he looks in the side mirror and sees her stooped and hacking. If he wants an image, here’s one. It’s rush hour and no one’s letting anyone on the road anyway.

The next time he looks in the mirror she’s on the curb, bent over, clutching her stomach, a safe distance away. The whole point in giving her a week had been to avoid something like this, give her time to vent and yell, purge and talk it out, on the phone mostly, with her best friend Kay Miller, the one who’d helped her conclude that he was an incurably selfish man, a coward, that he thought his dick was made of gold, that it wasn’t, and that he was going to fall on his face wherever he was running away to.

He’d given Anne a week and Anne had told him she’d come to terms with things. Anne had even thanked him.

Hearing his trunk shut in her driveway must have been what changed her mind. He had it in reverse when the front door had opened and she’d bolted out into what could have been her first sunlight in days, leaping off the porch and moving across the dead yard like a stalking panther, lips pressed grotesquely together, kicking and pounding his car, reiterating with each fist and heel, her and Kay Miller’s findings about him, mustering enough strength to leave a fist-sized depression in his hood.

Still no opening on the road, he glances in the mirror one last time, and seeing no sign of Anne, breathes and nudges into traffic. It’s bumper to bumper on this road west, this road taking him and his dick of gold away forever and when he tries to remember how he’d ended up in this smothering grid of hopelessness, or even how he’d ended up with Anne, he couldn’t. It would take an hour for him to clear the tentacles of Fresno and even after that there would be miles of dry beige dirtscape, but by dusk he’d be climbing lumpy hills that descended on the other side into cool moist coastal air.

“SELFISH FUCKING COWARD!!”

Somehow Anne makes it to his window, and with the tears and sweat of a second wind rolling through week-old makeup, eyes pink with fear, beating the glass with forceful rabbit punches, she reminds him in the heat of that city: “YOUR DICK IS NOT MADE OF GOLD!!”  Forcing his way into traffic, horns blasting, tires chirping, Anne running alongside and punching, he looks at her through the crackled glass and yells: “I NEVER SAID IT WAS!!” §

Greg West lives in a hole-in-the-wall motel in Nevada where he writes in his spare time between jobs.

One comment

  1. Damn, that’s a rough scene. I wanted Anne to get her ass back in the house, pull herself together, maybe have a smoothie instead of a few of the cigarettes.

    And I like Fresno even less now, and I didn’t really have a fondness for it to begin with.

    All a testament to the good writing right there.

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