Crankster

Monday, May 21, 2007

Keep the Needle Above 75



Keep the needle above 75, and you'll get home before 11.

For most of the ride, the speed limit was 65. Fifteen over was reckless. Normally, he kept it at seven over, but he'd been on the road for seven hours, and still had at least three hours to go. Between 75 and 80 seemed like a reasonable risk. He wasn't worried about getting a ticket, but the time spent pulled over would cost him his alertness, and that was the only currency that mattered.

He didn't know why eleven was so important, but it felt like a line in the sand: home before eleven, and everything'd be all right. Home after eleven...well, he didn't know if he'd be able to make it home after eleven.

Keep the needle above 75, and you'll get home before 11. Damn, she was scary.

Scurrying from his car, he'd muttered "bathroom?," and the lady sitting in front of the gas station had idly waved to the right. Maybe she was clearing away her cigarette smoke or maybe she was swatting a gnat, but the bathrooms were, indeed, around the corner, and he'd heaved a sigh of relief as he drained his rock-hard bladder.

He hadn't gotten a good look at her, and was surprised to see how old she was. She looked fifty but was probably thirty, and her lank blond hair hung down the sides of her face. Her loose lavender shirt fell open when she leaned forward to give him his change, and he caught a glimpse of her pale dugs. There was something in the way she answered his every comment, in the languorous way she said "honey," that told him he could have her. It would only take a line, and any line would do.

The hackneyed and sympathetic: "So, when yew get off?"

The subtle and sophisticated: "Y'all sell rubbers?"

The redneck: "That a coldsore or yore man hit yew?"

There hadn't been many times when he'd been so deeply aware of another's attraction, and he felt an automatic rush of pride and something that felt like arousal. But he needed to get on the road, and her offering, while a little exciting, was ultimately unappetizing. He pocketed his change, grabbed his bottles of water, and got back on the interstate.

Keep the needle above 75, and you'll get home before eleven. God, I hate this fucking music.

He needed to listen to something jangly and sharp, like needles and broken glass. Something like Nina Hagen's cover of "I'm a Believer." He needed something that would irritate him, like fiberglas splinters in his fingertips or steel wool bellybutton lint.

The mellow Simon and Garfunkel tones of the Shins were definitely not getting it done. The music was soft, comforting, melodic. The wrongness of it started to get to him, putting his teeth on edge and making him damn the limited musical selections that he'd packed for the road. With a smile, he realized that the total, cosmic wrongness of the Shins made them the absolute perfect music.

Keep the needle above 75, and you'll get home before eleven. Jesus, I have to piss.

He'd started off with a few bottles of water and had picked up more at every pitstop. He'd interspersed them with the occasional can of iced coffee. Now the empties littered the floor of the car like gigantic cold capsules, and he imagined for a brief, wild moment that he was sitting in the bottom of Lindsay Lohan's stomach.

The water kept him hydrated, but had the side effect of filling up his bladder. An inconvenience at the best of times, a hard bladder was a real problem during an eleven-hour road trip. Still, it kept him wide awake, and as long as he timed it right, there was very little chance that he'd end up pissing on himself.

He hadn't miscalculated yet, but there was always a first time...

Keep the needle above 75, and you'll get home before eleven.

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