At some point it occured to the both of them that they might never get out of Nebraska. After nearly three days of steadily screwing each other across the great plains, they hit a wall of unseasonably late spring snow, wet and clumpy and almost impossible to drive in. They opted to spend the night parked behind a hardware store, that in the near white-out conditions of the night before, was impossible to determine whether it was shut down or not. There was nothing to do but ensconce themselves in the back seat and fuck each other raw in Billie Joe’s sleeping bag and wake up in each others arms.
Sadie woke first and extracting herself from the tangle of the backseat, slid into her jeans and a three day old tshirt. She bent the driver’s seat forward and let herself out the massive door to pee in the snow. She immediately regretted not putting on shoes, the snow was wet and clumpy but no less cold than any other snow. She went around the front of the car, tucked away enough, she figured and squatted against the outside curve of the fender. She picked up a handful of snow as she started to shiver, and rubbed her face with it. Light, powdery and damp, it was clean and the last shower either of them had taken was in a hotel two days previous. Hunkered down, she cleaned her face neck and privates with it, and upon standing, rubbed her armpits and breasts under her shirt until the chill became unbearable. She gingerly raced back around to the drivers side and climbing inside the car, stripped down again, and trembling all over, nestled her back against Billie Joe who woke up immediately.
“Damn, girl, you are freezing. What did you do?”
“Bird bath in the snow.” She said. “Now warm me up.”
He enveloped her as best he could and she rolled and turned into him , pulling the sleeping bag over her head, nuzzled his chest hair. He blinked himself awake. The expressionless world outside the windows was pure and bright, but diffused enough to make it seem as if the car were floating adrift in a sea of white or a cloud perhaps and it was just the two of them and nothing else at all in the world. He considered this as he clutched the woman’s shivering form, her warm breath on his chest.
“What do you want to do today?” he asked
“Drive. Just drive. No more sex.” she said “My body needs a break.”
“Yeah, I’m sore all over.” he said “No more sex.”
They both chuckled at this, knowing they were both liars.
“We gotta get the fuck out of Nebraska. All this corn.”
“Horrible fucking corn.” he said
“Never eating corn again.” she said
“Corn wants us dead.” he said, “It’s why it sent the snow, trying to slow us down.”
“Yeah, I’ll drive today, you’re too slow.”
“The hell I am.” he said “You’re reckless.”
“You better, watch what you say, whiteboy, I got access to stuff under here. I can hurt you bad.”
“Lady I don’t see how you could put a bigger hurtin on me than you have already, but I’ll shut my mouth anyhow.”
He sat up and dug around in his duffle bag for anything that didn’t smell too horrible. Sadie, now warmed and head poking out of the sleeping bag, surveyed his body as he pulled on a shirt and pants. She’d never been with a white man before, much less a man as scrawny as Billie Joe. He was all muscle, bone and gristle. You could still see his ribs but he’d developed a glow about him. All she figured was that he didn’t look like a dying man anymore.
He clambered over the front seat and started the car, barefooted pumping the gas twice before turning the ignition.
“I keep telling you, you don’t have to do that.”
“I know, I know.” The motor roared to life, sounding eager to chew up more roadway. If anyone was gonna come out the back door of the hardware store, now would be the time. No one did.
“Dang, we need gas.” he said.
“And coffee.” Sadie replied. She got up and started getting dressed as well. “Lots of coffee.”
Billie Joe eased it into gear and the Toronado rolled slow, growling like a panther, out from behind the hardware store onto the empty main street of the still sleeping town they’d found themselves in. The blue light of morning it was hard to determine if any of the storefronts were operational or empty or maybe it was just a Sunday. Besides one or two perfectly laid tracks in the road of slow moving vehicles, the blanket of snow was completely undisturbed.
Just before the town gave up the fight and petered out entirely into corn fields again, the was a small filling station with a light on in the office. Billie Joe pulled in and shut her down alongside the pumps. Dry for a moment under a tall but leaky roof. The garage bays were closed and dark but there was a large man behind a desk in the office.
Billie Joe dug some cash out of his jeans and smelled his shirt once more. “I’ll go pay the man and see about coffee before I fuel up.” Then he noticed over his shoulder that Sadie was pulling her boots on. “Unless you don’t mind pumping your own gas, ma’am?”
“You really must have me confused for some other woman.” she laughed.
Billie Joe stepped out into the cold and squinted against the few small flakes hitting his cheekbones as he ambled, hands in pockets toward the man in the office. A bell attached to the door rang when he stepped in. “Good morning, sir. Kinda late in the year for all this snow, don’t you think? Might cut into corn production.”
The man peered over his reading glasses at Billie Joe. “Mornin.” he said, and nothing else. Billie Joe noticed the booked spread open before the man’s massive gnarled old mechanic’s hands was none other than the King James bible. Passages were underlined on the delicate pages and there was a significant amount of notes made scribbled in the margins. Billie Joe felt his stomach sink and tried not to notice what chapter he was on, he could already tell it was well toward the back, in the firm and brimstone section.
“Uh, yeah, if you could lemme have ten dollars unleaded there, please sir.” For some reason, despite being seated, he noticed the man was wearing suspenders over his perfect blue shirt that clipped onto a belt and immediately remembered his father telling his never to trust a man who wore both suspenders and a belt. He cursed his powers of observation and tried not to giggle. “Also, if you could maybe sell me a couple cups worth of your coffee there, I’d much appreciate it.”
“Ain’t got no coffee.” the man said. “No cups.”
“Mister, are you saying you don’t have any coffee or don’t have any cups, because I can see both of the em right there.” Billie Joe responded. “I mean, I’ll give you five dollars for it.”
“Nope. No coffee.” the man said.
“How about nabs. You got any nabs? How about some Nip Chees?”
“There’s a store in the next town might have some of those things for you people, but not here.”
“So no Captain’s Wafers then.” Billie Joe said. He felt his eye go twitchy. He was seriously on the verge of doing something stupid.
“Nope. Just about twenty miles on down the road, which is where I suggest you be going now.”
“Okay then.” Billie Joe said, tossing the ten dollar bill on the desk. “You have yourself a nice day, sir.”
“You do the same.” the man said. Billie Joe made sure the door slammed behind him ringing the little bell on it loud and clear.
Sadie knew something was up but prefered to finish the gas and wait until she got into the driver’s side to inquire about it.
“You got a tire iron in the back there don’t you?” Billie Joe asked.
“Yeah” she said “What do you need it for?”
“I’m thinking I might go crack that motherfucker’s skull open and empty his cash register.”
“What the hell did he say? You weren’t even in there five minutes.” she started the car
“He didn’t say it, well he did with his eyes.”
“What, about me?” she said
They drove for a while after that without either of them saying anything.
Later, while sitting on the couch in the office with the crushing weight of Pearl across his lap, he would tell his Uncle Joe that the fight afterward was all his fault.
“I decided I couldn’t handle it, so I blew it up. I mean, it started out with something stupid, like the way she had the carb tuned or something, but I picked a fight I knew neither of us could win.”
“What did you say?” Joe asked.
Billie Joe closed his eyes and he was back at the place he seemed to always be whenever he closed his eyes anymore, sitting next to the black woman in her huge green car, hurtling across the landscape at impossible speeds.
“Listen here, whiteboy, there ain’t a thing about this car you need to tell me about, because I’ve been all over it, three times or more.” Sadie said
“Okay fine, I can’t seem to tell you anything anyhow.”
“Like what. What exactly is it you’re trying to tell me?” She asked.
“Well, how far do you think we’re gonna get with all this?” he said
“I don’t know about your sweet ass but I’m getting it all the way to Watts.” She was talking tough as usual, but her eyes told a different story.
“You know what I’m getting at. With you. And me.” he said “I mean, really. Look at us.”
But she wouldn’t look at him after that. She kept staring straight ahead at the end of the road that would never ever come.
“Anyway, she put me out by a farm supply place in the next hayseed town but I found a bar no problem. I guess that’s probably what I was looking for after all.” Billie Joe said. He rubbed the eyebrows of the dog’s massive skull as she looked up at him. “Stayed in there for about half a day till they asked me politely to leave. Which wasn’t problem really because I’d acquired a bottle of rail vodka when the bartender was taking a leak. After that I found a small yard for what I guess was Union Pacific and somehow managed to pick up something headed West and I pretty much stayed blacked out til I got to California and decided to find you.”
“My lucky day.” Joe laughed. “You don’t happen to remember the name of the town?”
“No way in Hell. Just another pissant Nebraska hole in the corn.”
If you could have asked the residents, they could have told you the name but likely would have agreed it had no special significance other than when they spoke to one other about where it was they lived. It resided on each tongue only as a formality and had long been forgotten for it’s sound and the shape it made when you spoke it out loud. A ghost word, maybe repeated quietly by their children, turning it over and over, but one well known by the black woman in the giant green car who’d driven for a hundred miles from it before she turned around, coming back to prowl it’s few narrow streets until well after dark. If they saw her, her slow circling might have made nervous a few of the neighbors cleaning up after dinner, but more likely, the same as if they’d seen the scruffy young man with the duffle bag ambling their streets earlier, they’d only given her a passing thought, something curious but not too far out of the ordinary to disturb their day, and if you could have gathered all the neighbors together and asked them to imagine the story that entwined these two souls together, they likely would have told you it was nothing they could have dreamed up in a million years.