He dozed some, head against the window, watching the slowly flattening earth roll away beside him like a song. He figured they'd be in the corn belt sometime soon.
“I'm pretty sure I'll be able to drive soon.” he said.
“Okay. I'm good for now.” she said
“How much was the hotel room?” he asked, mostly just to make conversation
“You don't want to know.”
“Huh? Why not?”
She turned to him “You were asleep for two days.”
“Wow.” he said, nodding. “Yeah, you're right, I don't want to know.”
“Who's Selene?” she asked.
A spear of grief shot through his chest. “Fiance.” he said. “Why do you ask?”
“You moaned her name a few times in your sleep.” she said “I think you had a fever, I got pretty freaked out, couldn't wake you up.”
“Damn,” said Billie Joe
“Yeah, I wiped you down with a cold washcloth wrapped around some ice. That's what my momma always did for us.”
Billie Joe considered this. “Wow. Thank you.” he said
“I guess it didn't work out with you and Selene?”
The image of her in the high window, breasts barely covered by her thin white shirt crossed his mind.
“No. It didn't.” he said. More crippling grief and remorse. He could tell this one would hurt for a good long while. They were quiet again for a bit.
“So what about you, who are you on the run from?”
“Nobody,” she said, then after a long pause, “A guy. I guess he was my boyfriend.”
“Is he the one who did that to your face?” There was a grim, determined anger set in this voice.
Without turning to look at him, she said “Yes. That was him.”
“You saw it before and didn't say anything about it?” she asked.
“Figured it wasn't any of my business.” Billie Joe said.
“What's changed between then and now, white-boy?” she asked. She looked him dead in the eye, but he could see the tears behind the anger.
“Well, I figured we're partners, now.” he said. He laid his head against the door and fell asleep.
When he awoke, it was hours later and the world had been made anew, made of corn. He blinked himself awake and realized for the first time in weeks he was actually hungry.
“Well, I guess I'm up.” she nodded at him, looking tired.
They ate at a roadside diner and ignored the onlookers. They drove a little longer while the sun dove in a flaming wreck behind a wall of corn. She thought he handled the big machine better than most anyone else who'd driven it. She had taken the boots off and was curled under the blanket. She regarded his face, still a little gaunt but handsome. His eyes had softened considerably, they no longer pulsed with insanity. It was still warm enough outside for them to have the windows down.
“You gonna be okay?” she asked. “You know, without..”
“Without my shit?” he chuckled. “Yeah, I think so.”
“I mean, I was gonna say, if you needed to score some, I think I would be okay with it.” she said. “As long as you didn't get too weird on me.”
“Naw. I think I've got it by the tail this time. I feel different.” he said. “Thank you though.”
“Besides” he continued, “this is friggin Oklahoma or some shit. I got no idea where I'd cop anything, except maybe some high grade cow patties, and I swore I'd never do that again.”
She laughed at this, and he was suddenly amazed. Her laugh was loud and clear and piercing as the wind itself. Hearing her laugh, he believed things might actually be okay for once.
Instead of getting a room, just after dusk, they killed the lights and pulled off onto a dirt road. There was just enough light to see down the long corn alley. She admitted she was nervous about all of this.
“Naw, it's too soon to harvest. See those, silos up there? We can camp over there tonight, nobody will bother us. Goddam farmers all go to bed around sundown anyway.”
The big machine glided easily over the rutted tracks as no washboard could slow her. The silos rose like twin guardians against the dusk, and the Toronado crept like a fugitive under them. There was a grain house adjacent, stretching long and away, a well used loading dock stood waiting for the next generation of boys to come before and after school to work along it's ragged spine. Billie Joe pulled alongside this, slowed and threw her into park, shutting off the lights. Without the low roar of the motor and the wind to buffet them, the place seemed suddenly and ominously quiet. They said nothing in the near dark and listened to the engine block ticking off heat and the low chatter of millions of katydids spread across hundreds of acres. Sadie immediately went into high alert.
“Boy, I don't know if I can handle this out here.” she said, “I've been in the city too long, and this shit is too quiet.”
Billie Joe laughed at her and spilled out the driver's side. He jumped up on the dock, stretched big and wide and proceed to march his boots up and down it, strutting almost. He kicked an empty sardine can and shook his head. Spat to the side once and laughed bitterly.
Sadie got out tentatively, rubbing her arms against the cool and looking around wide eyed. All the elements of farm-work might as well have been from Mars. “What are you laughing about?” she asked.
“Fucking hayseeds. I hate em.” he said, “I got sent out to a work farm for boys when I was younger. As you can see it did a fuck lot of good.” He jumped up on an iron-wheeled railroad cart and surfed it down the line. It bounced noisily across the worn out boards that made up the decking, clattering over exposed nail heads worn shiny and bright by many feet.
“Whiteboy you get your ass down from there!” she hissed, “Somebody gonna hear us and come out here.”
He fell off the cart at half a run and stopped. He gave her a sidelong look, and let his chin fall to his chest. She thought he looked stranger than ever. Was the man about to cry? Then throwing his head back, went into a loud staccato yip, yip, yip coyote bark which finally let loose into a wild, lonely howl. It was ragged and hoarse and rebounded against the walls of the stone silos and flew out over the corn. Sadie shook her head and ran back to the car, “I guess you must be feeling better then!” she hollered.
The temperature plummeted not long after dark wrapped slow around them. Not far off a pack of coyotes came through the corn, ghosts rustling through memory. They barked and whined at each other. The noise of them finally sent Sadie into a panic.
“Oh Lord Jesus, we gotta go. Like right now.” she said, “I ain't about to get eaten up by a bunch of wild ass dogs just for sleepin in a fuckin corn field.”
She was under blankets in the back seat, nestled into the corner. Ever the gentleman, Billie Joe had opted for the front seat. They had been getting comfortable and talking to each other.
“Babe, those are coyotes and they ain't gonna bother us, I swear. They get one smell of people, they'll haul ass.”
“You probably drew em close with your carrying on.” she hissed in a hateful whisper, “Stupid ass. Dumb fucking cracker mother fucker.”
As he knew it was only out of fear, he decided to go ahead and let her cuss him. He lay his head on the seat and pulled his leater jacket up to his neck and listened to her voice. He noted that she had a definite talent for cussing out a man. For her, profanity was almost an art form, and she unloaded on him with almost surgical precision. With it, she lulled him to sleep almost immediately.
He woke, sometime later by the same sound of her voice. Whispering but without any hard edges.
“White-boy.” she said “White-boy, you awake?”
“My momma gave me a good Christian name you know.” he said, and turned over. He noticed the car was shaking ever so slightly, thought for a second maybe it was a big diesel back on the road, then realized she was in the back seat trembling hard enough to move the car.
“Hey you okay back there?” he asked.
“Yes.” she said. “No. I'm freezing. I can't stop shaking.”
He thought about this for a minute. It was not as if her body was unfamiliar territory for him. They'd lain together for what apparently had been two days. This was different thought. They were different. Ah screw it, he said to himself.
“Sadie, you want me to come back there and warm you up?” he asked.
There was a long pause, it seemed to him as though she may have even been holding her breath, because it sounded like an exhale when she finally said Yes.
Years later, if either of them tried to recount that night to themselves, there never seemed to be any clear moment when it started. He came over the back of the seat and almost fell into her open arms. Ias blurry as that time was to them both, if you were to ask them about it, they'd both say, no, it did not take long at all.
It was not fast, nor rough really. After that many days that close together, it was like two old friends, one welcoming the other, after having been gone away for a long while. He knew exactly how she would smell, how she would kiss. She knew what his hands would do, how they would feel on her.
There was frenzy as well as passion, as they continued long into the night, but it ended not unlike how it stared: two souls clinging desperately to one another for warmth, set adrift and rolling over the vast prairie in each others arms.