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A young man (wearing the standard "Midway" employee apron beneath a tattered, brown-black duster) rolls an improbably large trash canister out to the main bins behind the buildings. He doesn't squint to make out his way, despite the darkness, and if his ears (and teeth) are slightly pointed? Clearly, the Midway is an equal opportunity employer.

Blue-white halogens tower forty feet above the gas and diesel pumps (thirty-two of each). They throw the pads into stark relief, their actinic glare broken only by fluttering clouds of small winged creatures that surround each one. You might look up and see only night-bugs hunted by a stray bat, or catch a glimpse of a battlefield teeming with fey creatures locked in a struggle to hold precious territory against miniature, furred demons swooping in for the inevitable kill. It might be a trick of the light, or simply a question of which light you choose.

Adriana walks across the cement pad stretching out from the main buildings. Her split-shadow jumps from left to right as the Midway! 160 Acres of Convenience! sign at the edge of the roadside flashes in time to her steps.


Her time.

The 160 Acres sign is misleading; although the actual Midway building -- a jigsaw puzzle of trucker haven, gas station; diner; and souvenir shop -- is large, it is in no way one hundred sixty acres worth of large, not even counting the fuel pumps. Truck pads in the back lot cover most of advertised acreage; painted parking slots for long-haul drivers to pull in and catch a night's -- or a few hours' -- rest. It is barren, lonely and impersonal, like a campground that has been leveled, paved, and banned from children.

Adriana loves the place (if she can be said to love anything); loves it the way a predator loves a watering hole surrounded by particularly stupid prey.

The lights in the portion of the lot are spaced further apart. The shadows and silences are deeper, and the click of her heels against the cement echoes as she stalks along the first row of idling trucks. At the seventh set of headlights, she stops and cocks her head, listening. A small smile curls the edges of her mouth; she walks up to the driver's door of the cab and raps her knuckles against it.

There is a muffled unintelligible reply.

She lifts her chin and pitches her voice to carry. "Want some company?"

The moon crawls across the sky as Adriana hunts.

The first is simple; a sure thing that helps her take the edge off her hunger. He is young, lonely, and (truth be told) simply curious. He lets her into the cab and she shoves him onto the small bunk in the back, riding him with her eyes closed while his CDs shift randomly from song to song. He is shy and clumsy afterward and doesn't meet her eyes when she leaves. He never sees her the curl of her not-smile.

There is a girl in his hometown that he has convinced himself he loves. He will never tell her. He will never propose. Not now; not ever, and the girl will always wonder why.

The second is complicated; she does it for the challenge. He is older, and suspicious, and full of moral surety. It take her ten minutes to get him to open the door, and another fifteen to get him to leave the cab. (He has a cross hanging prominently on his dashboard, and she can't risk climbing inside.) In the end, though, it's almost as easy as the first. The trick lies in putting him in charge; there is no one he trusts more than himself. Standing by the side of his truck, he orders her onto her knees and unzips, reveling in his control and power while she does just exactly as she planned; takes him and drinks him and makes him call aloud to his God from the well-bottom of his own infidelity. His knees are shaking afterwards, but he pays her with a smirk and clambers back into his sanctuary, secure.

The next time he comes home, he will forget (after twenty-five years) to kiss his wife at the door. The lapse will become a half-invisible habit; unnoticed and unremarked by him, glaring and painful to her. She will leave him three years later, and his homecomings thereafter will be cold and shadowy things; an empty, unlit house and unevenly cooked microwave dinners eaten in front of a television he isn't really watching.

She does not – cannot – feed on them all; she is, first of all, only capable of so much (and more of a gourmet than gourmand in any case), and there are those amongst the herd who can (and do) resist her lures; some even do so easily.

But they are few. Very few.

The third one’s shame at the acts he performs on (more than willing) Adriana twist into a kind of self-loathing that can only be expressed in violence. He hits his wife for the first time six months later; she is dead in June of the next year, and he goes to prison for life (seven years). He will tell his cellmates that she was unfaithful, repeating the lie until he is nothing but an empty husk.

The fourth, unfortunately, dies in a freak rollover accident two weeks later. She didn’t have anything to do with that and mourns the fact that he will not commit suicide in front of his family during the holidays later that year.

There is no fifth for the evening.

Adriana is interrupted.


--Doyce Testerman

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Page last modified on April 21, 2006, at 12:51 PM by DoyceTesterman

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