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Jonah didn't mean to interrupt Adriana, not that doing so bothered him in the least.

He was whistling, walking back to truck.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know dear how much I love you
So please don't take --

The sound the woman made as he rounded the end of the truck (making a shortcut through a parked row on the way back to his own cab) must have been some kind of hard intake of breath -- damn near sounded like she'd hissed at him.

He paused for a moment; half-startled, taking in the scene. Woman, in silhouette from the nearest halogens, one hand raised to knock on the door of the truck cab he was passing.

Lot lizard.

He started moving again, muttering an "evenin'" as he slipped past.

"Want some company?" she murmured back at him; a surreal kind of reply.

"I really don't, actually." His words came out so fast he almost interrupted the question.

There was a second of silence, split by the disgusted exhalation of hard breath from the woman. This time, it sounded nothing like a hiss. "Your loss, baby."

The other night dear as I lay dreaming
I dreamt that you were by my side
Came disillusion when I awoke dear
You were gone and then I cried

Something dark and red flashed in the back of Jonah's mind. Only one person called him that. This wasn't her.

"Y'know..." He turned back to where she stood, hips cocked. "Thing about being on the road," his boots scuffed against the pavement as he settled his stance, "is'at you see things."

"That's real smart, honey." Jonah could hear the smirk in the lot lizard's voice, and something else; she was what she was, but there was a kind of intelligence, also. He didn't talk with these sorts of women usually, but this one didn't have the typical sullen dullness in her voice; the thing that made them all sound like angry herd animals.

This one wasn't angry. This one was mad.

He shook his head, crossing his arms. "Not what I mean. I'm saying you see the kinds of things --" his face, lit by the lot lamps, twisted in the way of someone who's bitten into something rotten, but doesn't want to offend the cook. "I mean, just when you think you've gotten to the bottom of barrel, s'far as the way people can act, and as low as they can go, you can see something that just. blows. your mind."

The woman made a disinterested sound in the back of her throat. "You like talking. Your mouth good for anything else?"

Jonah seemed to consider, pursing his lips. "Honest? I shouldn't even talk about things like 'at, but yah put me in mind of this one time."

"I don't have time --"

"I had to be up at about four a.m. to make this drop," he continued, eyes held on her. "Think that meant I must have been out on the west coast, cuz the rest of the country was running ahead of us, and I had someplace to get to. Anyway, I'd got up to get some coffee. I do that, y'see; get some coffee from the store before I start driving, maybe some biscuits and gravy if they're any good there." The biscuits and gravy at the Midway were a good sight past 'any good', but he didn't bother mentioning that.

"So I'm walking across the lot -- looked pretty much like this one -- and I see this circle of drivers, hootin' and hollerin' across the way, and I've got to wonder what's going on, right? It's four in the morning. I can see them handing over bills to someone, and that's got me curious too, so I aim to walk past there and see what's what." He scratched his jaw. "And there's this black lot lizard." He tilted his head to the side. "Not that it matters that she was black. She was a lot lizard -- just happened that she was black -- doesn't matter, otherwise. Anyway," He glanced at the woman, who'd grown more and more still until he had to check to see if she was actually standing there anymore. "They were handing money over to her -- ones and five -- and pretty soon, it got real quiet, and you couldn't see her behind all the drivers anymore..." He leaned in a bit toward his audience. "... and then this empty coke bottle come shootin' out across the pavement." He met her dark, dark eyes. "I don't mind tellin' yah, I felt pretty sorry for that poor, pathetic little lady."

"What the hell for?" The woman sneered. "Sounds like she ripped off a bunch of morons with a stupid trick."

He shrugged. "Way I see it? Figure she took a little something from all of them, but she's always just going to be a dirty trick they saw one night -- she ain't never going to be any kind of real woman."

Her face twisted beyond anger or disgust. She stalked toward him, hips not so much swaying as sawing back and forth. "Little bastard like you wouldn't know a real woman if she -- "

"You really better not finish that." Jonah growled the words. His jaw jutted, and his teeth felt locked together. She was close to him, and the cloud of cheap perfume around her -- it must be perfume -- burned his eyes.

You are my sunshine my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know dear how much I love you
So please don't take my sunshine away

"The woman I know -- the real woman?" He made a show of looking over her sallow skin. "You'll never be like her. Never be close."

Jonah might have died right then. He didn't know it, but he was probably as close as he'd ever come, even counting a few near-misses on long cross-country hauls.

The only thing that saved him from what Adriana might have done was the truth of his words. It was ignorant, unknowing truth; deeper than he could have guessed, but each syllable of it landed on her like a hammer blow and spun her away from him, shaking.

He watched her, standing with her back to him, shivering, and nodded to himself, as though he'd done a duty.

Back in the cab of his truck, he fished into the flimsy plastic bag he'd carried out of the convenience store, pulling out a flat packet of gum. He leaned back in the driver's seat, his eyes on the pack as he turned it over and over in his hand.

Ten minutes passed before he nodded, grim, and pulled his cell phone out of the inside pocket of his jacket. His eyes still on the gum, he dialed and held the phone to his ear.

Thirty seconds of silence, then he stirred and spoke.

"Hey... hi... it's me. Jonah. Figure you must be out or -- well, y'know, whatever." He swallowed, once, hard. "I just... something happened tonight that put me in mind of you, and I wanted to call'n --"

He pulled the phone away from his ear, looking up at the ceiling of the cab, blinking his eyes. He took a hard breath, blew it out, and lifted the phone again.

"I get the same gum as I used to get." His words were a rush. "Back when we were together, you know? The kind that comes in little plastic and tinfoil bubbles, like there each some kind of pill? That kind. They make me think of you." With his off-hand, he tapped at the edge of the pack and pushed a row of the gum into the light. "They come in a grid, you know? Twelve pieces to a pack, three by four. You know I always have two pieces, so I have enough to chew? Well, the row is three pieces wide, so it doesn't match."

He drew a shuddering breath. "So I have two, then I have to have two again, but it's one from that first row and one from the second row, instead of two pieces together." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Except, when you were there, you took that last piece on each row and evened things out."

He stopped, and the only sound was his breathing. Finally, he twisted in the seat, pushed himself upright and leaned into the phone as though he could force the tightness in his chest right down through the line. "Every time I take some gum, I feel you, not there," he whispered. "I miss you."

He slapped the phone shut, held it, then tossed it into the passenger seat, followed five seconds later by the gum.

You told me once dear there'd be no other
That no one else could come between
But now you've left me to love another
You have broken all my dreams.
You are my sunshine my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know dear how much I love you
So please don't take my sunshine away.


-- by Doyce Testerman

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Page last modified on April 09, 2006, at 01:00 AM by DoyceTesterman

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