The Exile: Episode 25

I found myself aimlessly wandering down a quiet windswept street, my arms hanging limply at my side. It had been two weeks since Carmen was shot, and I hadn’t stopped moving since that day. When I reached up to scratch the stubble on my unwashed face, I noticed a black pickup and maroon van parked at the gas station pumps up ahead. All I had on me were two quarters and an empty pistol. Not much good. The pickup’s engine was running while the driver and his passenger kept their eyes on the door of the station, as though waiting for someone. Suddenly, the gas station door opened, and a woman with a young boy in tow exited. As the two walked out toward the van, the boy excitedly thumbed through a few baseball cards while the woman watched him, a smile on her face and keys spinning on her index finger.

Like some flashing yellow light, my eyelid began to twitch, a warning system that had developed since that night when my family was murdered. As the woman reached out to unlock the van, my suspicions were confirmed when the passenger in the pickup slipped out of the truck and approached the woman as though to ask for help. When she saw that he held a switchblade, she gasped and instinctively drew the child behind her.

“Come on, lady,” the man growled, “give me your cash and we’ll take a little ride. The kid can drive home.”

He cackled with delight at his own joke, unaware that I was coming up behind him.

“Please!” she begged.

Digging into my pocket, I felt the pistol and wrapped my fingers around the handle. My pace quickened and my heart raced as I drew nearer.

“Please,” the woman begged again.

Enjoying her fear, the man laughed and brought the knife closer. Suddenly the truck horn sounded, and the man turned in time to see my gun strike him across the head. He fell over and hit the pavement as the man in the pickup climbed out. But when I turned the pistol on the driver, he backed up, rage burning in his eyes. Quickly weighing his options, he jumped back into the truck and tore out of the station, leaving his pal behind. My weakened arm fell to my side. The woman hurried her child into the van, throwing out a thank you as she ran past me. Climbing into the vehicle, she started the engine but didn’t drive away. She stared at me for a moment, as though uncertain what to do. When I slowly staggered out of the way, she sped off as I struggled to keep my balance. I hadn’t eaten in days and had little strength left. When the van stopped at the edge of the parking lot, I felt my knees collapse and I fell to the concrete.

As I lay on the hard pavement, I felt my head spinning.

“Get up!” I commanded my mind, but my legs refused to obey.

“Hurry!” I heard a woman’s voice say. “They may have friends.”

I looked up toward the sound, trying to focus, and through blurred eyes saw that the woman had returned. The doors of her van stood open, and she was motioning for me to go with her.

Struggling to climb into the van, I fell into the seat. The woman quickly closed the side door behind her and slipped behind the wheel. Throwing the car into drive, she pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street.

“Can I take you a hospital?” she asked.

“No hospitals,” I said.

Gripping the wheel with a scowl on her face, the woman asked herself,

“Why am I doing this?”

“I can get out if you like,” I mumbled.

“No,” she refused. “You saved us. I owe you something.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I don’t think I have the strength to walk. I haven’t eaten or slept in almost a week.”

“I will help you, at least until you can stand on your own, but please put that gun away,” she asked.

“It’s not loaded,” I reassured her. “It’s been empty for almost two weeks now.”

“You mean you did that back there with an empty gun?” she asked, amazed.

I opened my mouth to answer, but everything went black.

Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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