Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
"Maybe we ought try and go back to the motel," Sherwin suggested, pulling in his thumb and turning around as the car flew past. He was bleeding from the elbow and knee, and his whole body ached. His skin felt like it was on fire.
"No way, baby," Lenny said. He'd lost his glasses somewhere back in the swamp, and was even worse off than Sherwin. He was past swatting at mosquitoes; it didn't help any more. "You heard what those two said. If they caught us again..."
"It was a thought."
"Fuck your thoughts, fuck that town, and fuck Jenny Easton. My job isn't worth going back there, and there's nothing in our luggage worth it, either." Lenny stumbled a little on some irregularity in the gravel alongside the state road, far to the south of where they'd been stopped a couple hours before. "We were lucky we got out of that swamp alive." He heard another vehicle approaching, and turned around to stick out his thumb. If they could get to the next town, then maybe they could rent a car. Thank god he still had his wallet.
The approaching vehicle was a dirty, battered old blue pickup truck, and it was slowing. Both Lenny and Sherwin's heart skipped a beat; they might live, after all.
The truck stopped next to them. From inside, a man's voice called, "Where you boys headin'?"
"Trying to get to the next town, or to the Camden airport," Lenny replied.
"Waal, hop in," the man said. "I blowed me a transfer case, and I gotta go down to Camden to get me another. Ain't too far from the airport."
Lenny was first into the cab of the truck, with Sherwin hot on his tail. The driver was a tall, thin man in his thirties, with disheveled sandy hair, wearing a greasy, dirty t-shirt and greasy, ripped jeans. He had grease stains here and there, as well, and it looked like he'd just crawled from under some oily machinery. "God, we really appreciate this," Lenny said. "We'll make it worth your while."
"What the hell happened to you two?" the driver said, pulling back out onto the highway.
"God, are all the cops around here like that?" Sherwin asked over the blaring country music on the radio.
"Like what?" the driver asked.
"We got stopped for speeding," Lenny explained, unable to come up with much of a better story in his condition.
"One of them cops a big guy, and the other one bigger, walks with a limp?"
"Yeah," Sherwin said. "Why the hell they aren't in a zoo someplace is beyond me."
The driver of the pickup smiled. "Sounds like you done run into Harold and LeRoy. What'd they do, take you about six-eight miles up the two-rut south of the lake, dump you out, and let the bugs see if they can eat ya before you can find your way out? You musta been speedin' pretty good. Usually, they only do that to drunks."
"I'd have sworn it was twenty miles," Lenny said.
"Naw, if'n it'd been twenty miles you wouldn'ta been gettin' outta there," the driver said, smiling. "They only do that to people that they don't like. Some deer hunters found a coupla skeletons back out that far one time. They said they musta been lost, but everybody knowed that Harold and LeRoy musta really been pissed."
"They acted pretty pissed as it was," Sherwin said.
"There's pissed, and there's really pissed," the driver said. "I 'spect if'n they saw you again, they'd be really pissed."
"How the hell can you live with cops like that?"
"You don't let 'em catch you drivin' drunk," the driver smiled. "Ain't been too many people tried it a second time. Keeps things nice and quiet. You boys from around here?"
"Los Angeles," Lenny admitted. "We intend to get back there as quick as we can and not ever leave town again."
"Now, Los Angeles, I don't know how I'd fancy that," the driver smiled. "All the traffic, all the niggers. Best to have Harold and LeRoy a-keepin' things quiet. By the way, the name's Slim. What you boys doin' here, anyway?"
"We were trying to get some film of Jenny Easton," Sherwin said, without thinking.
"Know who you mean," Slim smiled. "That ain't her real name. You musta not told Harold and LeRoy that."
"Why do you say that?"
"Waal, it was 'fore my time," the driver said, spitting out the open window of the truck. "But you know that real big cop? The one that walks with a little limp? Well, he and her daddy usta play football together, back in the fifties, and one day they got into a fight real bad, over some girl, I guess. Well, anyway, her daddy kicked the livin' shit out of Harold. The only man ever done that. Made 'em the best of friends. If he'da knowed that, they'da drug you so far out in the swamp the skeeters woulda sucked you dry by nightfall. Some say those two skeletons was some film crew, lookin' for Jenny, but me, I think maybe they was just drug dealers."
"Much of that around here?" Lenny asked, trying to change the subject a little.
Slim shook his head. "Wouldn't expect there would be, if Harold and LeRoy found out about it. They's lotsa folks'd call them up in a minute if they heard about somethin' like that."
"What do people do for a living around here?" Lenny asked, still trying to get away from the increasingly depressing subject of the two cops.
"Oh, cut pulp, like me, work in the mill, draw welfare, like that," Slim explained. "Ain't a lot of money here, but it's home."