“Driving Dark in the Marlboro Night”

He drove over to her house to confess his love. Oh, she of the thoroughly chomped Dubble Bubble, our lady of Red Bull and Hennessy, and red ghetto nails. But first he and Figkowski would play a little game as they drove the dark streets. He liked driving at night. The sights to be seen were a pure-d- delight. Women driving naked. Great Danes in the driver’s seat. Red and blue flashing police lights. The wailing ambulances on a forlorn, midnight run. Some parts of town had orange street lights humming overhead, other parts had stark x-ray, bright white lights. The digital dark net seething invisibly with hate and pornography. The carcinogenic stench of a chemical plant seeped into the air. The blue-black concrete of the streets glistened like sweat with the recent sluicing rains. It was hard enough to see already because of the cloudless night sky. The stars had retreated into God’s memory hole.

He turned his head and grinned maniacally at the FigNewton himself and the overweight young man smiled back nervously like he had just gasped down a goldfish and was now choking on it. He made sure the unwashed Figgeroo saw him flick the headlights off. The green glow of the dashlights made the Fig look sick, but when he snapped his fingers the squat manchild popped open the glove compartment, dutifully grabbed the Glock, and slammed it his open palm like handing a surgeon his scalpel. Fig stared, head cocked like the RCA dog, with apprehension.

His master’s voice.

The air was brisk even as steam rose from the concrete competing with the humidity. A car with headlights and disorienting blue LED lights, was hurdling toward them in the opposite lane of the serpentine road. He hated those blue lights he had decided he would do something meaningful and pointless about them. Because he was right-handed he rested the gun on his left forearm, pointed it out the window toward the headlights, and patiently waited for his own predetermined signal from the other driver.
You’re not really going to do it, are you? Figliani asked him.

Shut the hell up, you fucking hobbit! That was his answer. You hairy bastard.

This is crazy. Fig covered his curly hair with his hands and forced his eyelids closed.

Don’t hide your light under a bushel. He whispered so only he himself could hear it.

The car’s driver politely flashed its headlights, which he anticipated and squeezed the trigger and managed to get the shot off almost at the same time the car’s lights came on.

Ha! He screamed triumphantly. Perfect timing, baby.

Oh Christ! The Figger said.

The car swerved off the road, his eyes shot upward to the rearview mirror, and slammed into a deep ditch with a resounding crash of cymbals, a Sousa-like punctuation of sound, like the end of western civilization. The theme music of the Devil came on over the Spotify.

He flicked the lights up on the stem of his blinker with a twist of thumb and forefinger. When the high beams came on he thought of another game he could play some other time. He would pull the trigger and blast the bastards when they flashed displeasure at his undimmed glory.

As they drove to Donna’s house, where he would declare his love, they did not discuss what he had done. They didn’t confer over whether he had shot someone or if the driver were dead from a bullet or the wreck itself. Donna would take him into her tropical bed even though she was angry with him. She was always stormy with him. She would take him back because she had always taken him back. Donna was too tired to deny him after working her late shift at Live Oak Nursing Home where all the bodies she had touched that day were profoundly wrinkled, crepe paper flesh, and smelled of old linen, urine, old age and floor cleaner. She need him to warm her body. He was always hot-blooded. It never failed.

They would lay together until their eyelids rolled upwards like old-fashioned window shades or until they both felt born again. Fig read his drunken, intellectual books sitting alone on the stolen couch and try not to listen to the sounds he wished he were making with his own Donna, in his own Donna’s bed, after shooting randomly at uprightness, order, and western civilization itself. He read the word ennui in his paperback, nodded to himself as he stubbed out the butt of a cigarette in an old-fashioned clear ashtray, Clayton cried out like a young girl, and Fig sighed in unison with Donna as the bedsprings from the other room went quiet, and all was still. Only the swirling blue smoke stirred the Marlboro night.

Outside the rains came again. The night rested. It gathered its strength for the next weary onslaught of violence.

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About Daren Dean

Daren Dean is the author of the novel Far Beyond the Pale. His short story collection, I\'ll Still Be Here Long After You\'re Gone just dropped in December 2019! His fiction, poetry, and interviews have appeared or is forthcoming in Louisiana Literature, Chattahoochee Review, Delta Poetry Review, Maryland Literary Review, BULL (Men\'s Fiction), Ecotone, Image, Midwestern Gothic, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Red Dirt Forum, Yemassee, Ploughshares, The Huffington Post, and others. He has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Currently, he\'s an Assistant Professor of English at Lincoln University of Missouri.