April 01, 2011

April 2011, Vol. 10, Issue 4

Welcome to the Spring Fling edition. You will soon realize that this month's stories have very little to do with spring or flings. Or do they?

1. Solomon's Cranium by Paul McGuire
I couldn't get image out of my head, so I started drawing images of giant skulls, or stick figures of my father in a ditch with giant bones...More

2. Traffic Jam at the Top of the World, Part 2 by Tim Lavalli
A cold hard freeze gripped my chest -- all of these climbers ahead of me might well be ahead of me on the way back down when oxygen would be short and everyone would be even weaker then they are now. What would I do trapped at the top of the ladder with a dozen people in line in front of me and death staring me in the face?...More

3. Zombie Mom by John Hartness
Eugene was being a little snot about zombie rights, so we changed the channel to Zombie-Animal Planet, which was showing Zombie Manor, where these zombies in Africa were running from a lion. That was pretty cool, too, but needed more explosions...More

4. Deja Vu by Katitude
The visions showed her walking away from her apartment, her possessions. She sold it all on Craigslist. She saw herself buying a used car, something nondescript and reliable. She bought a green 1974 convertible MG with the money she had made selling her crap. The next dream had her heading across the border... More

5. L'Orange by Alex Villegas
All they wanted to do was enjoy Las Vegas and get some fruit. And they couldn’t even do that because they were in the US where everyone only speaks American. They were forced to have me as their only conduit to the world around them. Their only hope was a belligerently drunk Hispanic man with pupils the size of quarters. If that wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t even properly speak their language... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop

The April issue is loaded with veteran talent. Alex Villegas makes his triumphant return with a tale of youthful (drunken) lust. Powerful selections from Tim Lavalli, Kat, and John Hartness round out this issue. Oh, and how could I forget a piece of fiction I wrote inspired by a photograph.

The contributors at Truckin' are passionate souls. They write for the love of self-expression, which is a snarky way of saying that they write for free. Month after month, I'm still amazed at the tremendous amount of courage that flows through the writers. It's not easy to spill your guts to the world, yet that's what they are doing -- for your amusement.

So, please help us out and spread the word about Truckin'. In this age of over-saturated social media, I encourage you to tell your virtual friends about your favorite stories. It will definitely improve your karma in your next lifetime.

Contact us if you'd like to be added to the mailing list. Or, if you're interested writing for a future issue, then please check out out submission guidelines and drop us an email.

Lastly, thanks to you, the readers. The long-form written word is slowly dying off, but each of you keep the spirit burning alive with your unwavering support for Truckin'.

Be good,

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it." - Truman Capote

Solomon's Cranium

By Paul McGuire © 2011

"I always wanted to be an artist."

"Well, you are...in a way."

"I'm a musician, sure, but I wanted to be a traditional artist. I wanted to become a painter and when I was a kid I used to draw all the time."

"But what happened?"

"My parents got really angry and outlawed drawing in my home."

"What? Where did you grow up? Russia? Nazi Germany?"

"Boston suburbs. Okay, it's a really long backstory but you promised you won't think I'm weird or something?"

"How could I think you're weird? You're a lesbian with a purple mohawk and orange-dyed armpit hair."

"Okay, so my grandfather was some World War II hero or something and he was working for the government. My mom said he was a 'G-Man'. Are you old enough to know that term?"

"G-Men? Like FBI agents in trench coats and hats?"

"Exactly. That's what my generation knew them as. You guys call them 'Men in Black' after that Fresh Prince movie with Tommy Lee Jones."

"Awesome movie. Was your grandfather chasing aliens?"

"I don't know what he was doing. He died before I was born. I saw old black and white photos. He was always in a drab suit with a scowl on his face. Anyway, both of my parents were anthropology students when they met. My mother said she never expected my father to propose because he was one of those 'free spirit' types but when he returned from a nine-month long field assignment in the Solomon Islands, he started acting really strange but everything was strange then, so she chalked up his peculiar behavior to the incendiary political climate of 1968. She was too excited about getting married and she overlooked the drastic changes. Those were the first of the warning signs, but my mother ignored them."

"Of what?"

"Nightmares. My father had horrible nightmares. When I was a kid, I noticed that my father never slept. When we were all asleep, he was in his study or in the kitchen reading books or writing various letters to the editor. But my mom said that he had nightmares about something that happened to him in the Solomon Islands."

"What was he doing there?"

"I think he was studying tribal behavior, I don't know for sure, because he wrote some boring text book instead of a sort of Indiana Jones type of adventures. So let's fast forward a decade or so. I'm eight years old and I'm at the peak of my curiosity. Both of my parents were professors and I spent a lot of time being watched by an elderly neighbor who babysat for a couple of hours a day. Anyway, I used to hide in my father's office and snoop around. I learned how to pick locks that summer and I picked open a lockbox that he had unsuccessfully hidden in one of his desk drawers. That's when I saw the photograph dated 1968."

"Where was it taken?"

"The Solomon Islands. But it's the skull that freaked me out."

"The what?"

"The skull. My father was standing over what looks like an excavation site. The skull is the size of a VW Bug."

"Like a 'punch buggy' bug?"


"Was it a dinosaur?"

"It looked human to me."


"Yeah, it had a rib cage which was big enough to fit all of Parliament Funkadelic inside. The femur was as long as a city bus."

"Wait, so you found a picture of your dad with the bones of a giant?"


"Was it pre-historic? Was it Godzilla?"

"I don't know what it was. I put it back, but I couldn't get image out of my head, so I started drawing images of giant skulls, or stick figures of my father in a ditch with giant bones."

"Holy shit."

"Yeah, and when my father saw the drawings, he went berserk. He demanded that I hand over every single drawing. I remember that day -- he ripped one off the fridge and followed me into my room where I kept most of the drawings in a large folder. He grabbed the entire folder and went outside in the backyard and set it on fire. My mother was screaming at him. I was crying, but not wailing, more like silently pouting with a trickle of tears. That's when he outlawed drawing or anything related to art. I think my father felt guilty about what happened, so he encouraged me to pursue music. They let me pick any instrument and paid for lessons and in six years, I went through five or six different ones before I finally settled on a guitar. They hounded me about practicing on days I didn't want to, but they were always supportive of my music even to the point of not objecting when I said I wanted to drop out of school and move to Portland and play music. You would think that academics like them would have been wicked pissed if their daughter dropped out, but they were totally cool with it. I can't help but think all of that loving support stemmed from their guilt about restricting my access to drawing. All because of those silly skulls. I wouldn't have a career and a kick ass band and be talking to a music writer like yourself unless I didn't have that amazing support and encouragement from my parents."

"So what was the skull?"

"I don't know. But my bass player has a theory that my father was working for the government on some sort of top secret mission because they knew he could be trusted if my grandfather was an FBI agent. So Harvard sent him to the Solomon Islands to study the people, but the entire time it was just a cover story for a covert op in which my father was helping the CIA excavate the remains of an ancient alien race."

"The skull is alien?"

"I have no idea for sure. It's just a theory. A half-baked theory that my bass player concocted in the back of the tour buss after drinking one too many shots of 151."

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas.

Traffic Jam at the Top of the World, Part 2

By Tim Lavalli © 2011

As I cleared the cornice of the massive boulder I saw the line backed up in front of me. There had to be fifteen or more climbers going absolutely nowhere. I sagged back against the rock face and tried to steady my mind. Time was critical, we were in the death zone, who the fuck thought it was a good idea to call it that? Death Zone! Shit can’t let my mind wander like that, I needed to focus on my options. I had 600 minutes of oxygen from the last checkpoint. Now how long was this bottleneck delay going to take? Who were all of these people at the top of the world? Where did they come from? Maybe we should have taken a number at base camp. Shit Eddie stop that, focus on the minutes of air you have.

OK, count them six, nine, thirteen, fourteen in the queue and one on the ladder. If they each take five minutes. How many fives in an hour? Three in a quarter, so twelve can go up the ladders in an hour. More than an hour to wait for my turn on the ladders. Take 60 minutes off my 600, no wait, damn. Not sixty, there are fourteen climbers in front of me – 70 minutes plus the guy on the ladder now - 75. Maybe I should time him and see if five minutes is a good estimate, I mean it is for an experienced trekker, but who knows if these people even know how to climb. I mean we nearly are at the summit of Everest but… oh man I have got to stay on task here.

Let’s see the guy is already half way up the face, where the two ladders tie together, so another two and a half minutes to the top? But what the hell! He isn’t moving, I can hear voices shouting at him, what is that – Chinese? He’s stopped halfway up and those ladders hold one and only one climber at a time. Move you fucker, get off the damn ladder!

I leaned back against the rock face again and tried to calm my breathing, I had to stop getting emotional about this situation and deal with the facts on the mountain. Every time I got upset my breathing accelerated and my O2 supply went down. I looked back to my right and two more climbers had joined the line behind my climbing partner. I barely knew the climber I was teamed with, Ollie the Norwegian sailor I had been climbing with for the last ten days had to go back down yesterday after an attack of pulmonary edema. I had met George this morning, we were a team only because we paid the same expedition company to set up the tents, food, oxygen and Sherpa guides; other than that, he was a stranger.

Just then one of the team leaders from Finland came round the boulder, the Fin team all wore the same bright neon blue parkas; he took a short look at the pile-up of climbers and ducked back behind the rock. How many of his climbing team did he have back there? They were now sixteen, no eighteen climbers from the ladder. He had to be doing the same calculations I was. I looked back down the line to my left and saw the Chinese climber finally at the top of the ladders, he was being helped by another of his team to clear the top rung. Another person stood next to them, could that be someone wanting to come down? No, it was too early in the day for a returning climber – it was then that a cold hard freeze gripped my chest – all of these climbers ahead of me might well be ahead of me on the way back down when oxygen would be short and everyone would be even weaker then they are now. What would I do trapped at the top of the ladder with a dozen people in line in front of me and death staring me in the face? Politeness might just have to give way to survival.

There it was – take my ego out of the equation and the calculations were precise, not all of these climbers could make it up the ladders to the summit and back down again. Time, altitude, oxygen and the limits of the human body were all X factors, known quantities; if I just removed “me” from the calculation everything fell into place. Some of these people were not going to survive the day. I was, but only if I turned around now and got out of this traffic jam at the top of the world. This is the decision no one wants to make on Everest. I made it in two seconds flat.

I braced myself for that task of passing climbers going down the narrow ledge, I wish my mind were more clear – then my second epiphany hit – I now have excess oxygen, I am not going to summit, I have nearly six hours of spare O2. I cranked the flow up to 2 then 3, what the hell – 4, I could turn it down once I got off this crowded ledge. My head became clearer with each rich breath. Time to get the fuck off this mountain.

I turned to George, lifted my mask and spoke into this ear – "The line is too long, we won’t make it, I am going back down."

He looked at me like I was a crazy man or maybe a coward but he said only: "One step closer for me."

I unsnapped by lead carabiner and reached around him to hook on his down slope side, then I unhooked the trailing hitch and slid by him. The two climbers behind us saw the move and immediately flattened against the rock face allowing me to make the same maneuver around them; they too were moving one body up the queue. As I came around the boulder face, the Fin guide gave me a worried smile and leaned in to speak – "My people will not listen, they want to keep going up."

I shook my head and move around him, once I was able to pass his group of four I would be off the narrow ledge and able to make much better time. As I moved through the group of Fins, the leader was telling them that I was a very experienced climber and I had decided the risk was too great. My thought was only to get past them and leave fewer climbers between myself and base camp.

Ten minutes further on I encountered another group of six, off the ledge now we were able to gingerly pass on the trail. I did not intend to speak to them but the last of their group was Nikki, who I had met several days before at base camp #2. Every man on Everest remembered Nikki once he had met her. There was a vastness in her pale blue eyes that could haunt your dreams and even covered by all the cold weather gear, Nikki was able to stir a man’s soul like nothing short of the summit could. I had to say something – "You are 28th in line for the ladder, you have many bad climbers in front of you." She looked at me as if I had said the moon is made of green cheese. "There isn’t enough time, the lead climbers are moving too slowly; you should turn back." She smiled and said only – "Thank you." I moved off down the mountain.

Once free of the other climbers I began to experience a mountain high that often comes from lack of oxygen, I knew mine was because I had made a decision that would save my life. I backed the O2 flow down to 3 but I knew it was not mountain euphoria, I was safe even though still in the death zone. I walked into Camp 4 well before noon and made a quick exchange of extra food I would not be needing for two bottles of hot sugared tea. I changed out my oxygen and left the nearly half full bottle in the expedition tent in case someone had need of it late tonight. I strapped on my last full bottle and in less than half an hour was ready to depart Camp 4 and leave the death zone forever. Just as I squared myself for the trek to Base Camp 3, I heard a call; the leader of the Fin expedition was entering the high end of camp with three of his four climbers. He had a look of relief and grief at the same time. I trudged over to him and gave him a hug.

"You saved three of them," I told him. He was already lamenting the fourth.

At this time of day, I was the only climber on the way down from Camp 4 to Base Camp 3. I was wrapped in my own personal glow of triumph, I truly believed I had made a decision to save my life and I was not ready to wrap my mind around what George and all of those other climbers were going to face trying to get off Everest later today. Several groups were coming up to Camp 4 for their attempt at summiting, which would begin early the following morning. How many of them would be daunted by the gruesome tales about to come down from on high tonight?

I reach Base Camp 3 in the last afternoon and decided I had enough and would rest here and make the trek down through Camp 2 and Camp 1 to the true base camp early the next day. In less than 72 hours I would have exchanged a deadly traffic jam for a seat on a plane leaving Everest forever. I did find as many of the team leaders as I could at Base Camp 3 and told them of the situation I had seen at the ladders, I wanted to prepare them for what was going to be a very dangerous and I feared deadly night.

Just after eight, I wriggled into my sleeping bag and slipped on an oxygen mask at low flow, I was still rich in O2 rations and I wanted a real night’s sleep before I stormed off the mountain in the morning. Around ten o’clock someone crawled into the tent, I couldn’t believe that George had turned around, but who… ? As the other climber pulled off the other parka and zipped into the other sleeping bag I looked over and into those bottomless pale blue eyes.

"Thank you again," was all she said.

Tim Lavalli is the co-author of Mike Matusow: Check-Raising the Devil. Click here to read Part 1 of Traffic Jam at the Top of the World.

Zombie Mom

By John G. Hartness © 2011

I never gave a whole lot of thought to what it must be like for the zombies. You know, I was just like everybody else: I saw a zombie, I hit it in the head with a baseball bat, or an axe, or on a really good day a chainsaw. But when my mom got infected, I really had to change my opinions on a lot of things. It’s one thing when it’s your fifth-grade PE teacher you’re shooting in the face, but it’s something entirely different when the woman who makes your pancakes every Sunday is the one trying to eat your brains.

It all started on a Sunday morning. Like I said, we had pancakes. We had pancakes every Sunday morning, even after the Plague started. I mean, you can’t let a little thing like the friggin’ zombie Apocalypse change your whole routine, can you? Well, after we finished breakfast, all of us (me, Mom, Dad, my bratty kid brother Eugene and our dog Dilbert) went into the living room to watch some TV. It was too early for the early game, so we were watching ZSN (Zombie Sports Network) just for kicks. They were showing Zombie Skeet, where they launch zombies in these huge catapult things and shoot the crap out of them with anti-aircraft guns. That used to be our favorite. Eugene was being a little snot about zombie rights, so we changed the channel to Zombie-Animal Planet, which was showing Zombie Manor, where these zombies in Africa were running from a lion. That was pretty cool, too, but needed more explosions.

Anyway, we were all chillin’ out waiting for football to start when Mom decided to go get the newspaper. Dad barely looked up from the TV, just said, “don’t forget your body armor, dear,” and went back to his show.

Mom suited up, grabbed her pink aluminum Lady Slugger, and headed down the driveway. It took us a while to notice that she’d been gone too long because just then a new episode started and there were all these cool scenes with zombies trying to run from rhinos and getting gored, and still climbing the rhinos and trying to bite through the rhino’s hide and all, until finally the rhino would run into a tree or a bus or something and put this huge hole in the side of the bus and leave zombie smeared all down the side, but because the rhino didn’t know to crush the brain, the zombie smear would just twitch and twitch until finally the camera guy went over and shot it in the head.

So we were a little distracted, and it was the second commercial break before we noticed that Mom hadn’t come back with the paper yet. So Dad suited up, and I grabbed the shotgun to go with him when he was all like “Where do you think you’re going, young man?”

And I was all like “I’m going with you to find Mom.”

And he was all like “You’ve got to stay here and protect your little brother.”

And then I was all like “He’s big enough to protect himself! And besides, I don’t care if he gets eaten, but I like Mom!”

And he was all like “I don’t care, you’re staying here.” And he had used the grown-up voice so I knew he wasn’t messing around this time. So I sat on the couch with the shotgun and watched as he went out looking for Mom. I might have slugged Eugene in his arm just for being a Eugene and generally ruining my life by his very existence, but I wouldn’t swear as to exactly how he got that bruise.

They were gone a long time, and I was actually starting to get worried about them, not to mention hungry, when Dad finally came back carrying Mom over one shoulder and swinging like a madman with her Lady Slugger. He looked pretty stupid fighting off zoms with a girly bat, but I guess he’d lost his somewhere along the way. As soon as he was in the door, he yelled “Billy, shoot!” Then he dove for the floor and I opened up on the zoms at the door. I was behind the couch using it to brace the shotgun, so my aim was pretty good. I blasted zombie brain all over the foyer until my shells ran out, and then I ran out and slammed the door. Once I got the door barred again, I looked at Dad to see if he needed my help.

He was out of breath and covered in zom-goo, but he didn’t look hurt. “Help me get your mother tied to the couch,” he panted, and I thought about how some guys had dads that used to be firemen and jocks, but my dad the accountant had somehow managed to survive getting his brains eaten all this time. I really don’t get the world sometimes.

We put Mom on the sofa, and I took her shoes off while Dad tackled her body armor. I don’t know what good it does to take your shoes off, but Mom always says after a rough day she can’t wait to get her shoes off. To me it just makes the room all stinky, but maybe Mom feet don’t stink like kid feet do.

So we got mom out of her body armor and her shoes, and then Dad ran into their bedroom. He came back with two of his ugly neckties and a pair of handcuffs covered in pink fuzzy feathers. I looked at him like “what?” and he looked back at me like “don’t ever mention this again,” so I didn’t ask. He tied Mom’s feet together and handcuffed her wrists, and then sat back down in his recliner.

“Dad, what happened?” I asked.

“Well, son, it looks like your mother got bitten by a zombie on her way to get the newspaper.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Well, we have two choices. We can either bash in her head like every other zombie out there, or we can try to keep some little shred of your mother alive in her.”

“I don’t even know what that means, dude.”

“It means we either kill her and learn to cook, or we chain her to the stove and try to stay out of biting range.”

“Oh.” I thought about that for a long time, and looked over at Mom sitting there on the couch, moaning and trying to eat the sofa. Then I had an idea. I jumped up off the living room floor and ran to my bedroom. It took a little digging, but finally, in the very back of my closet, I found what I was looking for. I ran back downstairs with my prize held high above my head, and presented it to Dad like Indiana Jones finding some cool Indiana Jones-type thing.

“What is this, son?” Dad asked.

“It’s my old catcher’s mask.”

“I know that, but why do I have it?”

“Because I gave it to you.”

“Don’t be a smartass. What am I supposed to do with it?”

“Oh. Sorry. Put it on Mom, then she can’t bite us. She’s not smart enough anymore to take it off, so then we can tie her to something in the kitchen and she can cook for us.”

So we did. And after a few days of trying to eat us and bouncing off the bars on the catcher’s mask, she finally gave up. I also gave her Eugene’s old pacifier, which he had kept all this time, even though he was like nine. He’s a weird kid, and this is coming from a guy who keeps a zombie chained to the stove. But anyway.

So Zom-Mom stays chained to the stove, and even though she’s now a brainless shambling flesh-eating fiend, she still makes killer pancakes. And if every once in a while she drops a finger into the batter, what’s the big deal? Eugene’s gotta eat something.

John Hartness is a redneck from Charlotte, NC. His first novel, The Chosen, is available for the Kindle, iPad or in analog edition. You can find out more about John at his website, www.johnhartness.com.

Deja Vu

By Katitude © 2011

Hot, dry wind whipped her hair around her face, fast enough so that everything seemed to be blurred with red.

Above her she could see the sun beating down on this desert place from a clear sky, the pale expanse broken only by a single jet contrail slicing across it from east to west.

On the ground in front of her a roll of 35mm film, pulled from it's canister to lay on the dry ground in a twisted curl, like a skin shed from some modern animal.

To her left she could see her car a half mile away, visible just as a green shape through the waves of heat coming up off the desert.

A dry stream bed, white with alkali, snaked away to her right.

Yes, the signs were all here. This was the place and it was almost time.

She took a long drink from the water bottle, draining it. she let it fall from her hand with a small pang. She hated littering. But she knew that they would find the car and the bottle and assume that she was dead, sacrificed to the heat of Death Valley. It didn't matter, no one would miss her. She had no close family, no close friends, and no lover.

She turned away from the car and pushed her hair back from her face. A tangle snagged on her fingers and she brought it forward to look at the colour again. She loved this colour, and it had been worth the time and money spent at the salon to change her mousey brown to this deep red. This unnatural colour was not dreamt. It was her small defiance and she suspected he would hate it. The thought of an unknown reaction made her smile. There was a feeling in the pit of her stomach that she had not felt in a long time, and she welcomed this return of anticipation. It was surprising how much fun was sucked out of life when you knew what was going to happen.

For the first time in months, she had no idea what was going to happen next. It felt wonderful.


Jane could not say exactly when the visions started. When she thought about it and looked back it seemed that they started around the time that Frank left. They may have begun before that, but somehow she doubted it. It would be just the sort of thing that Frank would be into, it would have made her less boring, less bland, more interesting in his eyes.

It began slowly. Something would happen and she'd think that maybe she'd done that before or said that before and she would shrug and pass it off as deja vu. A week or two would go by and it would happen again.

Then it started happening more frequently, like every three or four days and it began to freak her out a little. Am I losing it? she thought, had Frank's leaving been the final straw?

She went to see a therapist, someone she found in the phone book. She could have gone to see the one employed by her company, but she wanted this to stay under the HR radar. Who knows when this kind of shit might surface and prove to be a career limiting move. Career. Hah, that's a joke. Like she was ever going to be anything more than just another cog in a big multinational corporate machine.

She could tell the therapist didn't really take her all that seriously. He thought it was some sort of sleep issue and prescribed a sleeping aid. What a mistake that was.

She took one that night. Instead of the deep sleep she normally had, she dreamed a vivid, silly dream that she remembered clearly upon waking. In the dream, her terminal froze and the IT guy came to fix it during his lunch. He brought his sandwich with him and as he was eating it, a big blob of mayo landed on the m key and slid into the keyboard. He cursed and had to go get her a new one.

Well that was odd, she thought when she awoke.

Odd was not the word in her head 6 hours later, when the blob of mayo from the IT guy's sandwich landed on the m key.

It seemed that floodgates had opened. Every night Jane dreamed something, and every day what she dreamed, happened. She cursed that therapist and his goddamned sleeping pills.

She tried to fight it. One night she dreamed that at 4:17 she walked into HR and quit her job. Oh hell no, she thought and called in sick. The headache started around noon, and slowly increased in intensity. By 1, she had swallowed twice as many Advil as the package recommended. By 2 pm, it was so bad it was starting to make her nauseous. At 3 she wondered about taking a sleeping pill to sleep through this, but decided against - who knows what Pandora's box a second might open.. At 4, she was curled up on the cold tile floor of her bathroom wondering if she should call emergency. She crawled to the hall phone, meaning to call 911, but was only mildly surprised to find she had called work. 'HR department' she told the operator. Oddly, the nausea and headache receded a bit. She meant to say "I'm taking tomorrow off too' but what came out of her mouth was 'I quit'.

And just like that the headache and queasiness vanished. completely. What the hell?

She looked at the clock. 4:17. Jane thought, are you kidding me?, and fainted.

That night she dreamed she stayed in bed for two days. Which was good because she didn't think she could get up anyway. She lay there with her laptop, Googling keywords like deja vu, sleeping pill side effects, psychic episode, mental breakdown, insanity and trying to decide if she was crazy. After two days she dreamed that she got up, showered, and had a nice healthy breakfast at the diner around the corner.

Screw that, she thought and ordered the most heart-stopping bad-for-you breakfast they made. She braced herself for the headache, but nothing.

She tested the dreams, the visions, the deja vu, the whatever it was, over the next few weeks and learned that while she could not change an event without consequences, she could easily change the details.

The visions showed her walking away from her apartment, her possessions. She sold it all on Craigslist. She saw herself buying a used car, something nondescript and reliable. She bought a green 1974 convertible MG with the money she had made selling her crap. The next dream had her heading across the border to the US and driving south west on the interstate. She headed south west all right, but took all the backroads and stopped at all the roadside attractions along the way.

Something happened after the first few days, something that had never happened to her before. People started to notice her. Not in a blatant way, but she had never been the kind of girl or woman that people looked at. She was called Plain Jane in high school, and was constantly forgotten about in college or at work. She knew she had always been forgettable. Even Frank, the one person she had ever really opened up to, was so unimpressed that he said when she asked him why he was leaving, that she was too...too...well too Plain Jane.

But now, people would start a conversation with her rather than overlook her. She just put it down to the fact that folks in the US were nicer than she had been led to believe. What Jane didn't realize that she was no longer Plain Jane. She looked the same, but her attitude was different and noticeable.

She kept meandering south and west. If she ventured too far away from that general direction to see something of interest, the headache would begin until she turned back south and west. On the one hand she was having a great time driving. The car was a bit temperamental but she loved it, and she felt like it was her great adventure. On the other hand, she felt like she was being herded toward something, and that pissed her off.

The visions kept showing her the basics of each day, traveling, getting food, finding a motel. Nothing too beyond what was her new normal. It soon became as boring as her old life.

She was pleased when the visions took her to Las Vegas. She splurged on an expensive room at the Bellagio overlooking the 8 acre "lake", and spent much of the night sitting in her darkened room, silently alternating between watching the famous dancing water show and waiting for the next one. She didn't remember drifting off, and was awoken by the morning sun streaming across the bed. She smiled and stretched, feeling eager to move on, yet a bit wistful. This is it, she thought. This is my last day.

On a whim, she went to the expensive-looking salon in the casino complex. The colourist had been up for the challenge when she pointed to a red rose in and said 'This colour. And I don't care how long or how much it costs". She paused for a moment after she said it, waiting for a headache that didn't happen.

Hours later, she strode through the casino looking nothing like the Plain Jane she had been merely weeks before. It was more than the hair; it was in the confident way she walked, the way she stood, the way she smiled back at the handsome man standing at one of the blackjack tables.

Jane went to the teller's cage, and exchanged all the money she had left for a very small pile of chips.

"Good luck," said the cashier automatically.

"Oh no," replied Jane, laughing. "I expect to lose everything I've got."

The cashier, who had heard odder things, only nodded in response.

She moved to the closest roulette table and put her meager stack of chips on black to win.

She was already walking away when red was called.

She didn't bother going back to the hotel room. She just went to her car and started driving to Death Valley.


So here she was. The plane overhead had just passed from view when the wind died suddenly, unnaturally. The silence was so complete it made her ears ring.

And there ahead of her was a shimmering. It looked like someone walking in the distance through heat waves, but it was much closer. The waves stopped, and there he was. He looked at her hair and she could tell this was a surprise. She smiled, greatly pleased that she could surprise him. He recovered and smiled back.

'Hi Jane,' he said.

'Hi Frank,' she replied.

Then he reached for her hand and led her through the shimmering waves, leaving only an empty water bottle and a car to show that she was ever there.

Katitude is a writer from Toronto, Canada.


By Alex Villegas © 2011

I remember walking by the Golden Nugget and hearing a bartender scream, “Does anyone know French?”

“I do!” I screamed as I ran over.

I took French for a couple of years in high school and always write that I can speak French on my resume. I met the criteria.

“What’s up?” I asked the bartender.

“This couple, I don’t know what they want,” he said, and pointed to the elderly couple next to me.

They were small, old, and scared. The second they opened their mouth I came to a daunting realization. I. Cant. Speak. French. Maybe I had a shot while sober, but I was so twisted I had a hard time standing still.

The old man finished talking and I gave him a blank stare.


“L’orange, l’orange,” he said and made a sphere with his hand.

“Ummm… I think he wants an orange,” I told the bartender.

“No. This is a bar, we don’t have oranges,” he said.

I looked back at the old couple and just shook my head. The old man then asked me if they had any kind of fruits. I didn’t even ask the bartender, I just shook my head again. The old man looked disappointed, put his arm around his wife and scurried off. I waved and thought about how I had just ruined their night.

All they wanted to do was enjoy Las Vegas and get some fruit. And they couldn’t even do that because they were in the US where everyone only speaks American. They were forced to have me as their only conduit to the world around them. Their only hope was a belligerently drunk Hispanic man with pupils the size of quarters. If that wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t even properly speak their language. I also kept on patting the old man on the head for some reason. My guess is I was attempting to learn some French via osmosis.

I also know that we stopped at a casino because I have a faint memory of sitting down at a black jack table. I also have a vivid memory of waking up with $100 less in my wallet.

We also walked into a small bar called Don’t Tell Mama where I proceeded to make a ass out of myself. It was a very small bar with live entertainment. Patrons were encouraged to sing karaoke, but when they were too shy too (or not drunk enough to), the bartenders would sing and play the piano. It was cozy. There was also one specific bartender that was particularly attractive.

“Dude, she’s a lesbian,” said Tahoe.

“No she’s not,” I slurred back.

She came around with a jar asking for tips when I put the moves on her.

“You have an amazing voice and a great ass,” I said and tipped her a dollar. Pimp.

Two of the people with us shook their heads in disappointment.

“Um. Thanks,” she said

“Real smooth man,” said Tahoe.

Not willing to accept defeat just yet, I went up to the bar.

“So, how does a guy like me go about asking you out?” I said.

“Umm, you’re not my type. You see that girl up there,” she pointed at the butchy looking girl singing Hotel California. “She’s my girlfriend, she’s also an ass girl.”

“She picked the right girl then. Can I just have a Bud Light then? I’m gonna go drink in shame,”

Defeated, I took my beer and returned to our table

“She’s a lesbian isn’t she?” asked Tahoe.

I nodded, sat back down and watched her girlfriend sing Hotel California. I don’t know if she was actually talented or the E was still hitting me, but she sounded great.

“I love lesbians,” I said as I slumped into my chair.

“But they don’t love you,” said Tahoe, “and they probably never will.”

Alex Villegas is a writer from Connecticut.