Scene inspired by Bill Hoge:
The sun's heat cooked the two lane highway like a stovetop frying a strip of bacon. On either side of the gray asphalt, orange sand broken by an occasional rock or shrub stretched out for hundreds of miles. Both ends of the highway vanished into the shimmering haze radiating off the ground. The only thing in sight was the rundown, rusty, raucous bar that sat off the highway. The Back Road.
"Aaron, please!" Bonny pleaded with me. Her big, clear baby blue eyes usually put my temper on ice. Not this time. "Don't do this! It's crazy! Nothing happened between us!"
I brushed the long strands of blonde hair out of my face. "You think I can let him get away with saying that?"
"He didn't mean anything by it. It was just a joke! Nothing happened!"
"Dones't matter. He's gonna pay for it," I said. My lip curled up into a junkyard dog's snarl. "I'm doin' this for you."
The sympathy in her baby blues froze. Her pupils became as cold as a glacier. "You're doin' this for yourself, Aaron."
"I'm doin' this because I love you."
"If you love me, you'll get out of the car and drop this."
For a split second my fury backed down to a low boil. Her eyes, her words, and the set of black bangs that curled over her forehead were almost enough for me to call it off. But, before the pride in me fully quit, Dave burst through the Back Road's front door and waltzed out into the parking lot. The others loitering in front of the bar snapped to attention.
"Lookie here, fellas! Two little ladies all dolled up and ready for a party!" shouted Dave.
That's all it took. My mouth clamped shut. Bonny knew I'd made my choice. She backed away from the window. I could see tears in her eyes as she retreated, but I didn't care. This was between Dave and I, and he was about to get what was coming to him.
"You ready?" I shouted across the lot.
Dave's eyebrows jumped up above his brow. "You hear that, boys? This little darlin' has her panties in a bunch!"
He cut his chuckle short and sneered. "I'm an Outlaw, kid. I'm always ready. The question is--are you?"
I pinned my 1946 Ford Coupe's accelerator to the floor and shoved the stick into first gear. The smell of asphalt grating rubber to shreds filled my nostrils as my car squealed into a U-turn and shot down the highway. When I reached my spot I pulled the e-brake and spun back around.
As Dave slid behind the wheel of his hot rod I caught the lettering on his leather jacket. "Outlaws" was emblazoned in bright orange and yellow flame across the top. I spit out the window. We had given the same oath. Brothers 'til the end. That end was coming quick for Dave.
Dave's Chevy, coated in bright cherry red and gleaming chrome, came to life. The roar of the engine and a cloud of white smoke signalled he was ready. He charged into position--down the highway in the opposite lane. Our cars were lined up like horses about to propel their riders into the joust.
I ran my hand over the shotgun lying next to me to make sure it was within comfortable reach, and then I adjusted the hood-mounted 50-caliber machinegun. Taking a deep breath, I searched for Bonny. Dozens of guys were filtering out of the bar and into the midday sun. Nobody wanted to miss this--except Bonny. I spotted her just before she disappeared into the Back Road.
"Not even gonna watch," I muttered. "She doesn't understand."
Dave's engine revved. I snickered and gunned mine. My hand sat on the skull head shift nob. My fingers twitched. The battle would be brief. One or two passes. My goal was to take out the gattling gun that sat on his roof just above his driver's side door. That would give me the upper hand on the second pass--
I didn't have time to finish the thought. He dropped his Chevy into gear. I swore and did the same. Our cars hurtled down the two lane highway at one another.
First gear. Second. Third. Fourth.
His gattling gun started to twirl. I grimaced and grabbed the controls for my own machinegun. BRRAATTTAATATATATAT!!! Bullets pelted the front of my car. I returned fire. CLAKAKAKAKAKA!!! I squinted as black smoke from my engine buffeted my windshield, momentarily blinding me.
He sped by me. We both hit our e-brakes and screeched into a J-turn. I pulled the tigger again. Nothing. My machinegun was toast. He'd managed to take it out. I took a quick glance back at Dave's car. His gat was busted. That put us on equal footing. I lifted my shotgun off the passenger seat and set it on the sill of my driver's side window.
His car roared again and sprinted toward me. I kicked my Ford into gear and charged. Dave leaned out the window and aimed a .45 revolver at me. Ping! Ping! Crash! His third shot punctured the windshield and took my right ear clean off. Blood splattered all over the back seat. I bit the side of my cheek, let out a menacing scream, and forced myself to stay focused.
The seconds grew longer as our hot rods barreled down on one another. My finger graced the trigger. I waited. Our cars passed. His window flashed past mine. I yanked the trigger back. Both barrels of my shotgun unloaded right into his driver's side window. Slamming on the brakes, I grabbed a handful of extra shells and waited for my car to stop before hopping out.
My head throbbed and my thoughts grew muddled. I felt warm liquid drip from where my ear used to be to my shoulder. A wave of dizziness swept over me.
Dave's car had skidded off the road. Rust colored dust shrouded his car. I shoved two shells into my shotgun, I trudged toward his Chevy. When the dust cleared, Dave fell out of the front seat. His left arm was a bloody stump cut off above the elbow. I'd timed my shotgun blast well. His eyes went wide when he saw me coming for him. Holding up his remaining arm, he shouted, "All right! All right! We can work this out!"
"Yeah," I said. "I'm about to."
* * *
I entered the bar and basked in the cheers. As Outlaws, we never mourned the dead, we just drank to them. I couldn't manage to wipe the huge grin from my face as my fellow gangmembers clapped me on the back and shoved pints of beer into my hands.
I'd gotten what I'd wanted. Respect. My eyes scanned the room for Bonny. I figured she'd respect me now, too. But she was nowhere to be seen. My brow furrowed. I stode up to the bar. The bartender instantly slid a bottle up to me.
"Nice work, kid."
"Thanks," I said. "Where's Bonny?"
He didn't answer. He just held out a slip of paper. I took it from him and read it while the room around me started another cheer on my behalf.
Aaron, I'm leaving. I can't have Dave's or your death on my hands. This was never about me. This was about you. You're not the man I thought you were. You really are one of them, and I guess I'm not. Goodbye. I did love you.