Crimson Peyote on Route 50
Sienna dust drifted in the air.
Sam dragged a blue Standard Oil drum across the Nevadan desert floor. It was mostly empty, containing only a worn-out tuxedo and an old book, and it came from—
"Where'd you find that?"
Sam stopped and left the drum beside a road that stretched to the barren horizon and crimson 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS. "Over there... I had to fight off a giant northern Pacific rattlesnake. I think it had a bad day at work."
Isabella lay back on the roof of the Camaro, basking in the late afternoon sun with a gas mask on. Sam started unbuttoning his shirt.
Born roughly five months apart, and on opposite ends of Boston, Massachusetts, they met when they were teenagers.
Sam tossed the shirt into the drum. "I woke up once, on a snowy February day. The sun shone in the corner of my eye as I walked to your house—"
"You've already told me that story."
"No, I haven't."
Isabella pulled off the gas mask. "Yes, you have."
Isabella conceded, resting her head on the roof and gazing up at the inviting, cornflower blue sky.
Sam continued, "The sun lit up the corner of my eye as I walked to your house. And I realised something, just as I was about to knock on your door. I realised that everyday we did the same thing—"
"Aah! You have told this story! It's the goofy tale you narrated in Steve's hut."
"Oh... well, our audience doesn't know it."
A decade later, they still regularly spoke and spent whole weekends hanging out. But they were never too adventurous, spending most of these weekends with the curtains drawn and phones switched off, which prompted Sam to suggest they take a trip.
They'd pass through Colorado, which Sam had always wanted to visit, and end up in San Francisco, the city he knew Isabella wanted to move to ever since they talked about leaving Boston ten years earlier.
"We don't have an audience. Nobody's listening."
"The universe is listening." Sam dropped his shorts, Isabella didn't notice.
"But the universe already knows the story. It knows every story ever told."
"How can it know? It's never heard it," Sam opened the car door and rested his chin on the roof. "Does it invade my privacy?"
"When I was a little girl, I wanted to swim in the Pacific Ocean."
"I wanted to climb a mountain." The bottle of Laphroaig single malt whisky they'd bought in Kansas City rested on the passenger seat. Isabella chuckled at something, Sam watched a cloud wandering across the horizon.
"Aah, fuck it." Sam took the bottle, shut the door, and turned his head back to the horizon. "Remember that sunrise? The purple one."
"You forgot the orange."
"It was purple first. When it was cloudy."
"It's cloudy in a lot of places, y'know." Isabella smiled at the sky.
"I know. Your mountain is cloudy and my ocean is cloudy. Home is cloudy."
"Why bring up home now?"
"Are you going back?"
Isabella let out a heavy sigh, "Probably not," The cornflower blue sky smiled back. "You?"
"Uh..." Sam's eyes shifted from Isabella to that distant cloud. "I don't know. Where's home, right...?" His eyes returned to her.
"Where's your heart?"
Neither dared say it, but the probability of returning to what they called their "home" wasn't all too high. For some reason, they seemed to half-expect some sort of epiphany out there on the baking tarmac. That, or an untimely death under the smirk of a nonchalant sun.
"What about your family?" Sam unscrewed the bottle of 10 year old Scotch.
"They'll always have Thanksgiving. What about your family?"
"Thanksgiving." Sam smiled. "Wanna find out what this tastes like, already?"
"Not really. It's peaty, smoky... antiseptic."
"Huh. Very good point." Sam started pouring the whisky over the clothes. "Good thing we didn't overpay, hey?"
Isabella jumped off the roof. "I wish I had some sunglasses."
"We bought a pair back in, uh... somewhere. I think Kansas City." Sam checked the remaining contents of the bottle, and casually tossed it into the drum; it collided with the side of the drum, and landed on the pile of clothes. The mouth dribbled its precious innards. Sam lifted his eyes.
"Got a match?"
Isabella reached into a pocket and produced a matchbook from a place called The Finder's Inn. She tossed it to Sam, who swiftly ignited a match and held it over the drum.
Isabella took a step closer to the drum. "Bye-bye."
She laughed playfully, Sam grinned... and dropped the match. The flames spread across the clothing, and started burning the paper of that old, title unknown, book.
Sam gave Isabella a quick look and returned to the clerk with a preoccupied mutter, "Yeah." He checked his wallet. "How much is the whisky again?"
"$75." The corners of the clerk's mouth lifted a millimetre.
"And those sunglasses?"Isabella found the sunglasses in the glove compartment. Putting them on, "You didn't ever tell me if I looked sexy in these, did you?"
"I told you a lie. They hide your eyes."
"That's the point."
"It's like the clouds covering the beautiful, twinkling stars."
"What if the stars don't want to be seen?"
"Pass the book, the one about inner peace and whatnot."
Isabella grabbed a book off the dashboard and threw it into the waiting fire. As the flames voraciously consumed the cheap, mass market paperback, the only readable part of the title read: "36 Easy Steps Toward".
"What was I thinking?"
"Too much peyote."
They met Burning-Flower-Under-Weeping-Sun sometime after leaving Eureka. How they met him is unknown even to them, they just happened to come upon a shack and for some reason decided to talk to the pasty white man shitting outside.
"The name's Burning-Flower-Under-Weeping-Sun," he said, "It's Native American. I've decided to live in the traditions of my forefathers."
This should probably be made into a film, so you can see for yourself, but the man didn't look very Native American, didn't sound very Native American. In fact, he looked a lot like Steve Buscemi, but not as pretty.
Sam watched the flickering blaze. "Remember that sunset? The purple one."
"It was purple. Right after the sun had disappeared."
Isabella shook her head, she was back on the roof.
"I think it's beginning to wear off."
"Maybe. I think it's about time we get back on the road."
"Yeah... I suppose," Sam wiped his eyes. "That guy was funny."
"He knew what he wanted."
"Yep. Too bad we had to kill him."
Isabella turned to Sam. "What?"
The three of them sat around a makeshift coffee table, drinking herbal tea.
"So this guy, he walks into the bar, right, and he's got this look on his face, you know, like his wife just left him. And the bartender, asks him what's wrong, so he tells him what happened. Now, a man who's sitting nearby comes over, right, and he offers to buy him a beer. He says he knows how he feels—"
"I meant leave. Too bad we had to leave him."
"Yeah..." Sam silently watched Isabella, lazily lying on the roof of the crimson Camaro.
"Man, it was an awakening for me," Steve replied to a question, "You look at modern society, and it's wasting away. There's no substance to life anymore, people don't care, we're all trying to eat ketchup and pretend it's filling. Man, humanity needs to do something. There are two ways to live: with the earth, and without the earth. I chose with the earth."
Steve, as Sam and Isabella preferred to call him, liked going on extended verbal journeys. And they let him do so, as long as they could drink more of his great herbal tea.
"Living this way, with nature," he continued, "Man, it's great. I don't think I've ever been more happy in my life. It's a great life. Breathing the fresh air outside of the concrete jungle..."
Steve sipped some of his herbal tea, and got up. He searched around and eventually found a small, brown, folded paper bag.
"Check this out..." Steve rested back down, unfolded the paper, and revealed the dried slices of some sort of fruit or vegetable. "You know what this is?"
"Peyote. My people have been using it for millennia."
They left just before sunrise, and hazily drove west for several hours, until they stopped for a nap that lasted well into the afternoon. Still with their heads under a thick, blurry fog, they ate what food they had, and settled on the roof.
They talked, as the sun mutely waded past them, reminisced over old memories and made jokes no one but them would've gotten. Until Sam decided to venture into the bushes. Which was when he found the old, blue drum and felt the sudden urge to burn his clothes.
Isabella turned her head to Sam. Realising that he was watching her, she removed the sunglasses, and for a moment, they appeared to have a wordless conversation.
Isabella smiled affectionately, and dropped down. She got into the car, adjusted the sunglasses, and turned the car key. Sam neared the Camaro as it started chugging its way to life.
She rolled down the window, and adjusted her sunglasses.
"I love you."
"I love you, too." Isabella pointed forward and shifted into first gear. "See you around sometime."
Sam sighed. "We had a good run, didn't we?"
"Yup. Only took us ten years."
Isabella pressed her foot on the peddle. She turned the car around, and drove off. East.
Sam returned to the drum. He gazed into the fire, deep in thought... and turned his head to the distancing car.
"You're going the wrong way."
He pulled off his boxers and dropped them in the fire. And beaming at the satisfactory breeze he felt against his naked body, Sam moved to the edge of the road and inhaled the empty sky.
The sound of a nearing vehicle eventually roused Sam. It was a crimson 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS.
The car stopped in front of Sam, and a woman with a pair of dark, cheap-looking sunglasses looked at him.
"Hi." Sam smiled courteously.
She shifted her glasses, and her eyes slowly moved downwards... "Nice penis you got there."
Copyright Joaquim Baeta, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.