Martin drags himself through the ditch like a broken marionette, metallic taste of blood still lingering in his mouth from the beating he received at The Iron Road a half-hour earlier. Headlights knife across the darkness, hit him square in the jaw, like the right cross that turned his world static, then race away down the road.
As silence returns, spare the sucking sound of mud and labored breathing, Martin recalls childhood. How he watched adults suffer, even if he didn't always understand what their struggles were. How their misery felt like a foreign documentary without subtitles. How Uncle Ross and Grandpa George and Aunt Jocelyn and others were always having ‘troubles’. Be it drink, money, cheating spouses or something else. Every gossip session in family kitchens and over telephones was another tale of woe, another slide down the slippery slope, another cliffhanger in the ongoing soap opera of their lives. But, even though they were family, their lives never felt near Martin's, never connected. He watched over them like a chessboard, and when they blundered into mating positions over and over again, he often laughed, taking a secret delight in their gaffes.
Now, here, in this ditch, stumbling through where the shit of the world ends up, Martin starts laughing himself to tears, footprints of Uncle Ross and Grandpa George and Aunt Jocelyn trailing ahead of his, under a jet blinking red overhead – a laser sight on a gun that never fires.
RON GIBSON, JR. has previously appeared in New South Journal, Jellyfish Review, Whiskeypaper, Easy Street, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Harpoon Review, The Airgonaut, Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House, The Vignette Review, Cease Cows, Spelk Fiction, etc. & forthcoming at Cheap Pop and apt.