On this late Tuesday night the suburbs slept. Blankets of static pulled up tight.
Eyelids had begun to flicker. Rectangle lightning moved from square to square; up and down. Locks penetrate. Couples are secure in each other, and children let the colors run free, laughing and crying below closed eyelids.
Life persists, like a disgruntled tourist. Ideas drift along in the oxygen remaining, waking the books and thoughts shielded from the dark. The moon oversees the bright and receives a howl or two, out in the darkness somewhere, for it’s services. In the corners of the sun’s reflection, fires of exstacy light proximal miracles. Light persists, like a drunkard’s halo.
Liquid flows the path of least resistance.
The Mitsubishi Cell gas/electric hybrid had been marketed to Stan and Carolyn Marshall, among many others, as the evolution of not only the car, but transportation itself. "Where are you going?" The slogan. Upon being asked this very question by the salesman at the dealership, Stan Marshall had responded with "I’m not quite sure!" His wife, Carolyn Marshall had laughed, but in a different way than Calvin the sales representative had. His eyes stared through the response. The unblinking.
She lay awake thinking about this for a moment before attempting to go to sleep for the night. Nothing on TV. Mom wondered when her sons Douglas and Paul would get home. Carolyn could almost envision them driving: somewhere on the fringes of the law and her intuition, the boys were most assuredly wasting gas.
Not as much though, cause it was a hybrid.
That night, Stan and Carolyn's blue Mitsubishi Cell was cruising parallel to the electric lines on the pitch, the black lanes, the varicose veins of the earth. One observer stood at his front porch, stretching. His dog roamed mental prairies on the front grass. For him, the car produced rap music turned up entirely too loud for this time of night. For the three boys who continued by within the machine, one of them would have agreed with this.
“Hey turn that down a bit!” Douglas attempted to push these words through the sound to the front in a half-yell, from the back of the car.
Each bass hit was tangible: as real as anything; including the wind which flapped through the car. Having the rear to himself, the oldest figure was stretched in the backseat. With his left arm resting along the top of the seat as he stared out the back window, Douglas watched the sound cut through the stillness of space. Up to the moon and back again.
“Turn down your questions!”
The eldest was inclined to respond with a vulgarity, but the effort for those sounds was not worth it. Douglas shrugged, glancing back out of the rear view mirror at the moon. “The earth’s hub” he thought. “Ok, so what are we going to do tonight?” The question is reoccurring. A toned down version of the big ones, but still the same cryptic journey. Perspective, and all that.
“I have no idea.” The passenger: Graham.
Douglas and Paul had both been back at the dealership with their parents when they bought the Cell. “You’ll be driving it, after all.” Their mom had cast out, a lure of the material kind. Their sales representative had been quite nice --nothing like the greasy stereotypes you see on TV-- but a couple times he had used the word ‘pilot’ in place of ‘driver.’ This had stuck with both boys for some reason; a continuing joke of theirs. Calvin, as his name tag read, had the aura of a pariah: a kind of off-tempo social rhythm, like some comments were rehearsed, and some were not. Calvin was close to forty -- he told them he had been working for the dealership for “Oh...a while,” but wants to travel someday.
Douglas could see Paul’s eyes dart upward in their sockets to the rearview mirror to meet his gaze. “Ok, well...I’m going to pull into this gas station. We need to get gas, and we can roll there.” Pilot’s call.
Graham nods. “Fuck, gas is expensive.”
Douglas knows why gas is expensive.
The station, like so many things, was at an intersection. They were situated within the center of midnight; the jugular; a necessary consumerist intermission within the grid. Several small black domes on the ceiling of the pump hanger watched the solitary car without preference. Eyes that would open should the need arise.
Douglas leaned against the back of the Cell, watching the occasional car move past, through the small corporate strip, and off into the night. The other two boys went inside the building to pay. Across the street, the bench at the bus stop was empty. It had essentially been that way since a young woman was found dead, overdosed -- the syringe still sticking out of her arm. Douglas remembered his mother saying “...it would be a damn shame to go out like that. How do you let it get to that point?” He remembered seeing the body quite well. The blood was not red as he expected, but black.
Paul and Graham returned, the latter bearing a couple of drinks in one hand, the other hand extinguishing the receipt in a clenched fist. Paul grabbed the gas nozzle and began to impregnate the car with the earth’s lubricant. Douglas followed the hose to the pump with his eyes, and back even further. Graham opened the passenger door and climbed into the car lazily while Douglas pried his eyes away from the thick vein and did the same.
Settling back into his seat, Graham reached into his pocket to retrieve a small plastic container. Inside: neon lettuce, plugged into the big outlet.
Paul climbed back into the car. “Well boys” he started, turning on the car. “Let’s see how much that forty did.”
All eyes darted to the red needle. The devil’s red claw bounced up a bit towards F. “Let’s try not to drive too much...” the consensus. Paul pulled out of the pumps, and around the corner of the main building to the parking area, where he turned off the hybrid. The gas needle dropped dead.
“This is bullshit you know.” Douglas started, staring and talking directly at the back window. Above, the moon had seen this comment increase as of late.
“What is?” Paul asked, glancing up to the rearview mirror.
“We don’t even fucking.... need gas.”
Graham had turned his attention to the task at hand, grabbing a book from the glovebox and judging it very much by it’s cover. “Oil companies, man -- they’re bullies” he stated mid-search. He finally settled on the Mitsubishi Cell’s instruction manual.
“Yeah, but that’s not really a good enough excuse in my mind. We’ve all seen the 3M commercials. One: the need.”
“Two the desire?”
“I want to stop using gas. It’s fucking sad a pathetic that we need to resort to small explosions as a means of transportation. And every time we run out, we run back to the pump The Cell until it’s full, no matter what the cost.”
“Yeah well that shit will never change, so you might as well stop worrying about it.”
Anger barked it’s peppered laugh, steaming up the car, terminating the conversation.
“Ok let’s go smoke this.” Pilot’s call.
Paul would shift the energy by introducing a new topic: “Hey I read somewhere on the internet a little while ago and it said: ‘Smoking weed makes your halo green.’ Do you think that’s a bad thing? A green halo? I figure it’s like a spiritual grass stain -- you know from goofin around.
Graham and Douglas both laughed at this. “Do you think people actually have Halos?” Graham asked openly.
“Sure man. It’s why I’m so good at poker” came from the backseat.
“So where are we going to smoke?” Paul asked again.
The Cell was still creeping along the road through the trees. “Why not here?” Douglas shrugged, looking around. “No houses or anything. Sort of a good spot.”
The Pilot assessed the strip though the woods for a split second, and without responding, took the craft to the right, and onto the dirt which preceded the forest on either side of the road. They descended in speed to a full stop, and the lady of the forest gave a small nod in their direction. When the car was turned off, a pregnant silence.
“So do you mean like....psychic? essentially?” Graham asked Douglas as they got out of the car.
Douglas nodded, awkwardly climbing out of the back seat. “Yeah, I think that’s either part of it, or the whole thing. I’m not sure which.”
They made their way into the trees through a small trail which seemed to have been established by the many, rather than the directed.
Stan and Carolyn Marshall are both police officers. The day the Marshals bought the car, Douglas and Paul were standing with their father outside of the dealership, waiting for their mom to use the washroom, and they had been reminding them of this fact. “He’s lying, I can tell” he told the boys, who agreed something seemed suspicious. The conversation Carolyn eventually walked out of the dealership, and into, had to do with whether or not lying was a police matter. They had been younger back then.
“This time, when we go home, we have to be super careful -- we can’t get caught. Or else.... I don’t know. They might kick us out or something.” Paul explained, looking back over his shoulder as he led them deeper into the foliage.
“Yeah, seriously eh.” Graham concurred.
Douglas, at the back of the pack, nodded in silence. He watched the feet of Graham, in front of him. “It’s a good thing the moon is so bright tonight. It’s sort of dark in here.”
“Yeah, it’s actually getting sort of late.” Paul stopped. “Ok this is far enough.”
“You know what’s weird?” Douglas started, as Paul pulled out the joint. “All these years, they’ve never asked us why we do it. You know? You think they’d wonder what the reason is at some point, when the anger dies down.”
Intuition never sleeps, so when it greeted Carolyn that night with that subtle smile, she decided there was no need to fight it. She would answer the call. Hey. Would you like a snack? Sure. Carefully climbing out of bed she gave one look to the still snoring Stan before making her way down the stairs. Each step descended the middle aged woman from the precognitive truth, down to the increasingly obvious visual proof that the car was in the driveway, even though she had not heard the boys return. She continued past the kitchen and the snacks to the basement, where two of the boys’ rooms were located. There was the ever-so-faint smell of raw marijuana in the air. Surprise at her realization was as far away as the moon; she closed her eyes, sending a look to the bank to retrieve it, and all the emotions which followed, which came falling down.