We drove in silence through town, the parakeet perched on the arm of her heart-shaped sunglasses. She was crying, but maybe didn’t want me to know. The moon was out.
It’s very easy to tell when someone is crying behind sunglasses when the moon is out. The makeup running down their cheeks seems electrified. Their softest sobs might as well be a neon billboard.
When we passed the plaza with Fried Paradise in it, I felt especially stupid for having my work shirt still on. I started taking the shirt off, driving with my knee. I didn’t work there anymore. The shirt had a big cartoon chicken on the back. I wouldn’t wear the big cartoon chicken anymore. Teal got nervous and grabbed the wheel so we didn’t go over the dotted line. I didn’t stop her.
A police car drove past us slow. He was drinking a big gulp soda. His hat was off. He was singing along to the radio. We might as well have been on Jupiter. Or ghosts. Or anything.
Then, I was shirtless and cold. The heat didn’t work. I kept trying it anyway.
“Where are we going?” she asked, facing out the window, very interested in the pine trees and the sugar sand and the weeds growing out of the sugar sand. Buckhorn. Mallow. Wild sage.
“Where are we going?” I repeated, clueless about an answer. I mean, we were headed south, she could see that much. I said, “South, I dunno, where do you wanna go?”
The bird chirped. It didn’t even flap its wings anymore. It knew better. They’d been clipped.
“Why’d you have to kill my mom?”
I had an easy explanation for that, “She loved your dad as much as I love you.”
Teal nodded, maybe understanding it one of a million different ways, one of those millions of ways being something acceptable. Would she wanna keep going on living if I was dead? If somebody killed me, would she go after them? Would there ever be any peace? I wished she would just find something on the radio for us to listen to. I feared even worse that anything on the radio would be a dark reflection from the abyss swarming around us.
“I have a brother,” she said.
“I know, I’ll have to deal with him too.”
I stopped at the last red light in town. I could have easily blown through it.
“I would hope he would,” I said. “I’d do the same thing if I was him.” I touched her thigh, “Let’s not worry about Neil right now.”
“What are we worried about then?”
“I don’t mind you shooting my dad,” she said, pushing my hand away, “I wish you hadn’t shot my mom.”
Teal didn’t say anything after that. We could have talked about anything. On the outskirts of town she pointed out the window at a plain white concrete building. Spine Align the sign said. There was a chiropractor there who apparently did other procedures. Sometimes the protestors stood outside with cardboard signs, unless it was raining.
“Kody, you see that? That’s where they took me.” They, meaning her parents.
“That’s the place huh?”
She sighed, “It is.”
“How’d they do it?” I said, as if that was the kind of thing that anyone would want details about, so, caught myself. “Don’t answer that.”
In my rear view, I glanced at the gold BMW in the Spine Align parking lot. I knew without asking that it was the doctor’s car.
“I’ll tell you. You should know. It was your son too. First they went in with forceps… pulled. They— they scraped. It hurt some. After that, there was a little vacuum.”
I exhaled darkly. She said when I got angry, I sounded like a bull. A bull! What a compliment.
I stepped on the brakes, skidding the car out. Hateful, I looked back in my rear view some more at the sign for the chiropractor. He didn’t deserve what I’d do to him. He thought he was helping people, maybe some of them; not her. He shouldn’t have done what he did to Teal, to us really. But, he shouldn’t have to pay for that.
“What was the doctor’s name?”
“Swan,” she said. “Dr. Swan.”
“I’ll go in real quick and say hello to him.”
“Her,” she said.
“Oh.” That changed things.
A woman. A woman would understand better than I could. A woman.
“She was very kind. I spit on her,” Teal said. “She was very kind.”
I put the Lincoln back into gear. We kept driving. Her parakeet was crawling up her hair. Then, it sat on the top, clinging onto the violet ribbon as if it were on a throne.
The above excerpt is from the new novella I’M FROM ELECTRIC PEAK which will be available everywhere cool as fuck books are sold.