A Marigold Story
“What’re we at?” asked Jenny from the passenger seat.
Angela looked at the gauge. “Quarter tank. Wanna stop?”
“I’ve gotta pee,” replied Jenny.
“That’s a yes.”
They pulled the station wagon into the next gas station and got out.
“Give ‘em twenty-five for pump two,” said Angela, unscrewing the gas cap. “And get snacks. And drinks.”
“Salt, sugar, and something with caffeine.”
“Anything for him?” asked Jenny, tilting her head toward the backseat, where unkempt hair and sneakers poked out from underneath opposite ends of an afghan.
“Water,” said Angela.
Jenny nodded and jogged toward the convenience store.
Angela grabbed the gas nozzle, put it in the tank, and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. She looked toward the store and saw Jenny at the counter. After a minute she tried again and the gas flowed.
She met the gaze of a man pumping gas on the other side one pump down and he averted his eyes. She looked back toward the road and zoned.
Angela jumped at the loud clack of the pump shutting off. The display read twenty-five dollars on the nose. She replaced the nozzle, secured the cap, got back in the car, and glanced toward the other pump. The man wasn’t there, but his car was.
Angela turned the key and tried the radio. Static. She turned the dial until she heard talking. A preacher admonishing his listeners about the hellfire to come if they didn’t repent. She kept turning. Country. Pop. She settled on rock oldies.
A moan came from the back. She pivoted, climbed halfway over the seat back, and lifted the afghan off their passenger’s face.
“Awake?” asked Angela.
He slurred, “Whe…where are we?” but didn’t open his eyes.
“Gas station,” she said.
“Where’re we goin’?”
“Funeral,” said Angela. “Don’t you remember?”
“Nuh…no,” he slurred.
“Back to dreamland,” she said, dropping the blanket on his face and returning to the driver’s seat. “We’ll wake you when we get there.”
Angela jumped as the passenger door swung open and Jenny plopped down next to her.
“My, god,” said Angela, putting a hand on her chest. “Give me a heart attack.”
“You knew I was coming back.” Jenny dropped a plastic bag filled with goodies between them on the seat.
“I was checking on our passenger.”
“And?” asked Jenny.
“He speaks,” said Angela, putting on her seatbelt. “He’ll wake up soon.”
Jenny pulled a water out of the bag and said, “Just tell me when.”
“Not now,” said Angela, looking around and seeing the man walking back toward his car. “I wanna get out of here.”
Angela started the engine, Jenny put down the water and donned her seatbelt, and they pulled out.
“So, what’d you get,” asked Angela, looking in the rear view mirror.
“Sour cream and onion chips,” said Jenny, pulling it out of the bag. “King size chocolatey caramel peanut goodness. Two sodas. And wet wipes for cleanup. Whaddaya want first?”
“Candy. No, chips!” corrected Angela. “And soda.”
“Everything a growing body needs,” said Jenny, opening a soda and holding it out to Angela.
Angela looked in the rear view mirror again, then noticed the drink, grabbed it, took a swig, and put it in a cup holder hanging from the driver’s side door.
“You okay?” asked Jenny, opening the chips.
“There was some guy staring at me at the gas place,” said Angela. “Making sure he’s not following.”
Jenny turned and looked back. “There’s no one there. Don’t be so anxious.”
“How are you not?”
“Dunno,” said Jenny. “Worse things get, the calmer I get. It’s the little stuff that freaks me out.”
“Tell me that when I’m panicking at four in the morning over next month’s water bill.”
Angela shook her head. “I guess I’ll be the keeper of the anxiety for the both of us.”
“Chips now,” said Jenny, putting a potato chip in Angela’s mouth. “Panic later.”
Angela crunched and laughed.
“Jen?” said the guy in the back seat. “What’s…going on?”
“We’re on a little trip, Joel baby?” said Jenny, not looking back at him.
“I don…don’t remember…getting in the car,” said Joel.
“You were high, babe,” said Jenny.
“But where…?” said Joel.
“The funeral,” said Angela. “Don’t you remember?”
“Funeral,” said Joel. “But that alread….”
“Quiet, babe,” said Jenny over her shoulder. “It’s a surprise.” To Angela, she whispered, “Find a place to pull over.”
When they reached a desolate stretch, no houses, no businesses, just trees and road, Angela turned onto a side road and pulled off onto the grass.
Jenny took the water out of the bag, opened it, guzzled a quarter of the liquid, and put the bottle between her legs.
“Do you want to give it this time?” asked Jenny.
“He’s your boyfriend,” said Angela.
“Don’t remind me.”
Jenny popped open the glove compartment, took out a pocket knife, pried it open, and put it on the seat beside her. She took out a bottle of pills, pressed down on the lid, twisted, and shook two capsules into her hand.
“More?” asked Jenny.
“No. We want him to wake up when we get there,” said Angela. “Need any help?”
“Nah,” said Jenny. “I’m a pro at this point.” She picked up the knife, punctured a capsule, tapped the powder into the bottle, did the same with the other one, put the lid back on the water bottle, shook it, and exited the car.
Angela looked out the side window and noticed a bit of orange across the road. She got out and crossed as Jenny opened the back door.
Angela knelt down and looked at the flowers. Marigolds. She pulled one up from its base, smelled it, brought it back to the car, and walked around to Jenny, who had Joel, head propped up on her lap as she poured water into his mouth. His head turned to one side and some dribbled out.
“What’re…you…?” he sputtered.
“Shhhhhh,” said Jenny, pushing his head back into place and giving him more of the concoction. “Drink up. That’s a good boy.”
When Jenny was done, she slid out from under Joel and stood up. Joel tried to push himself up with his hands, lost his balance, and thudded back onto the seat. Jenny threw the bottle on the floor and slammed the door.
She noticed Angela.
“You okay?” asked Jenny.
“I’m…I don’t know,” Angela said, shaking her head. “Can you drive?”
“Of course, sweetie,” said Jenny. “Anything you need.”
They got in and fastened their seatbelts. Jenny got the car moving, turned them around at the next intersection, and got them back onto the main road.
Angela spun the flower by rolling the stem between two fingers.
“Whatcha got?” asked Jenny,
“Marigold,” said Angela. “They were Sherry’s favorite.”
Jenny put a hand on Angela’s shoulder for a moment, then returned it to the wheel. A tear ran down Jenny’s cheek.
“I’m sorry, babe,” said Jenny.
“Not your fault,” said Angela, her face expressionless.
“I should have known.”
“We’ve been over this,” said Angela. “Some wolves are good at that whole sheep costume thing.”
Jenny laughed and sniffled.
“Can I have my soda?” asked Angela, tucking the flower behind an ear.
“Sure,” said Jenny, handing over the drink. “It’s just…I would understand if you cut me off after this.”
“We’re BFFs,” said Angela. “Like they say, a friend will help you move. A real friend will help you move a body.”
“A best friend will help you make that body,” said Jenny.
Jenny took the second soda out of the bag, twisted off the lid while steering with her knees, drank, and said, “We’ll need something stiffer after this trip.”
They listened to the radio for the next few miles.
Angela broke the silence. “Take the next right.”
Jenny complied. They bounced in their seats as they traversed an unmaintained road.
“Ow,” said Joel, his head lifting off and slamming back into the upholstery. “What the…?”
“We’re nearly there, babe,” said Jenny.
“I don’t feel good,” he said.
“I know,” said Jenny.
“There’s a left coming up,” said Angela.
Jenny slowed, saw a break in the trees, and turned onto a dirt road.
They drove for a few moments until Angela said, “Here.”
Jenny noticed a pink ribbon tied to a tree up ahead.
“Pull in between those trees,” said Angela, pointing just past the ribbon. Jenny pulled them onto what seemed more a walking path than a road. But the car fit.
“Just go about forty feet,” said Angela, pointing. “See that one?”
Jenny spied another ribbon affixed to another tree. She pulled up to it and stopped.
They got out. Angela opened the back door and Jenny came around to help.
“Come on, Joel,” said Jenny, flipping the afghan off him and onto the floor.
“What’re we…?” said Joel.
“This is our stop,” said Jenny.
“Why am I so…?” started Joel.
Joel tried to crawl out of the car and crumpled to the ground.
“Can you walk?” asked Angela.
“Gimme a sec,” said Joel. He tried to stand but fell and rolled onto his back.
“Come on,” said Angela, grabbing one of his arms. Jenny grabbed the other and they pulled him backward across the underbrush.
“What…?” said Joel.
“Almost there,” said Angela. She and Jenny pulled and pulled, groaning at the strain every now and then.
They reached a spot with two shovels sticking up out of the ground next to a mound of dirt. Just before the mound and shovels lay a freshly dug hole.
Angela and Jenny pulled Joel along side it, moved to his right side, and rolled him in.
“Ow,” he yelped. “What the fuck?”
Joel struggled to get up, but was still having trouble with his limbs. Angela and Jenny grabbed the shovels.
“Jen. Honey,” said Joel. “I’m in a hole.”
“Yep,” said Jenny.
“Help me up,” he said.
“Nope,” said Angela, taking a shovel full of dirt and throwing it on his torso.
Jenny followed suit.
“Get me out of here!” He pushed himself up into a seated position and tried to pull at the edge of the grave.
Angela smacked him on the head with her shovel.
He fell back, grabbed the sore spot, and said, “You bitch!”
“Don’t try to get up again.”
“Babe,” said Joel. “Don’t do this.”
“Don’t call me babe!” said Jenny, throwing more dirt.
“What’d I do?”
“Don’t play dumb,” said Jenny.
“This is for my sister,” said Angela.
“It…was an accident,” said Joel.
“That’s not what you told your buddy Dale,” said Jenny.
“What?” said Joel. “You believe that jerk over me? Babe….”
“I overheard you.”
“I was just…,” started Joel.
“What?” said Jenny. “Just bragging about killing my best friend’s little sister?”
“The cops cleared me,” said Joel.
“But we didn’t,” said Angela.
They continued to pile on the dirt.
“You won’t get away with this,” said Joel.
“Maybe,” said Jenny. “Maybe not. But you won’t be here to see what happens to us.”
“Help m…!” His yell was cut short by Jenny’s shovel smacking him in the mouth. He spit out a couple of teeth and let out a sob as blood ran from his lips.
He sputtered as the friends covered him. They shoveled and pushed all the dirt into the hole, smacked the mound with the backs of their shovels, and sat down on it
“How long can someone hold their breath?” asked Angela.
“Couple of minutes,” said Jenny.
Angela looked at her watch. After a long quiet sit, she looked again. “Fifteen minutes.”
They got up and started pulling limbs and leaves over the fresh grave. When they were done, Angela took the marigold from behind her ear and placed it on top. Then she thought better of it and snatched it back up.
“What now?” said Jenny.
“Clean up?” said Angela. “Then hit that candy bar?”
“Sounds good to me.”
About the Creator
Bernadette “Berni” Johnson is the author of The Big Book of Spy Trivia, many tech articles, movie reviews, short stories, and two novels in perpetual editing.
You can find her blog, other work, and mailing list at bernijohnson.com.
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