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The Long Way Home

a.k.a. The Wrong Way Home

By Randy BakerPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
image generated by author using Midjourney

It was a 2004 Ford F-150, scratched and dinged from bumper to bumper. The yellow color was one of the least popular paint jobs when the truck was new, but time had made it even less appealing. It was sun-faded, with a few spots peeling on the hood.

Even if someone bothered to wash it, which clearly hadn’t happened in a while, there would be no luster. Trent didn’t know, or care, too much about cars. He did think that the ugly yellow truck and Larry were a good match, though.

They were barely 15 minutes into the trip and Trent was already starting to regret it. Since his car had broken down, it was hard to make it home on the weekends. It was a solid two-hour drive from Central State University to Springfield, where Trent was from, and no one he knew at school lived in that direction.

The first time Larry had offered him a ride, he’d turned it down. He’d promised his mom he would come home soon, though, so he decided to suck it up and get a lift.

“Hey, man,” Larry said. “Reach me a beer in that cooler back there.”

“What?” Trent was a little confused.

“In the back there. Grab me a beer out of the cooler.”

“Uh. Okay.”

The rear section of the king cab was filled with all sorts of things; tools, clothes, trash, and, yes, a small cooler. Trent unbuckled his seatbelt and dug out a can of Natural Light. He started to pass it to Larry when the older man waved him off.

“Pop it open for me, buddy,” Larry said. “Go ahead and get one for yourself.”

“No thanks,” said Trent, as he opened the can. “Are you sure you should have an open beer while you’re driving?”

Larry laughed and reached for the beer. He didn’t bother to answer Trent, but it seemed apparent enough that he thought he should, in fact, have an open beer. After taking a swig, Larry rolled his window down a crack and lit up a Pall Mall.

“I would ask if you mind if I smoke, but I’m just going to do it anyway.”

Larry cracked himself up. With each guffaw, a puff of smoke ejected from his mouth toward the windshield. Between the smoke cloud, a plethora of dead bugs, and a film of general grime on the windshield, it was a wonder Larry could see the road.

Had Trent known that was Larry’s fourth beer of the evening, not to mention the shot of Evan Williams, it might have seemed even more impressive that they were staying between the lines.

“Hey, turn that up,” said Larry.

Trent reached over to adjust the volume on the radio. As he did, he noticed that the overflowing ashtray had the remains of a joint, or two, mixed in with the Pall Mall butts. Maybe the beer was the least of their problems if they got pulled over, Trent thought. He also noted with interest that he’d never seen a car with an ashtray in it, except for in movies. He wondered when they stopped putting them in vehicles.

As the radio blared Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster”, Trent stared out his window. It was still an hour and a half until Springfield, best case scenario.

What was the worst-case scenario? Trent didn’t want to spend too much time on that question. Getting pulled over by the cops, wrecking the truck, maybe.

Either way, Trent figured he could probably avoid any trouble since he wasn’t driving. It should be obvious to even the lowest IQ sheriff’s deputy that he and Larry did not really belong together. Larry did not share his concerns.

“Reach me another beer, boss man.”

With a sigh, Trent fished out another Natural Light. Larry let out a whoop, turned the can up, then cranked the radio up a few more notches. As the Southern rock anthem rattled the speakers, the old truck accelerated into the darkness.

“I’ve got the pedal to the floor, my life is running faster,” they sang.


About the Creator

Randy Baker

Author, poet, essayist.

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Comments (3)

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  • Suze Kay2 months ago

    This gives me such Stephen king vibes - great dialogue, gritty environment, air of menace. Awesome job with this Randy! Would read this wherever it took me.

  • Daphsam2 months ago

    Wonderful story. Your detailed imagery brought me into the story.

  • Krishan Mubashar2 months ago

    Well written. Though, I kinda miss Tom Wait's "Long Way Home" here. While reading I could hear that song in my mind.

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