GOING NOWHERE • by Jeff Switt

Jack Coggins is skitzing into his thirty-sixth hour without sleep, fried on crank, driving the Escalade he stole in Texarkana, driving hard, driving himself harder.  The last twelve hours fit his mind like mismatched pieces of a jigsaw puzzle stomped into place with the heel of a boot.

The buyer was vouched for. The deal was to go down in the parking lot under the golden arches at seven. The price was five-K for his entire inventory, bundled neatly in a Happy Meal bag.

***

Jack leans on the trunk of his car. He fidgets for a smoke and pats his empty pocket. From around the front of his car two dudes wearing colors and lots of ink approach and confront him. Pushing. Talking shit.

“Whacha got in the bag, Holmes?” asks the skinny bro’ with the shaved head and shaky hands. The pudgy thug grabs for the bag and knocks it to the ground sending contents scattering about the blacktop. Pudgy drops to his knees and starts scooping plastic packets with his thick hands. Jack’s steel-tipped boot connects with his chin.

Shaky’s hands reach for the gun tucked in his pants. As he tries to pull it out it fires. Blood streams from his thigh and he falls. A woman yells and another reaches for her cell. Jack grabs the half-full bag and dashes across the street, dodging traffic, to the mall.

Jack hears the chirp of a car remote and turns to a woman entering a black SUV. He grabs for her keys, and she screams.

***

“Why did she have to fight?” he asks out loud. He’s been talking to himself for two hours. “That’s what insurance is for.” He remembers driving the butt of his pistol into her temple; her head hitting the ground; him stuffing her body in the back of the Escalade.

“Didn’t mean to kill her.” His lips purse to a frown, and he shakes his head. “Didn’t want to kill her.”

His cranked eyes stare into the dull setting sun at the end of westbound Highway 82. He doesn’t blink until a speed limit sign with the number 55 flies by. His speedometer shows 75. His foot hits the brake as the glow of neon signs and street lights brings him to.

“Don’t need to get stopped,” he mutters. “Can’t get stopped here. Where the hell am I, anyway?”

He looks to his right at a building and sees an old Nocona Boots sign, then a Dairy Queen. He wants food, maybe a dozen burgers with fries. He shakes his head. “No. No. Gotta keep going.”

His fingers tap the wheel, his eyes darting at the rear-view mirror. “Stay cool, Jack. Stay cool.”

Slowing down, forty-five, thirty-five, he makes two green lights, then passes a Sonic drive-in on the left. The road out of town opens, and he gives the Escalade the gas.

Crank makes Jack horny. He grabs his crotch, thinking about pulling it out and giving himself some relief. The horizon has grown dark. Jack’s headlights catch a figure holding a hand up in the classic hitchhiker pose. It’s a woman. He comes to an abrupt stop and hits the unlock button while tucking his 9-mil under his left thigh.

Angel Fuentes opens the door. She’s dressed in a billowy Mexican dress which showcases her puffy breasts and conceals the .38 auto taped to her thigh. She beams Jack a friendly smile. “Going to Wichita?” Nobody but strangers call it Wichita Falls.

“Shit yea, seenyor-rita,” Jack says in a mock Mexican tone. “I’ll take you anywhere.”

Angel smiles, blinks big, and says, “Gracias!”

Jack’s mind races trying to remember the last time he had some Mexican poon.

Angel looks at Jack’s eyes. “You’re cranked up pretty good tonight. Got any more?”

“Yea, but it ain’t free, know what I mean?” His head nods like a bobble head. Angel grins.

“I don’t got no money,” she says with a nasaly Mexican accent. “I got something better.” She puts a hand to her crotch and rubs it, looking at Jack looking at her. “There’s a rest stop ahead. No one stops there.”

Jack’s head starts bopping to an imaginary tune, his lips moving to unheard lyrics. He licks his chapped and cracked lips, smiling at the thought of what is to come.

Jack nearly misses the rest stop sign as Angel hollers, “Right! Here!” He hits the brakes and makes a hard right into the rest stop exit. It’s dark. It’s secluded. It’s perfect.

Jack backs over a curb and parks between two picnic tables. As he opens his door he grabs his 9-mil, sticks it in the back of his pants, and walks around to her door.

Angel feels the weight of the .38 still taped to her leg as she steps out. She watches Jack approach, lowering his zipper, obviously intent on one thing.

“Been a while, yes?” she asks without asking his name.

“One day’s too long for me,” Jack boasts. It’s been over a month.

Angel lifts her skirt. Jack watches the unveiling, intent on seeing what he wants, and doesn’t see her hand on the gun until it’s too late. “Escalades bring top bucks in Wichita,” she tells Jack. “They told me next time, no shit-mobiles. Boost something good or don’t come back.”

From the darkness behind Angel a voice booms, “Now that’s what I call a sweet ride,” as a man with a chrome-plated .45 in hand approaches. “Been waiting two days for something worthwhile.”

Angel spins to the voice and fires blindly. Jack struggles to pull his 9-mil which hangs in the back of his pants.

The .45 cracks in reply. The first round drops Angel like a bag of masa. The second splits Jack’s chest.

The shooter walks in haste to the Escalade. He turns the ignition, and heads out on Highway 82, east toward Texarkana.

From the back of the SUV the woman curled fetal trembles, not daring to make a sound.


Jeff Switt is a retired advertising agency guy who loves writing flash fiction, some days to curb his angst, other days to fuel it. His words have been featured online at Dogzplot, Boston Literary Magazine, Shotgun Honey, 50-Word Stories, 100 Word Story, A Story In 100 Words, 101 Word Stories, Postcard Shorts, and Nailpolish Stories, as well as Every Day Fiction. His latest venture is A Story in Three Paragraphs.


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Rate this story:
 average 4.2 stars • 18 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Russell

    Nice!!

  • Sarah Russell

    Nice!! 5 stars from me.

  • Thanks for the non stop machine gun paced, twist a minute, thirller. Defenitely enjoyed the ride. I call this calculated risk, but you pulled aces.

    • Texas thing. Once made in Nocona Texas some 15 miles north of me. That was the town in the description too. I drive past the rest stop once a month 🙂

  • Thanks for the non stop machine gun paced, twist a minute, thirller. Defenitely enjoyed the ride. I call this calculated risk, but you pulled aces.
    Nocona boots? Must be a mid west thing.

    • Texas thing. Once made in Nocona Texas some 15 miles north of me. That was the town in the description too. I drive past the rest stop once a month 🙂

  • Walter Giersbach

    Dialogue is what makes this four stars.

  • Walter Giersbach

    Dialogue is what makes this four stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Not my type of story–not characters I want to spend any time around–but you didn’t let me get away. Great mood, voice and tension. Crackerjack ending. Five stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Not my type of story–not characters I want to spend any time around–but you didn’t let me get away. Great mood, voice and tension. Crackerjack ending. Five stars.

  • One of the best I’ve read here… though I’ve read the last sentence about 8 times, trying to get “the woman curled fetal…” Interesting word usage. And the implications of the end, also really interesting considering I had assumed the woman in the trunk to be a body. What happens next?

    • I like the “what happens next” of the ending too. I think we are all waiting for the sequel.

  • One of the best I’ve read here… though I’ve read the last sentence about 8 times, trying to get “the woman curled fetal…” Interesting word usage. And the implications of the end, also really interesting considering I had assumed the woman in the trunk to be a body. What happens next?

    • I like the “what happens next” of the ending too. I think we are all waiting for the sequel.

  • Rat-a-tat-tat! My kind of drumbeat fiction! Bravo.

  • Rat-a-tat-tat! My kind of drumbeat fiction! Bravo.

  • S Conroy

    I really enjoyed the style of this piece. For me the man with the .45 was one twist too many. I think I’d have preferred more on the Angel/Jack interaction.

    • S Conroy

      On second thoughts, second read, it’s pretty good as it is. Noticed that the woman in the back is being taken back in the direction she came from. That’s a nice round trip.

  • S Conroy

    I really enjoyed the style of this piece. For me the man with the .45 was one twist too many. I think I’d have preferred more on the Angel/Jack interaction.

    • S Conroy

      On second thoughts, second read, it’s pretty good as it is. Noticed that the woman in the back is being taken back in the direction she came from. That’s a nice round trip.

  • Chris Antenen

    Ii’d like to find something wrong to pay for my keep, so to speak, but I can’t. Not my interest, but so well written, paced, you name it. Dialogue great, too. I even forgot about the woman in the car, so you got that twist with one helluva big foreshadowing in the paragraph that starts with “Why did she have to . . . . . No problem giving this one a 5.

  • Chris Antenen

    Ii’d like to find something wrong to pay for my keep, so to speak, but I can’t. Not my interest, but so well written, paced, you name it. Dialogue great, too. I even forgot about the woman in the car, so you got that twist with one helluva big foreshadowing in the paragraph that starts with “Why did she have to . . . . . No problem giving this one a 5.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Excellent story, paced to perfection. What’s with the typos, though? A story this good shouldn’t have ‘street lights brings’ or ‘scooped’, instead of ‘scooped up’. And those lips that ‘purse to a frown’ sounded a bit odd to my ear. Still a five-star effort in my books, though.

    • I felt “scooped up” redundant. Typos addressed above. And you are correct in your assessment of them 🙂

    • The line reads: the glow of neon signs and street lights brings him to.

      Take out the prepositional phrase “of neon signs and street lights” and it properly reads “glow brings.”

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Excellent story, paced to perfection. What’s with the typos, though? A story this good shouldn’t have ‘street lights brings’ or ‘scooped’, instead of ‘scooped up’. And those lips that ‘purse to a frown’ sounded a bit odd to my ear. Still a five-star effort in my books, though.

    • I felt “scooping up” redundant like “standing up.” Typos addressed above. And you are correct in your assessment of them 🙂

    • The line reads: the glow of neon signs and street lights brings him to.

      Take out the prepositional phrase “of neon signs and street lights” and it properly reads “glow brings.”

  • Louella Lester

    Fast-paced. Loved the stomping jigsaw part. Held my attention through to the ending, which I liked very much. Just a couple of little things: the verb tense in the second paragraph should be present tense like the rest of the story. And I’d rather not have known the woman had the gun hidden under her dress ahead of time. Better to find out when she feels the weight of it at the rest stop. Enjoyed this story.

  • Louella Lester

    Fast-paced. Loved the stomping jigsaw part. Held my attention through to the ending, which I liked very much. Just a couple of little things: the verb tense in the second paragraph should be present tense like the rest of the story. And I’d rather not have known the woman had the gun hidden under her dress ahead of time. Better to find out when she feels the weight of it at the rest stop. Enjoyed this story.

  • The vernacular in the exposition used seemed more fitting to a first person POV. I understand why that would be hard in this story. Although, that still reduced the quality for me.

    The switch in tense is a real hard one for me to fit into the story. Present to past tense didn’t make sense. If you went from past to present that could have pulled me into the “moment” more.

    The short sentences made the reading more choppy to me than fast paced.

    I liked the ending. It felt very much like a Gridhouse short.

    • Re the choppy nature, I was trying to get the feel across of a meth freak caught up in a panic stretch. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

      • I shoulda isolated the 2nd para.

      • I got that from reading it. That was why I thought the story might have been better first person. It was still a good story. Nice job.

  • The vernacular in the exposition used seemed more fitting to a first person POV. I understand why that would be hard in this story. Although, that still reduced the quality for me.

    The switch in tense is a real hard one for me to fit into the story. Present to past tense didn’t make sense. If you went from past to present that could have pulled me into the “moment” more.

    The short sentences made the reading more choppy to me than fast paced.

    I liked the ending. It felt very much like a Gridhouse short.

    • Re the choppy nature, I was trying to get the feel across of a meth freak caught up in a panic stretch. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

      • I shoulda isolated the 2nd para.

      • I got that from reading it. That was why I thought the story might have been better first person. It was still a good story. Nice job.

  • 1. I now see what you mean on the change in tense. It was intentional and at the time it made perfect sense.

    2. The typos, AAGH. Any excuse I offer would be thinner than a harlequin plot. Note to self: next time get someone to proof your words of genius before you reveal yourself to be an idiot! 🙂

    3. I want to thank the slush readers and the editors who pushed me to expand on the original story idea. Through their urging the finished product is much better than originally submitted.

    • I submitted something to EDF and am waiting on the response, just so that I can fix at least three things that are just downright terrible in my own story. 🙂

      • Hey Ward – happy to hear you are submitting.

      • Can’t wait to hear what’s behind those googled eyes.

  • 1. I now see what you mean on the change in tense. It was intentional and at the time it made perfect sense.

    2. The typos, AAGH. Any excuse I offer would be thinner than a harlequin plot. Note to self: next time get someone to proof your words of genius before you reveal yourself to be an idiot! 🙂

    3. I want to thank the slush readers and the editors who pushed me to expand on the original story idea. Through their urging the finished product is much better than originally submitted.

    • I submitted something to EDF and am waiting on the response, just so that I can fix at least three things that are just downright terrible in my own story. 🙂

      • Hey Ward – happy to hear you are submitting.

      • Can’t wait to hear what’s behind those googled eyes.

  • Susan

    Nice twists. Great description of Jack’s last twelve hours. Five stars.

  • Susan

    Nice twists. Great description of Jack’s last twelve hours. Five stars.

  • I liked the way the story created a different world. I do not know if all the slang is authentic or made up on the spot. Either way it works well.

  • I liked the way the story created a different world. I do not know if all the slang is authentic or made up on the spot. Either way it works well.

  • Carl Steiger

    I hope Quentin Tarantino buys the film rights for this one. Great fun, and just what I needed to wake me up this morning.

    • Carl – thats a hellova compliment. Will someone please tweet Quentin. I could use the money!

  • Carl Steiger

    I hope Quentin Tarantino buys the film rights for this one. Great fun, and just what I needed to wake me up this morning.

    • Carl – thats a hellova compliment. Will someone please tweet Quentin. I could use the money!

  • JD Evans

    Put Jack on a horse and he reads like one of my exes. Great pace and intensity, more twists than a Brahama out of the chute.

  • JD Evans

    Put Jack on a horse and he reads like one of my exes. Great pace and intensity, more twists than a Brahama out of the chute.

  • Johnee Cherry

    I have high expectations of this guy. He never fails to satisfy me on that macabre low-life kinda living he is so talented at writing. When ya gonna go for that longer piece? Huh?

  • Johnee Cherry

    I have high expectations of this guy. He never fails to satisfy me on that macabre low-life kinda living he is so talented at writing. When ya gonna go for that longer piece? Huh?

  • Meegiemom

    Jeff, you’ve put together a genius of a piece here. Few writers have the bility to build this many shockers into a story, then spring yet another one on us when we think it’s all over. Five big stars from me.

  • Meegiemom

    Jeff, you’ve put together a genius of a piece here. Few writers have the bility to build this many shockers into a story, then spring yet another one on us when we think it’s all over. Five big stars from me.

  • Meegiemom

    That would be ability

  • Meegiemom

    That would be ability

  • Gema McLean

    Great job of showing us the seedier side of life. Outstanding string of surprises, especially the last one. This one rates five stars.

  • Gema McLean

    Great job of showing us the seedier side of life. Outstanding string of surprises, especially the last one. This one rates five stars.

  • Don Teeter

    My first visit to everydayfiction, and a nicely done story to welcome me.

  • Don Teeter

    My first visit to everydayfiction, and a nicely done story to welcome me.

  • Kim

    One of my favorites. Never look at that rest stop the same again!! (Or pee there!)

  • Kim

    One of my favorites. Never look at that rest stop the same again!! (Or pee there!)

  • Galelikethewind

    Five from me, Jeff. You brought East Texas landscape to life with your sordid characters.

  • Galelikethewind

    Five from me, Jeff. You brought East Texas landscape to life with your sordid characters.

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  • Mickey Hunt

    Reminds me of the short story ‘”The Man Who Knew Belle Starr.'”

  • Mickey Hunt

    Reminds me of the short story ‘”The Man Who Knew Belle Starr.'”