I was heading south. Vegas, to be exact.
Five hundred hard-earned dollars were burning a hole in my pocket. That cheap-ass O’Reilly had finally coughed up what he owed for the two weeks I’d spent busing crates around in his rusty old forklift. Now after rent, gas, and a lousy pack of Marlboros, I wouldn’t have a goddamn red cent left to my name, but lately, I’d been doing a little math: five hundred could turn into one thousand in a heartbeat at the craps table at the Golden Nugget, and well, I was feeling like my chances were looking pretty good.
I was doing about 100 along Route 93 in my ‘84 Plymouth Colt. I’d just passed Alamo, a no-nothing shitsville town. That’s when I saw him: the fattest bastard I’d ever seen. He was like a real-life Michelin man, with fat rolls stacked like rings on his arms. How he’d used those short, stumpy hooves to get this far from town, I’d never know. He was just standing there, in a navy blue t-shirt with writing on it, waving his thumb at me.
Now there was no way, no how anyone in his right mind would stop for such a lard ass. He didn’t look an inch dangerous with that spare tire in his gut, but you never knew. I was just about to hit the gas and leave him to the coyotes, when I caught sight of the words on his t-shirt:
FAT PEOPLE ARE HARDER TO KIDNAP
He sure had a sense of humor. I liked that.
I slammed on the brakes and backed the Colt up. He waddled over and shoved his face in my window as I rolled it down. He looked to be in his early 30s, but with so much flesh, it was hard to tell.
“You ain’t some kinda weirdo, are you?” he asked.
“No,” I answered. “Are you?”
He shook his head.
“Well, hop on in then, fella,” I said.
He opened the door and eased his massive frame into the passenger seat. The Colt sank about three inches from the added weight.
“We sure gonna be cozy in here,” he remarked.
I put the Colt into drive.
“The name’s Ted,” I said.
“So, where you headin’, Tobias?”
“Mesquite?” I asked. “Tough luck, pal, I’m headin’ to Vegas. Mesquite’s east of Vegas. I’ll take you as far south as I can on my route, but then I’ll have to drop you somewhere.”
“That’s alright,” he said with a smile. “We’ll find an arrangement.”
He sat back and fished out a jelly donut from his bag. As he chomped on it, tiny crumbs tumbled into my upholstery.
“Hey, what you think you’re doin’, pal?” I cried. “Who said you could eat in my car?”
“If I don’t eat, I’ll pass out,” he explained between chomps. “Last time they needed six guys to move me.”
He was probably right about that. And there was no way in hell I was going to break my back dragging his carcass from my car.
“Alright, fine,” I said. “Just try not to make too much of a mess.”
He grinned and went back to shoving the remains of that donut into his mouth.
The Nevada wasteland stretched out before us: nothing, absolutely nothing but desert for miles. After about an hour on the road, Tobias’ cellphone rang.
“Hey Tina,” he said. “Where your Ma drop you, girl? Uh-huh. Well, we not far off now. A white Colt. You’ll see us.”
I was about to ask him what the hell he meant by that when a mini strip-mall appeared in the distance. As the Colt drew nearer to it, Tobias lay his enormous paw on my steering wheel and, with his huge gorilla fingers, yanked it to the right.
“Hey! What gives?” I cried.
The Colt veered into the strip-mall’s parking lot.
“This won’t take more’n a minute,” he said, smiling.
“Tina,” or that fleshy figure dressed in a Hawaiian muumuu I assumed was her, was already waiting for us. She was blocking the entrance to the Subway, holding two footlong subs and what looked like a cat carrier.
I brought the Colt to a stop. What else could I do? Tobias’ gorilla fingers were still wrapped around my steering wheel in a death grip. He sure knew how to be persuasive.
Tina shuffled over to us.
“Howdy,” she said, bulldozing her way into my car.
The Colt sank another three inches.
“Naw, naw,” I cried as the cat began to mew. “I don’t want no damn cat in my car!”
“Well, what you expect me to do? Leave her out here. To die?”
“Alright, alright,” I said, wanting to get the hell out of there ASAP.
“Where we headin’?” Tina asked, spreading out in the backseat.
“The hootenanny in Mesquite I was tellin’ you ’bout,” Tobias answered. “Uncle Jeb’s hot for some gin rummy, and he’s got five hundred to blow.”
Who were these people? I wondered. From what honky-tonk town had they crawled out of? And what were the odds they’d end up in my car?
We set off again. The Colt approached an intersection. A green traffic sign showed two arrows: one pointing left for Salt Lake City and one pointing right for Vegas.
“You comin’, Ted?” Tobias suddenly asked.
He placed his pudgy hand on my arm and leaned in so close, I could smell the jelly donut he’d scarfed on his breath. Something in the way he gripped my arm told me he wasn’t about to take no for an answer.
“What the hell,” I muttered. “Gin rummy’s my game, and I’m feelin’ lucky today.”
I hit the gas.
“Yippeee!” they hooted and hollered as the Colt, on her last gasp, swung left. I suddenly had a sixty-mile detour to make before Vegas.
Fat people may be harder to kidnap, I thought, but they sure know how to take hostages.
Kristina Bucar is a writer based in the South of France. This is her first publication.