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Road Like Ribbon
by Kim Morris

Chandra is yelling next to me, in the passenger seat, like she always does when she's tripping balls and seeing aliens—Oh my god! This is sooo awesome!—and I gun it because it's only a matter of time before Tim realizes where I hid his car keys and once he does he's gonna chase us down like he's the starving dog and we're the meat. I'm so high I'm working on automatic pilot and thank god I've been driving this shitty Buick for a decade, it practically drives itself. All I can see is the yellow line down the middle of the road but the rest of it—the white line striping the edge of the black top, the trees on either side—are all fuzzy and blending together. I know they're there because I've driven down this road a million times and I wish to fucking god Chandra would shut the fuck up—Oh. My. God. This is like, so awesome!—but if I stop to kick her out, she'll talk, and there's the drugs. And, in the trunk, the guns.

On the radio, Queen, Brian May's guitar loves me, the trees on either side of me—of us—us: me, Chandra, the drugs, the guns, the anger, the hurt—the trees rising up like zombies, following us like shadows and I can't remember ever being sober.

Except. Except. I was. I think. At Tim's. Earlier. That rat hole shit shack three-room house in the woods, cracked porch, never-used fire pit, us—us: me, Tim, Joe—three dudes shooting beer cans off the half-built brick wall in the backyard, the way we always did after partying all night, after the drugs wore off. Joe, stupid, trusting, green eyes sparkly like they got when he was happy—idiot—turned to look at us, "Buds," he said. And suddenly, from seemingly nowhere, but in reality from the cooler behind us, three beers. Budweiser. Cans. We popped the tops. Guzzled. Empty. Then we had more targets to shoot at.

Tim, grouchy. Scrunched face, like always, like he was squinting into the sun, or second guessing you. Worn out leather skin. Levi's hung loose at his hips. Gun clenched firmly in his right hand. White knuckled. "Put 'er up," Tim said and Joe dropped his piece, grabbed the empty Budweisers, shuffled over to the ledge and placed the cans carefully, like he was setting them up for a fucking Christmas card photo, and pow. Collapse. Pile of bones on the ground. Limp and lifeless. Joe?

Tim stood there staring. In my stomach: acid, bile, beer, guilt. Finally it was done, this thing I was expecting but not owning up to. I wish I told Joe to cool it out. I wish I told him to stop last year when he fucked up Tim's drug deal, six months ago when he fucked Chandra and told her to leave Tim even though she never would, last week when he stole the guns to trade for that shit car. I wish he understood how good we had it.

Except. Except. Joe told Tim to forget it. It was just some drugs, a girl, some guns. To Tim it was trust, honesty, loyalty. To Tim, it was betrayal.

    You shoulda warned him, Tim said.

    Yeah.

    But you didn't.

    No.

    Kinda makes you an accessory, wouldn't you say?

Of course it did, but I didn't say that to Tim. Tim—who had a suffocating grip on us, always the boss, since we were little. The one who killed the cat when all we wanted to do was dunk it in the barrel; Tim, who latched on to any girl who came his way when all we wanted was to fuck and get out; Tim, who cornered the market on drugs and then guns in this shit hole shit town when all we wanted was to get high and shoot at birds. And miss. 'Cuz mostly we just wanted to get high.

Except. Except. Tim—whose mom left him, whose dad ignored him, who needed us, his makeshift family, like we needed him. Us: me, Joe, Tim—brothers, desperate, needy, trying too hard, getting nowhere. And Tim—who gave me a place to stay when no one else would. Who cleaned up the vomit when I threw up all over myself. Who rescued Joe from drowning that summer we were fourteen and had just discovered smack and how good it felt to get high and skinny dip. Tim, the leader, the decision maker, the manipulator. The one who bought the food 'cuz he had the money and now, one less mouth to feed.

So. In the house: Chandra and that stupid friend of hers putting that shit nail polish on their toes, they liked to do that, drop acid then try and put bright colors on tiny toe nails. Girls. Weird. Their laughter floated out the windows like wind chimes and Tim silent next to me, Joe in a heap on the ground, me useless and ineffectual, like always.

Except. Except. Anger, sloshed around in my groin. Sizzled. Bubbled. Carbonated. Fuzzed up through my stomach, into my throat. How could you, how could you, I wanted to scream, but I held it in, tears, hot, almost escaped, but I stopped them, I killed them in their tracks.

    We are a family, I said to Tim.

    Were.

Were. The word slipped under my skin, plowed through me. I heard my insides shattering. Were. That family was all I had.

Tim sighed and looked out into the woods. I watched the cords in his neck, thick and tight, as he turned his head away from me. Tim was lean and tense. The woods smelled like burning leaves. With the butt of my gun I aimed at his temple. As he turned to look at me, smash. That tender temple space right between the eye and the hairline, crushed, direct hit. He wobbled, about to trip over his own feet. I slipped my foot around the back of his ankle. Stumbled, down. On his back. His eyes: one closed, one squinted up at me. Face: not surprised. I kicked. Work boots. Heavy artillery. I kicked until his legs stopped moving, until he stopped yelling, until I was sure he was passed out. Then: two piles of bones on the ground.

Except. Except. One of them would get up. Quick inventory. Tim's prized possessions: three shotguns and two .22s, four bricks of weed, three ounces of beautifully pure smack, a sheet of mild acid, Chandra. I grabbed it all, took from him like he took from me. Chandra—plucked off the couch, her dippy friend left there, giggling. Chandra cooed, oblivious—Look at my pretty toes!—toes wiggled in flip flops. It was fall for fuck's sake, too cold for flip flops. Shoved it all, everything, the guns, the drugs, Chandra, into the Buick. Hauled ass outta there.

The yellow line on the road is spilling out in front of us like a ribbon unspooled. I place two tabs of acid on my tongue. Dissolve. This family has been cracking for months—tiny hairline fissures slithering slowly through us; and me, with no way to stop it, no way to spackle it back up, wishing I was that Dutch boy who stopped the dam with his finger, but here, with us, too many holes, not enough fingers. I should've done something sooner.

I don't know where to go, really. Chandra, quiet now. Something's wrong. She knows. Guitars marching out of the radio, I can see the music, like silly string, floating toward me, leaving trails each time we hit a bump in the road. I think I can sell the drugs or eat them, sell the guns. Can't figure out what to do with Chandra. But I'm doing something. Finally, I'm making a decision. King me. Home base. Home free.

This curve in the road, this fucker. Suicide Curve, aptly named. Yellow line too far to my left, white line in my middle vision, like it's the middle of the road now. This is not right, and then, no more pavement—field, woods, tree, pow. Smash. Metal crushing. Chandra exhales like a balloon deflating. Sudden silence. Wet ground seeping into my back. My back seeping into the wet ground. Legs can't move, numb. Stars flickering over my head, bright, hovering together, close. Like they care about each other. Like family.



About the author:
Kim Morris is a writer and an editor living in Chicago. Her work has appeared in New City, No Touching, Toasted Cheese, Jargon Magazine, Sleepwalk, Hair Trigger, and as part of Theatre Seven's play, "Yes, This Really Happened to Me." She's performed her stories at Victory Gardens Theatre, Sunday Salon, RE:action reading series, and on Vocalo radio. Kim is a member of Serendipity Theatre Company and Story Cycle Co-Director for 2nd Story, a hybrid performance series of storytelling and music. Check out her blog, Power Love, at www.power-love.blogspot.com.



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