I stick out my thumb by a strip mall ghost town west of Platte and out wait for bad luck to happen. Five minutes later it does. I’m riding in a beaten down Galaxie 500 with bald tires, heavy enough not to get blown off the Nebraska plains, with a cornpone operator sitting next to me, steering with one hand, the other tapping the window in time with the radio. His mullet is overgrown and his stubble is catching up to his Fu Manchu. In the backseat his 200 pound girlfriend lays wrapped in a Sponge Bob blanket, pretending to sleep.
First thing he asks me was if I had money for gas. I do. I’m headed west to Scottsbluff, far enough away for me to figure out what to do with them; far enough for them to know I have plenty of money for gas. We pull into traffic and drive for hours.
In the rearview mirror her hand slowly moves out of the blanket just as the signs for Crescent Lake Wildlife Area begin to whip past. He starts talking louder and faster, like he’s got something to say but not a thought in his head of what it is. It’s code talk for her.
We’re in the sand hills, the middle of nowhere, just what I was hoping; but shame on me they beat me to the ambush. Seventies guy hits the brakes and my head slaps against the windshield. The girl erupts from her blanket and sticks a gun barrel in my right ear. I almost smile. One false move and her boyfriend gets it too, but nobody notices. We drift onto the exit ramp and I’m hoping there’s a shovel in the trunk they plan to bury me with.
“We going camping?” I say. The fat girl laughs. He tells her to shut up. This is going to be easier than I thought.
They’re in a hurry. We pull onto the first gravel road that comes up and duck behind a hill. I couldn’t have found a better spot myself. There’s no civilization in sight. He turns the car off and the ticking engine blends in with the crickets. And there is a shovel in the trunk. I step onto the grass and the ground is soft, easy digging. It’s his turn to use the gun and he holds it to my head while the girl pats me down. She reaches into my hip pocket and pulls out my wallet. Hundred dollars right there. She points to my zipper.
“Anything else there besides a dick?”
“Just my nuts. Want to count them?”
That passes for sweet talk. She smiles like 200 pounds of hamburger happy for even the company of a dog so long as it pays attention to her before tearing in. Mullet man winds up and smacks my cheekbone with the butt of the revolver; then answers my prayers and punches her in the belly.
“You with him, now?” he says.
He opens the trunk and throws the shovel at me. His girlfriend lays clutching her gut and gasping. She gets to all fours, her stringy hair hanging in the dirt. I stand and use the shovel as a crutch. He kicks it out from under me and I fall against the car. My head hits a tire and I lay there, eyes closed, waiting for him to fuck up some more. He can’t help himself.
He picks her up and hands her the pistol. He changes plans and tosses the shovel back into the trunk.
“We got to go,” he says. “Shoot him.”
She steps towards me then turns the gun to him and fires. Her ex-boyfriend drops into a heap of dirty clothes. The girl gives me back my wallet. I take the gun from her and we hop into the car and take off. What dumb luck, the girl likes me. Dumb for her. I snap my seatbelt on and test the brakes real good as we come to a stop sign. My ear still hurts from when she jammed the gun barrel into it. Scottsbluff is coming up soon and I know just what to do with her.