“W-What in the hell are you thinking?! I could have--.”
“You should have done it. I don’t care anymore.”
“Wh-what?! What the f--What are you saying?!”
“Does it look like I care anymore?”
“You got a death wish or something? I’m no reaper! God! What’s wrong with you?!”
A bearded, beer-bellied man towered over a girl. He glared at the girl and opened his mouth, but she looked pale, bows in her hair, and clothes ripped. He stepped away from the girl and rubbed his head.
“Look, I have a lot to do. I’ll take you anywhere you want, alright? My name is Joe, What’s yours? “
The girl sprung from the ground, “Anywhere?”
Joe instantly backed away and said, “Oh god. Alright, Beth. I’m assuming I won’t have any problems with you getting in the truck right? Since you have a funny way of hitchhiking.”
Without hesitation, Beth climbed into the truck and closed the door. From there, she watched Joe pace back and forth, his face get redder, and at last, turn to grab the car’s door handle. He entered and slammed the door making the windows rattle. He jammed his keys in the ignition and turned them. Their seats rumbled.
“Do you mind if I turn on the radio?” Beth said as she looked around Joe’s musky truck den.
He didn’t respond. He stared directly ahead with a stern face.
“Hey, can you drop me off near Ashfork, by any chance? I have some buddies there!”
The man faced her and shouted, “You’re acting like nothing goddamn happened! I almost hit you! My truck would have been destroyed! You, well, you--.”
“Well, I wouldn’t have minded, I guess. Though, I didn't want to die there,” Beth prompted as she kicked her feet on the dashboard.
“You keep saying stuff like that and it’s really pissing me off! Hey! Get your feet off my dash!”
“What else do you want me to say then?”
“I don’t know? A 'sorry'?”
“Then why did you even bother picking me up in the first place?”
“What kind of monster would leave an idiot like you in the middle of nowhere? The sun is setting. The desert turns into a frozen hell! But, you don’t have any common sense anyway! Why do you even want to go to Ashfork?” Joe blurted as he noticed the girl oddly forming a grin.
“The Grand Canyon is nearby. Suicide pact, man!”
He hunched over, gripping the leather wheel. He let out a sigh and reeled back.
”Well, Mister. Where you going?” chuckled the girl.
“I’m going straight to hell! That’s where I’m going!”
“I guess that’s where I’m going as well.”
Under his breath, he said, “I’m a monster either way, uh?” The truck pushed forwards and the roar of its engine filled the truck’s interior. He let out another sigh. He began to drive under the soft, red and purple sunset.
“So crazy girl, where are you from?”
”All the way from Georgia!”
“Didn’t you just hear me?”
Joe rolled his eyes and pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Let me guess, by hitchhiking?”
“Yeah. Wanted to look at the stars better.”
“And die faster?“
Beth punched Joe’s arm, knocking the cigarette out of his hand onto his pants. ”Oh, hell yeah! How’d you know? Buddies of mine are so sick of it, you know? People just don’t understand.”
Joe let out a grunt of pain and picked up the burning cigarette on his lap. He scornfully looked at Beth and said, “ You’re funny if you think I’m actually going to take you to this suicide party.” Joe swerved, making a complete U-turn. “I don’t think you have any idea what you’re doing. Do you have parents? I’m taking you to the police.”
Beth looked shocked and mumbled, “I don't have any, they’re dead. They were killed in a car crash.” She fidgeted in her seat. “Wait, are you really taking me in?
“Look, I was going to anyway. You’re, like, 13.”
Beth stomped her feet on the floor and shouted, “No! You're not my parent! Why the hell should I listen to you?! You just don’t understand anything! You’re just some stranger! Who the hell are you?!”
“Someone who knows what the hell they’re doing!”
The soft colors of the setting sun had gradually disappeared as they were replaced with the dark hues of the night. The truck was swallowed by darkness and its eyes dimly lit the interior of the car. Beth began to weep. Her hard rasps blanketed the rough noises of the road. She grasped onto her legs, pinching them tightly.
“I just want to die,” weeped Beth. “I know you won’t understand, but I have no one that cares about me. My parents aren’t actually dead. They just hate me to bits.”
Joe scoffed, “Did you really think I believed that they were? Let me guess, is it because your parents didn’t get you those new iPhones?
“They hurt me.”
Joe inhaled the smoke sharply and coughed, “Th-They what?”
“They’re abusive with me. I just want the thought of them gone. I can’t bear it.”
“Woah, kid. Don’t think like that. Look. Life is hard, but by all means, don’t take yourself out. Someone stabbed me when I was fifteen! And, look! I turned out fine!” Joe put his hand on her shoulder and she flinched. “Crap, I’m sorry. I just can’t live with myself if I did that, alright. Is that so bad?”
Beth shook her head and looked down on her hands. She had stopped crying, but her nose ran. She wiped her nose with her arm.
“Here take this,” Joe offered her a handkerchief. “It’s cold, alright! I’m freezing!” Beth took the rag. “There’s no real reason to take your own life. If there’s anything I can do to show you that, I will.”
“Anything, that isn’t assisted suicide.”
“Darn.” Beth smiled and said, “Then, take me on your road trip!”
© Roxane Pena