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Story by David Galef September 15, 2006

A two-door nothing of a vehicle, painted the color of your tongue, spidered windshield and a choked-up exhaust, cigarette at the wheel and a hairy arm out the window, pig squeal of acceleration down Route 334.

Follow that car. Closer. Deke—or is it Zeke?—is piloting this rig, which is to say not driving (that would be Clem or Phlegm) but rather barking turn commands every few blocks: “Your left! Your right”—as if he were still in boot camp from three years ago, when he was discharged because of an incident he still won’t talk about.

Right onto old Route 7, quick left onto CR1035, narrowly missing a mailbox, so Deke backs up, and Clem gives it a good smack upside the head, tilting it heavenward. What else is there to do Saturday night, damn it?

Rufus in back, barely visible in his crouch, drains his last beer and chucks it out the window, where it disappears into underbrush so deep green, it’s black. The sudden acceleration of the car jerks him backward against the mildewed seat, its surface sour with memories.

“Where we goin’?” asks Zeke, a peculiar question for the driver to ask.

“You’ll see.” Phlegm nods knowingly at the dark. “Your right!”

Rufus rolls the opposite direction on the seat, pulled by gravity or whatever the hell it is. After a few more backs and forths, followed by Rufus’s sexy collision with the soft backside of the front seat, they’ve arrived.

A crooked shack squats uncertainly on some pilings by the side of the road, the shadow of a juke joint. The place has been shut for years, but as the three advance, they fade into the high grass like the ghosts they are.

You never really believed in them anyway, did you?

About the Author

David Galef has published nine books: the novels Flesh and Turning Japanese; two children’s books, The Little Red Bicycle and Tracks; two translations of Japanese proverbs, Even Monkeys Fall from Trees and Even a Stone Buddha Can Talk; a work of literary criticism, The Supporting Cast; an edited anthology of essays called Second Thoughts: A Focus on Rereading, and, most recently, the short-story collection Laugh Track. In addition, he has written over seventy short stories for magazines ranging from the British Punch to the Czech Prague Revue, the Canadian Prism International and the American Shenandoah. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, The Village Voice, Twentieth Century Literature, The Columbia History of the British Novel, and many other places. His awards include a Henfield Foundation grant, a Writers Exchange award from Poets & Writers, and a Mississippi Arts Council grant, as well as residencies at Yaddo and Ragdale. He is a professor of English at the University of Mississippi, where he also administers the M.F.A. program in creative writing.

This story appeared in Issue Fourteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fourteen

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