Monday, October 27, 2008

Thurston Ray

This is the first of two stories that appeared on the Muzzle Flash site, which is No More.

The ground above, the sky below.

Lloyd looked through the spiderweb crack in the windshield and the dead branches and ditchwater that crowded it and thought the horizon was the strangest thing he had ever seen.

He fell back to sleep for a minute.

He woke up still behind the wheel of the overturned Lincoln, suspended a few inches below the seat by the seatbelt and shoulder harness.

Lloyd thought of cars flipping over in movies, how they burst into flame, annihilating everything.

He braced himself and wrestled with the seatbelt release and fell onto the roof of his company car.


Out of habit, Lloyd reached for his business cards, which were somewhere else, with his belt and his shoes.

He wiped his palm on his pant leg before extending his hand and saying his name.

“Thurston Ray,” his cellmate said. His hand was a dead fish.


Thurston Ray was Drunk and Disorderly. He was a gangly local kid with hair that hung in his eyes, jeans gone in the knees, and dirty fingernails.

“How’dya get soaked?”

“I ran,” Lloyd said. Thurston Ray beamed at him. “I ran into a field, but the moon was behind me, and I ran into a fucking swamp.”

“Pond,” Thurston Ray said, and laughed.


After Lloyd vomited, he began to worry. He worried for his job with Sunblessed Seed. He needed to get out of the lockup, see to the car repair himself, phone in excuses to his regional manager and to the farmers and greenhouse owners expecting him the next few days.

He could be released on his own recognizance if he paid the bail, Thurston told him; but Lloyd was cash poor, thanks to the titty club his last customer had insisted on visiting.

Thurston Ray had a proposition, which began, “Let me call my mother.”


Thurston Ray’s mother was nineteen at the outside. She had short-cropped hair the color of beets, and a wide mouth. She wore capri pants that could have been a tattoo.

The desk cop knew her, Lloyd thought, but he couldn’t say for certain.

In the parking lot all she said was “That’s eight-fifty.”

Lloyd climbed in the aging Camaro and gave the name of his bank.


“Fuck!” Thurston Ray’s mother said, shaking the gun at him.

Lloyd explained about his credit limit, slowly, carefully, but she did not want to hear about it.

He had been able to extract enough cash to pay his own bail and Thurston’s – twice over – but fell short of the sum Thurston had, in his phone call from the police station, instructed her to extort.Her bitterness over this shortfall seemed heartfelt. Lloyd guessed the kids planned to blow town on their profit from his misery, and he felt a tremor of the empathy that had led him to discuss his circumstances with Thurston Ray in the first place: for he was also a drunk trying to get down the road.

“What about tomorrow?” she said.


“Can you get more money out of the ATM tomorrow?”


Her name, she said, was Kimberley.

It started when, not wanting to let him out of her sight, she followed him into the motel bathroom.

They were drinking heavily and he could not say how he got the gun away from her.

At 4 AM, he moved her to the trunk of the Camaro.

He parked in the woods, vomited, walked to the other motel in town, and took a room.


He drank more and used the phone. He had the Lincoln towed from the impound to the town’s sole garage. He called missed appointments and was mellifluous and cajoling. He was on his game, on the phone.


He drank more and used the phone. The garage said their man was devoting all his time to the Lincoln . He called his office, forgot to mute the violent movie on HBO, slurred on “Good morning”, and hung up.


On the fourth day he walked to the garage. “Still waiting on a part,” he was told by the mechanic, a gangly local kid with hair that hung in his eyes, jeans gone in the knees, and dirty fingernails.

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