backhand stories the creative writing blog

The highway here goes on and on. Even in the twilight I can see a vast emptiness in all directions, with only this thin ribbon of pavement cutting through to assure the traveler he is tethered to earth. In mid-day, the heat rises off these flats with an intensity that makes you think you’re in Hell’s furnace, and at midnight the Milky Way sweeps so close to the road that you think you’re on Heaven’s doorstep. But right now at twilight, there is just emptiness–an uncertain color in the uncertain light–and the highway slicing through on its way to nowhere

I shift down and slip my Jaguar off the pavement, turning down the radio so I can hear the crunch of gravel and the engine, eager for its next command. I shift into neutral and put on the brake, but leave her engine running; I need to hear her rumbling purr when I’m out here alone. There is nothing here to see, but I step out of the car anyway, so I can get a better look. I lean against her and let her warmth slide seductively up my back and down my arms, like the massaging fingers of a lover.

Man, there’s a lot of nothing out here–nothing as far as the eye can see.

I light a cigarette and take a long drag. The tip glows in the dusk, looking like the first spark of matter in the primordial vacuum of the universe. I blow the smoke out slowly, trying to release all my tension with it–to purge all the poison at once.

“Poison.” I savor the word in my mind and suck more of the carcinogens into my lungs. “Poisons,” I correct myself, “one for my body and one for my soul,” and I blow the smoke in a sleek line over the crest of my silver Jag.

I could have been different. I could have had a wife, a house, kids and vacations–I could have chosen wisely in my youth. But here I am instead, taking communion with this desolation, coddling my addictions, feeding my own destruction.

I look up and see the first star bursting through the emptiness above, daring to break the featureless monotony. I could dare to change too, it’s not too late, the poison hasn’t finished me yet.

I could change, I could.


I glance around again at the emptiness, averting my eyes from the offending star, and I draw one last, long drag on my cigarette before I crush it out on the pavement. Back in the car, I shift into gear and accelerate through the emptiness, on down that road to nowhere.