On The Road Again

Milo watched, motionless, as Molina's dust began to settle back to the dirty street. Lenore suddenly grabbed his hand, jerked him off-balance and then into gallop-step, back toward the diner.

"Come on!" she said. "We're getting the hell out of here!"

As they bore down on the diner's swinging double doors to retrieve Armand, Milo realized he could see music oozing through the middle crack. As an added fillip, the visual was wrapped in aroma that seemed to cut through the pervasive opprobrium of hamburger steaks, pork cutlets and French fries.

"Friggin' acid..." He sniffed thoughtfully. "Someone must've turned the radio on..."

Movement was perceptible through the steam clinging to the plate glass front. Lenore booted the doors' scuffed kickplates, they crashed in and were drenched in a blast of crisp rhythm guitar and a familiar staccato voice singing. Elvis. Strutting legs akimbo and pelvis thrust in classic concert form. Astride the countertop, belting a suggestive medley of his hits. In Spanish.

"Usted ai no nada más que un perro sabueso, llorando todo el tiempo..."

Tables and chairs had been pushed back. In the makeshift dance floor's center, Armand jitterbugged energetically with Marilyn Monroe, whose breasts bounced and strained precipitately against her flimsy white dress. Bogie's butt seemed glued his stool, but everything else mamboed and mumbo-jumboed in place. He grinned wildly, eyes clamped shut in rapture like a white bread Ray Charles. Who wasn't there. Beside him, Furlonger, who was, bobbed up and down in a wraithly Charleston, knees and all. In a corner, James Dean slicked back his hair with a one-handed pocket comb and snapped the fingers on the other as he jived solo.

Armand and Marilyn shouted excitedly back and forth in German as they hoofed it.

"Dies ist eine große Partei!"

"Ja es ist!"

"Sie sind ein wunderbarer Tänzer!"

"Danke, sie sind nicht sich so schlecht!"

"Was machen Sie später heute Abend?"

Wordlessly, Lenore death-gripped Armand's ear with her free hand. With Milo still gripped firmly in the other, she frog-marched them to the van. She thrust them in headlong, leapt behind the wheel and cranked the motor to life.

Armand tumbled into the very back and righted, crouching, whining and rubbing a bruising ear. Lenore gunned it and dumped the clutch. Milo lost his balance, fell heavily into the old mattress' strewn blankets, and heard an ominous bang below. Tires spun a moment, shot dust and gravel pinging at the diner's windows, and bolted forward.

Milo thought, "Unh-oh, rear end..." as he gripped the shotgun seat's backrest with both hands and corrected for his new momentum. He pulled himself gingerly forward, and sat hesitantly.

"Where we going...?"

The screaming motor maxxed out in first gear and Lenore rattled it wildly into second, almost missing the shift. Tires broke traction for a half-turn as she dumped the clutch again, and there was another, louder ka-bang from the rear end. She cranked the wheel hard left, bird-dogging Molina's still-floating dust past the library, and the van pitched violently.

She clenched her teeth frantically, clutched again and slammed hard into third, then without looking at Milo, snarled at him.

"Wie sollte ich wissen, scheißekopf?"

A look of dawning horror shattered outward from her frantic, beautiful eyes, and crossed her face like cracks radiating from a break in a sheet of dangerously-thin river ice.

Milo realized instantly that she herself couldn't understand the German she had just spit at him.

He froze and stopped breathing.

"Uh oh... here we go..."