Pen to Paper: “Fishing With Live Bait,” an excerpt

Doug looked in the rearview mirror. At least ten cars behind him. Only one in front, but it was holding him up. He wanted to fly. His 12AM curfew was thirty minutes away and he knew he could cruise for a bit. Sunset Hill Road was near the town line. It had no streetlights and was a rollercoaster for the first few miles, but once he got through that he was prepared for the five flat miles where he might reach eighty-five. The car in front turned onto a side road.

He turned around to Al: “Let me grab one of those beers you took. No cops in sight.”

Al was about to shake his head but thought against it. “You’re always the driver. You earned it, pal.” He handed him a bottle.

Doug took it and placed it between his legs. “Ah, fuck, I forgot these aren’t twist off. I got it.” He pulled out his asthma inhaler from his left pocket and performed the trick he had done hundreds of times, pushing down on the side not under the bottle cap. He looked down to collect the cap and place the inhaler back into his pocket.

He jerked upward to a flash of white light. He had swerved into the opposite lane. The truck smashed through his headlights, shattering the front windshield. Connor’s feet sliced through the glass and he went soaring through the now empty window into the night air. Flecks of glass tore at Doug’s eyelids as the truck’s grill pummeled his body and Al’s directly behind him. Doug looked up and saw a man with a thick mustache. He had dark, jet black hair that matched the color of the bison on the front of his brown baseball cap. He made eye contact with Doug just as yellow chunks began to spew from the man’s mouth.

His thoughts were not of Lexie now. Instead, he drifted to Jackson Hole and long winter vacations spent there with his father.  He was at the top of Casper Bowl, his first black diamond.  The illegible K2’s were caked with ice beneath him and the skin at the top of his nose was numb from the wind.

A cold swirling pain swelled inside his chest, and the pressure reminded him of eighth grade, squeezing his entire body through an ovular bedroom window so that his mother would not find him putrid from vodka.

He thought out how he would appear if they found him, both hands curled into fists from the steering wheel, his pants soaked from the spilt Coors, and his asthma inhaler, not helping him much now, strewn somewhere in the vicinity.   

Doug felt his breath leave his body. He felt the thud of the back of his head ramming into Al’s forehead. He could parse out the snapping of his ribs amongst the roar of the engine.

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