by Ross Peterson
The asphalt was hotter than the charcoal in Satan’s Weber. On the rumblestrip, gray fragments of Jared’s sundered brain crawled toward one another, reassembling. Little particles of him lay littered across the highway, speckled over the swath of brown roadside grass.
Once his brain had put itself back together, the gored pieces of his face began to reform. Like magnets attracting, his hair found its way back to his scalp, his lashes to his eyelids, his lips to his gums. Body part by body part he repaired—unexploded.
Whole and corporeal again, Jared stood, shaking it off, exhaling in annoyance. This was his fifth explosion today. He’d forgotten to take his medication. He’d been in a hurry. He couldn’t wait to see Kate. If he’d only known before leaving his Ford would be sizzling like a chimichanga on the side of the road, miles from cell range.
Fuck that. He needed a ride. He didn’t care if an inbred serial killer methhead Jehovah’s Witness picked him up, so long as he got home, off this highway, out of this suffocating heat.
Jared stuck out his thumb, hearing a motor in the distance. How long had he been out here? The time between explosions and reassembly was lost. For untold moments his consciousness suspended. Please, please, please, he said to himself, the car nearing. Then he felt the unmistakable tingle in his face, the vertigo. He saw things in tunnel vision. Not again. His knees buckled. Sonofa—
Like a watermelon to Gallagher’s hammer, Jared blew up again, all over the hot black road. A fleck of his nose landed on a littered bag of Fritos. The car whizzed past his splatter.
Like sperm to an egg he held his thumb out to an advancing Mercury Cutlass. Smoke poured out the windows. It wasn’t moving very fast.
The Cutlass stopped. A woman rolled down her window. She looked like a shhhing librarian but crispy and ashen and engulfed in flames. She was on fire.
“Where you headed?” she said.
“Hey, thanks so much for stopping,” Jared said, fastening his seatbelt. “It’s been hell trying to get a ride today. This heat.”
“Tell me about it,” the woman on fire said, pushing her gear selector to Drive.
“Oh, yeah…you want me to drive? Looks like you’ve really gone up.”
“Nah. I’ll be fine. It’ll go out. Always does.”
Jared looked out the window at the vast grass under the snaggle of mountains. “You know,” he said, “I like your attitude. I’m learning, good things come to people with, I don’t know, your attitude.”
“I’ve always said, as long as no one’s dead, there’s really no cause for alarm.”
“So true. Hey, you don’t care if I explode in your car, do you?”
Ross Peterson is the vice president of FAR (Foundation For Amoeboid Rights). You can read all about his efforts to curtail amoeboid violations on his blog, Ross Peterson’s Atomic Avocado Luncheon. His short story “Prison Food” will be featured in Weirdpunk Books’ upcoming anthology, Hybrid Moments: A Literary Tribute to the Misfits.
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