The green highway sign with the glitter said East Palestine.

“We still in Ohio, Son?”

“Fuck do I know,” he said.  He was being all grumbly and prickly this morning.  Poor baby hadn’t rested well last night, she thought.

They hadn’t seen a Youngstown sign since the cabbie dropped them off near the Canfield exit.  Traffic was thinning out this far into Columbiana County.  As soon as he opened the door for her, he said he was going down to Steubenville and said they were welcome to drive along with him.  He thought it odd enough to see a woman built like her walking along the shoulder of the highway but draggin’ along her retarded son made it all the weirder.  What the hell, David Lee Fuqua shrugged, he was game.

Every so often she leaned over and gave his thigh a light squeeze and thanked him again for helping them out like this.  The boy didn’t look too retarded but she said he was almost as soon as she climbed up.  He had one of these Mp3 gizmos the kids all had nowadays and he could hear that hip-hop shit ratcheting around his ear phones.  It was enough to turn a white man’s stomach sour.  He amped the radio to drown out the back noise.  Kid was so retarded he didn’t know who Shania Twain was, stupid little fucker.

David Lee brought the conversation around to what she had said when she got in, her breath whispery for a woman her size, and she smiled shyly at him.  He told her company policy wouldn’t let him give rides, but what the heck, this time, and you such a pretty thing . . .

He’d throw her ass and the kid’s out at the next exit if she pretended not to know what the score was.  David Lee wasn’t no Good Samaritan “like in the bible,” but when he seen her on the side of the road, carrying a suitcase and dragging her retarded boy along like that—“no offense, I hope”—well, he just had to do the right thing.

“It ain’t no place for a woman out here alone,” he added.  He cocked his head at her when he said it, not a rebuke exactly, but something else, maybe a wink to take the edge off it. Thenk yew, Jesus, no statie come along and fuck this little adventure up.

“I’ve hitchhiked before,” she said simply.

David Lee could well imagine it.  He could picture in his mind all them horny long-haul truckers, ever’ damn one of ‘em standing on his air brakes at the risk of jack-knifing his rig to stop for this one.  Got-damn, he thought.  Butter-blonde hair, long legs and hips that swelled out like the bumpers on a pool table.  Them tits are natural Double-D’s, ain’t no doubt about that.  No mistaking that bounce when she settled in beside him.  Every little move of her upper body sent a little temblor below the neck; it was all he could do to concentrate on the goddamn road.

Before he saw her loom into view, he was daydreaming, half-tempted to turn off East Jesus back there, try to find him a motel to get in some shuteye.  He smiled big:  stupid woman was going to stand out on the freeway in that skimpy outfit with her retard—Jesus wheezus, broad’s fucking dumb. But she’s got big ones, for damn sure. He wasn’t sure if you could get arrested for vagrancy nowadays, but if he had to, he’d remind her of that.  See if that inclined her a bit toward being more grateful for his noble highway rescue of a damsel in distress.

Trouble was—and David Lee had years of barroom brawls behind his nose for trouble—she didn’t seem to be in distress at all.  Acted all smug like this was how it was supposed to happen.

She had been quiet for a long time.  Then she turned to him, and looked at him.   She wore no make-up, kind of beat up around the eyes, and those strange gold eyes—what the hell.

“Why don’t you take one of those side roads off of here,” she suggested.

“I thought maybe we could find us a little place, maybe a motel,” he said.  Why not?  See if she wanted to make it easier on herself.  Didn’t matter to him, either way.  Retard-boy was a nice bargaining chip, too, if she wanted to think about it for a while.  He hoped it wouldn’t come to threatening the kid because he wasn’t looking for bad trouble, the kind that saw him doing time at the state pen with all those bad-assed Aryan Brothers.  But this one wasn’t going to get away without giving up the goods.  The bone in David Lee’s pants woke up, his faithful one-eyed trouser snake anticipating something fiiine about to happen.

“No, no, a rest stop,” she said.  “Or just pull off the highway.”

David Lee Junior, residing below the belt, was totally awake now and trying to get outside for some air.

He liked that.  The big blonde pig was getting right down to it now. His sac hadn’t been drained in a few days with all this damned road construction work in the south county he was ready, Freddy.

“I know one’s coming up,” he said with a wink.  She was going to get a real pounding whether she knew it or not.  He was truly sorry about her rough life and all, whatever that shit amounted to, but one peek at the deep-dish cleavage of them big ole titties and pity could take a backseat with her snotnose behind him.  Man, but she was packing some man-sized funbags.

“What about him?”  He nodded his head where retardo boy was picking a booger.  If the little nose miner started eating them, he’d slap the shit right out of him right after he got done with Momma, but first, it was time to make that German soldier march.

“Don’t mind him,” she said. “Just turn off somewhere.”

He winked at her again.  “He used to it, huh?”

He’d go for the hat trick.  His ex, Darlene, hated it up the ass at first, most of them did, but he’d make this one take it up the dirt chute and then make her suck the shit right off it.  He saw that in an internet site after work last night on the road boss’ laptop in his trailer.  David Lee never even considered the possibility he’d be trying it out on a tall leggy beauty like her instead of one of his bar slags.

“I keep a little stash under the seat,” he said.  “You know, for those times. Help yourself.”

She let her hand brush across the bulge in his pants and then reached under his seat to find the baggie.

“I like a smoke once in a while,” she said and let her fingernail trace his cock’s outline on the way back up.

“Me too.  Makes it all the better.  Whyn’t you scoot a little closer, hon?”

He took an exit off the freeway and then a left, no idea where he was going, didn’t give a fuck, just wanted to get there fast before she made him pop.  He saw a winding blacktop road that petered out into a gravel one about a quarter mile in just beyond a stand of trees.  It looked like an old orchard.  It would do.  His offroad tires were the most expensive item on his Silverado—beat a shitassed Ford Ranger Super Cab any day and handle anything short of quicksand or a vertical mountain.

“How’s this?” he stood on the brakes and skidded the truck into a juddering halt between a couple pine trees.  He leaned back to unzip.  He had to get it out of there before he had a permanent crook in it.

“Come on, baby, there it is.”

She had one rolled and lit.  Many of the men and couples liked to do a little weed before sex.  She took a hit and placed it between his lips. Then she went down on him with her whole mouth took it all the way back to the throat.   He placed his palms on either side of her head while she bobbed.  She was good, all right, a real pro.  Made it slick and gummy with her spit.  While she deep-throated him, he felt his testicles shrivel, harden.

She came up suddenly and looked at him with those glittery eyes.  He forced her head back onto it; his cock frisking about like a windsock.   He forced her back down it once again.  She acted like she’d never seen one before, staring at the purple, velvety head, pumping it with her hand.  But she was a born cocksucker if he ever met one—what’d she say her name was?  Fuck it, he had something to tell the guys back there on the job tomorrow morning—

He was sucking in smoke when he felt a light scraping of her teeth against the shaft and then she bit him.  He choked, gasping and pulled her head free.

“Watch the teeth, you cunt!” he said.  “Bite me again, and I’ll beat the living shit out of you.”

She smiled at him differently this time and took another hit of the joint before she went back to work.  She blew smoke all around it, and he lay back in the seat and closed his eyes, the pain forgotten.  This was heaven and he was getting paid too.  When she bit him again, he thought he was dreaming. But the fire that shot up from his root straight up to his scalp was like having a scalding cup of coffee dumped into his lap.  His hands clutched her head and tore into the hair to jerk her free, but she clamped down on his manhood with the full force of her jaws.  He came close to passing out.

He didn’t know who the hell was screaming like that, thought it must be the retarded kid, but the little fuck was all of a sudden holding him around the neck, trying to pull him backwards in the seat while she jerked her head back and forth like a terrier with a rat in its teeth.  The pain had become a steady revving inside his brain and filled the entire cab with its sound.  She grabbed his hands and tried to snap his fingers.  The kid was holding his bicep or he would have ripped her scalp clean off her head.

He sucked air.  He felt as if his whole body was wrapped in a blanket of fire. He whipped his forearm backward to get the kid off and heard him bounce to the floor in a heap—deal with her fast.  He threw a short rabbit chop to her neck as she reared up, claws out, eyes blazing.  He hadn’t even stunned her.  He knocked her back against the passenger door with a short punch.  She was a big, fighting creature, and he knew this was the worst trouble of his life.  He didn’t dare look down at the pulpy mess because it was going to be bad and maybe past surgery, but he was by God going to kill this fucking bitch right now.  Gouge those yellow eyes out of her fucking skull with his thumbs—

Instead of springing back at him as he expected, she twisted low in the seat and when she came up, he thought for a second she was covering up, waiting for the onslaught of his fists—

The bullet hit him in the guts.  He said, “Ouch, that stings.”

Then another explosion, another sting, and he felt this gooey bubbling up inside him.

She looked at him with the gun pointing at his chest, hard and mean, unafraid.  He heard the next explosion and felt another one go in his arm, out the back.  He raised his fist to strike her.  She shot him in the wrist.  The bullet ricocheted off bone and broke the window behind him. He’d once stuck his hand in a jar with angry purple wasps once on a dare and thought this was like having a thousand loose on him.  His chest cavity was filling with blood, and his breathing was hard like swallowing razor blades.  He felt like a hollow man constructed with bones and wires.

Another explosion, another wasp.  His brain was tripping on him.  He was dotted with stings.  Big red ones that leaked.  His whole body felt slick. He pulled his brain free for a second and saw her staring at him with that bitchy-cunt look.  The gun rested sideways in her lap.  Her chest going in and out with every breath.  His brain fogged up.  He felt confused.  He asked where were the stingers on them wasps, you know, you’re so fucking smart, and don’t tell me wasps not s’posed to have them barbed tails poking out their asses . . . he touched himself where the slugs had bored through leaving black stipple on his clothing and a marshy stink in the enclosed air.

He gurgled, tried to speak.  Pink drool came out and poured down his chin.

“What did you say, fucker?  I didn’t hear you.”

David Lee was immensely strong, he had inherited a genetic peculiarity from his grandfather, who was said to be able to lift up those old-time wooden railroad flatbeds and tip fifty-gallon drums with just his fingertips.  While the wasps sizzled inside him, he had a flashback—some old sawbones in Moundsville his mother had taken him to when he was five years old and had fallen out of a tree.  He used words like sthenic to her to explain how a little boy could sit calmly and try to fix his own broken leg.  As a man, he understood what that meant because he could endure cold, heat, or long hours on the high steel under a broiling sun and then drink a case of beer at the end of the day.  He had knocked men out with that single punch to her jaw.  But he wanted out of it now, the wasps hurt too badly, and he was feeling warm, sleepy.  He gathered in his last remaining strength and spat out the words with the bright pink gore:

“Ridge-running . . . trash . . . cunt . . . fuck . . . ing . . . hillbilly . . . whore—”

The next bullet tore a big jagged exit hole in the occipital bone after punching through his cheek and turning his brain to stew. His head knocked against the door. Another slug sizzled through his sinus cavity and made his right eyeball disappear in a red mist.

She unloaded the rest of the clip into his face and blew pieces of him out the shattered window including teeth, bits of skull and nose cartilage until the click of dry-firing was all the noise inside.  The cab reeked of cordite fumes and smoke.

“God damn,” Sonny cried. “God damn it!”

She let him remove the gun from her hand.  He eased her fingers off, one at a time, slowly, careful not burn her with the red-hot barrel.

“Who’s trash now, motherfucker?”  She spat.  Her voice had a faraway sound like someone just awakening from a long sleep.

They looked at each other.  Her jaw throbbed with pain and one side of Sonny’s face was bruised.

It should have taken longer and been more painful, she thought.  He died too damned easily.  She liked to make the men who picked her up beg for a while.  She loved the ones who cried and moaned about their wives and kids back home.  She liked to      pretend she was actually thinking about letting them go.  It was pure fun to see how far she could go with it.  She watched their faces light up with hope—let ‘em think they was just gonna be robbed.  Then BOOM.  A short ride to hell with a surprised look on their faces.  Sometimes she’d cut them just for the fun of it.  She remembered this fat guy in a Lexus in Michigan –or was it Indiana?  She couldn’t keep all the places straight they’d hitchhiked since she left the west coast for this empty dungheap in the middle of the country.  She’d drawn her razor under his neck like a big old smile and watched the yellow ridge of fat pop out like it was zippered in there tight.  Whew, when he unloaded in his pants . . .

Sonny brought her back to the business at hand.

Things were looking up, finally.  They had his wallet and a pretty good roll of bills.  “That fuckhead musta just got paid,” Sonny said to her wagging the bills in his pleasure.  He gently kissed the back of her neck.   Mmm, she wanted to stick her hand between her legs and rub her clit.  Somethin’ about death and sex was such a turn-on.  She couldn’t wait to get his young cock in her mouth.  Later, in the motel, they’d have time to talk about this one.  Sonny always said that made the sex better—even better than those stupid chopsocky movies he loved to watch while they were between rides on the highway.  She thought about keeping as journal of her travels but writing was so hard and she was never good at it anyway.  Back in Bluefield before she quit, the teachers all made fun of her.

Her high school kicked her out for performing fellatio on a number of boys in a stall of the rest room.  What the letter to her house said—which, incidentally, was never read in its entirety by anybody at that address—was that she was expelled for reasons of “moral turpitude.”  After some vexation about the wording and worry about litigation by the school superintendent, he lucked onto this bit of jargon when his wife suggested it to him after watching Cape Fear on TV—not the original with Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck but the Scorsese remake where those two have cameo roles.  The week after that, she walked out of Buefield, West Virginia, and never looked back.  It turned out that her boyfriend, a senior to her sophomore, wanted to have sex before his seventeenth birthday. Although he was co-captain of the varsity football team, he was ashamed of his virginity and he thought a girl from the hollows would be easier to seduce than his current girlfriend, who was National Honor Society, vice president of the class, and an applicant to four Ivy League universities.

He was right, of course.  Bobbie was smitten, to use an old-fashioned word.  She fell in love, but she’d never admit it afterward.  The two of them discovered sex together and for four weeks it was bliss.  She walked around feeling as if she could hear rushing water in her head every time he winked at her in the hallways.  His jock buddies teased him relentlessly but the truth was they envied the hell out of him. Even the coach made a smutty reference to his botching plays in practice because of his late-night outings in the hills.  His knees got weak just thinking about what she’d do when they hooked up later.  He was actually losing weight over it.  She had sucked him dry—literally.  His fourth orgasm comprised air torpedoes because there was no ejaculate left in his walnut-hard sac to shoot.  She was sexually voracious and completed liberated, all shyness gone in the first few weeks of her love for him.

He wanted to get back with his old girlfriend for the coming prom, however, so of course it had to end after football season.  His plan was to deprive her of sex for a couple days and then lure her into the bathroom at the end of the main hall corridor.  He sent her a note first period and told her to be in the second stall; there would be an “Out of Order” sign in the janitor’s semiliterate scrawl on the door knob.

She was there waiting for him, all smiles and glittery eyes, when he walked in. He was barely inside the stall when she went down to her knees and unzipped him.  She took him in and gave him as noiseless a blow job as she knew how.  To her, it was an utterly selfless act of love, ever more proof that he owned her body and soul. She was extremely pretty and genetically blessed, freakishly so, in the development of her young bosom and the pelvic swell of her hips.  When he exploded into her mouth, she swallowed the jissom easily and, gripping his throbbing meat still trying to peck at her, she smiled at him. What happened next wasn’t what she feared might happen when she found his note in her locker—some busybody hall monitor opening the door on them—or, worst case, old Mrs. Waddell, the senile math teacher finding them there because she could never remember this bathroom was for males.  It was four of his football teammates standing there with wide grins on their faces.

“I brought you a little present, Bobbie,” he said and walked out tightening his belt buckle.

The first one in was Nick DeRosa, the middle linebacker. He held her down by the shoulders and took himself out and shoved its rubbery meat against her lips until she opened.  His eyes were crazy.  His girth was wider than what she was used to and he thrust his hips so that she gagged several times, which made him so angry he raised his fist to her and told her if she didn’t suck it off he’d beat the shit out of her.

He was followed by the team’s running back, center, and cornerback, the school’s only black male.  By the time he had finished with her, she was dizzy, scared out of her mind; she was covered with pasty gobs of semen that stuck to her sweater, hung from one ear lobe, and dribbled from her chin when she coughed up the sticky mess that stuck to the back of her throat.

Before she could get out of the stall, two more boys from the junior class, not athletes or good friends of the four, burst in and held her by the arms.  They shoved her back inside the stall and forced her to sit on the toilet while they too demanded sex.

She lost count; one followed the other; she heard buckles, zippers, laughs, moans, threats, and commands but it all seemed to be part of a nightmare she was having and not reality.  She didn’t know when but a deeper male voice replaced the hushed and whispered commands roiling around in her head.  A woman jerked her to her feet and she felt her breasts being squeezed in a vise-like grip that made her cry out.  It was the school’s religious fanatic, Mrs. Hochschartner, the Home Ec teacher, and she thrust her face into Bobbie’s so hard and close that spittle joined the semen stains of her cheek:  “God didn’t give you these so you could become a filthy whore!”

The letter came a week later, but school was impossible.  The stares and snickers everywhere—she was so isolated at lunch that twenty seats were empty in all directions from wherever she sat.  Some of school’s toughest males approached her at her locker and demanded she meet them after school.  Her locker was filled with notes full of obscenities and curses shoved between the slats.  Every time she went to her locker there were dozens of stick-it notes slathered across the front of it in block-lettered abuse, a rotation of “Bitch,” “Whore,” “Slut,” and “Pig.”

They were on Highway 39 coming up just below New Philadelphia.  Sonny wasn’t saying much, in a sulk again and probably because she had given that blowjob.  He was just like his idiot father that way, she smiled.  He said he didn’t mind playing the retard, and she told him he was every bit as good as that actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

That pissed him off more.

“That little fag DiCaprio?  You gotta to be shittin’ me!”

“He’s kinda cute,” she said.

“Next time, give me the fucking gun,” he said.  Blah-blah, on and on for about twenty-five miles.   He could be such a baby.  If she told him how much cock she’d had in her mouth or pussy since she was fifteen—why, hell, it would be one long dick stretching from here to the moon, but she asked him nicely to shut up, baby, please, and help her think about what really mattered—getting as far away as possible.  They were half a day behind.  Maybe she was nothing but a no-count whore like everybody back home thought, but she knew what men always wanted sooner or later and how to listen to them, not just empty their loads, which was more than most women ever needed to know in their hot-shit lives.

She thought back to last week.  Their mark had an open recipe book on his table and was blathering about something called crabes farci.  No, she told him, she didn’t like Creole food.  For one thing, she didn’t know what a Creole was, but from the way he was trying to impress her, it didn’t matter.  She always did what her husband said:  “Show cleavage, let him talk, and leave the rest to me.”  He jokingly referred to her as his closer, someone to befuddle the man’s brain while he picked the guy’s wallet—except that the wallets were always bank checks or money-market certificates.  One man in Boca Raton had paid in uncut diamonds. This was the first time she had seen so many gold coins.  She nudged the suitcase with her toe and imagined all those shimmering gold pieces lying inside.

She was reminiscing the moment she made up her mind to leave Jake. The fat man was going on about some island beach somewhere and its white coral sands, a rain forest on a place called Basse-Terre, something about how many bananas exported to France,  membership in the EU, whatever, and snorkeling in the Réserve Cousteau.  She went from stifling a yawn to choking on her drink at the image he painted—his pea-sized balls and little stick of cock in a male bikini—a pair of undulating flippers behind the plump snorkeler among the bright reefs.  She imagined him, all wobbly pink flesh, lowered from a canvas truss and pulley like a baleen whale into a swimming pool.  He was dithering on about some gourmet meal about the ways to cook conch.  Jake dug his thumb in her back, a sly dig about her “conch”; then the fat bore, whose life savings they were going to take in just minutes, started talking to her about Canada.  His grandfather—somebody, he said—born in a railroad encampment near Jasper, where he said tourists could walk on a glacier and ride up the mountain in a gondola.  She heard him lecturing her as the miles blitzed past:  “The railroad built fabulous chalet-type hotels from Toronto all the way to Vancouver,” blah-blah, but they never connected it, he said.  She smiled at him, totally bored and waiting for Jake to excuse himself so she could make her move, but he seemed in love with his own voice and preferred mental foreplay to the real thing.

All she knew about British Columbia was the hydroponics bud grown all over the island like a cottage industry, thanks to that art professor from Sinclair Community College she met at the Dayton Swim and Social Club.  The man was still bragging about the magnificent “old pile,” as he called the Empress Hotel:  “. . . the last great hotel built by the Grand Trunk Railroad.”  He and his parents used to take tea there at four o’clock.  She had seen through men’s lies since she was a girl and didn’t believe a word he was saying. It was all snob talk, seduction talk.  He was born with more smarts was all it was.

She knew you never really escaped your family; what happened in your adolescence created the pattern of your life for all your choices from then on.  Most people lived out those themes all their lives. It took a crisis to change you—something to make you depart from the pattern.  Something to make you or break you.  For her, this was familiar territory. Her husband had never walked on the wild side before.   When he told her, he was about to land a “fat one,” she assumed another rich mark he had met at the country club, another ho-hum few thousand and then they’d have to hit the highway again like gypsies before the repo man came to collect the Escalade they had leased for their routine swindles.  She had grown weary of it, although Jake seemed to love the game more than the goods.  When he told her the fat man was handing over a million dollars’ worth of Krugerrands and rare coins, she used every fiber of discipline in her body to keep from revealing what had popped into her head at the same moment the number registered in her neocortex.  Just two words:  Adios, Jake.

Sonny slept beside her with his head resting on her shoulder.  She mussed his hair gently.  She hoped Jake would get over it because, at some level, she really liked him and not just for the sex.

Bobbie Rae Incorvia sat back against the seat and breathed deeply, contented like a cat.  She might have been Appalachian hill trash at one time but she considered herself a Ph.D. in men.  Giving hand jobs for rides was her high-school diploma,  topless dancing for cruddy-looking hill men was her bachelor’s, rimming and getting cornholed by blacks in Cleveland gentlemen’s clubs was her master’s, and Jake was her doctorate.

She popped another stick of gum from Sonny’s endless supply in his pockets.  Her breath was still scented with the redneck’s semen.  That one back there—did he say what his name was?—Well, call him her post-doc seminar.

Terry White lives in Northeastern Ohio, writes crime and noir fiction, and is grateful his natal state provides him with an abundance of corruption, buffoonery, and idiocy—and that’s just taking John Boehner into consideration.  His fictional detective is a  part-time drunk and full-time existentialist named Thomas Haftmann, who operates out of a fictionalized resort town a few miles from White’s home and has appeared in several webzines in the last few years (mainly because his creator’s efforts to get a suspense novel published have failed and he has time on his hands).  White has worked as a grocery stockboy and cashier, a deckhand on the Great Lakes, in various factories in his home town and in Arkansas, where he lived for ten years, an (unpaid) writer for Boxing World, and as a substitute teacher of area high schools, the last-named being the worst job.  Some of White’s recent stories have appeared in Storyglossia, 10,000 Tons of Black Ink, Sex and Murder, and Yellow Mama.

"The Last Good Samaritan" © Terry White • Photo features photo by Anthony Neil Smith • PLOTS with GUNS © Anthony Neil Smith