Literary Fiction

Cass at Eighty-Three

By Michael McCormick
Sep 17, 2018 · 420 words · 2 minutes

Vintage car dashboard

Photo by Benjamin Child via Unsplash.

From the author: Life in the fast lane isn't for everybody

Serene, oblivious, Cass aimed her car at the semi’s bumper. The Volvo clung to the big rig like a remora on a shark.

The speedometer read 83 mph.

James knew Cass had replaced so many parts of her car that, like Theseus’s ancient ship, none of the original remained.  He suddenly wondered if the air bags worked.

“Extreme drafting,” Cass explained, misreading the look of adrenal concentration on James’ face. “I’m so deep into this guy’s slipstream the friction is near zero. It’s almost a vacuum.”

“How can we breathe?” James asked, although suffocation seemed the least likely cause of death at that moment.

Cass shrugged. She rested one hand on the wheel while the other plundered her purse for a cigarette. Lung cancer being another unlikely cause of death at the moment.

James forced his gaze away from the Grim Reaper and his Peterbilt mud flaps. On a hill he saw three cell towers arranged like the crosses on Golgotha, signifying competing empires of AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.

“Skull Hill,” said Cass, sporadic telepathy being one of her talents. “That’s what Golgotha means. It sounds like a Nancy Drew book. Or a death metal band?”

James watched Golgotha recede into the realm of Objects Nearer Than They Appear. But inevitably his attention returned to the trailer doors that filled their field of vision. At last the dam broke, and he blurted the uncool question:

“What if the truck makes a sudden stop?”

Another shrug.

“He knows I’m here,” Cass said. “We made eye contact in his mirror.”

Unable to stop himself now, James flung his last shreds of dignity into the roaring wind:

“What if he’s one of those psycho killer truckers?”

Cass appeared to consider this possibility.

“You’re right,” she announced.

She threw the Volvo into fourth gear, its engine keening in disbelief. The truck shot away from them like a marlin snapping a fishing line.

“Grab the wheel,” said Cass.

She released the steering wheel but kept her foot on the gas. She peered into her purse. James frantically grabbed the wheel.  He tried to keep the Volvo in its lane while traffic surged around them.  Horns bleated.

“Found them!” Cass declared, waving a crumpled green pack of Newports.

She struck a match, lit a cigarette, and resumed driving all in one flowing movement. Menthol smoke filled the car.

“Those things will kill you,” said James, releasing his grip on the steering wheel.

Cass considered it.

“Unlikely,” was her verdict, as she shifted back to fifth.

This story originally appeared in Talking Stick.

Michael McCormick

Mike McCormick writes literary and science fiction in his Batman pajamas