I MISS YA'LL
Cal poked around in his duffel looking for a joint. Butch was acting freaky in the front seat, touching the window crank, opening and closing the glove compartment, picking at the floor mat. A few moments of silence passed while Johnny looked back and forth from the road and the rain to Butch.
“What?” Johnny said.
“What what?” Butch answered.
“I know that jumpiness means something. What is it?”
“Well, I don’t have any cash, and I don’t have a Christmas present for my momma. I was wondering if you’d spot me a couple a hundred ’til we get back to L.A. and I’ll go do some work on the boat and pay you back.”
“I don’t have a couple of hundred to loan you, and if I did I’d be crazy to do it ’cause you piss all your money away doing shit like this.”
“I know how we can get some money,” Cal blurted from the back of the van. And instead of a joint, he pulled a gigantic, long-barreled .357 magnum from his duffel. “Let’s rob a fuckin’ bank,” he said.
The dark metal of the gun barrel took on a sheen from the reflected dashboard lights. Butch and Johnny looked at each other and back at the gun and then back at each other.
“Goddamn,” Johnny said. “Goddamn, Cal,” Butch said, almost in unison. “Put that goddamn thing away,” Butch continued. “You’re freakin’ me out here.”
“Put that thing up,” Johnny joined in. “We’re not robbing a fucking bank, and I’m gonna put you out if you don’t put it up.”
“Whoa, motherfucker,” Cal said. “Can’t we have a conversation about it? I got a good plan: we’ll rob one of these small-town banks when it opens this morning, drive on to Houston, get a motel, and cool it ’til it dies down. And you can’t put me out ’cause I got the motherfuckin’ cannon, and you’re just the fuckin’ driver. You said so yourself.”
“Cal, put it away, really. Now you’re making me nervous,” Butch said
“OK, but let’s have a little mutual give-and-take about decisions here. I want to feel like I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Cal said, and he put the gun back into his duffel and continued to root around in it for the joint. “I got it, Butch, but it’s kinda wet. Still want to try it?”
“I don’t believe, Cal,” Butch answered. “Let’s just chill and drive for a while.”
Johnny stared straight ahead. He reached over and turned the radio up louder. Wolfman was howling over Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “Don’t Cry No More.” Butch reached into his bag for a dry bandana. He wiped his face and tried to dry his hair. No one spoke. The scratching of the worn out right-side windshield wiper blade was almost in perfect time with “Don’t Cry No More.” Johnny grit his teeth.
After a few minutes of tense silence, Cal announced his intention to take a nap. He tilted over on his side and put his duffel under his head for a pillow. The felt presence of the .357 magnum was strong and dangerous. Butch was stoned, drunk, paranoid, wet, and nervous.
Johnny drove into the hard rain. The flash of an occasional set of oncoming headlights outlined his face. He stared straight ahead, not looking at Butch or back at Cal. The rhythm of the music and the windshield wipers was joined by a low-pitched growl from the back of the van. Cal was snoring.
About an hour and a half of hard driving passed in absolute silence. The sun was up about ten degrees on the horizon, and the rain had stopped. The early-morning sunlight was a yellowish-white that illuminated the inside of the van with stark contrasts, making everything seem harsher and more brittle. Johnny looked at his hands on the steering wheel. They were flushed red from squeezing it so hard. He looked over at Butch: “We gotta get gas pretty soon.” Butch said nothing. They passed a billboard: Stuckey’s Pecan Logs and Texaco, 3 miles.