Friday, August 13, 2010

Garlic

The water tasted like garlic. Don't know why. I spent ten minutes on the bottle alone, then twenty more searching the car. No food in the car. No spices in the car. Not even a garlic-scented air freshener in the car.

Two people in the car, but as far as I know people don't have garlic in them, not even after they die. Nothing poisonous in the car, anyway, so I drank the water, and the water tasted like garlic, and it was the first water I'd had in two days, so I didn't complain when I drank it.

I complained a little after. To Sean. He was looking for gas in the car and, since he was swearing a lot, I guess he wasn't having much luck. I found him kneeling by the gas-door-tank, sucking on a hose half the time and spitting out fucks and shits the other half.

"Their water tastes like garlic."

He looked up at me and I took a step back. Had to. Sometimes, his eyes were like a fist coming at you. He sounded like a hundred cigarettes soaked in gasoline smelled, which was normal, minus the gasoline.

"They had water."

"Yeah."

He stood. God, he was so tall. Taller than the car, definitely taller than me. I tried to hide in my hoodie but it didn't really work, like it never worked, and he grabbed the hood and almost lifted me, like he always did.

"You drank the fucking water."

"Yeah." That was hard to say.

He dropped me. My heels went out from under me and I fell next to the car, scratched my palms on rumble strips. I couldn't worry about them because he was staring down at me, even taller then, tall like God. He pointed at the gas tank with two long fingers. Stabbed the side of the car with them.

"I have been sucking gas out of this thing for half an hour and you have been drinking fucking water?"

"It tasted like garlic." I couldn't help it. It really did, like a bottle of garlic bread, but I knew from his eyes and the way he pulled back his hand that it was the wrong thing to say. So I made up for it, quick, desperate: "They have more."

He turned, first with his head and then the rest of his body, to look through the window. They were tinted black, but he pressed his face against it, and I knew he could see the case of water sitting behind the bodies. I wonder if he noticed the people were holding hands.

"It tastes like garlic?" He said. Trying to look at the water and back at me at the same time. The punch was still in his voice.

"Like..." I couldn't talk. My throat felt dry again. But I knew I couldn't stay quiet, either. "Like garlic bread."

Sean started laughing. Really hard. He laughed until he was on his knees again, almost level with me, leaning against the car and hitting it over and over again. Till his voice was soft, and then he laid down, next to me on the freeway, for once my eyes higher than his.

"Good find, Jen." He closed his eyes tight and breathed heavy. "Good find." We sat there for a while, him breathing and me scared, and then he helped me up and told me to "grab the goddamn gascan." That's when I relaxed. He didn't say goddamn when he was angry.

The sun was going down and my hoodie wasn't good enough. I found a scarf in tthe front seat, next to what used to be the lady. I wrapped it around my neck three times and then I dared to bother Sean. He was checking where I wouldn't.

"Can we sleep now?"

Sean didn't look up from the man's pockets. They were jeans once, the tight kind, so he was having a hard time. "Not yet. Just...yes." He drew out a pack of matches and laughed, throwing them into the lady's lap. Piled next to gum and some pictures of kids who weren't in the car. "Just a few more cars. Go on ahead."

I looked down the freeway. Chicago looked as far away as the day before, and the line of cars still went on forever. "Okay."

I felt cold and out of nowhere missed my parents so much I couldn't breathe. Then I moved, not fast, to the next car and hoped there wouldn't be any dead people.

1 comment:

William said...

I really like this story :-D

It's a nice snippet that pulls in elements of a lot of post-apocolytic stories, while being constrained to the self-centered view of an adolescent child just trying to make sense of his world.