Distant blues

Hart flicked on the headlights. He let Lucille sleep, her head against the window. The road in front lit up like a slick ribbon. Tyres thrummed. Bald rubber on patched blacktop. Their world was a roadside passing by.

At half past ten a lonely neon drew them in. ‘Wake up, girl. Time to eat.’

She eyed a payphone near the pumps. ‘I’ve gotta make a call.’

She’d be phoning Frank. Asking forgiveness, most likely. Always the wrong way round.

No matter where Hart took her she’d still give Frank a chance.

Through the window he watched her talking. The jukebox played the blues—harmonica bemoaning the rain beginning to fall. He saw her legs buckle slightly. She let the receiver hang and ran to the bathroom. By the time she swung through the café door she’d powdered away fresh tears and old bruises—they’d been turning grey to brown. Hart handed her a cup. If only she’d give him a chance he could be good for her. Two plates arrived; eggs, bacon, thick buttery toast. In half an hour they’d be back on the road. Lazy licks of indolent guitar filled the room. A voice like gravel and mud.

By morning they’d be rumbling through sugar country, walls of cane either side, mountains up ahead, blue-green in the distance.