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The Road to Cortez

Riley H. Welcker | Delilah Buckle

Yale’s jaw flexed as he clung to a dank root with the pit of his arm, trying to elevate his body. He whimpered, hating the peaceful aroma of moss, dirt, and bark. He staggered his breath, but it only made matters worse. Hyperventilation inevitably followed. The perfume nearly drowned him. It felt like being smothered by air. A tear wandered down his left cheek. It itched. He couldn’t scratch it. His arm had long lost feeling. It was graying. He didn’t want to lose it. All he could do, laying there, nearly the whole of his body pinned beneath the overturned hood of his ‘97 Jaguar, was hope that he wouldn’t lose his arm. How pitiful life would be with only one arm.

For the first time in his life, he felt an overwhelming sense of sorrow for anyone missing an arm or a leg. It was a feeling wholly new to him. It crept across his shoulder like a doctor feeling for a torn ligament. He threw his head back, trying to butt the feeling in the face when a beetle crawled along a root beside his cheek. He stretched his eyes to the side as long as he could hold them. The blasts from his nose pounded his chest. The beetle paused and moved and paused and moved again, slowly entering that fuzzy place just out of the reach of his vision. He struggled to adjust his position. The arm that wrapped the root was unresponsive. He longed to be jogging. Jogging would be fine, jogging along the side of the road seeking rescue.

It was midnight. Bright points shone in grand array in the azule-black sky. What a night for jogging. Usually he wasn’t much for it, but in this case it was like dreaming of flying. So he was flying until the reality, the suffocating reality, of dirt, bark, and moss filled his nostrils again.

As an area manager for Hertz, he oversaw operations and frequently drove the back road from Colorado Springs to Cortez. He did it without thinking. It wasn’t any wonder then (despite every attempt) that he couldn’t remember anything but a sudden flash of lights and the ensuing exhilaration of unnatural motion.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of crunching gravel. He was keenly aware of footsteps. Something slow. His eyes widened. His rescuer! He was saved! Perhaps he wouldn’t lose his arm after all. He licked his dry lips.

“Help me,” he whimpered. The words barely escaped his mouth. His words so soft, his thoughts so loud, he could hardly distinguish between them. In fact, he couldn’t be sure he had said anything at all.

A slight breeze swirled around the car. Yale’s breath was filled with the sudden reek of dead rabbits and weed. He dry heaved. He couldn’t help it. The sound of gravel stopped. The left door moaned and creaked. Yale jerked. It sounded like breaking metal. The car cringed. The silence of the night thumped his ears. He held his breath wishing that horrible smell away. He sucked air and dry heaved again. A dirty pant leg and worn pointed boot appeared beneath the overturned hood, and a head of gray stubble and long black hair crept around the left tire. There was something familiar about that face. Then Yale remembered—that creepy man from the Penrose Library parking lot last week, the one with the overly friendly smile. He had said, “I am going to get you.” Yale had turned his head, squinted at the man, slid into the driver’s seat, and promptly drove away. The same smile spread across the man’s face.

About Riley H. Welcker

Riley has many stories, essays, and poems bulging from his briefcase. His work has appeared in numerous other publications including eLectio Publishing, the Mindful Word, Mandala Journal, Syndic Literary Journal, Menacing Hedge, the Montreal Review, and Passages North. Google him. Read. Enjoy.

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