Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scene 23

Blinky is leaning on the 1986 Buick Century, out by the pumps. A growly voice erupts behind him. “Where’d she go?” Blinky wheels around to behold the fantastic figure of Tom Thick. Blinky gasps a little. “Who?”

“Charlene.” Then Tom looks at Blinky quizzically. The creases in his giant forehead fade for a moment. “Hey. What kind of hat is that?”

“Oh,” says Blinky. “It’s Turkish.”

“What?” says Tom. ”What does that mean.”

“Made by Turks. In Turkey.”

“Not no birds, though.”

“No, no,” confirms Blinky. “Absolutely not.”

Blinky sticks his hand into the peculiar silence that follows.

“I’m Blinky.”

Tom ignores him.

“What’s taking her so long?”

“Who’s Charlene.”

“Black hair.”

Blinky nods. “Haven’t seen her.”

“This your car? That boiled over?”

“Kind of.”

“You with that other guy? With the glasses?” Blinky nods. Tom Thick darkens. “He’s a goddamn clown.” Blinky shrugs.

“She said she was goin’ to the store,” says Tom.

“Take a minute, she said.”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s always gonna take a minute.” Tom glowers at the overpass, then looks toward the Star-Lite. “I’m waitin’ for somebody,” announces Tom. “I gotta be in the office.”

Blinky nods empathetically. The guy does not look like his natural environment is an office. The guy does not look like he necessarily knows how to read.

“Keep a watch out,” barks Tom.

Blinky agrees.

Tom starts for the garage. Then he looks back toward Blinky.

“You want a pop,” he growls. “Something to drink.”

Blinky waves appreciatively. “Thanks, man, no.”

“Hey,” adds Blinky suddenly. “Do you have any good Ohio maps? That show the counties?”

Tom grunts and nods, apparently yes.

Blinky bounds over to Tom and follows him back into the station. He says to the back of Tom’s head as they cross the threshold, “Do you know if the Great Serpent Mound is anywhere near here?”

“What in hell’s that,” asks Mr. Thick, reaching into the map rack.

“Here,” says Blinky. He digs in his pocket and produces a postcard. He shows it to Tom, who stares at it furiously. The old engineer’s drawing traces the route of a unfurling snake down a gentle hill, swooping back up a second rise, up toward the snake’s mouth. The earthen beast opens wide to ingest a big egg.

This if you know how to read topographic junk. Otherwise, it’s some curlicues. Tom turns the postcard over. Nothing. The big man snorts.

“Never mind,” says Blinky, retrieving it. As he puts the card back in his pocket, Tom slaps his chest with a map.

“Thanks,” says Blinky. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

Blinky walks back to the rust-colored Buick. He opens up the map and locates his destination, very isolated, out in the sticks well east of Cincinnati. He reaches into the car and pulls out one of the forbidden highliters. He draws a bright green line from Interstate 75 to 275, along State routes 32, 41, and 73 to the Great Serpent Mound.

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