by Jean Rover
Keith awoke early that morning after sleeping in his gray Taurus by remote Quarry Lake. It had been a long, muddy drive. The sky was overcast and dull, making the water on the lake appear dreary. He liked it when the lake looked like that. A murky lake knew how to keep secrets.
The sun, trying to break through ominous purple and gray clouds, was not having much luck. Keith ate the last piece of cold pizza, hoping for rain, heavy rain that would rile up the algae. Leaning against the headrest, he tipped the bottle of Jack Daniels and sucked the last few drops, needing more, but it was all gone. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.
Fishing the key fob from his pants pocket, he switched on the car ignition to roll down the window and tossed the empty pizza carton and a half-bitten crust to the ground. The damp air felt cool on his face, but smelled like rotten eggs. He could hear the rhythm of the water lapping against the shore. The comforting sound calmed him enough so his mind could work on his story. I went to Leslie’s apartment, but she wasn’t there. No wait, we had dinner at Luigi’s and I dropped her off. That was the last time I saw her . . .
A large black crow in the tall fir next to his car made shrieking sounds, urging him to leave, so it could claim the pizza crust. Caw, caw, it rasped, over and over again. Keith covered his ears, but the continual screeching made his blinding, white anger return. He quickly rolled up the window and rested his head against the steering wheel, grateful for the green apple scent coming from the car air freshener. Why couldn’t Leslie keep her mouth shut? Why did she always have to be on his case? Caw, Caw. Caw. He repeatedly stabbed at the dashboard with his clenched fist. Shut up! Shut up!
He stretched his neck and stared at himself in the rearview mirror—itchy eyes, puffed and bloodshot; whiskers sprouting on his cheeks. He ran his hand over his brown, close-cropped hair. At least that wasn’t messy. He scratched his chest and sniffed his armpits. He needed a warm shower, but didn’t dare go back to his apartment. Not now. He tried to swallow the metallic taste in his mouth, but it lingered.
What was that? A pinging noise hit the roof of the Taurus, then it turned into a rushing, torrential downpour. The heavy rain had come, washing away the grime on the car’s hood. Remember to make eye contact. Be sure to vacuum the trunk. He cracked the window. The crow had disappeared. The air smelled sweeter. Innocent even.