When Conner arrived at the gas station, he exited the car with a speed that surprised even him. He took a few quick steps, almost at a run, before turning back towards the car. Under the garish sodium lights of the service station, the little blue sedan was a sickly greenish gray. It looked squat and malign in its stillness. The throbbing headache at the base of his skull seemed to diminish with every step and he began to catch his breath.

He took the phone from his pocket and raised it high into the night sky, waving it from side to side like a semaphore flag. Nothing. The signal meter defied him by remaining empty. Not even a flashing roaming message. Conner scowled at the phone and thrust it back into his pocket.

He glanced around the station, two solitary pumps and a closed convenience market. An isolated island of pale yellow light in the dark of the North Carolina forest. The silhouettes of trees bit into the starry night sky, surrounding him like a ring of teeth. The grating hum of electricity mingled with the crackling of insects from the woods beyond, drifting in the warm summer night air.

Jutting from the side of the shuttered market was a scraped and listing pay phone, its metal stalk visibly bent from some long ago impact. Conner approached it, digging a pair of quarters from his pocket, and gripped the scarred plastic handset. For a moment, nothing happened. The sense of isolation deepened, like the ground being pulled out from under him, and the panic returned. A series of quick clicks bit into his ear and the dial tone chimed. His fingers felt numb as he dialed.

Even at a few hours past midnight, Reynolds answered on the first ring.

Continue reading “Roadwork”


Metapost: Let’s be honest for a moment…

The mundane world intervenes, far more than we’d all like.

Work and life have been fruitful, but aggressive and needy, and I haven’t been able to write lately. But, after a long, nighttime drive through a remote forest, listening to an excellent podcast (Radiolab – Afterlife), I’m brimming with the need again. When the need is great, it carves out time for itself.

The piece I’ve been readying, “The Watcher”, is swelling to novella length, and I’m setting it aside for the moment to chase the thrill of finishing something.

I’ll have a new story up by the end of next weekend, “Roadwork”, a very simple little piece more like the stories I used to write on a weekly schedule. Finally, before the end of the year, I’ll have a nebulous and… self indulgent meditation on death and mortality, called “Shiva”.

I’m setting out this schedule not only as a promise, but as a threat to myself, a backup copy of obligations. Deadlines are the best friend art ever had.

See you soon.