by jesse s mitchell
illustrated by rhoda penmarq
There was a smile on Mary Jo’s face as she pulled to a dusty stop along the line of gas pumps staring out at the road like one-eyed monsters. The sky above her was solid black glass, obsidian, perfect. The moon was everywhere. She filled her tank and walked under the tungsten-lit awning into the building.
As she walked in, she saw the tall outline of the cashier. A girl no more than 18 with huge hair in tight spirals all around her head and tied back with a camouflage rag that matched her pants and a Dark grey tank top.
She was smoking a cigarette, smoke spinning around her head. She looked bored.
“Oh yeah, thanks.”
“Where are you going?”
“It’s late and no one ever comes around out here. Sorry, just curious.”
“Where am I now?”
“No where. That is why no one ever comes around out here. I have been stuck here forever.”
“You haven’t done anything for forever yet. I am going out to the Badlands.”
“Oh, I could help you with that.”
“Well, you will need help out there. Lots of wide open spaces.”
“That is where the spirits are, you know, the hungry ones, the dangerous and beastly ones. The Sumerians knew it and the Chinese and the Sioux.”
“I don’t believe in spirits.”
“I can help you with that too.”
“How? You are very strange. I don’t even know why I came inside…I have no intention of paying…I just stole that car…you see that one out there…I stole it. What is all this help? Why could you help me with these spirits? What the fuck?”
The cashier’s face lit up.
“My mom she was a Lakota…very close to the Earth, man, she knew all this crazy shit…I know some too…and my dad did too…my Dad was this Haitian wild man, he was totally crazy…
just way way out with all that voodoo shit, stuff like that…before the folks here ran him off…or he just like, left whatever. I could totally help you…and”
“And? And what?”
The cashier looked around and slowly reached under the counter and pulled up a crumbled bag. She shook the bag off still looking carefully around and produced a giant shining silver monster .45.
“And…I can use a gun.”
“What’s your name?”
“Miranda. Miranda Best.”
The two women were back in the car before either of them blinked and scattering asphalt dust all over the black glass sky…dust flecks like stars.