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Danine, Part 8
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insomnia

"Jesus Christ," he says. He looks at us both with a pitiful, little-boy look.

"Calvin ... " Danine starts, but she doesn't get very far. Calvin's hurt look switches, and he reaches into the pocket of his coat and pulls out a pistol, one of those expensive ones with the clips. I let loose a stream of epithets inside my head, and I pray that I just fall asleep, just lose consciousness now, but it doesn't happen. Calvin is on Danine in a second, and he pushes her over. She stumbles over the side of the bed and knocks her head against. "Jesus, Calvin, listen ... "

But Calvin has the gun on me now. I'm reaching for my pants, but Calvin kicks at them and they fly against the wall. He reaches down and picks up my keys where they fell out. "Come on, Frank. Get up. Time for a little fucking ride, huh?"

"Calvin, Jesus," Danine starts again, but he spins and shoves the gun toward her face.

"Shut the fuck up, just fucking shut up. I knew it, I goddamn well knew it," he says, and then reaches down and grabs the collar of my shirt and yanks me up. "Now I said we're going to go for a ride, Frank. Just you and me. Get caught up on old times, you know?"

He pushes me, and I stumble a bit but stay up by catching myself against the doorframe. My legs are weak. I can hear Danine start to cry, and I turn around toward him, to say something, but he's there, up against me, and he pushes me again, and I fall backwards onto the sidewalk outside the door. I look up and see the gun pointed at my face. I want to cry out, just shout out, thinking that someone would come and everything would be all right, but I can't get the air in my lungs. "Get up."

"Calvin, this isn't right," I hear Danine say behind us, but Calvin lifts me up and pushes me toward the passenger side of the truck. He wrenches the door open and trains the gun at my face.

"Get in, Frank," he says, and I do. He walks in front of the truck with the gun on me. As he opens the driver's door, Danine comes out of the room wearing her sweatshirt. She's pulling it down around her.

"Calvin, come on," she says. She's crying, and there's a red mark on the side of her face that's starting to turn darker, but she's keeping calm, talking in a low voice. "Calvin, what are you doing?"

But he doesn't listen. He gets in and starts the truck, and whatever she's saying, I can no longer hear it. I can make out her mouthing his name, over and over again, as he back up out of the parking lot onto the road. I watch her the whole time, but she never looks at me.

Calvin is driving with his left hand and has the gun pointed at me with the right. "Keep your hands on the dashboard," he says, and I do. I try to watch the road, to see where we're going, but I have a hard time looking at anything but the gun. Calvin isn't watching the road much as he drives, but I keep thinking if I can get the gun away from him, then at least things would be okay, then at least we could talk about it, figure things out. He pulls off of the highway onto County 206 and then smiles at me. "You seem to like looking at my gun, Frank. Have a look," he says, and then swipes at my jaw with the thing. It feels like getting hit across the face with a pipe, and my head twists so fast I can hear something in my neck pop. Then blood starts out of my nose, and I can taste it on my tongue, warm and salty.

"It was the car, was that it, Frank? You jealous of me all those years ago 'cause of my damn car, maybe. I know what people around here have always said about me, that I just run to my family whenever I got problems, that I just run straight home, get Daddy or my uncle to straighten things out. I know that's what you've always thought of me, and yet everyone thought because of that I was weak. Well, I don't run to Daddy for anything, you got that, 'cause I can take care of myself these days. I don't get pushed around anymore," he says. I want to say something but I don't know what to say, plus the air doesn't want to come. I wipe at my mouth. "Keep your fucking hands on the dash," he says, and I put them back.

"You are one worthless asshole, you know that?" he says. "I've been waiting for this, waiting to get one of you, all of you assholes from school. 'Cause you're all stuck here in this town, fucking your old girlfriends and drinking yourselves to death. But I've been away from here, I've seen the real world, and I'm not gonna have you spit in my fucking face, you goddamn stumpjumping cocksucker." I can feel the hard metal latch on the glove compartment with my leg, and I find it with the bony point of my knee and press against it. I know where we are. The Dancing Bear goes by on our right. Are we going to Davidson's? Does Calvin live out here? The latch pushes in, and I feel the glove compartment fall open against my knee. I move my leg back and let the glove compartment out slowly. It's dark in here, but I look at Calvin to see if he can see that it's open. But he's still talking.

end of essay
Joseph G. Carson Portrait Joe was the original guitarist for the now legendary Clark Schpiell and the Furry Cockroaches without Butts, playing two chords in a four-chord song under the assumed name of Jason, which he has taken to be a metaphor for his existence (the two chords part, not the Jason part). He has contributed several long pieces to CSP, including the crime novels Danine and Inheriting Dust, the latter of which is still in progress. He has also written the occasional humor piece, movie review, and political essay. | more essays by Joseph
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