Prentice Feyerbach lost his job and his girlfriend in the same week. He packed his belongings into a storage shed, bought a map, and highlighted the route to Texas in radioactive yellow. On a Friday morning he swept out of town, raucous music pushing his Corvette’s speakers to the limit and a gas station coffee in the cup holder.
‘I have a reservation in Breaker,’ Prentice thought.
It wasn’t a new thought anymore, but it still gave him a thrill. A song ended and Prentice sipped his coffee. A yellow light blurred and disappeared even as a pedestrian at the cross street gave Prentice a nasty look he tried not to see.
Like the idea of Breaker, the Corvette was no longer all that new, but it was still exciting. It was a big change from the hand-me-down beater Prentice bought before college and that he kept driving even after he got his first real job, the same job that laid him off without any more ceremony than a rented folding chair and an envelope with his name on it. Almost since the day he started that job, his paycheck had been enough to cover a car payment, but as long as the rust bucket was still running, Prentice hadn’t seen any need.
It was his ex-girlfriend who made him feel the mustard yellow car was as noxious as mustard gas. That was when Prentice bought the Corvette. Blue as the other had been yellow, the mile-annihilating engine and pumped up sound system got Prentice closer to fine than anything he’d ever known. It was an ego boost. It blew away the fancy watch, far overshadowed the expensive Italian leather shoes that turned out to be more durable than both job and relationship.
Sublime speed carried Prentice beyond the farthest point he’d ever been and turned the scenery into something smeared and amorphous. It no longer mattered that when he bought the Corvette his girlfriend turned it around on him and said, “I had no idea you were so materialistic.” It didn’t matter that the last thing his father said to him was, “You’ve lost a lot this week, but leaving makes it look like you’ve lost your mind.” It especially didn’t matter that his psychologist pronounced Prentice as being “vulnerable to fantasy.” Their echoes were muted by speed, distance, and the promise of Breaker.
Prentice crossed Tennessee’s border and checked into a hotel. He felt authoritative and he felt alive. The room was a bit of a letdown, but it was reasonably clean and it was only for one night.
His ex-girlfriend had been a sober vegan, and Prentice thought of her when he ordered a rare steak and wine at the hotel’s restaurant that evening. There were pricier bottles on the list, but Prentice picked an Eco Domani chianti. The cork’s imprint read, “Here’s Tomorrow” and Prentice smiled as he poured his first glass.
He sipped the chianti. It left his mouth feeling as if it had been swabbed with antiseptic leaves. To shift his attention away from his dry mouth, Prentice focused on the couple in the booth diagonal to him. They were sitting close together and speaking in low tones. The man was roughly the same build and coloring as Prentice and, because of that, Prentice felt that he was the one sitting next to the woman. Her eyes were blue, her mouth sensual yet sad, and her hair a darkly romantic, windblown mess. He was in love with the warmth of her body and the scent of the spices she exhaled.
“Nova,” Prentice said, having decided that was her name.
The waiter arrived just as Prentice spoke. “Excuse me?” the waiter asked.
“Nothing,” Prentice said. “Just the vino talking.”
The waiter set the plate on the table and said, “Will you cut into the steak and make sure it’s done the way you like?”
As Prentice unraveled his silverware from the napkin, the waiter continued. “See any strange weather on your way here? There’s been nothing in the news except floods and fires, like Mother Nature’s gone insane.”
“I didn’t notice anything unusual,” Prentice said.
“You were lucky.”
Prentice sliced into flesh. Red juices poured onto the plate, life: diverted, appropriated, sacrificed. He forked a huge piece into his mouth.
Prentice grunted his feral approval and the waiter left.
The next time Prentice looked up from his meal, the booth across from him was empty. He downed the last few drops of chianti and sat for a few minutes in sated comfort. Then he paid his tab and went back to his room.
Still clothed, Prentice fell upon his rented bed and dreamed he and Nova were sitting in the bough of a tree, eating a ripe peach. As they ate, the warm afternoon sun was supplanted by a sudden squall that changed not only the season but also Nova. Her hair became curlier, yes, and her eyes turned green, but more than that, she was scared. Nova was terrified because the tree was made of stone and the pit of the peach was an eyeball that blinked and blinked. The tattooed lid read, “Here’s Tomorrow!”
Stolen Climates is available now on Amazon!