Crime/Mystery/Thriller, Short Fiction

Tonnage by Jesse Toler

Sally didn’t think much of the Lyft driver.  He wore his hat at a sideways slant. When he turned the wheel of the hybrid, he made fight noises like Sally used hear in those Shaw brother’s movies she watched with her dad.

“Whaii,” he said, shoving the car through the merge lane for the east bound exit.  He was older then her, but still young enough to be dangerous.  He was her sister’s age.  His eyes were bloodshot.

“Going too fast,” Sally went.  The sports cooler she always bought with her on the job bounced on trembling legs. “We aren’t in a rush.”

Lyft, as she’d taken to calling him, jerked the car back onto the interstate to avoid a red mini-van, the driver minding their own business by doing strange things like observing the rules of the road. Lyft popped his lips like Bruce Lee.  “You gots a cooler, honey.  That’s time sensitive.”

Sally was going to tell him it wasn’t worth the five-star rating when the purple Coup de Ville came from their blindside on the left and nudged the rear end of the hybrid. Lyft shot his wheel to the right with the force of a parry, and the hybrid lost traction. The wheels locked in place while the road went on. The hybrid crashed into an iron clad law of physics: two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

They spun. Sally was tossed against the car, the seat belt squeezing her chest. She could only just make out the blur of Navy blue that was the truck.  The smack of metal on metal, similar to her father’s frustrated fist on her mother’s face.

Sally hugged the cooler, her tiny knuckles bloodless from strain. The hybrid’s rear crumbled under the truck without reservation. There was a sudden pop in the air.  It sucked all the wind from Sally’s chest.

The hybrid flipped onto its back.  Sally’s stomach displaced from the sudden change in gravity.  She hadn’t been a fan of roller coasters since the summer after her mom left and her sister made her take the rides at the fairgrounds while she traded home cooked meth for greenbacks of dead presidents.

She could hear the same grating metal from the tracks of the whirligig as the hybrid skidded into other cars, the shocked faces of the drivers blinking in an out of few, time moving along at it always had, but the cooler popping open, vomiting the cache of brown baggies happened in slow motion.  It was a horror movie.  Sally started to count the weight in bills flying around the car. Ten lunch baggies filled with sixty single dollars in crystal was six hundred dollars to add to the cross-tonnage of cold cash she’d skimmed from her sister’s deals. She had a hideaway nobody knew about. The hideaway was freedom.

Sally could have cried had she the time.

The hybrid slid across three lanes of highway.  Lyft’s face exploded in a gooey mess of pink and thick white chunks.  The front window was a masterclass in spider web cosplay. Sally’s sister was a spider. She trapped everybody in her crystal web.

The torrent came to a final stop and shook. Sally hurt all over. Her brain fired off weird song lyrics. She unbuckled her seat belt with sticky hands to Come and get your love, dumping her head to the ceiling of the floor. The radio station changed. “Come on, baby, light my fire.”  She caught the words in her mouth.  Her mother used to sing that song to her dad.

She saw gnarly green of the divider through the window and crawled to it.  It was her least favorite color. Her mother had a robe that color. She’d brought it home to show her and her sister what the aliens were expecting them to wear.  That was the week before she left. The first time she left.

The baggies were spilled out all over. Sally started toward the nearest before her leg cried out.  It was trapped in the seat buckle, a last hand reaching out, the hand her father pressed against thick prison window during their monthly visits.

A man emerged from a white impala and ran to Sally. “My wife’s calling for help.”  He reached for the seat belt hand freeing her. “Stay still. Try not to move.”

Sally crawled toward the nearest baggy, cradling it as one would a child.

“Is that your lunch?” The man seemed confused by his own question. His eyes drifted over the other baggies.  He walked to one and picked it up before reason took over. He recoiled from the contents.

Fear squirmed in Sally’s gut, worming toward her throat where her tears lay. She did her best to swallow them. ‘Never let them she you cry’, her sister’s words jumbled her brain and without much thought given to it, Sally said, “It’s usually sixty for a baggie, but I can do you for fifty-five if you get two.”

The sirens weren’t far off, but they weren’t there yet.  She could still add to the tonnage at the hideaway.


Jesse Toler

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