Chapter 2: The Tater Creek Intersection
Jude turned right off of Hillhock Lane onto Sweetwater. He didn’t usually drive this direction since the biggest attraction there was Creek Hill High School. Actually, the high school held all grade levels, kindergarten through the 12th grade. There wasn’t enough people in the town to account for separate schools for elementary, middle, and high school. There were, maybe, 800 students that filled the seats in the compact classrooms.
The reason he didn’t go there was mostly his lack of spawn spilling off into the seats. He went there, once a year, and had been for almost 10 years now, to see a varsity football game.
Another right on Tater Creek.
Jude was grinding the petal to the floor, between quick jerks and sudden brakes, grinding to get to Isabella. Jerking to get to that smooth skin. Braking around the curves to see those perfect legs. What is it with men and legs? A man would fall off a building, 7-stories up, peeking around the corner to get a glimpse of a set of great legs. And Isabella Morreti-Jones was no different, except that a man might splat from 14 stories.
The brake lights flashed and then held, still moving forward as the black Nissan Maxima slid across the old pavement, sending pieces of gravel in any direction. Why was there a stop sign here? It made no logical since to Jude, as he always rubbed precious rubber from his tires at the barren intersection.
There were a few things that held some townspeople’s attention down the desolate road that led past the high school. It sat on the corner, adjacent to the sputtering Maxima. That car that hadn’t had an oil change in over a year or a full tank of gas in several years needed badly a little attention from the maniac behind the wheel. It needed passionate warmth from a man who was unwilling to cough up more than a crinkled ten-dollar bill to add to its life expectancy. She moaned as the cheapskate pulled her out farther across the pavement, and sighed before giving way to a few more inches of faded black before coming to a complete halt.
“Damnit!” Jude shoved the gear back into park and turned the key.
Not even the faintest sound was uttered from the lifeless machine. She then let go a pillar of smoke from under her belly, releasing thirteen years worth of an unhealthy, unsteady diet. The gods were cursing him. He flailed his arms up to heaven and then slammed a fist down onto the horn.
The orange-tinted trees echoed the fury of the last solitary cry the Maxima had left in her. In his rush to get to those long legs and that smooth skin he knew, before scrambling around the inside of the car and swimming in his pockets, he had left his cell phone at home. The wind blew the first brown leaves of the season onto that thing adjacent to the car.
Trees arched over it, running parallel in unison until the light no longer peeked through its dark path. The TATER CREEK CABIN. It was usually rented out to vacationers who thought it’d be relaxing to stay in the serenity of the country for a week or two during the summer. Aside from summer tourists it was typically rented to high schoolers for a night of unadulterated debauchery. He knew the history behind the shabby walls and underneath the creaking floors better than anyone else. This place meant everything to him, more than it ever could to a Yankee sightseer and more than the drunken boys that filled the corners, halls, and staircases, ready to get under a skirt before curfew. It meant heartache, happiness, pain, pleasure. It meant history.
What was he going to do? Not a soul would drive down this road on a Saturday. He knew that because he decided to take a short-cut to get to Isabella on time, and most people avoided the road because of its unevenness and fondness for potholes. Looking at his watch, it was 10:07, he was already late. He had to get a glimpse of those legs. He had to feel the wind and the sudden gasp of air the 14th story diver felt.
He gave way to thoughts of walking down that path that seemed it could suck a man’s soul from his body. He knew the real truth. He couldn’t walk down that path alone. There was no way. Too much history. There were no ghosts, no closet-monsters, no vampiresses, no legends of baby-snatchers, no killer wasps, no man who’d blow your head off for walking in his front yard. There was something worse, something worse than evil itself. History. Nearly ten years of history stood in that house. Another ten years of history like that can almost kill a man. And when I say kill a man, I’m not talking about in the physical sense. I’m talking about in the psychological sense. It’ll make a man think he’s been down to the depths of Hell and then spat back up to lie amongst God’s children.
He and that place had a history.
Jude turned the key once again. Not a sound. The smoke had already died away from under the belly. He should have taken better care of her. He should have gotten the oiled changed this year. He should have bought a new car. He shouldhaveshouldhaveshouldhave…
He stepped out of the car and decided to pop open the hood. Why was he opening the hood? He didn’t know a single thing about a car outside of the mechanics of driving and putting that nozzle in to feed her every now and then. Well, he managed to prop the hood up properly. Staring down her, the black beauty decided to spurt out its last breath of toxins into his face.
Jumping back and raising his hands, once again, “You couldn’t come up with something better than this? I mean, come on! A broke-down car! It’s a bit clichéd don’t you think?”
He kicked the air. There was nothing else to do. He was going to lose precious minutes with a woman he was still secretly in love with. A woman he had only seen once a year for the last ten years now, except on a few rare occasions. A woman he really didn’t know at all. He knew he loved her skin, her legs, and her smile. He remembered he used to love her scent, but even that had faded from his memory. He remembered that he loved her touch and he loved the way she leaned her head on his shoulder sitting on her front porch swing. Ten years. She could’ve been his. He could’ve been hers. But, he couldn’t resist that other girl, that other girl who wouldn’t let him go. Yes, he loved Angela, but the thought of being with Isabella was just too enticing.
Maybe it’s that love that he never had, that makes Isabella all the more alluring, because he never really had her. They dated. They made out. They got drunk together a few times. They had a good time. He was just too scared to do all the right things. He had been corrupted by Angela. He was accustomed to the girl making all the moves. He was used to a girl who would hop on top of him and pressure him into doing things he’d never tell his grandmother. Some of them he wouldn’t even tell his best friend. Isabella was a challenge. She didn’t straddle him on the porch swing. She didn’t whisper dirty-little-nothings in his ear. She might have leaned against him, held his hand, or kiss him (after the first kiss had finally occurred), but she wouldn’t be Angela in a dark-haired, smooth skinned body. She was just Isabella. She knew what she wanted in a man, and Jude wasn’t up for the challenge back then. Ten years.
“Is this punishment for having lustful thoughts?” Jude was on a rage against God.
No answer. No surprise, he thought.
“Fine then! I’ll walk there! I’ll walk to see those long legs and that oh-so-silky smooth skin!”
Jude paused to gather his thoughts, in order to piss off the man upstairs.
“You know what it reminds me of? Do you? That Werther’s Original candy. I’d like to stick one of those in my mouth right now!”
That was the best he could come up with. A writer, ready to write the Great American Novel, and all he could come up with was “that Werther’s Original candy.” He was a little frustrated.
There was no way he was going to miss that meeting with Isabella. He had to walk down that driveway and make it to the Tater Creek Cabin. Hopefully, there were a couple of those tourists still occupying it, so he wouldn’t have to think of what he would do if it was vacant. He would step into that place that held his heartache, his happiness, his pain, and his pleasure. He would travel beneath those arches and let the damned thing take his soul.