“Why are you turning here?” said Loretta.
“It’s faster,” said Mick, spinning the steering wheel.
“Umm…OK,” said Loretta.
Mick kept his eyes on the road, shifting gears from second to third, accelerating the car onto the black smear of tarmac called Edison Avenue. The high beams cut into the night a few hundred feet, and beyond was the limitless desert, illuminated by nothing. Loretta turned on the radio and Mick turned it off immediately because he didn’t want to listen to her stupid moaning music. He’d told her not to mess with his sound system like a hundred times and yet she continued to act like she could do whatever she wanted to his car. Did she work sixty hour weeks to make the payments? No. But of course she had the right to call for a ride whenever she damn well pleased, and she deserved that kind of treatment because she gave him the privilege of taking her to bed—sometimes. Which was worth, what, a thousand fucking suns? It was like she expected him to kiss her feet and say Yes, Loretta, for you the world. Anything for my sweet darling.
“Are you mad at me or something?” she said.
“No,” said Mick. She’d spent the night halfway across the wasteland partying it up with that guy, that douchebag, Sanjay, or whatever his name was. The guy who always talked to her at work; the guy who said she had a beautiful smile and meant it; the guy whose dick she probably grinded on at the party.
“You don’t have any right to be mad at me,” she said.
“OK,” said Mick.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Loretta. “We already talked about it. We agreed. So you’d better not be mad.”
“That’s fine,” said Mick. He squeezed the gear stick. He suddenly noticed how loud the road noise was.
“It’s like you’re the only one who doesn’t care what I’ve been going through,” said Loretta. “My friends get it. They’ve been so supportive. And when I need you to be there for me you’re like, I need space; I need this; me, me, me.”
Mick slammed on the gas and Loretta gasped as she was knocked into her seat, watching the needle tilt from seventy, to eighty, to ninety. Mick screamed until his throat hurt. Nothing he did was good enough for her, no matter what he did, because he couldn’t be someone else—the person she really wanted, the other guy, the other guys? So why didn’t she break up with him and put him out of this misery of trying to make her happy?
Something ambled onto the road ahead. Mick stomped the brake pedal into the floor and felt the seat belt carving into his shoulder. There was a set of glimmering eyes attached to bulbous body that was pale-skinned, knobby legged, and vertical. The car swerved, a headlight shattered on impact, and there was a thud on the roof of the car. They came to a stop on the dirt shoulder.
Loretta clutched the dash. Mick coughed on the smoke of burning rubber, unbuckled, checked himself for injuries or pains, and brushed back Loretta’s hair with a trembling hand.
“You all right?” he said.
“Fuck,” she said. She didn’t look up at him. “Are you drunk?”
“Yeah, I guess,” he said, trying to remember. Six shots of whiskey? Seven? He didn’t know; how much was in a glass? He got out and inspected the damage and cursed repeatedly at the dented fender and roof of his BMW M3, the scratches on the fresh blue paint he’d spent two months applying and buffing. His heart felt like it was rioting against him. He ran into the desert a ways, then returned to help Loretta out of the car and sit with her on the cold street, letting a winter breeze fling specks of sand at them. She wrapped her arms around his waist and buried herself in his lap.
Mick took a deep breath. What was that thing? He knew it wasn’t a person, and it wasn’t a coyote or a tree or a sculpture. He saw it, and in the last moment it was clear as a picture, like a flash. So many eyes, so tall, and how many legs? Five? That was crazy. It couldn’t be. Had Loretta seen it, too? He looked back down the road to where he saw it hit the ground.
“It’s gone,” said Loretta.