Moonliner

By Chris Crabtree

Something big was going down today, something that had been in the works for weeks. Mil could feel it. He scanned the sky for the Moonliner. That rocket was the key to his plans, and it taunted him when he was late. He gunned it. Coffee splashed from his mug, scalding his crotch. The pained jangling of his keys would have to do the cursing for him while he slurped air through the molten java in his mouth. His back wheels hit the speed bump and it happened again—one splash of coffee for each testicle. He didn’t remember the bump being so big, but then he couldn’t remember ever being so late for work either. He grabbed a wad of tissues from the box on the floor next to all his unpaid parking tickets and stuffed it between his legs. It felt hot and lumpy, like he’d sat on a pile of nuclear camel shit.

He scanned the rooftops for the Moonliner. That beacon of 1950s styling—iconic of TWA under Howard Hughes—had guided him to this town, to this job. It was perched high on the corner of the defunct airline’s headquarters, where it swayed in the incessant Kansas City wind. He took a wide swing to the right to line up for a straight shot into the corner parking space directly beneath it, but his morning chattered to an antilock halt.

“What is this?” he yelled.

It was another car in his spot—his handicapped spot.

Not today. Not when… A gust of wind rocked his car, whistling through leaky windows. He hugged the steering wheel and careened his neck to the rooftop. The Moonliner mocked him from the sky. He jumped out of his car and onto the interloper’s bumper. “Mo-ther-fu-ckers!” he said, one syllable per bounce.

“It’s mothers-fucker,” a woman’s voice yelled back, startling him. She had dark hair cut in a flapper bob. Her lips shone in a shade of crimson only punk-rock girls knew the secret of creating. Her eyes were outlined by long black lashes thrusting themselves from the edges—Venus flytraps for the souls of men, and she was blasting down the ramp toward him in a wheelchair with the wind at her back.

“What?”

“Mothers-fucker,” she said. “Like sons-in-law.”

“Is this your car?”

“Yes, and I’d appreciate it if you’d get your ass-face off it. What’s wrong with you? What kind of person does this to a handicapped person?” She charged at him, furiously wheeling herself forward. She looked mad enough to climb out of her chair, rip the bumper off her car with her bare hands, and beat him with it.

“I don’t want to argue with you,” Mil said, glancing nervously at the Moonliner some fifty feet above them. It groaned with another gust of wind. Not good. “I’m late for work and you’re parked in my spot.” It was as close to the truth as she needed to get. “Is there some way I can help you on your way?”

She looked him up and down. Furrows etched themselves into her forehead. He lost her eyes in the shadows of her squinting brows. “You can start by getting off my car,” she said.

Anything she wanted—so long as it was quick. He jumped off the bumper and ran toward her. “What can I do?”

“Give me a minute. Can’t you see me shaking? I’m very frail. I don’t like getting into fights with strangers.”

“Fight a lot with your friends?” Mil teased.

“I don’t like to lose.” She smiled just a little when she said it, then suddenly her chair lurched forward, propelled by another burst of wind.

The Moonliner yowled like a lonely cat on a moonlit night. Something popped and then there was a resounding clang. Mil knew what was happening: the force of the wind had made one of its three legs lift off the platform where it was perched directly above them.

Again the wind shoved her. She grabbed her wheels and yanked them back as if they were a team of unruly horses.

Sensing his chance to gain the advantage, Mil darted behind her and grabbed the handles on the back of her chariot. Immediately, he started pushing her toward her car. “It’s been lovely talking with you, but I really need your parking space.”

“Park somewhere else,” she said, squeezing the rims of her wheels, stopping them. “You don’t even belong here.”

“And neither do you!” He kicked the back of her seat, hoping to push her toward her car.

“Ouch! I felt that!” She pulled on the brake levers now, determined not to move.

“Dammit, woman!” Mil looked up to the Moonliner and pleaded with it. “What have I done to deserve this?”

“You’ve been a jerk-face?”

“It’s face-jerk!” he said, jerking wildly at the handles of her chair. It was no use. She was too strong. Then he found the keys to victory. “Is this your purse?”

“Oh, no you don’t. You are not going into my purse!”

“Don’t have to. Your keys are hanging on that cute little hook thingy.” He bent down to grab them.

Now that she didn’t have to fight for control of her chair, she spun around, knocking him down, then proceeded to work the wheels back and forth, bitch-slapping him with the footrests. She was too fast to lay a hand on. Out of sheer frustration, he lay back in the grass and kicked her hard in the shins, toppling her onto her back.

He was hurting. She was hurting. They shared a tacit time-out, listening to the Moonliner laughing at them. Groan and clank, it went. Groan and clank.

“Are you OK?” he asked.

“How do you define OK? I’m a fucking paraplegic!”

He rolled up onto one elbow. She was kind of cute, sprawled out in the grass like she was. “That’s not my fault,” he said.

“I’m a fucking paraplegic who just got shit-kicked by a macho dildo.”

“Dildo?”

“That’s all a guy like you is good for.”

Mil got up to see if he could attend to the woman. He felt guilty about kicking her like that. She’d probably sue him. Between that and being so late, he was sure to get fired, which was probably for the best. It would give him a reason to file for bankruptcy—the first step on the road to riches, he’d always believed. “Give me your hand,” he said.

“I don’t want any help from you.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, watching her pull herself along the ground with her arms. “I didn’t mean for it to come to this.”

“Fuck off, dildo.”

He dared not laugh, but it was just a little funny the way the strong wind kept blowing her hair into her eyes, making it impossible for her to put her chair upright again. “No,” he said. “I made this mess and I’m going to clean it up.” He bent down to help her.

“Stay away from me! I don’t need you—or anyone to help me!”

Mil didn’t say a word. He just hit the “unlock” button on her key fob and tossed her wheelchair into the backseat of her car. “Now,” he said, towering over her, “may I please help you to your car? I promise, you won’t ever have to see me again—at least until you sue me.”

Her eyes were seething at him. She really didn’t like to lose. He didn’t either, but hated to win by brute force. There just wasn’t enough time to fake losing in a believable way. He held out his arms, offering to pick her up off the sidewalk. She nodded her acceptance—or defeat—and he stuffed her behind the wheel of her car.

She buckled her seat belt and then reached for the ignition. “Can I have my keys back?” she said through the open window.

He gave them to her with a smile. “Drive safely!”

She scowled. “Go to hell.”

“I’m halfway there.” A blast of wind knocked him off-balance. He grabbed her side-view mirror just in time to keep from being bowled off his feet. Seeing her opportunity to be rid of him, she leaned out the window and shoved him. He fell hard on his tailbone, staring straight up at the rocket. It moaned and then a weakened bolt snapped. Oh, shit!

He was too late.

The woman readjusted her mirror. “By the way,” she said, “it’s drive safe, you…MOTHERFU—”

The twenty-two-foot-long Moonliner dove and mounted the woman’s car like a space-faring penis banging a hatchback. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Its last flight was meant for Mil’s car. If only he hadn’t been late for work…

No—that stupid woman!

He sprung up and peered into the mangled opening that used to be a window. He listened for signs of life, but his ears were still ringing from the impact. There she was—some of her anyway. He snaked his arm in and felt her neck. She had a pulse. He yanked the door but it wouldn’t budge. He put one foot on the back door for more leverage. “Mo-thers-fu-cker!” Why he was saying it her way, he didn’t know, but it became his mantra while he jerked the handle back and forth until it broke off like a pop tab, grounding his ass again.

People were starting to come out of the building for an up-close view of what had happened.

Mil got up and stormed back to his car. This was all his fault. If she died…

“Hey!” someone yelled. “He’s leaving the scene! Stop that guy!” Mil knew that voice. It belonged to Schurvinuvich, an irritating waif of a man, who began trying rescue the woman.

“I’m getting a crowbar, Scurvy,” Mil said.

The little man’s spaghetti-noodle arms flapped like they were about to snap under the strain.

“If you don’t get of my way, I swear I’m going to ram this thing as far up your twisted little ass as it’ll go, hook my jumper cables onto it, and then see if we can’t jump-start your first erection.”

Scurvy moved out of his way. “Someone should call 9-1-1. She’s going to need the Jaws of Life.”

Mil shook his head. “Shut up and get over here and help me.” With Scurvy’s help, he cranked on the crowbar until everything became a blurry tunnel. Just when a dark veil began descending over his eyes, the door cracked open, complaining like a cat getting a bath, but it was wide enough for him to squeeze through. He worked his way into the crevices between mutilated car and flesh and then gingerly worked the woman out from under rocket, dashboard, and steering wheel.

He stood tall, holding her in his arms—a hero’s pose, but he knew better. He’d put her in that seat. He might as well have drawn a target and guided that missile to her car. He frantically looked her over. She wasn’t bleeding. That was good. No impaled objects were sticking out of her, but she could still have broken bones, or worse: internal bleeding. At least he wouldn’t have to worry whether she’d walk again.

“You shouldn’t move her,” Scurvy said.

“He’s right,” said another onlooker. “You should put her down until the ambulance comes.”

“Did someone call an ambulance?” Mil asked. The crowd exchanged empty looks and shrugs. No one had. “Fuck it.” He took the woman and strapped her into the passenger seat of his car. She groaned and coughed. “Are you OK?” he asked her.

Her face narrowed into a squint, as if it were a napkin caught in a vacuum cleaner hose. “What…happened?”

“Dorothy just crashed her rocket into the Wicked Witch of the West’s parking space, and now I’m taking her to the hospital.” Mil started his engine.

“I’m not…Dorothy?”

Mil peeled off toward the hospital. “I meant that you’re the…never mind.”

“My purse,” she mumbled. “Did you bring it?”

She had to ask now? He was speeding through the parking lot and was already halfway to the speed bump. Her request made him feel eight years old again, forced into doing his mother’s bidding. He heard her in his head. “Turn off my curling iron, unplug the toaster, put sunscreen on my back.” He remembered the time as a kid when his mother had texted him to come home. Y?” he’d replied, not wanting to break away from his make-out session with Natasha Menlo. “Come home,” his mother had repeated. He’d done as he was told, thinking it must be something important. He’d found her watching TV with the crossword open in her lap. All she’d wanted was for him to bring her the remote control, which was sitting all of five feet away, next to his father’s chair.

He shivered at the memory. Part of him wanted to gun it over the disdainful lump in the road, but his mother’s training had seeped too deeply into his flesh. He kicked the brake pedal, stopping just inches from the speed bump.

“My…purse…” the woman coughed.

Mil bit the side of his mouth and nodded. His agitated hands massaged the steering wheel. “Of course.” Mil’s breath laced with adrenaline. “I mean, it’s not like I’m in the middle of doing anything important—like trying to save your life.” He slammed the stick hard into reverse and went back for her stupid purse. He turned around to see out the back window. From this close, she smelled like vanilla and bergamot. It was very distracting. Then he saw just the thing to sharpen his focus: Scurvy, standing next to what used to be the woman’s car, holding her purse. Mil took aim, imagining how satisfying it would be to plow into the little creep, but it wasn’t worth the jail time. He swerved at the last second and slid up next to him and snatched the bag out of his hand. “It would look nice with your beige pumps, wouldn’t it? Maybe if she lives through this, she’ll give it to you as a reward.”

He tried to hand the bag to her before setting off again, but she seemed to have passed out. “Miss…” he said. There was no answer. She didn’t move but she was breathing. “After all the planning…all that work…and the damn thing falls on her… So much for that fat check.” He drove on, hoping no one would ever discover his role in the last flight of the Moonliner.

Minutes passed. Eventually, the woman opened her eyes. She watched the city go by, squinting either from the sunlight or deep thought. She asked for her purse, and at the next red light, Mil complied. She pulled herself upright and started rifling through it.

“We’ll be at the emergency room in two minutes,” he said. “They have everything you need.”

“They don’t have one of these.”

“Don’t be silly. They have…” He sat stunned for what felt like a metric hour. No one had ever pulled a gun on him before. “No, I suppose they don’t.”

“And we’re not going to the hospital either.”

Mil’s head swam in confusion. Nothing made sense anymore. “Where are we going?” he asked.

A sideways grin spread across her face. “Ever have sex with a paraplegic woman?”

Mil fought to keep from laughing at the absurdity of the moment. “No, I guess I’ve never had the opportunity.” Maybe it was the adrenaline overdose he was experiencing after speeding to work; scalding his balls with coffee; getting into a knock-down, drag-out fight with a crippled woman; nearly dying in the crash landing of the Moonliner; rescuing her; and having a gun pointed at him—but something about her was really turning him on. He couldn’t believe it, but he wasn’t wholly opposed to a sexual encounter with… “I don’t know your name,” he said, setting her down on her articulating bed. She said her name was “Jan-eese.” He asked her to spell it and then told her his was Mil.

“Like Janice,” she said. “Now, take my pants off.”

“Aren’t we going to make out first?”

She glared at him. “I could shoot your dick off.” As if he needed reminding.

“It’s just a weird way to pronounce it.” He untied her shoes, making sure to keep her feet near his crotch—shielding his manhood.

“What about Mil? It’s kinda short. What’s it short for? Let’s hope your dick is longer.”

He tossed her pants on the floor. “Miles. My last name is Stone. I got tired of being everyone’s milestone.”

“So now you’re a millstone?”

He’d never thought of it that way, but moving the dead weight of her legs every time she asked him to fold her into a new position had him obsessing about it now.

He didn’t know why he should care, but asked her if it was good for her anyway when they were done.

“You’re not done,” she said.

He explained that it would be a little while before he could repeat himself, but she informed him that another round of sex was not what she had in mind. No, it was time to go for another drive, so he loaded her back into his car.

“Where are we going now?”

“We’re not going,” she said. “You’re going to die. I’m going to kill you.”

“What? Why? I thought we—”

She told him to drive to his place. She’d kill him there so she wouldn’t have to dispose of his body. It was all the better that he lived a few miles outside of town, where no one would hear the shots. He only had one chance to get away. When his neighbor’s decrepit old barn loomed in front of him, he picked a spot, stopped the car, and ran for it, hoping she wasn’t a very good shot. If he could get to his garage, he could get away in his other car.

He didn’t make it more than twenty feet before she jumped out of the car and shot him in the leg. He fell in the ditch next to a “horse and buggy Xing” sign.

She sauntered up next to him and squatted next to his head. “I hate it when mothers-fucker like you go around parking in handicapped spots,” she said. “I’m going to kill every last one of you.”

“But I—”

She pressed the gun to the temple of his head. A smile broke across her face. “You were OK…and you did try to save my life.” She pulled the gun away from his head and paused for a moment of reflection. Then she shot him in the other leg. “That’s better. Now we’ll call it even. Besides, I needed a new set of wheels anyway.” She left him yowling and writhing in pain as she drove away in his car.

* * *

Janice parked Mil’s car a few aisles from where the rocket lay atop her own. A tow truck was taking up station behind it. Police had taped off the area, making it hard to get closer. She laid low until the last of the police and onlookers left, before sneaking under the tape and wriggling her way into the wreckage. She reached for her handicapped hangtag to remove it from the rearview mirror before the tow truck removed her car from the premises. Its winch began lifting the back end. The hangtag was wedged in tight between all the broken glass and twisted metal. She jerked it side to side, furiously trying to work it free. The car lurched when the tow truck released its parking brake. A second later it began to move, with her still inside. One final desperate heave freed it. She kicked the door open and rolled onto the pavement. With a triumphant smile on her face, she strutted back to Mil’s car. She hung the handicapped tag on the rearview and then produced a tube of crimson lipstick from her purse. She leaned in to check her look in the mirror, never expecting to see him—much less him sitting in the backseat, holding her gun to her head.

Mil grinned with the shear pleasure of seeing the look of surprise in her dark, Venus-flytrap eyes. “Ever have sex with a paraplegic man?” he said.

 

——————–

Chris Crabtree is a singer/songwriter/musician who provided the soundtrack music for the award-winning documentary, Corporate FM. He wrote an album of songs that inspired him to write a book. His work has appeared in Licking River Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Children’s Hope International Quarterly and Helix.


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