We waited and waited on the road. I don’t know how long we waited. We had not passed another vehicle on our way up or down, only evidence of them, like an armadillo smeared across the road, or a splatter of feathers, but in an act of faith, in a civilised country, we waited by the roadside never doubting that help would come. It did not suit me that I should die like this, moronically, on a mountain, especially when there was so little sense in me being there in the first place. If Chip had been some kind of star footballer or promising cadet – sure, the movies could make something noble and tragic out of that, I guess, but there was little about him that hinted at anything other than a lonely masturbator, complexion milky with the blue glow of gaming computer screens and Saturday nights spent in Batman pyjama bottoms. He had that undeniable scent that boys have when they don’t wash their clothes, like the stems of broken weeds. I couldn’t believe his own family would to mourn the loss of someone so unattractive. If we perished together here they would be tempted to guess that we were dating, just to redeem the misery with romance; and I hated him for it.
Finally I heard a car coming from above us. Chip stood waving so his big unclean shirt flapped and he looked like a scarecrow. Then a glossy new midnight blue SUV with a huge glittering front drew to a stop. There was an oily reflection of the yellowish sky and the black tree tops in the windows.
The driver was a huge man in a collared shirt and navy suit jacket; his fat florid wife lay sleeping in the seat beside him. The whole car gleamed with new fine leather, glossy speckled wood finish, an odometer the size of a grandfather clock; a little paper pine tree dangled from the rear vision mirror, flipping in the breeze, and they were playing some pleasant twangy voice who rhymed wrong, song and so long…
We made our pleas. “Our car has gone off the mountain,” we said. “Can you give us a ride back to town?”
Perhaps it was a mistake to pose it as a question. I could see the man considering. In Texas, thoughts cross a person’s face like the shadow of clouds. His eyes flickered across the his obese recumbent wife, as though she was the picture of loveliness, of innocence in sleep, then he looked at us – our wild, disarrayed, dirty clothes, our hands full of cassettes, loose change and a single glove – as though there was no limit to the shit which we in our deranged youth would steal.
It was clear as day he thought we were murderers. He said, “Sorry, no room,” and just like that the window slid up and the break released, we stepped back as he rolled away – he had never taken his hands from the wheel. We watched the big glare of his red tail lights disappear round the bend and once they vanished we were in total dark.