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Jacob Sims pressed gently on the brake. He slowed to a stop and turned left on the same Oklahoma dirt road he'd turned on a thousand times before. Dodging loose shale, he made what he thought would be his last approach to his parents' home.
To his left, a level field of dry land and straw stretched out, eventually giving way to a giant cluster of weeds and trees. The pasture on the right was tall, yellow-green grass, holding several tractors, most rusted and stripped of their insides.
Up ahead, a clearing opened in the grass, and in that clearing stood a country home. Jacob stopped, then pulled up the driveway, hearing the rumble of small white rocks shooting from underneath his tires and crashing into each other. At the top of the driveway, an old Ford Falcon and a blue service pickup sat idle. These two vehicles had been there when Jacob left this morning. He was grateful, knowing this meant that no one was home. He needed the solitude to complete his plan.
Jacob stopped at the top of the driveway and sat, trying not to think too much. He only wanted to think of his breath and what he wanted to do. His familiar sense of vague tension was there, but for the last couple of hours, he had been able to keep it on the perimeter of his mind. He knew his calm was artificial and that he wouldn't be able to make it last.
Jacob got out of the car and walked up the sidewalk to the house. No door handle or latch on the screen door, he just grabbed metal and pulled. Several boots and shoes were scattered about the floor of the interior back porch. Jacob scanned them until he found an old galosh. He picked it up, took a key out from under it andused that key to unlock the back door.
Jacob rushed through the house on the way to his parents' room. He folded back a closet door. On the rack were his mother's dresses, slacks and shirts. Old sweaters, sweatshirts and coats were strewn about on the shelf above that rack. Jacob reached a hand up on the shelf and pushed it under the winter clothing until he felt cold steel. He pulled out a black .22 pistol.
• • •
Jacob packed the pistol under the driver's seat of his Ford Escort, then walked back inside the house. In his old room, he grabbed a notebook and a pen from his suitcase. He carried them to the kitchen table, flipped to an open page and then wrote.
The letter lacked the detail he knew should be there, but he feared that opening himself up would cause the tension to rush in and take him over again. He left the letter in the center of the table.
Jacob got in his car and drove further down the dirt road. After a mile, he glanced at a compost dump that ran from the side of the road down a hill into Bull Creek. This sight reminded Jacob of years ago, when he used to fish with his older friend Todd. But now, trash and chemicals had turned the water black. And Todd was dead.
Jacob continued down the road for two miles, turned west, drove another three miles, then went south again, around a curve and onto a lease road. There was a sign at the entrance that had never been there before.
THIS SHALE PIT IS CHECKED ROUTINELY BY LOCAL POLICE.
The sign reminded him of the night his mother had called him at school and said that two people had died in a car accident after coming from one of the shale pit parties. She had said she was reluctant to tell him at all, since he had already lost three friends this year.
The lease road sloped down into the pit. Jacob drove around a large pile of red shale. Now the road was not visible. On the other side of his car stood a group of trees.
"Out of view," he whispered.
As Jacob got out of the car, something stabbed his leg. With his empty hand, he reached into the pocket of his jean shorts and pulled out a key. He threw the key and watched it land in the red dirt. A slight feeling of power came with the certainty.
He crawled up on the car's roof and sat there, cross-legged, with the gun in his right hand, pressed against the steel of the car. Several memories of this place fell on him at once. Two deep breaths and the memories separated and came one by one.
There was the memory of the first party, with the visions of the shocked but pleasant faces of people he had known all his life, but not really spoken to before that night. Then there was the memory of seeing them in other places and forgetting how to connect with them again.
Copyright © 2007 Robert Segarra.