Best Smalls Fictions 2017 – Finalist

Spencer David Potts
from Hypertrophic Literary Fall 2016

All eighteen wheels dig their treads into the dirt road and the big rig comes to a stop before a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker’s sign reads “Need a Lift?” and the patchy beard suggests a certain risk of danger.

The door swings open. The desert sun beats off of a Naugahyde desk chair lying off the side of the highway.

The hitchhiker gawks into the truck. He adjusts his glasses and pulls on his messenger bag.

“Yes,” says the woman sitting shotgun, but the driver shakes his head in disagreement. He mutters and either the driver is an ogre or he speaks in a rare dialect of grunts.

“He’s fine,” she insists. Her voice shakes.

As the hitchhiker reaches for his chair behind him, the woman raises her hand.

“We already have one in the back, thanks,” she explains, jumping out of the truck and giving an affirmative nod to the driver. She stretches her back and walks to the rear of the truck.

He sweats from his palms as he reads the license plate: RICK.

The woman opens the back door. The hitchhiker looks in.

There it is, the padded dental chair. Smack dab in the middle of the truck bed, the chair sits in darkness. The chair is glorious. The hitchhiker’s eyes pull him to it, but his legs stay anchored.

The woman jumps in. A shriek echoes throughout the back.

There’s a saxophonist standing in the corner.

The hitchhiker looks over his shoulder for a second.

“No cops,” the woman assures him, “I swear.”

He jumps on the outer lip of the bed. He drags a foot at a time, plodding toward the center with a swung gait.

A low B flat reverberates through the saxophone. Fingers move along keys and the saxophone shimmers in the corner as the sun reflects off of it.

The woman saunters to the chair, slamming the door behind her. She lights a Marlboro Red and it rests in her crooked smirk.

For a minute or two, the only light in the truck comes from the cigarette. Burning carcinogens flicker between her fingers. The only sound comes from the saxophone. Blues scales in whole notes, alternating between simple arpeggios.

A light appears.

The woman releases the yarn lasso keeping the light confined. A single light bulb hangs, shining on the chair, the string, and a tiny circle on the aluminum.

The woman smacks her hand twice on the wall farthest from the door.

The engine growls. She sits down in the chair.

“I’m ready,” she says.

The hitchhiker drops his bag. The saxophone speeds its tempo. The truck begins moving.

“Face, breast, or abdominal?” the hitchhiker asks. His voice shakes.

“Don’t you do glutes?” she demands.

“No, sorry.”

“Fine, breast,” she replies as she spits her cigarette out. The hitchhiker rushes to put it out with his sandal.

The shadowy saxophonist begins to play a familiar tune, maybe “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in a blues scale.

The hitchhiker reaches into his bag. He fumbles around, pulling each individual tool.

Breast dissectors. Breast markers. Breast reduction compression device. Breast retractors. Breast surgery cleaning tools. Fiber optic headlights. Microdissection needles. Nasal rasps. Rake retractors. Scalpel. Water balloons.

He looks up and shrugs.

“Use my stuff,” the woman demands.

The saxophonist kicks over a bag.

Smooth leather slides across the aluminum floor.

The hitchhiker opens the bag. He grasps onto the tools and hesitates.

High-power mini saw. Pocket lint. Sharpie. Chicken fat.

The saxophonist hits the high G. The hitchhiker begins his incision.

She squeezes the chair handle.

“You don’t have any anesthetics?” she pleads.

“No,” he replies, “you don’t.”

The hitchhiker lifts up the chicken fat to the light.

She squirms, but she is easily restrained.

“Rick shot that himself,” she says between shallow pants.

The hitchhiker slips the chicken fat in and the woman kicks. Her heels bruise on the bottom of the dentist chair.

The saxophonist twists like Chubby Checker and shouts.

“Who’s Rick?” the hitchhiker asks as he rubs his shin, a new shade of red to compliment the sunburn.

“I’m not sure.” Her eyes dart to the floor covered in the second half of the chicken fat.

“He can’t find me now,” she adds.

The hitchhiker searches the bag for more chicken fat. The bag is large and barren.

“If you have extra, could you do a little face work?” the woman asks as he searches the bag.

There is a hidden zipper on the side and the hitchhiker’s hand runs over it at least twice until he finds it once again. Each tooth of the compartment slowly releases the rusted bite. The hitchhiker shoves his dirty hands into the jaw and pulls.

More chicken fat. Driver’s license.

“Hello?” the woman says, wiggling in her chair with one breast cut open and another filled with chicken fat.

The hitchhiker places the driver’s license in his shirt pocket and slips some more chicken fat in. And more. And more.

The fat seems to never run dry. The hitchhiker continues to stuff it in as the woman talks. She speaks in crypts and inside jokes and the hitchhiker nods and cuts.

“Am I different enough yet?” she asks him. She traces along her new face, fingertips digging in the scars and fat.

“I’m not sure,” the hitchhiker says. He pulls out the driver’s license and looks at it. He immediately drops it.

On the license reads a single name: Rick. No surname. Organ donor.

“Rick?” she asks as she opens her eyes. The words crawl off her tongue like a slug. She has nowhere to run, no face to hide.

“Yes?” he replies. The butterfly makes its way out of the cocoon. He notices his distorted reflection in the saxophone.

Police sirens roar.

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