Truck Stop

The air wedge slid silently into the space between the truck door and the window weather stripping. Jonas pumped up the wedge just enough to fit a five-foot bendable rod through the narrow opening and into the cabin of the semi. With some finesse, the hook at the end of the rod grabbed the truck’s door lock, a small, vertical cylinder that, when pulled straight up, will unlock the door. He struggled to see clearly in the moonlight and carefully worked to avoid scratching the interior window as he pulled the rod up. Click! The door unlocked.

At the rest stop that Jonas had come to, there was only one sedan that left shortly after Jonas arrived. There were seven trucks and the one that he was working to unlock was the seventh in line. Now that the door was unlocked, that wasn’t the end of his job. He retrieved his air wedge and bendable rod, slipping them into the small red toolbox that he had sitting on the ground next to him with the words “Harold & Co.” scribed on the outside.

Jonas walked back to his tow truck and placed the toolbox in the passenger seat. He went into the popular truck stop and listened to the dripping of recently running shower heads and the shower curtains blowing in place from the cross breeze created by the opening at the front and back of the building. A quarter dinged its way down a vending machine and a stream of coffee started pouring into the disposable foam cup that Jonas set there. He took a deep breath in as the coffee assaulted his senses, evaporating the crust from his eyes and the oil from his creased, aged hands.

A familiar beep rang from the machine and the coffee finished it’s piddly drip into the cup. Jonas picked it up, placed the rim of the smooth foam on his upper lip and smelled the cheap Colombian mixture. He sat down in a stained green loveseat that was straight out of the 70’s and let the pointed springs poke his denim-covered thighs and ass and laid back into the stain of many locksmiths before him.

Again, he smelled the coffee, listening to the dripping and dropping of the shower heads, waiting for it to cool enough so as to not burn his mouth, but so that he could feel the heat inch down his esophagus. Several minutes passed and he dipped his pinkie into the rejuvenating serum. Just like the final porridge, it was just right. He smelled it one last time and lifted the cup to his mouth, tipping it back and swallowing the almost burning drink.

He pulled his flip-phone from his pocket and opened it. The time was 2:22 AM, and he had no messages. It was late but, with no family to be pulled from, Jonas didn’t mind coming out here at this time of night. Outside, he watched the flickering bulbs of streetlamps hanging overhead, creating a stream of light around the sidewalks that led him from the building to his tow truck and to the semi’s that he was equipped to unlock. With a second and last deep breath, he tipped the remaining contents of the cup into his mouth and put the cup under the nozzle of the coffee machine, adding another quarter.

Jonas pushed himself up from the dated loveseat with a grunt and his hands pushing from his thighs for support. He got up and stretched his arms into the air as high as he could, then bent down to touch his toes, then rocked left to right to stretch his core. He pushed the door open as the stream of coffee started pouring back into the cup. The cold breeze touched his face, his warmed body welcoming the change in temperature. He took in a deep breath, smelling the dew turn to frost on the unkempt grass growing along the sidewalks and buildings outskirts.

The seventh truck in line, the one that he had just unlocked, was unmoved. Jonas walked closer, examining the six trucks before and nothing caught his attention. He was almost done for the night and he had already finished the hardest part of this job. A semi blew by the stop, driving up the highway at 70-something miles per hour, but there were no other cars in sight.

He went back to his tow truck for the small red toolbox and carried it back to the seventh semi. Walking back to the truck, he thought about the cheap coffee waiting for him inside and hurried along, his walk turning to a trot. At the door to the seventh semi, he put down the toolbox and opened it, pulling out some jumper cables and a rubber mallet.

Quickly, quietly and carefully, he gripped the handle to the door and yanked it, the squeaking sound of a truck with well over 500,000 miles pierced his ears. He pulled himself up to the cabin and closed the door behind him gently. The door didn’t close completely, but it was closed enough so that a good gust of wind wouldn’t move it and cause noise, and so that no cool air would disturb the task at hand.

The cabin was dirty, but neat. The faux-leather seat was worn and rubbing off at many places. A stereotypical hula girl bobblehead wiggled slightly on the dashboard with the movement that he was causing. The odometer was at 673,993 miles and a minifridge, surely full of lunch meats, soda and beer (as so many of the independent truckers drove with,) was whirring its engine inside to keep everything cool. The microwave on top of it was black with wooden accents, and the smell of splattered foods flooded Jonas’ nose, making him crave the scent of the sweet coffee waiting for him.

There were two beds, organized one over the other towards the back of the cabin. The top one was used as storage for memento’s, such as a birthday card signed by the trucker’s daughter, a brownish orange stuffed fox and a collection of family photos. Jonas was surprised by the overwhelming beauty of the trucker’s wife, as most of the wives are sexy enough to be bridge trolls and only marry truckers because no one else will take them. He picked up a framed picture from the top bunk and pulled it close to his eyes to see better in the moonlight. Rubbing his thumb against the woman, imagining that he pushed her hair back, he fantasized about having a family with her and if he was the one with a young daughter at home, but then he shook the thoughts away, afraid to get caught up in the make-believe like he so often does when he’s doing his job.

He set the framed picture back down and his attention came to the bottom bed, which was inhabited by a snoring 40-something year-old man who was sleeping in Star Wars pajamas and a white blanket. The man snored, held it for eight seconds, then let it out, this time waiting only four seconds before he repeated the imperfect cycle. Jonas stared at the man’s balding head and kneeled down in front of him. The back of his hand rubbed his smooth head, and he savored every instance of touch that was gifted to him by himself. He ran his hands down the man’s face, pausing slightly when he stopped snoring, but continued when the snoring started again.

His skin was soft, and it reminded him of his childhood, when his parents were around to give him the cozy life that he wanted, but then those thoughts were replaced by what he had come here to do. He took the jumper cables and wrapped them around his hands as tightly as he could and held them above the man’s throat. He waited for the man to let out his last snore, and then forced the cables into his Adam’s apple. The man’s eyes shot open with bloodshot tiredness and fear in them, and he gripped for the cords, desperately pulling them back from his throat but to no avail, leaving deep cuts from his fingernails where he tried to rip them away.

The man reached for Jonas, but he was carefully positioned right outside of his reach, watching as his bloodshot eyes widened with the knowledge that tunnel vision was taking hold. Trying to lash out as hard as he could, the man reached for Jonas’s neck, almost getting hold, but Jonas was able to react fast enough and force him back into his small bed.

Defeatedly and weakly, the man reached his hands up and searched the upper bed for the picture of his family. He grabbed it with wobbly and unsteady fingers, and held it close to his face, moving it back and forth, obviously trying to focus in on the image of his beautiful family. Jonas knew the deed was done when the man dropped the picture onto his chest and it slid to the floor, breaking the glass covering his family.

He waited another thirty seconds, but then pulled back form the man whose eyes looked like they were about to pop from his head. Jonas reached down and got the picture from the frame and slid it into his chest pocket. He opened the door that he had come through and took a step out, taking one look back to see his handywork, and then, picking up his toolbox, walked back into the bitter cold, thinking only of the coffee that was waiting for him inside. He walked by the other six semis’, smiling at the thought of how productive this stop had been. He dropped the toolbox back off at his truck, happy that he didn’t need to use the mallet here and walked back inside to the uncomfortable green loveseat that he had been in before.

Jonas lifted the coffee cup to his upper lip and smelled the serum, then dipped his pinkie in to test the temperature. When he decided that it was cool enough, he took a sip and felt the burning inch down his throat, vanish behind the picture of the recently deceased trucker and his family, and drop into his stomach.

I Love Lamp

Art can come from the most unlikely of places, and from the most unlikely of people.

Scott McLampshade
Photo by Dmitry Zvolskiy on Pexels.com

At the thrift store, Marie got an old lamp with a vintage gold finish. The lampshade was mostly purple and beige, with large roses of red and white scattered throughout. Green stems stretched around in every direction, giving the entire thing the look of flowers and ivy growing up the side of an old brick building. In the 60’s, the lamp would have been beautiful to all who saw it, but today it looked like the wallpaper in a house that had been condemned with asbestos, mold and bad structural damage.

She stopped at a fabric supply store on the way home and grabbed styrene, glue and some new scissors with a sharp blade, and drove home giddy with excitement. The last time she treated herself to anything was years ago before she graduated from high school. She chose not to go to college and instead worked in the deli of a local grocer, learning about different types of meats and cuts.

While at the deli, Marie used her off time to figure out what she was really passionate about. In school, she tried cheerleading but was too small to be a spotter and was too scared of being dropped to be a flyer, so she quit after a few practices. She liked her art classes, but she hated everything she made, throwing it away immediately. One of the last activities that she tried to find passion in was reading, but she had a hard time focusing on the letters because they always seemed to move or be organized in nonsensical ways.

After years of feeling lost, she finally found her hobby when an annoying customer came into the Deli and screamed at her. The customer was upset with the cut of the meat that he got, insisting that it was shaved and not sliced, even though she remembered slicing it for her. She even brought a slice of meat to the customer after cutting a piece off and the customer said it was good. The way he lost his mind, screaming for no reason, made her retract to her happy place which was in elementary school, doing arts and crafts.

The second she finished work, she went to get the lamp, knowing that it would take her mind away from her bad day at work. The woman behind the counter at the fabric supply store even told her how to properly take a drum shade from its wire frame and add a new one with different fabric. She helped measure the frame as well because that can be a bit tricky with a drum shade and offered to help measure and cut the new fabric, but Marie left it in her car and politely declined.

Marie got in her car and drove home with all of the new supplies that she purchased. She went inside quickly, carrying her new supplies and material, and cut the old fabric away from the lamp. The wire frame was thin and bent a little as she was pulling some of the fabric away, but she bent it back into place without affecting the integrity of the structure. She measured the exact dimensions that she needed from new material and laid it on the kitchen table that she was using as a work bench.

She flipped the material over and wiped it with a damp washcloth, then scraped away any of the impurities that remained. Once the surface was completely dried, she added the styrene to the center, leaving about half an inch of the material on the bottom and top, trimmed the material to be aligned with the styrene on the right side, and left extra hanging over the left.

Reaching into the bag from the supply store, she grabbed the brand-new bottle of glue from the bottom and opened it, applying a thin layer to the left side of new material. She walked to a drawer in her kitchen and pulled out a little clip that she puts around important bills and then wrapped the lamp shade into a cylindrical shape, clamping the left and right ends together.

The wire frame from the old lamp was an imperfect circle, but Marie placed it into the top of the cylinder and shaped it as well as she could, wrapped the top end of the material over it, tucking it under the frame and gluing it in place. She then took another smaller wire and placed it in the bottom of the lamp, doing the same thing that she had just done to the top.

With the most care that she gently lowered the undried new lamp shade on the body of the lamp, and it hung delicately over the bulb. She took it to the desk next to her reading chair and plugged it in. The bulb flickered on, then held its shine, lighting up the entire room with a reddish-pink glow that made the boring white walls look like the setting sun. She sat in her chair and picked up the book that was sitting next to her and opened to the most recent page that she had read.

The light turned the yellowed pages a strange orange that felt soothing to her eyes as she read about proper sewing technique, machines and designs that ranged from Betsy Ross’s American Flag to Coco Chanel’s first pieces of clothing. The designs inspired her to improve her skills, but she was still proud of her work. The lamp next to her was still shining it’s reddish hue and brought a smile to her face.

Marie set her book down on the arm of the chair and walked to the kitchen to the small sewing kit in the corner of her room and pulled out a black thread and needle. She unplugged the lamp and set it in her lamp as she sewed her name into the new lampshade so that none of her future guests would ever question if it was hers or someone else’s. Gently, in a cursive writing style, she stitched in “Marie Gein.”

She looked to the kitchen table at the leftover materials that hung over one of the chairs that were around it. It was beautiful, covered in unique patterns and colors that Marie never expected to get her hands on. She stood up and walked up, sitting in the chair next to the material, staring at the hole that was left from her cutting some out for the lampshade and smiled.

Inside the hole was a collection of organs, from kidney’s the heart. She left the entire body of the man from the deli intact, except for the skin she took from his stomach and the wound in his neck that was so deep that it almost decapitated him. His skin had tattoos all over and he was an unpleasant entity in the world, so when Marie thought about what her hobby could be, she knew at that second; she’d take undesirables out of the world and turn them into something that people could be proud of, such as art or a waterproof cover for her book.

The man screamed at her for no reason, and that was enough for her to make his the next in her growing line of human art. His head would join the other six that were mounted on her wall, the rest of his skin would be turned into either part of a sofa or a sheet for her bed and his organs would be thrown into a meat grinder at work and sold to the undesirables that she couldn’t get to after her shift.

With a smile, she dismantled the body, inch by inch, finger by finger, and stored it away to repurpose it. She decided to make the skin a bedsheet, put the organs in a lunch box to bring to work tomorrow and used the bones as the beginnings of a throne that she planned to build for herself and victims. Recently, she got a polaroid camera and knew that she could turn her house into an art gallery, featuring the dead sitting on a throne of bones, showing that humans can only survive from the atrocities of those that came before.

Picture after picture, Marie waved them clear, nailing them to her wall, thinking of how the world would see her and envy her when she was ready to show them her magnum opus. She would sell tickets to her home and allow anyone who came by to admire her work. Still smiling, Marie took off all of her clothes and sat back in her reading chair, also made from the rough, leathery feel of old skin, and laughed to herself as she rubbed her clitoris with one of the deceased customer’s fingers.