I'd had a shitload too much coffee, that was the problem. I'd been driving pretty much nonstop, but I'd stopped for a large black coffee at a Dunkin' Donuts outside Santa Fe. I was on schedule to deliver my load to a warehouse in Albuquerque, but then my guts started to seize up. I figured I'd have about ten minutes before I'd have to pull to the side of the road and drop my britches, but Hallelujah, I saw the green and red lights in the distance. I thought it might be a convenience store, and as I approached, lo and behold, it was.
The parking lot was empty, which was not surprising seeing as how it was three in the morning. It was summer, but the temperature was down to the low sixties now and dropping like a rock. Even with the light coming from the convenience store, you could see thousands of stars in the desert night.
I stepped up to the counter, where a tall, skinny kid about twenty-five years old with a goatee and red, watery eyes was trying to stay awake. He grinned. "Did you see the big meteor?"
"No," I said impatiently.
"I was outside, having a smoke, and I saw it—it was purple and looked like it landed not too far away."
I wondered what he'd been smoking, seeing the purple meteors and all, but then again, if there'd been a meteor, I probably would've missed it, since my bleary eyes had been glued to the road.
"Could I get a pack of Marlboros?" I asked. "And while you're lookin', you got a restroom?"
"Could I use it?"
The boy was a little slow on the uptake, confirming my suspicion he'd been smoking something other than tobacco and it was more than tiredness that was making his eyes red.
"Where is it?"
"Out back. But it's locked."
"Could you give me the—" I started to ask and then stopped and said, "Give me the keys—will you?"
"Out back," he said, and handed me a set of keys mounted on a wooden stick shaped like a cactus. "Just take a right outside the door, then another right."
I unlocked the men's room and found it to be pretty standard—two toilet stalls right next to each other, a urinal, and a sink. I went into the rear stall and closed the door. I hung my jacket on the little hook on the door. As I was dropping my britches, I pulled my snub-nosed .38 out of the back of my pants and tucked it into the pocket of my jacket. Rather than have it fall in the bowl and get water-logged, which happens more often than you might think.
After a minute or two, I heard the door open—slam open, really, and bang against the wall. Truth be told, it kind of gave me a start. The door to my stall rattled hard, and I said, "This one's taken, buddy. Try the other one."
And then the other door flew open so hard I thought it would pull both stalls over. Then there was a grunt, a heavy torso plopping down, and the splashing of water. No, not splashing, really. Lapping. Like a dog drinking out of the toilet. What the hell?
I was very tempted to say something but figured any guy drinking out of the toilet probably couldn't be reasoned with. I was glad I was packing. It just goes to show, you should always carry a gun, even when you go to the bathroom. I took the pistol out of the pocket of my jacket and undid the safety.
The toilet paper roll on the other side of the wall started spinning. And spinning. And spinning—kind of like a rat in one of those exercise wheels—till I could see a whole pile of it on the floor. I've seen guys do that before and never understood it. Why do you need that much toilet paper? Are you trying to plug up a hole, or just fuck up the plumbing? Another groan, or a sound like a wounded animal, and the whole pile of toilet paper was taken up.
"Jesus! Are you okay over there, buddy?" I asked, almost afraid to deal with this guy at all. There was no answer but a grunt and a snort.
Then the next stall's door swung open and slammed shut. Then I heard the rattle of the paper towel dispenser, and then the sound of it being ripped from the wall, the wadding of paper, followed by more whimpering, then the water running, and what could have been a groan of relief. Then the door to the restroom being swung open and slammed shut.
I waited a good thirty seconds before opening the door to my stall. Very carefully, leading with my gun, I eased the door open and looked around. It was now dead silent in the bathroom. I saw a trail of blood and, on opening the door a little farther, saw that it led from the other stall to the sink. I stepped out watchfully and saw that there was a pile of wet, bloody paper towels on the floor next to the dispenser, and even more bloody sheets in the sink, where the faucet was still running. I moved to the restroom door and inched it open. I couldn't see anything, except more blood, so I went outside.
I followed a trail of red goo leading from the door to the bathroom, around the back of the convenience store, and into the desert.
A white pick-up truck in need of a new muffler came roaring down the road and skidded into the parking lot. There were two guys in front and two guys in the back, and they all jumped out at once, hooting and hollering. They were all carrying shotguns. I slid my .38 into the back of my pants. I figured I didn't need to show anybody I had it until I really needed it.
"Hey, did you see something weird come by here?" one of them asked. I could smell whiskey on his breath, or at least coming from somewhere.
"What do you mean weird?" I asked.
"What do I mean weird? Something unusual. We were out hunting, and I swear to God we saw something about seven feet tall with a big, pointed head squatting down next to a coyote and it was feasting on it like it was Thanksgiving dinner. We shot at it. I think I hit it, but it moved off into the desert, heading this way." He paused and stared at me for a few moments. Exasperated, he asked, "Have you seen anyone or anything fitting that description, pardner?"
"Can't say as I have," I said. After all, that was the truth. I hadn't seen him.
They hopped back into their pick-up and drove farther down the road. A couple of minutes later, I saw it. A purple meteor. Only it wasn't heading toward earth—it was heading up into the sky. I only hoped it was my friend from the next stall finding somewhere safe to go.
About the Author
Rob Dinsmoor, a frequent contributor to Lowestoft Chronicle, has published three memoirs: Tales of the Troupe, The Yoga Divas and Other Stories, and You Can Leave Anytime. His short story collection, Toxic Cookout, will be published by Big Table Publishing in Autumn.