Fate’s Red Nails
Fate’s nails were red. At first, she’d tease them across your skin, but inevitably, those ruby blades always sliced to the bone. That was how she kept them red.
Ricardo’s mother told him this the moment she deemed him a man. “Watch out for that temptress,” she said.
Ricardo always listened to his mother.
Yet, he pulled over on the rural road. Parked in a freshly mowed field was a truck the same blood color as Fate’s nails. It could have been the truck of his dreams had he dared have such dreams. A “For Sale” sign propped against its windshield. Before he knew it, his hands were gliding across its buffed hood, then shielding his eyes as he peeked in the windows.
“Beauty, ain’t she?” said a man in an unbuttoned suit jacket and overalls.
Ricardo shrugged. “It’s alright.”
“’Twas my grandpa’s, and he don’t need her no more, so she needs a good home.”
Ricardo gulped. He could be that good home. His car ran fine, but this truck was water in the desert—something he hadn’t known he needed tied up with a red bow and delivered by Fate.
As he peeked at the price written in the sign’s margin, Ricardo gripped the cashier’s check in his pocket. Who needed a vacation when he could have the truck of his non-existent dreams?
“Dios en los cielos, bring me not into temptation,” Ricardo prayed. Silly to tell God that God was in heaven, but his mother always said it that way.
He released the check and pulled out an inhaler.
“Asthma?” Overalls asked.
“It’s preventative.” Two puffs through the hollow plastic mouthpiece punctuated his reply.
Overalls leaned over the hood. “This beauty could be called preventative, too. She’ll be whatever you need, guaranteed.”
Ricardo didn’t need a truck, but somehow, he signed paperwork and handed over his vacation money. He pulled onto the highway in the Fate’s vehicle, windows down, wind singing through his hair, and radio blaring. She had given him a gift. He should have known the backswing was coming.
The truck waited in the parking lot while he worked. Clouds covered the sun and poured their wealth onto the sizzling blacktop when he emerged from the office building, shoulders slumped and head drooping as low as his loosened tie.
He climbed into the truck, not noticing how he dripped on the pristine upholstery. “Dios de mi madre, what am I going to do?” His arms and face collapsed over the steering wheel. “I need someone to talk to.”
The truck shuddered, shrank, and folded until he sat on the cement in the pouring rain. A dog with fiery fur rested her head on his knee.
Ricardo looked around. “A-are you a shapeshifting robot? A guardian angel?” He lowered his voice. “A devil?”
The dog stared, understanding in her round, golden eyes. Just like headlights.
He patted her head. “W-what would happen if I said I needed someone who could explain a few things?”
The Red Truck
The abandoned, red truck that appeared during the night is still standing at the side of the road when the police car arrives. The two men get out of the car and inspect the truck from afar. On the side of the truck, the word ‘FATE’ is written, but the paint is smeared as if the truck was driven through water while the paint was still wet.
The two officers walk closer to inspect the cab of the truck. The wind is howling around the sides of the vehicle and a soft creaking is produced.
One of the officers opens the driver’s door and glances inside. As should be expected, the inside of the truck looks rather normal. Then, the officer notices something strange. Is that an asthma inhaler? He reaches out and grabs the object from where it was lying on the passenger seat. The officer closes the door again and strolls over to the front of the vehicle to inspect the licence plate.
“Where do you think it comes from?” He asks while straightening up from the plate.
“I don’t know, but I have a strange feeling about it.” The other one answers.
“It comes from outer space!” A villager yells from behind the do-not-cross line. “It came to kill us all!”
Both police officers turn and frown at the man who succeeded in arousing the whole crowd.
“Calm down, calm down! It is a normal truck that someone drove and left here. Nothing to be worried about.” The man at the licence plate assures them.
The villagers do not heed him and start to yell out strange theories.
“Let's see what is in the back.” One officer suggests.
The other man agrees and they walk to the truck’s rear.
When they reach the large double-door, both officers reach to open it. A sound stops them from opening the door, and they look at each other.
“Something is in here.” The one police man states with wide eyes.
The other officer nods and pulls out his gun. Stepping back, he points his weapon at the door. He then nods at the other officer who grabs the door's handles and opens the door.
The two doors swing open and silence follows as everyone stares into the darkness of the truck's interior. Suddenly, something moves again and the truck creaks as if the thing is very heavy. Not waiting another moment, the man at the door jumps back, takes out his gun and joins the other officer.
The creature inside the truck steps into the light and all of the people outside gasp. It climbs out of the truck and light now confirms to everyone what it is. But can it really be? The creature spreads out its large wings and roars loudly. Instantly, chaos breaks out and the villagers start running in all directions. The two officers run and hide behind the police car.
“Isn’t that a... dragon?” One asks when they reach their desitnation.
“Yes, I think so.”
Gayla rubbed ashes from her eyes after pulling her parachute into a heap behind her. She knew her crew was landing around her, armed with explosives, shovels, axes and a couple of foam fire extinguishers, they would try and contain the spot fire which had jumped the logging road. Prime stands of old forest growth were on the line and the wildfire didn’t care about judicious culling.
“Shit boss, I’m out.” Wes wheezed, a coughing spasm bending him double. “I lost my asthma inhaler.”
“Gord, Kim, take his equipment.” While Gayla called for medivac to pick up Wes, her team distributed the gear between them.
“I’ll stay with Wes and make sure he gets out.”
“The rusted out red truck is down the road. We should be able to put this little bugger out while you do that,” Kim said.
“Yeah, we have a water source, and the winds aren’t bad,” Gord added. “I’m glad that relic is there, makes a good landmark.”
“Fate has been good so far, don’t tempt it.” Gayla put a way point on the radio GPS so they could find the parachutes later. “Make sure you don’t start another one when you set off the C4.”
“No worries boss,” Kim said as they settled their packs.
“Good luck,” Wes said, after he quit coughing.
“Get it done,” Gayla said as Kim and Gord walked toward the logging road at the top of the hill.
Running my fingers up and down my spikey unshaved legs made me question the past twenty-four hours. I haven’t seen hair on these legs in fifty-two years. I found myself staring at the flickering dull lamp in the musty motel room he told me to go to. My eyes welled.
Was this worth it? My God, I was over sixty. I reached for my inhaler on the bedside table and took a puff. Breathing out slowly, I watched as the vaporized medicine left my lungs. My mind began to wonder. Who took Justin? That bright red truck still burned the core of my retinas. I reached for the remote to distract myself. Slowly stroking the rubber buttons, I could feel a tears forming in the corner of my left eye and I refused to acknowledge them. I needed to go home. Justin told me fate had brought us together, but I’m beginning to think that was just the wind and booze talking.
Clicking the through the channels, I stumbled upon a cooking competition. I pushed back into the bedpost and straighten my posture. I liked cooking, actually, I loved cooking. Ramming the volume button up three times, I soaked in the voices.
“You’ll want to make sure that you don’t over beat your mixture, too many bubbles could be a disaster.”
My fingers wrapped around the remote harder. Bubbles? Bubbles in flour. Bubbles in cooking. Bubbles. Bubbles are nice in hot water. My eyes moved to the bathroom door. The bathtub in this motel is sure to be rather decrepit, but I was willing to dabble.
I moved slow. Slow felt good, it felt controlled. Peeking my head around the bathroom door, I spotted a sparkling white acrylic bathtub. I don’t know if it was the moment, my disarray or just the purity of something familiar, but it was perfect. Twisting the handle to hot, I moved to quickly plug the tub up. My mind floated away as the waves gushed from side to side. My peripheral caught a soap dispenser on the wall, perfect.
Walking back into the main room, I immediately spotted the lamp. Reaching for it, I noticed it was bolted into the dresser, but at this rate, I could care less. Focusing hard, I forcefully picked up my right leg and slammed it off, pausing. Seeing it lie there lifeless on the floor made me giddy. With no remorse, I picked it up and brought it into the bathroom. The base was wide and heavy plaster. Lifting my arms high, I smashed it hard against the soap dispenser, shattering it and causing the dispenser to break open. A smirk formed. There it was. A clear, full, soap bag. I ripped it off the wall, accidentally squirting some on the floor peaking my adrenaline. My triceps tweaked as I gripped and squeezed the whole bag into the tub. Ah, and there they were, bubbles. Sufficient, complete, glistening, soapy, clear, water bubbles.