Entry # 10

Taking a Trip
Jessica Wagner

I drove for a long while, humming cheerfully to drown out the sound of her screaming. When that didn’t work, I turned on the stereo, allowing crackly, static-filled country to fill the cramped interior of the little sedan. I nodded in approval as some woman began belting out a heart-felt, anguish-filled song about betrayal and love. It wasn’t usually my thing—I’m an easygoing guy—but it was painfully appropriate.

“Please, Tom, I can explain!”

I cranked up the volume louder, continuing to hum, and downshifted as I crested over a hill to greet the panorama of colors smeared across the sky—a New Mexico sunset in all its glory, providing a backdrop along with the mountains and rabbit-brush spattered hills for me. There were no other cars driving along the road for as far as I could see—that was the true beauty of the Land of Enchantment. Even living in a country along with over three-hundred million people, you could still find ways to be utterly alone.

“It wasn’t my idea! You know how my mother is, Tom!”

My jaw twitched a little, but I smoothed a smile back on my face as I caught sight of the turnoff. I turned onto a dirt road, and I heard little thuds in the back of my trunk as I eased the car over a cattle guard.


I reached over to steady the bloody little bundle, wrapped lovingly in a fuzzy blue blanket and resting next to me in the passenger’s seat. I briefly recalled the many times that Judie had sat here alongside me during road trips, flashing pearly whites as she laughed at one of our privately shared jokes, the wind whipping her blond hair so that it streamed out behind her, her green eyes sparkling in the sunshine. I put that thought carefully away, and braked as one of the many cows that grazed in the pastures alongside the road decided to cross not three feet from my bumper.

“Please, try to understand! She would have taken all my money away! I would have never done it otherwise!”

I waved at a rancher and one of his hands who were riding herd on their cattle, looking as at home in the saddle as I felt holding the chainsaw currently resting across the back seat. It had been a long time since I’d last ridden a horse—as a woodworker I’d never really had much of a need for them. But I felt a sudden yearning to be in the saddle again—perhaps I would ask the rancher if he needed an extra helper when I was done here.

I continued on, until the pastures were well out of sight and tall pines started flying past the windows, and then eased my car off to the side of the road. I shifted into neutral, pulled the parking brake into place, and reluctantly killed the engine. The music stopped instantly, and Judie’s loud, hiccupping sobs filled the air instead, drowning out the subtle symphony of the forest. I couldn’t help the twinge of annoyance I felt; I liked listening to the chirping of birds, the rustle of squirrels in the trees, watching the occasional rabbit scamper by. Why did she have to ruin it with her caterwauling?

Oh well, there would be time enough for him to sit back and enjoy nature’s symphony. Plenty of time.

I reached down to pop the lever for the trunk, then grabbed the chainsaw and opened the door. I left the bloody bundle inside as I walked around and lifted the trunk door to see her looking up at me, sooty streaks of mascara running down her blanched cheeks, hair rumpled in a way that just yesterday I would have found delightful. She was dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, both stained with blood, her wrists and ankles bound with twine.

“Tom, please, you have to believe that this wasn't my fault! I love you!!!”

I briefly wondered why I hadn’t gagged her—it would have made the trip much more pleasant. I sighed and rested the chainsaw on the ground as I lifted her into my arms and cradled her against my chest, for the last time.

“I did too—until I found our child in the dumpster this morning.”


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