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March '05  

news: Hobart #4 available now!

Family Values
by Erik Olsen

by Hilarie Shanley

by Nicholas Grider

You Don't Listen Anymore
by David Henry Fears

by Todd Robert Petersen

by Nathan Leslie

photo by Todd Robert Petersen

Me and Marty had been driving five hours through the throat of Texas by then. The sun dove down about hundred miles back, and the stars looked like someone pistoled them into a bar mirror. I could tell by the clarity of the sky that nothing ever recovers itself.

Back in Nevada, Marty told me that his old lady used to kick hell out of the dog when he was gone on drill weekends. I asked him how he knew it. He just shook his head and told me it was a damn shame to have your devotion split between a dog and a wife.

He had a Glock stuffed down the front of his pants and had been asleep on-and-off since we left Tucumcari. I kept telling him to lose the German weapons and buy American, but he liked the engineering, said those Jerries know how to weight a handgun.

“Besides, they’re Austrian,” he said.

“It’s a cop gun,” I said, but he just smiled, showing me his rotten little teeth.

Once we got out of Dallas I told him to wake up, but he rolled over and turned toward the window instead. “What are you gonna do when that Kraut gun shoots a hole in your nuts, Marty?” I asked him.

He gave me the finger. His hands were so white it made me sick. It was like he buried them in the ground and left them for a month. He was always paring the nails with a Buck knife, buffing them out on his jeans. It was putrid.

“I’m hungry,” he finally said, still pretending to be kind of asleep. I could see his breath fanning out onto the window, so I knew he wasn’t a zombie.

“Look around, bud, we ain’t exactly anywhere convenient,” I told him.

“Nothing’s ever convenient,” he said. “When we get somewhere, pull over. I gotta drain.”

“No time like the present,” I said, then swung the car over onto the shoulder and put out the lights.

“Dammit, Foley,” he said.

I told him that a piss was all he was gonna get right then, so he might want to hop to it.

“You gonna leave the car running?” he asked.

I told him that it’s tough on the engine to turn it off and on like that, especially when you’ve been driving it hard. He nodded like he already knew it, then he tugged the Glock out of his pants and set it on the dash.

While he was climbing down for his piss, I checked the radio and couldn’t pull in anything but some revival preacher squawking about the Pentecost, so I switched it off and grabbed the Glock. He was right. They do balance out pretty good in your hand. I got out of my side with the gun, stood up, and cracked my back. It felt good to stretch. We’d been four days on the road altogether, and I was sick of it. The air had the smell of feedlot to it, and the Milky Way was spilled out overhead thick as paint. Marty was smoking. The orange tip of his cigarette rose and fell in the darkness when he turned his head.

“Mormons ain’t supposed to smoke, are they?” I asked, razzing him.

“Ain’t supposed to steal cars or take up with whores neither,” he said then shook himself off. I agreed and told him it didn’t stop Butch Cassidy, so why the hell not him too. Then I released the clip, checked it, and slipped it back into position. Marty spun around when he heard the slide snap.

“Quit dicking with my piece,” he said.

The gun kicked before I knew I’d even fired it. His silhouette burned into the powder flash as his body hit and slid down the gravel. I got in the car without looking back and pulled onto the road, even though my ears were still ringing and my eyes couldn’t focus. He’dve turned on me, I know it. Gospel don’t leave a man once it’s took hold. His conscience would’ve brought us both down. No two ways about it. Doesn’t matter how smart you get.

Those are the facts, and facts lose sway when people have been saved.

Todd Robert Petersen teaches creative writing and visual culture at Southern Utah University. His work has been published in Cream City Review, Third Coast, Mid-American Review, Wisconsin Review, Weber Studies, and elsewhere. He has just finished a novel and is working on a treatment for a screenplay that's sort of "DAWN OF THE DEAD meets E.R.".