Today’s short story comes to us from guest author Thomas DeJosia.
Thomas is a poet, fiction writer, and filmmaker from Long Island, New York. He graduated from The New School in Manhattan with a B.A. in creative writing as a Riggio Honors Fellow. He is also a graduate of The New York Film Academy. His poetry chapbook, REEL LIFE (Silenced Press, 2009), was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Tim Rhodes veered off an exit somewhere in Virginia on his way to Charlotte, North
Carolina. He was to meet his boss, the Level II Radiographic Technician, for work early the next day. The rain had followed Tim for over eight hours, starting on the Jersey Turnpike right down through the Maryland/Virginia border with no sign of breakage in the clouds. He was lost. Tim parked his car and entered a local dingy market. Two Indian men were mid conversation. They paused as the yankee approached.
“Excuse me. How do I get back onto I-95 South,” asked Tim.
The Indian man with the mole on his chin perked up and spoke with a strong accent, “Follow da rrrroad dattaway and make a rrrright at de light and merge ondo I-95.”
“It’s blocked off. My GPS keeps directing me that way. The gate is obstructing the entrance ramp,” said Tim.
“My apologeeze, but dat is de only way I know.”
He was not much help. The younger Indian man began speaking in his native tongue to the Indian man with the mole on his chin. Tim glanced outside as the gray clouds grew darker.
The rain fell harder. This was his first time traveling out of state alone. There was no one he knew for hundreds of miles. Things down south were much different than the north. He felt out of place.
In the back of the market there was a man with his back turned to Tim. He opened the glass door and reached up. The man pulled out a carton of milk from the refrigerator. He wore faded jeans and sported an oversized plaid dark blue shirt. He walked with a limp and his head dipped low. The man made his way to the counter. He smelled like old tobacco. The man’s graying sideburns were stubbly. He dropped the milk carton onto the counter. Tim approached the man.
“Sir… I’m trying to get back onto I-95…” Before Tim could finish his sentence, the man turned to Tim revealing an old and decrepit glass eye which must have been the result of some accident with a pellet gun or a sling shot when he was just a boy. Tim glanced away. He then looked back at the natural eye which stared Tim down. A Latin phrase: Deo Vindice was engraved on the man’s left hand in faded script. His ancestors were affiliates of the confederacy.
There was a raw eeriness about the man. It was just a hunch, but Tim suspected that the man had a history with the law. Tim continued, “The gates are blocking off the entrance.” The man stood silent staring the yankee up and down. “I wouldn’t pass those gates if I were you, unless you want to get into a heap of trouble,” said the man. The glass eye was stuck in the other direction, away from Tim. The man’s southern accent was distinct like Tennessee Whiskey. There was friction. As subtle and non obstructive as it may have seemed to the naked eye, the man had planned for an occasion like this.
Deep in the woods of Fairfax Virginia, 1967, stood a clan member holding a torch.
Jefferson Rose pulled a white cloak over his face. Dark scowling eyes darted back and forth.
There were several members of the clan all dressed in uniform. Of those members, two were teenagers. Jefferson looked up at an oak tree where a man’s naked body swayed back and forth.
The noose was taut and the neck broken. Jefferson turned to his clan and shouted, “Ya see this here? This is the work of the devil! Ain’t got no time for the devil’s games. Ya come into our parts of the country with a mission to be a somebody, yer fixin’ to get saved.” A cheer echoed into the deep black night. The wilderness stretched for miles. The younger of the teenage boys ran up to Jefferson Rose and looked up at the dead man’s dangling body. It was his first sacrifice. Jefferson Rose tilted his head down at the young teen, “Ain’t it a sight to see? This is mere flesh of an unworthy soul, son. He was just a cold wounded animal starvin’ for death. We are saviors. Remember this night. It will last a lifetime.” The teenage boy took one final glance up, the body rotated on the noose, revealing cold dead eyes — blood drooling from the mouth.
The man inched closer to Tim , “Where ya from, son? Don’t look like yer from ‘round these parts.” A hesitation which felt like a thousand centuries loomed over Tim’s vocal chords.
He attempted to hold back a reply, but to no avail.
“A Northerner… What in god’s name brings you to Fairfax?”
“Directions out of here…”
“Why don’t you stay a while? I can introduce ya to some people who’d get a kick at meeting a real yankee,” said the man as he approached Tim. The man spoke in a soft tone, “We can go huntin’. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
The man reached into his back pocket with his left hand. Tim withdrew from the conversation. Could it be that the man would brandish a gun in broad daylight? Tim wasn’t about to find out. He dashed out of the market and ran to his car, putting it in reverse. He caught eyes with the man, noticing his lips move in what seemed to say, “Wait…” Tim blew a red light and turned left. Just like that, Tim was gone…
The man’s left hand was still in his back pocket as he watched Tim’s car speed away.
Taking a moment to himself, the man released his hand from the pocket and pulled out a folded map. “Welcome to Fairfax,” he said as he limped back over to the counter where the Indian man with the mole on his chin was bagging the carton of milk.