(First published in Oxford Magazine, Vol. 17, 2003)

LATE EDITION

by Dixon Hearne

Huntington Beach CA

She was no use to him anymore. Grown haggard and hollow, her youth used up raising six red-haired youngens’ spread across the better part of eighteen years. She had nothing left to offer, like a worn out sow ready for slaughter. Twenty years of marriage had come to this, and now he wanted something else. Had something else actually, for some time, no secret about that.  Name was Rhonda Slote – and half his age. High haired, low bred. Wore nothing but flesh-stretched denim and nails the length of bear claws. Eyes double-dipped like a painter’s palette. Hussy faced. Feet overflowing cheap heels with barely enough leather lace to circumscribe her ankles. Nothing like the sensible dress and modest ways his wife had taken on. But high-hair made him happy, in a sinful sort of way.

Yes.  He’d leave his wife the very next day. Walk right through that door and out of her life.  He deserved a new life and he would have it. Only a hundred miles to the Texas border and freedom. A doublewide waiting for them when they arrived, compliments of Rhonda’s ex – and the People’s Court. There was work, too.  Building boom all over the state. He had his license and customers eager to give him good report.  Not one who would blame him for setting sail. On the contrary, some would love to join him, but lacked the gumption.

Tomorrow arrived.  Rising early was never habit; it was a trait, sure as his blue eyes.  A thermos of chicory – black – and half a pack of cigarettes got him as far as Rhonda’s mama’s, where he saddled the pick-up like a pack mule. Her stuff mostly. And then they were off. Nothing left behind but a loveless note on the dresser where his wife would find it that evening – six sharp.

Open highway stretched before them like a freedom road.  Even George Strait thought them wise.  Said so right there on the radio: “…Sometimes two people just don’t get along.  And it’s time to hit the road.” Hugged up and heady with plans, they chased a wayward cloud to state line, whereupon they celebrated the crossing with a couple of long necks. Texas at last!

Lost in the moment, neither had noticed the red lights in the mirror. And when the Rangers finally had them corralled, Miss Rhonda proceeded to flirt shamelessly with the tall one. The other officer disappeared. Moments later, he reappeared and asked them both to step out of the car. In a heartbeat, he had the woman manacled. Read her rights, she was dragged off kicking and cussing. The other officer was left the hateful job of explaining to the man three outstanding warrants – fraud, extortion, and bigamy. And with that, they were gone.

Devastated, alone, he faced the humbling pang of deceitful truth – and hollow love. And what becomes of such a fool? If he hurried, he might be able to reach the note before his wife did.

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