The Fortune – Writersdigest.com prompt

“I know, Jillian, goddamn it, I know.”

“It was making that clickity-clockity sound all week and I said you needed to take her in, didn’t it? I told you we’d end up broke down on the frontage, and look what’s happened? We’re broke down on the frontage.”

“I know, Jillian.”

“You’re about as useful as a dead dog, you know that?”

“I know.”

The argument – if it even was that – had kicked off an hour back when the Jeep started spitting bits of metal from its underbelly out onto the highway in clumps of grease and rust. Jillian had screamed, scared at first when the shuddering took the Jeep like we’d been scooped up onto some kind of tilt-a-whirl, then her scream pitched downward and the fear turned into anger which she directed straight at me. I had trouble getting the Jeep down the exit ramp and onto the frontage with her fist slamming into my shoulder every couple seconds, voice grunting like an irate gorilla. She could get that way sometimes, and after twelve years of marriage, I just thought of it as her ‘animal moments’. Didn’t make it easier, but I could laugh internally through the fits if I pretended I was watching some carny sideshow throwing poop at the audience from a caged platform.

That’s how marriage is, I suppose. But at that moment, I had been focusing on not crashing, keeping us alive. We finally stopped on the shoulder and I called the nearest auto repair shop.

It took the tow-truck about twenty minutes to show. They hooked us up and we rode in the front cab with the air conditioner running as strong as the country music station on the radio. When we pulled off the frontage, Jillian was eyeballing me from her window seat, her way of saying, “What the hell kinda circus are you taking me now, dipshit?”

I actually agreed with her. The tow truck drove us under a rusted arch with metalwork letters that spelled out ‘La La Land’, or I think that’s what it was meant to say, and into a carnival gone sour. When Jillian realized I wasn’t going to respond to her – though how the hell she thought I could do that, I’d never been good at non-verbal communication – she started muttering foulness under her breath, but driver didn’t seem to notice as he hummed along to some country lover-gone-lost song, so I ignored her too and just stared out the front into a nightmare of rusted metal and faded paint. If it had been dark out, I would have pissed myself.

The truck turned a corner past some boarded up food stands, and pulled into a large warehouse that looked- thank god – like an auto shop. He stopped and another man waved us out, asking the model-make of our Jeep, assuring us he knew what the hell he was doing, and don’t mind the atmosphere, kids, it’s just a rotting corpse wearing clown makeup is all.

Jillian took a seat and I stood next to her feeling like I shouldn’t sit down in case there were manly chores to see-to even though I knew I was out-of-my-league when it came to vehicle repair. I wandered to the back office just to have something to do and poured myself a paper cup of water from the fountain.

“Hey man,” a young voice said, and I turned. He was sitting behind the desk, peering around the open screen of a laptop and smiling like we were old friends. I nodded, took a sip of water. He nodded back, and his grin went clown-like.

“Hey man, you that Jeep out there?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Yeah.”

“Hey man, you want a fortune read or something? I mean, while you wait?”

“Uh,” he took me off guard, “uh, no. Maybe my wife…”

“Naw man, I don’t do ladies. ‘Men only’, says my MeMaw, god rest her soul. She don’t like me telling fortunes for the ladies. You want a fortune read?”

He must have seen the sickness on my face, because he stood shaking his head and waving his hands in front of him.

“Naw man, ain’t nothing weird, just a fortune. My MeMaw used to own this place, this carnival see, and she taught me stuff before she passed. Said I had the gift, whatever the hell that is, but I can see some things…sometimes. How ’bout it?”

I looked out the office interior window and saw my wife bolt-right in the chair, fanning herself with something and looking like she was pissing cats.

“Sure,” I heard myself say, but goddamn if I knew why.

The youths eyes lit and his clown-grin returned, then he smashed his fist into my nose and everything went black.

I woke up to his grinning face hovering over me and saying something I couldn’t hear over the ringing in my head. The dimness adjusted and I could make out his laughing and all I could think of was, ‘I think I just pissed myself.’ But I hadn’t.

He helped me off the ground. I should have walked out right then, but I don’t know, it was too much I think, and I stood there knowing I was about to get stabbed by this kid.

“Aw man, I’m sorry, that’s just how I work. I gotta add violence and contact to get the juice going,” he said, pressing a cold pack on my head.

“Yeah.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I took the cold pack from him and looked out the window again. Jillian hadn’t moved, hadn’t turned to check on me.

“Man, you got some weird shit up there.” The youth was giving me a strange look when I turned back around.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you got some strange shit going on in your head. You got the Trash Angel, man. That ain’t good, but it ain’t all bad. It’s like,” he paused, squinted his eyes, “…like an angel that lives in filth, I guess you could say. You got something evil in your life. You think it’s all pure milk and honey, but that’s what the Trash Angel does to a man. Makes ‘em think it’s shit clean, but it ain’t. It, like, wallows in it’s own filth and it pulls you in deep with it.”

I just stared at him.

“You get that out of your life, you’ll be fine. You don’t and you’ll do some sick shit later. That’s the way with Trash Angels, always has been. Right now your, like, aura and shit is some deep purple bruise color. If you keep going like this, man, it’ll be turd-soup in no time. Then you’ll do some sick shit.” He finished with a shrug and went back to the desk and sat. A moment later it was like I wasn’t in the room anymore, he was click-clicking away on the laptop, so I turned and walked back to my wife.

Jillian was fanning herself with a paper plate crusted over with the remnants of ketchup and mustard. The smell coming off the air she made kicked my stomach and I tasted bile in my throat. She looked up at me, glaring like I’d passed gas. I sat.

“It was making that sound all goddamn week and you didn’t do a goddamn thing.”

“I know.”

I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. Marriage is like that, I suppose

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About Layne Tanner

Layne is a writer based in Austin, TX.
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