“I think I’ll stay out a bit more.”

“Whatever suits you. Gas ain’t free. I’ll get ahold of you if anything comes through.”

He loved driving in silence. Up and down the old empty highways that cut through the Mojave Desert. Strips of pavement that connected decrepit communities out in the middle of nowhere, shadows of former prosperity choked by dirt and twisted Joshua trees. He parked the old truck to watch the desert. In the depth of the night, he could see the fluorescent lights in the distance moving between the thirsty trees. On special nights, far and few between, when the coyotes sang he thought he could see the desert change, become undone, reveal itself. On those nights, the storms always came.

Most of his business was on the main highway. People making their way to Vegas. Blown tires, running out of gas, driving off the road drunk or hungover. This time of the year, only the most compulsive gamblers and heavy partiers made that trip, so towing was slow, giving him plenty of time to drive and think.


He was six when he buried his first. Bandit was a good dog. A friendly little black and white mutt that would follow him around chasing birds. Bandit was his friend, his only friend. Bobby never forgot the day he came from school and his father, the bastard, drunker than usual snatched him up by the neck and let him know that his shit of a dog bit him. He remembered the panic when Bandit wasn’t there to greet him.

Later, he found Bandit behind a pile of rusted parts his old man hoarded but never sold. A heap of blood and fur. Tiny head crushed by a tire iron. Bobby remembered how lonely his friend looked. Dead, forgotten off to the side with garbage.

He buried Bandit in the desert.

After that day, he buried all the animals he came across. Every rabbit, coyote, bird. Every unfortunate that met the front bumper of some jackass speeding towards Vegas, some son of a bitch who never even bothered to get out of his car. No living thing deserved to be alone. He could give them one last bit of respect.


Pink’s parking lot was filled with beaters that belonged to the local drunks. He liked Pink’s because it was the kind of shithole where men focused on drinking over socializing. His father used to drink here. Bobby knew their faces.

The place was wall-to-wall wood panels, cheap sports memorabilia, and faded movie posters. There was sweat, stale cigarettes, and rotten beer. He sat at the far end of the bar. He ordered a beer. The plan was he would have a couple, drive home, and fall asleep safe from the storm.

Everyone kept to themselves at Pink’s. A few bikers were playing pool and one of the resident alcoholics drank well whiskey in the corner. Bobby finished the beer and asked for more. He wasn’t much of a drinker. It made him think too much of his old man. He drank to keep his thoughts from wandering. He was worried he might not be able to leave before the storm.

Here came a woman talking too loud. She had a sandpaper laugh, the kind women get when they smoke cigarettes for breakfast. Bobby recognized her immediately. Marci Hendricks. The dirty blonde that grew up down the street and went to the same school. The same Marci that he fantasied about fucking every night when he was a teenager, jerking himself to sleep underneath his scratchy surplus blanket. Marci had no idea who he was because she was busy fucking all the junkie assholes.

She looked older now, tired, cadaverous. Her blonde hair messy and tied back, her face sunken in, hinting at many nights spent at Pink’s. Bobby thought about her often over the years, but in his memories, he remembered the girl from high school. The smoking piece with all the friends, the one that every horny teenager wanted to fuck and every girl wanted to be.

“I’ll have a shot of something and a beer,” she told the guy that followed her in. He was scrawny and stubble-faced, wearing a dirty flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up revealing poorly done tattoos. His neck-length hair was tucked band and stuffed into a greasy baseball cap.

Bobby turned into his beer. The last thing he wanted was to be recognized, to be dragged into a conversation. He had nothing to say to most people.

“Hey,” she said leaning over the bar towards him, “aren’t you Bobby Higgs?”

“Yeah, that’s me.” So much for that, he thought.

“Do you remember me?”

“Marci, right,” he answered flatly, trying his hardest to give the impression that he had to think hard about who she was. “Yeah, we went to high school.”

“Lived on the same street, remember. Your dad still around; he used to drive tow trucks or something right?”

“Died a few years ago.” The old man’s liver rotted from a lifetime of drink, but like all miserable assholes, he managed to hold on long enough to spread misery all around him.

“Oh man, I had no idea,” she said and started to dig in her purse for a cigarette. Not finding one, she tapped her guy, who handed her a crushed pack from his pocket.

“Mind if I smoke?”

“No, it doesn’t bother me,” he lied.

She lit her cigarette, took a drag in silent contemplation, then slapped her hand down onto the bar. “I’m so damn rude, I haven’t even introduced the two of you.” She leaned back so Bobby could take a good look at her companion. “This is my boyfriend Kurt. Bobby is an old friend; we used to live on the same street.”

Bobby nodded at Kurt and managed a quick smile. The situation was uncomfortable and he started to think up an excuse to leave. He wasn’t her old friend; he couldn’t even remember a single time when she even gave him the time of day.

“Didn’t you join the Marines or something,” she asked.

“Yeah. Wasn’t in long, though.”

“Oh yeah,” said Kurt as he motioned the bartender for another round of drinks. “Did you kill any terrorists?”

“Didn’t really go anywhere.”

He didn’t like thinking about his time in. The reason he really didn’t go anywhere was that during basic, he was sent to psych. Failure to adapt. Unfit for service. After being discharged, he spent a few months working shit jobs and living in run-down motels. He would send letters home pretending that he was a Marine afraid of facing the old man. When he finally died, he came back and took over the tow trucking business.

“Whatever, shooting guns and running around in the woods has to be cool,” she said, “it had to be nice getting out of this hole.”

“I guess.”

Bobby watched Kurt pay for the last round of drinks and order one more. He felt disarmed, the air in the bar felt heavy and oppressive. He couldn’t get his mind off the storms. This intrusion, Marci, the conversation, it was distracting. He felt unfocused.

“Let’s play some pool,” she said and walked towards the rack of cues in the corner without waiting for a reply. Kurt grabbed their drinks and went over to where she already began racking the balls.

The distraction gone, Bobby turned back to his beer. He needed clarity, focus. He needed to keep the storms in mind. But Marci was here; he hadn’t seen her in years. Maybe he should go and play a round of pool with them. No. Absolutely not; that would be a distraction, and there is no way he could avoid this big storm distracted.

The bartender came over and asked if he wanted one more beer. He nodded and put some more cash on the counter. He could see Marci and Kurt in the corner of the bar, laughing and drinking their beers. Someone put on a punk song on the jukebox.

Watching her made him sad. He remembered how pretty she used to be. How much he wanted her. Now she looked wrong, mean, spoiled. She wasn’t the same girl he used to know. Yet looking at her, Bobby was overwhelmed with desire. He wanted her.

He was about to stand up and head over there when he saw them throw down their pool cues, pound the last of their beer, and stagger towards the bar.

“Well Bobby, nice seeing you, man; we are gonna take this party back to my place.”

“Nice seeing you, good night,” he nodded and went back to his beer.

He watched them stagger out. That’s good, he thought, glad that she was gone. He didn’t need the distraction, didn’t need the confusion. Especially if he was going to outrun this storm.

He sat there for a time, staring into his beer, thinking about nothing, not even the storm, then he stood up, paid his tab, and walked out into the night. The parking lot was dark and he could smell the storm. Where the few streetlights illuminated the road, he could see dust dancing in the desert wind. He started the truck as the first drops of rain crashed onto the windshield.


The interstate was empty except for rigs going between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Bobby headed towards home; even if a call came through this time of night, he had too many beers. At home, he could unwind a bit and wait out the storm.

The road off the interstate was dark and he had to turn on the truck’s brights. Most of the roads out in the desert were two lanes bordered by a shoulder of soft sand that could flip a car if hit at the right speed. He drove fast, even in the darkness sensing the massive clouds forming, rolling into a monstrous wall of thunder and lightning ready to envelop the desert.

In the darkness and rain, he almost missed her. Marci, walking the shoulder, shoes in hand. He pulled up and tapped his horn. He could see her in the truck’s lights. She looked deformed, monstrous. Makeup ran down, her hair was wet and tangled, her right eye looked swollen.

“Get in,” he said and pushed open the passenger door. He brushed the empty coffee cups, PowerBar wrappers, and old paperwork off the seat. She slid in and closed the door.

“What are you doing out here alone in this rain?”

She sat silent for a few moments before answering, “Kurt and I had a bit of a fight.” Without even looking at Bobby once, she dug through her purse and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “Mind if I light one up?”

“Go ahead, just crack the window a bit,” he lied again.

Bobby pulled back onto the road. This was not part of the plan. Just drive her home, turn around, and hurry home, he thought. The rain pelted the windshield and the dull wipers were struggling, but he wasn’t worried about the rain, he was worried about the big one coming.

“Do you still stay out in Phelan,” he asked, turning back towards the interstate.

“Still with my grandma, same old place.”

They drove in silence. Bobby watched the rain-darkened road intently; beside him, he could hear her breathing between drags of her cigarette. They were on a long stretch of emptiness heading towards the hazy lights of the interstate.

“Hey,” she said, putting her hand on his thigh, “thank you.”

“Don’t worry about it. I was on my way home for the night.”

“That son of a bitch, he waited until he got drunk on my money to tell me about the whore he’s been fucking at his shit job.”

Bobby could feel the anger in her voice.

“I was helping him pay rent,” she went on, “working my ass off to help that loser. I’m a goddamn idiot.”

“Don’t say that. Some people are like that, you know.”

“What do you know about people, Bobby?”

“I know that I don’t like spending too much time around them.”

Bobby watched her slid her hands back into her purse and pull out a cigarette. She lit it. At that moment, she was different than the woman in the bar. Softer, younger, vulnerable the thought. The girl he remembered.

His thoughts were interrupted by the crash and shudder of the truck hitting a large object in the road. His mind raced and he managed to avoid the shoulder. Besides him, Marci braced herself on the dashboard as the truck came to a sudden stop.

“What the hell was that,” she asked, her voice shaking.

“I think we hit something; let me take a look.”

The front of the truck had a nice dent and the right headlight was cracked. Looking closer, Bobby saw blood smeared on the bumper. He walked around to the back and saw the coyote lying several feet away on the shoulder. The storm was almost upon him.

Small, he thought, scrawny, sad. He’s seen bigger ones around. Brave big ones, fuckers that jump into your yard and snatch your little dog. Not this one. Its fur was wet from the rain and matted with fresh blood. Even in the poor light coming from the truck, he could tell it had a beautiful red coat.

Bobby bent down and made sure it was dead. The speed the truck was going when it hit must have killed him instantly. He could see Marci lighting another cigarette and fixing her hair through the back window. The storm was coming fast. Time was running out.

He grabbed a shovel, tarp, and flashlight from the truck. He had to do this fast, he thought. He pulled the limp body away from the road and covered it with the tarp. The rain was cold and there was no need for him to be colder.

Then he dug. This was his fault. This was because he lost focus, got distracted. He knew the storm was coming, but he stopped to pick her up anyway. He made a mistake, complicated things.

Several minutes of digging in the wet sand he had what he thought was a decent-sized hole. He pulled the coyote into it.

“I’m sorry, friend, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He started sobbing. Bobby always buried the animals left on the road, but this was different. This one was his fault. He was guilty. The storm was here. He felt it and shuddered with grief.

That’s when he heard her.

“What the hell are you doing,” she said, coming up behind him. “You hit a stupid coyote, leave it, let’s go.”

Digging the hole, he was so focused that he forgot about her. Now she was watching him cry over the coyote.

When he buried animals, he felt clear-headed. The storms seemed to subside. He felt tranquil. This was different. His hands trembled, his eyes welled with tears, and he couldn’t do anything but look at her.

“Are you some sort of sicko,” she said, walking closer towards him, “what are you doing?”

Her whole being changed. Ugly. He couldn’t stand up, couldn’t focus his thoughts.

“I need to finish,” he finally said.

“Finish what, playing with roadkill. What the hell is wrong with you; there’s animal blood all over you. Come back to the damn truck and take me home.”

He watched her get back into the truck and light another cigarette. This was wrong, a mistake. Nothing made sense, nothing was in focus. He had to make this right, make up for what he did. The storm was above him and it would take him if he didn’t do something fast.

The sky thundered and lit up a sickly neon violet. He jumped out of the hole and grabbed the shovel. Everything was wrong, burnt, smelled like an electrical fire. He opened the passenger door and without saying a word grabbed her by the hair and pulled her out. She fought back, but Bobby was strong, and before she could turn and run, he hit her with the shovel. She screamed, but he could barely hear her through the rain. He raised the shovel above his head, then brought it down crushing her skull.

She lay there, wet, crumpled at his feet, blood and rain.

He thought about the coyote. This felt different, no sadness, no pain. This wasn’t his fault. Even with the storm above, everything started to feel clear. He wanted to go home, get in bed. But first, he had a hole to dig.