A young woman searches for her missing twin sister in a foreign country called America. On the road, she encounters a series of strangers who help her navigate its topography, including a cowboy in a pink Cadillac, a sadistic law enforcement agent, a pulp fiction novelist, the regulars at a nuclear bomb-themed dive bar, and a man who befriends mannequins.
I awoke to find myself in the passenger seat of an unfamiliar car, groggy and disoriented, unable to remember where I was or how I got there. Hell, it took me a while to even remember who I was. My head throbbed, my body ached, and I felt like I was going to puke. All in all, there were nicer ways to wake up.
I felt a sharp, blinding pain in my side as I climbed out of the car, a pink ‘56 Coupe De Ville. Once clear, I lifted my tank top a little to check myself and saw a huge purple bruise spread across my ribs. As I looked down, warm beads of sweat dripped into my left eye, which caused me to curse and instinctively wipe away at it with the back of my hand. Then I pulled my hand away and saw the deep crimson smear on my pale skin, and I realized it wasn’t sweat.
Just fucking wonderful, I muttered to myself while looking around to see if there was anyone else in sight. I was standing in front of a derelict service station at the side of a desert highway in the middle of nowhere. There didn’t appear to be another soul for miles.
I pulled my top off completely and wadded it up to mop the blood off my forehead. Then I knelt down to look myself over in the driver’s side mirror. As I swept back my long red hair from in front of my face, the reflection staring back at me was a mess. A large gash over my left eye had scabbed over and turned purple, and my right cheekbone was swollen and bruised. My tongue slipped out and felt the split in my upper lip, which still tasted slightly coppery. There were bruises on my neck where it looked like someone tried to strangle me. Makeup was smeared everywhere. Well aren’t you just the prettiest little thing?
Standing upright, I looked over the Caddie again, and this time something stirred in my memory. I saw a vision of this same car parked in front of a bar, a roadside dive with a neon side that read Fat Man Lounge.
This was last night, late at night, I remembered. I had been hitchhiking and got a ride from a middle-aged lesbian in a Mustang somewhere around Barstow, and she agreed to take me all the way to my stop even though it was eight miles out of her way. Her name was Dawn, she had short blonde hair, and she smelled like sandalwood.
Dawn pulled in just behind the Caddie to drop me off, and I wished that I had some way to repay her, but didn't. So instead I gave her the tiny pewter Ganesha charm off my backpack as a token of thanks.
The Fat Man Lounge was a tiny little dive, dimly lit and filled with smoke, that had been decorated along the theme of atomic warfare. There was a large neon sign hanging over the bar with colored fluorescent tubes twisted into the shape of a mushroom cloud, and the walls were lined with newspaper and magazine clippings about the atomic bomb testing that used to take place in the desert near here along with a few items about Hiroshima and Nagasaki mixed in. Even the juke box blasted oldies from the Cold War era like Link Wray's "Rumble" and Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee" – music to sound an air raid alarm to.
I was easily the youngest person there by at least a decade, possibly two. As soon as I walked through the door, every guy’s eyes were locked on me, openly leering like a pack of hungry pigs. I’m used to guys looking at me, at a certain point you just have to give in and write it off as they don’t know any better, like dogs licking their balls. But for some reason this bothered me, their dead sallow faces, the naked lust, mixing with the noxious dense air, making me feel sick to my stomach. They barely even looked human, but more like fat, mutant rednecks, deformed slobbering lumps left out in the sun and radiation too long.
There was one guy, though, who didn’t seem to notice me. He was sitting off by himself at the far end of the bar, perched on his stool as he slowly nursed a whiskey sour. He looked to be a little younger than everyone else, probably in his mid-thirties, with chocolate-colored skin, bleach-platinum hair and a razor-thin, neatly-manicured goatee. He wasn't exactly handsome – his features were a little too the off in their proportions and symmetry to be a pretty boy – but he was in great shape with the physique of an athlete.
He was dressed like a cowboy in a black Stetson hat, tight wife-beater, dusty old cowboy boots – and a tight pair of bright pink jeans. Let's see if I can guess who the pink car belongs to, I thought to myself.
I walked up to the bar tender, pulled a photograph out of my backpack, and laid it on the counter top in front of him. He looked at me with amusement, his eyes staring at my tits and slowly working their way up to meet my gaze, looking everywhere but at the photo. His thin lips twisted into a mocking smile, and he ran his short, purplish tongue over his teeth. He was in his early-forties with greasy brown hair, leathery skin, three-day scruff, and a scrawny, anemic build.
I tapped on the photo with a black-nailed index finger, "Do you know this woman?"