Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thumbing It, by Jude Hardin

Janet stamped on the accelerator.

Janice stomps on the accelerator.

Jan floors the gas pedal. The Mustang lurches forward, pinning me back in my seat. Thirty seconds later, we’re cruising down the two-lane at a buck ten.

“Why are you writing in that notebook?” Jan asks.

“Because I’m a writer.”

“Really? A writer? Have you published anything?”

“Yes. I’m very famous.”

“Are you writing a story now?”

“Yes.”

“And I’m in it?”

“That’s right.”

“What’s my name in this story of yours?”

“I couldn’t decide between Janet and Janice. So it’s just Jan.”

“That’s boring. Would you like to know my real name?”

“There’s a pretty sharp curve up here,” I say. “Might want to slow it down a little.”

Jan glances over and smiles. She doesn’t say anything, and she doesn’t slow down.

“Seriously. Really sharp curve. Up ahead. Really sharp.” I fasten my seat belt. “Actually, if you could just drop me off here…”

“You’re funny. Are all writers such cowards?”

“I’m not a coward. I just believe in exercising a certain degree of caution.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure? Isn’t it important for a writer to have a sense of adventure? If I slow down, the story isn’t going to be as exciting, now is it?”

The needle on the speedometer jitters around the 120 mark. It’s dark outside, but a Texaco sign blurs by and I know there’s an extremely sharp curve less than a mile from here. Beyond the guardrail there’s a sixty-foot drop to a dry creek bed.

“The story’s not even going to get written if the main character dies,” I say.

“Who’s the main character? Me or you?”

“That would be me.”

“Rather selfish, don’t you think? You should make me the main character. Make me the main character, and I’ll slow down.”

“Okay, you’re the main character.”

“Awesome!”

Jan presses down harder, as though she’s trying to put her foot through the floorboard.

“What are you doing? I thought we had a deal.”

“A main character should have some sort of flaw, right? I’m a pathological liar. That’s my flaw.”

Jan flings her long blond hair back and cackles insanely. We pass a blinking yellow light atop a sign that says Curve.

“This is, like, super-suspenseful, isn’t it?” Jan says.

“I’ve decided to make it a horror story.”

“Beg your pardon?”

In one swift motion I grab Jan by the hair, pull my hunting knife from its sheath, and slit her throat from ear to ear. Her muscles go slack. I straddle the console and stomp the brake pedal with my left foot. The Mustang goes into a spin, whipping round and round like a Tilt-A-Whirl from hell. With every revolution I see the reflectors on the guardrail. Closer and closer and closer until…

Bang!

The Mustang breaks through the rail and bottoms out on the asphalt. Sparks fly from the undercarriage as it grinds to a stop on the edge of the cliff.

I gently open the door and step out.

The car teeters, and then, as if in slow motion, careens down the hill and explodes in a massive fireball on the rocky bottom. Realizing this is a cliché, I vow to think of something better on revision.

I stand on the precipice, like some sort of crazy god, and shout toward the plumes of greasy black smoke filling the canyon. “A first-person narrator rarely dies, silly girl. It’s a point-of-view issue.”

14 comments:

Erica Orloff said...

Absolutely LOVED (!!!) it. So much fun and a great start to my morning.

Well-done!

E. Flanigan said...

Jude, I really love this! I'm a sucker for the metafiction.

I thought it was clever throughout, and I smiled at several points .... when he decides it's a horror story and slits her throat, when the car bursts into cliched flames. But my favorite thing is that even the hitchhiking element is meta, since writers are essentially along for the ride whenever they write from a prompt (i.e., Lurker is driving this car ....)

This whole thing could have ended up like a school assignment, but it didn't at all. You managed to get out of the car unscathed, story intact! Nicely done.

LurkerMonkey said...

Jude,

This is my favorite of your stories so far ... I laughed out loud at the end and, in the middle, I enjoyed the dawning realization that me and the author are in this joke together. I thought this was a smart, funny, and totally enjoyable parody of the self-involved writer, with an extra layer of metafiction added on. Nice!

writtenwyrdd said...

That was hilarious.

Melanie Avila said...

Ha! This is awesome!

Like everyone else said, I loved being in on the joke and as I'm about to enter edits, the ending is great.

Natasha Fondren said...

That's hilarious, Jude! I loved it! Fantastic. :-)

I felt like this was an ending, a funny punch line: "Realizing this is a cliché, I vow to think of something better on revision." Just me, but it worked better for me without the last paragraph. But that's just me! :-)

Jude Hardin said...

Erica: Thanks! It makes me feel good knowing my story helped your day start great.

Jude Hardin said...

Erika: Thanks! I had fun with this one, and it pretty much wrote itself once I got started.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks Jon! Glad you got a good laugh out of it! The prompt really got me going, so to speak.

Jude Hardin said...

ww: Glad you thought so!

Jude Hardin said...

Melanie: Thanks! Good luck on the edits!

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks Natasha! I thought about ending it there, but couldn't resist one last jab. ;)

Merry Monteleone said...

Jude,

Really loved this - it was such a fun read and perfect for this audience.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks Merry!