Happy Campers

Mark hit the gas and let gravity pull the van down the hill, getting familiar with the play in the wheel. The engine was missing something terrible. He glanced over at the girl who’d picked him up then demanded that he drive. Now she sat in the passenger seat, a smudge on her cheek as she ran a trembling hand through her hair. He tried not to gawk at the gun on the dashboard.

Some moaning in the back of the van. Mark stole a glance in the rearview and saw a new shade of pale.The life was draining right out of the guy.

“He’s not doing great.”

The girl bit her lip. “Yeah, I think it was a copperhead,” she said, “we were camping and he went all apeshit, got what he deserved.”  She turned back then did a double take. “Oh shit!”

She dove into the back and Mark nearly drove off the mountain. He peeked around and saw her on top of the man. He swerved to stay on the road, splitting the time watching the road and the struggle when the girl popped up from the struggle when he felt something heavy land in his lap.


Mark looked down to find a pistol, chrome, to compliment the black one on the dash. The girl thrust herself back into battle, cursing and wrestling with the glaze of misery in the back. Mark gripped the wheel, shouting over his shoulder. “May I ask how many guns are in this van?”

“This should be it,” she said, back now, snatching the one from his lap. She emptied the bullets with an experienced flip of the cartridge. Tossed her hair back with a jerk of her head. Mark couldn‘t help a double take. All she was missing was a cigarette dangling from her lips.

Approximately thirty minutes ago, he was hitching, after running out of gas while taking the scenic route home. Now, a man lay in dying in the back, sounding and looking exactly like a late round Rocky Balboa while the girl beside him juggled pistols as they fled the state line.

“Chris, please baby.” The man sputtered.

Mark, in a shaky whisper. “Your name’s Chris?”

The girl didn’t respond. She didn’t even blink, just held the gun.

“Chris?” he repeated.

“Huh?” she said, coming out of wherever she’d been. She was pretty, considering, maybe twenty-one, or seventeen for all he knew. It was hard to tell if she needed a hug or a curfew. Bouncing back now,  “Oh, yeah. Sorry.” She nodded over her shoulder. “That’s Kyle.”

After introductions, she popped open the glove and set the revolver and pistol where most people kept insurance information. She tossed in the clip and managed to sound sincere when she said, “We don’t want to have an accident.”

“Well, no.”

She pointed ahead. “I think we can get off on 59 and get to Timbrook. Maybe they have one of those Medic First patient centers.”

From the back there was more mumbling, Kyle choking on his slobber. Mark caught a look at his face and grimaced. “Do they have um…serum?”

“Anti-venom. I don’t know.” She glanced back. “Probably not.”

“Is he…are you two?”

She chewed a nail, then turned to face Mark, sitting up, tucking her kness. “My ex, as of an hour ago. He’s got a couple of warrants.” She turned her head to address the helpless slug in the back, raising her voice. “Probably should have thought about that before you went all bitchcakes back there, huh?”


She climbed up on the seat, taunting him now. “Huh, huh, you couldn’t rip a piece of bread apart. Should we stop? Maybe just leave you here?”

Mark wiped his face. His foot suggesting the van go faster, the van balking. It was all too unbeliebable. “I’ve never seen anyone with a snake bite.”

Chris turned, fell into her seat, her voice going soft with concern. “He’ll be okay. Unless of course he’s having an allergic reaction.”

Mark fought the van to a grind as they drifted to the exit, gunned it for Timbrook.“So do you…?”

“Have any warrants? No. I should, for staying with him. Why, are you asking me out?”



–Pete Fanning/2016


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