by Jason Marak
The best-looking girl in my hometown drives a hearse. Not as a gothic statement of morbidity or for hipster irony. She drives it for real. Her old man runs Waterson's Mortuary and the second she turned sixteen and passed the test, he fired that dipshit Steve Dugal and made his daughter, Cynthia, the driver. Old man Waterson used to drive it himself but the sheriff told him if he got one more DUI they'd take his license and the hearse and you can't really have a funeral parlor without a hearse so he figured another way. He's a mean drunk but I admire the hell out of that guy. He's got the one business in town, besides the Tip-top Topless Club, that's sure to have customers no matter how bad things get. No more logging. No more mill. No more fishing. No problem. People still die. And before they do, they're going to want to see some tits. Anyway, I'm getting the hell out of here. Soon. I've got a five-year plan. The whole thing pretty much hinges on asking Cynthia out. It's tricky. I keep telling myself that the next time she pulls in here to gas up, I'm just going to come right out and ask her. She should be in any day now. You wouldn't think a hearse would need to be gassed up that often but the thing is, ever since Mr. Waterson totaled their Impala, the hearse has been doing double duty as the family ride. Cynthia drives it to the Safeway and the diner and I've even seen it parked down near the river during salmon season. So she comes in about once or twice a week. If I could just ask her and if she would just say yes, I am ninety-nine percent sure that everything would fall into place and we'd ride out of this turd-burg together and never look back. I'd sit right next to her on that big bench seat while she wheeled that thing through town toward the interstate and I would not give even a single shit if Johnny Dirkins saw us and thought I was a pussy because she was behind the wheel because my girlfriend drives the death wagon and Johnny Dirkins still lives with his mom.
I like William Carlos Williams description of a poem: "a small (or large) machine made of words." Often I'm not sure what kind of machine I'm building until I start putting the thing together and fire it up. Sometimes I find I'm trying to cram toaster parts into a particle accelerator. Sometimes it works and I end up with a kick-ass toaster. Sometimes it's a disaster and I make a super-slow accelerator. With Five-Year Plan, the machine ran best when I let the character's words (rhythm, diction) do the work.
Jason Marak's work has appeared in a number of print and online journals, including Raritan, Eunoia Review, and 100 word story. He lives behind the Redwood Curtain in Humboldt County, California. jasonmmarak.blogspot.com