2 Days Ago
Wooden crates, about 2 feet taller than me and wide enough to fit two dead bodies, sat lined up outside, leaning against the back of the warehouse. All of them had been stamped “This End Up” with a large arrow pointing said direction, all in black charring. Below the arrow, in red paint, the word “EXPLOSIVE” had been stenciled.
“Ahhh, explosive!” I said as I teasingly knocked on the crate loud enough for Hoskins to hear. “One of my favorite words.”
Hoskins was the inventory clerk, a short and stout man with a surly dispassion. He had an accent I found hard to place but, since he’s too dead for me to ask these days, I’m just gonna’ say he came from somewhere around the Australian plateau. Maybe New Zealand or Tasmania, someplace like that…I don’t know. Wish I did.
“Bloody ‘ell, mate! You’re chancin’ a right trip straight to the barbie!” he says.
“Yeah,” I says with a coy smile, “You love it when I tease you.” I stretched my arms out, a little proud of myself for riling him up so easily.
“Yeah, mate. You and that boobie.” He pointed to my shirt.
Sure enough, a hole in the right side of my shirt had risen up and, while I stretched, one of the girls was sayin’ ‘Hello!’ to Hoskins, who just grinned to himself as he looked away to the wooden crate. Lettin’ my stance relax back to oh-naturel, I straightened my shirt and jacket, and set to helpin’ the guy ease one of the crate’s lids open. From inside the crate, strands and bundles of hay began to fall out, and Hoskins kicked it all off to the side.
“Diesel, I got this lid,” he grunted as he took all the weight. “Make sure none of that hay blows away.”
“Why?” I asked, completely clueless to the situation. “You afraid it’ll lure the mustangs onto the minefield or something?”
He stopped and thought about it as though it were the first time it had crossed his mind, “There is that, ya’ bet.”
“But?” I pressed as I knelt down to scoop up the falling hay.
Still just standing there, thinking, he looked right at me and said, “I suppose it’s time for ya’ be brought in on certain things.”
“What kind of ‘certain things’?” I raised an eyebrow as I looked up at him with a fist full of hay.
“Well,” he thought some more. “The sergeant thought it okay for ya’ to come out here with me and grab this stuff, so…”
The wind picked up and hit the crates lid just right, I saw it teeter and, as I stood to keep from getting’ squashed, Hoskins just about lost his mind at all the hay getting’ blown out. Inside the crate, loosening from their place as the hay filtered out, long rods with explosives tied to their tips began to slip and topple. Hoskins let go of the lid to grab for the rods, I sidestepped the lid, and it came thudding down in a flurry of dust a dried-grasses. A large puffy cloud of hay fell out and waltzed around and dispersed and skipped away, and splayed itself out all over the Test Yard…and the minefield beyond. Hoskins stood there grumblin to himself, half apologizing for nearly crushin’ me, and more-so cursin’ at the mess. And, sure enough, one of the wild mustangs just outside of the yard decided to chase down some of that good-ol hay. I nudged Hoskins in the side to watch and, when the blast of dirt and dust cleared with no sign of the mustang to be seen, I handed him the tuft of hay.
“So, what is it you wanted to tell me about the hay?”
He told me all about the hay and, let me tell you what, it was a mouthful. “Rekindlite,” they called it, and by ‘they’ I mean the Firestarters, according to Hoskins that is.
Anyways, I’m startin’ to ramble so, please, let’s just get back to the story.
There I was, back in the garage workin’ on the Snaggeltooth with most everyone, Hoskins takin’ the parts list of what we pulled from the yard over to the sergeant’s bunk.
“Yeah!” I says, “It just ran right after that stuff like there was no tomorrow and, BAMN! Mustang gone…” the crew laughed here and there through the garage. I cranked away on the ratchet, tightening one of the explosive rods to the undercarriage when, and this was some crazy crap, when Kenny (poor kid…rest his soul…good kid…shame) I guess he didn’t exactly know what he was handling. And, I have to admit to really only seeing it all outta’ the corner of my eye because, yeah, it happened so damn fast.
“I’ll save you, Nikki!” Kenny blurted out as he pulled a rod from the crate, hoisted it under his arm like he was Prince Valiant, or Sir Lancelot, swung it around and, BAMN!
Thrown to the ground with a ringing in my ears, a blind spot in the corner of one eye and the concrete floor jammed all up in the other, and with the wind knocked from my lungs. Aw crap! Is what I thought, “mbmmbmmpoo,” is what escaped my lips.
We all lost a little sleep that night. Kenny was just a teen that wandered up out of the dunes one day…knockin’ on the door of our garage just lookin’ for a place to belong.
Did he belong here? I thought to myself layin’ there on that saggy couch. I thought he did. “Should have watched out for him more…” I whispered into the crook of the couch as I rolled over.
Like I said, sleep was lost thinkin’ about it all. We had a plan set for tomorrow, and Kenny was set to fill up a barrel of fuel down at Fang’s station just before dawn. Now, that task fell to me, won’t be a big deal, I thought as I tossed and turned and, finally, drifted away.
My eyes opened up to the ashen grey of daybreak, and my heart just about jumped out of my chest, “Aw crap!” And, I’m pretty sure I woke up anyone else still asleep, but I didn’t stick around to find out. I grabbed the starter module for the Snaggeltooth, hopped into the rig (which I know for a fact woke everyone up), and got my sad ass down to Fang’s station. “Thank God they put the barrel in the back last night…” and they did. Thank God!
You all know what happened next, so, let’s just skip ahead to where…
The sergeant’s voice boomed through the garage. “When are you going to pull your head out of your goddamn ass?!” I said nothing but I thought, Goddamn I really fucked it up this time. “You were supposed to get there before dawn! How could you do this to us?! Kenny would have had it taken care of! That damn rig is worth more than your life! What were you thinking?!”
“I don’t know what to say…I thought I was still doin’ the right thing.”
“Jesus Christ, Diesel…”
“I thought I could get us the fuel before anyone caught on. I don’t know what else to say.”
“You don’t know what to say?” Oh, that set him off. “You don’t know what to say?!” he marched right up to me, nose to nose. “Well, I know what to say: you’re done Diesel! You’re out of the clan!”
Presently, I looked up at Demitri who just stood there laughin’ at it all.
“Is that all little Diesel?” which, for a second, sounded like he was gonna’ call me Little Donkey, but he didn’t, and I appreciated that. Which was odd because this is Demitri we’re talkin’ about here. “Answer is clear! You need to get rig back…and soon as possible, too. Cargo shipment is coming soon, you know.”
“Yeah…” I hung my head.
He pointed at me, “You tell Demitri who has rig,” he, then, held out the other hand and tapped the palm of it with the index finger he had pointed at me with, “You tell me right now…we go get it!”
“I don’t know who he is,” I admitted. “He’s over at the gas station.”
“Come!” he says with gusto, “Demitri help!”