Art: A Very Chill Evening by Cole Conger
Story: The Adventures of Dax & Lucille by Margot Mona
The old station wagon was headed west on I-10 bound for Phoenix, Arizona. The driver, Lucille, was careful to hover no more than 10 miles over the speed limit so as not to catch the attention of a lonely state trooper, hidden conveniently behind the thick brush and cacti lining the highway. She whistled a cheery melody while she drove.
Her two companions in the car, a small, white ferret and a six-foot-four man named Dax were growing increasingly annoyed with Lucille’s whistling. In an attempt to communicate this annoyance to her, Dax turned on the radio and fumbled with the dials until he settled on a station playing Bruce Springsteen. He began playing air guitar along to the melody much to Lucille’s annoyance. The ferret, who’s name was Squeak, was indifferent to Dax’s antics. Squeak was, afterall, a fan of Americana and he bobbed his head along to the melody.
“Want some gum?” Dax asked Lucille after a moment. A peace offering to settle the unspoken annoyance growing between the two of them over the course of the past 48 hours since Lucille picked Dax up along the side of the highway; his thumb stuck in the air like a totem.
“What flavor is it?” Lucille asked.
Dax handed Lucile a small, red square of gum and she popped it in her mouth. They both smacked and cracked the gum for the next 45 miles, content with the silence between them.
Lucille stole a few sideways glances at Dax, simultaneously amused and disgusted by his behavior. He had removed both his boots upon entry to her vehicle and he was now mindlessly picking at the callous that had formed on his left heel while staring at the window and chewing his gum loudly. Squeak also appeared revolted by this behavior as he darted into the backseat to avoid flakes of dead skin from landing on his glossy, freshly-licked coat.
Dax was stereotypically handsome with some quirks. Those being a homemade attempt at a mullet atop his head and a large, dark gap where one of his front teeth should have been. He was wearing dirty denim cutoffs and a dirty white shirt with the sleeves ripped off. Lucille hadn’t planned on picking up a stranger during her great escape from Julliard, but here they were.
It was hard to believe that only three days ago, Lucille was halfway through one of her Modern Interpretive Dance classes when she threw down the two red scarves she had been holding (the drama of this act lost on most around her due to the fact that the scarves both floated gently to the ground), ran back to her apartment, grabbed her ferret and a few pairs of clean underwear, hopped in her old station wagon and headed west.
She had been between fits of crying and hyperventilating all the way from New York to Oklahoma when she saw a mullet attached to a tall man standing at the side of the road. His shadow seemed to stretch a mile long in the late afternoon sun. Without a thought in her head, Lucille pulled the stationwagon over and the man, without a word, hopped in the passenger seat beside her.
“We’re gonna need some cash,” Dax said matter-of-factly in his Oakie drawl, “You got any?”
“Um that would be a no.” Lucille replied sheepishly.
“Ain’t you from one of those fancy New York schools? How’s it that you didn’t bring any money with you?”
“I don’t have any money…It’s all my parents and they’ve probably disowned me by now.” Lucille sighed and hunkered down in her seat.
“Well ain’t that just a cryin’ shame.” Dax replied, kicking his heels down from the dashboard onto the floor of the station wagon, “Guess we’re gonna have to get us some the old fashioned way.”
Squeak perked his head up from the backseat and perched himself on the armrest between the two front seats.
“What do you mean, ‘the old fashioned way?’” Lucille glared at Dax from the corner of her eye.
“I think you know exactly what I mean Miss Fancypants.”
It took another sixty miles of convincing, but just as they crossed over from Texas into New Mexico, Lucille caved and agreed they’d have to find an unconventional way to get some funds. Afterall, they were running low on gas and she hadn’t eaten anything except the old twinkies stashed in her glove compartment for, “in case of emergencies” since leaving New York.
“We just need to find the right place.” Dax said.
“How do we know it’s the right place?”
“Oh, we’ll know.”
Lucille simply nodded. Under normal circumstances she wouldn’t entrust her future to a towering, callous-picking neanderthal but she was running low on options.
“So why Phoenix?” Dax asked after a moment of silence.
“My sister lives there.” Lucille said finally, “Or at least I think she does, last time I heard from her,” she sighed, “Bobby ran away when I was very young. Mum and dad don’t talk about her much. She used to write me letters and they’d always be mailed from some address in Phoenix, but I haven’t received one from her in five years now.”
“Well holy shit.” was Dax’s reply.
“Where are you headed?” Lucille asked.
“Californ-I-A.” Dax replied.
Lucille was about to ask him why when they both saw it, sprawling before them on the horizon. The clouds in the sky parted around an old adobe building just off the highway with a tilted sign outfront that read, “Fine Wines and Spirits.”
Dax swiveled in his seat and looked at Lucille, “Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?”
Without a word, Lucille pulled the car over into the large, empty parking lot; save an old Chevy truck parked near the entrance to the store that probably belonged to the person working there.
Lucille took a heavy, drawn-out breath, “Wait a second! We don’t even have a…”
“Say no more.” Dax replied as he reached into his duffel bag in the backseat and pulled out a small pistol.
“Jesus Christ!” Lucille cried, covering her face in her hands. Squeak darted under Lucille’s seat, shivering.
“I know right?” Dax grinned, “I wasn’t gonna tell you about it, for obvious reasons.”
Lucille began hyperventilating. Dax put his hand on her shoulder, “Calm down, here see look…” he opened the chamber of the pistol, “See? It ain’t even loaded.”
Dax shoved the pistol into the pocket of his cut-off’s, “You ready to do this?”
“Wait, shouldn’t we, you know, make up a plan?”
“The plan makes itself, Senorita. Here take another piece of gum.” Dax extended his hand offering Lucille another little red square of gum. Lucille took a large, deep breath. Suddenly her head felt very clear. Clear for the first time in days.
“Okay.” She said, taking the red square of gum and popping it in her mouth.
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Dax whooped.
Squeak was still cowering under the front seat. “Okay Squeak, mama will be right back.” Lucille said with determination.
Lucille and Dax walked casually into the old, adobe building. The inside looked much like a convenient store with one lanky, freckled man standing behind the cash register. He was counting the money in the register and humming. He had a name tag that read, “Chad” on his blue, button-down shirt. When the front door bell dinged upon entry, Chad looked up at Lucille and Dax and said cheerily, “Howdy folks. Let me know if I can help you with anything!”
“Mighty appreciate it brother,” Dax replied. He and Lucille began slowly walking down one of the isles, browsing the various libations.
“Ah, peppermint schnapps, my favorite.” Dax said, picking up a large, green bottle from one of the bottom shelves.
“I’m more of a brandy girl myself.” Lucille responded.
They continued to walk up and down the isles. Lucille glanced over at Chad from time-to-time. He had gone from counting money to browsing a MotorTrend magazine. He was still humming to himself.
“Welp, I think we got everything we need, honey.” Dax said to Lucille, tossing the bottle of peppermint schnapps from one hand to the other. Lucille nodded and they both walked toward the register. Suddenly, Dax hurled the bottle of peppermint schnapps against the wall behind the register, just missing Chad’s head. The bottle did not shatter against the wall as intended, but instead bounced off the wall and hit the ground with a loud thud. Dax looked thoroughly disappointed.
Chad looked up at the both of them, eyes bulging out of his head, “What the hell man?” he yelled. Lucille saw Chad start to reach for a cell phone sitting on the counter next to the register. Quickly, she drew the pistol from the pocket of Dax’s cut-off’s.
“Now, don’t try and be a hero, Chad.” she said steadily, extending her arms and pointing the pistol at Chad, like she had seen in the movies.
Chad moved his hand away from the cell phone and froze, with his hands in the air, “Please don’t shoot me ma’am.”
“Well that depends on you.” Lucille replied, “Give us all the money you were counting in that lovely cash register and we’ll leave in peace.”
Dax looked over at Lucille with proud admiration and blew a giant red bubble which he popped with a sharp crack, “Fuck yeah!” He whispered in her ear.
“Okay, okay.” Chad was breathing heavily and sweat was dripping from his forehead. Small wet stains were forming under his arms and spreading down the sides of his blue button-down shirt. He opened the register and began grabbing wads of money, which he promptly placed in Dax’s outstretched hand.
“Thank you kindly, Chad.” Dax grinned, flashing the large gap in his front teeth proudly, “Me and the missus gotta be movin’ along now.”
Lucille grabbed the cell phone from the counter and threw it on the ground, shattering the phone into small pieces (take that red scarves!).
“Take care, Chad.” She smiled, backing toward the front door with Dax, the pistol still pointed at Chad.
She and Dax both turned around and ran out of the store, dollar bills flying out of the overstuffed pockets of Dax’s cutoff’s.
“Get in! Get in!” Lucille shrieked as she opened the driver’s side door of the station wagon. As Dax slid in the passenger seat, they both heard a shrill squeak!
“You’re sitting on Squeak!” Lucille shouted as she started the engine.
“What in the hell?” Dax cried out, “That critter just bit my butt cheek!”
Dax lifted up his bottom and Squeak scurried to the backseat, looking very indignant.
Lucille burned some serious rubber speeding out of the parking lot. “Can you believe we did that!” She cried, “Oh my god!”
They began cruising down the highway, paying no mind to the speed limit.
“I’m quite proud of you little lady.” Dax said, grinning from ear to ear.
“You know what, I’m proud of me too.” Lucille said. She looked over at Dax, and smiled.