Mountain

The flagman was a woman. A big woman, face of a bulldog. Scrawling homemade tattoos covered her thick arms. She glanced back at us, her look like a dare. Teddy and I sat silent in his pickup watching as the road crew behind her unfolded sawhorses topped with blinking yellow lights on account of the wreck that was holding us up.

The morning fog was thick and heavy as a wet gray rag, and the crew faded like haints. Nobody was saying anything. This, the last of Teddy's days. That's when I told him about me and Vickie. I didn't know no better at the time. For weeks he'd called her a bitch whenever her name came up. I was just making conversation.

We'd spent the last hour and a half, since seven when we decided not to go to school, riding around in his pickup. We'd been over the mountain from Middlesboro to Harrogate and back twice and drank the only four beers we had. Outside of Tazewell, Teddy parked a ways from a trailer owned by drug dealer. I stayed in the truck. Meanwhile another somebody was dying on the mountain.

Teddy called the beers eye openers. We were just killing time, waiting now for the crew to clear the wreck we couldn't see. I hadn't thought about Vickie, about doing her and all. But Teddy had, I guess. Twice he drove past her place. The second time, he pulled over and just sat staring at the trailer. I looked back at my dirt bike in the bed of the pickup.

Vickie would be at school, and if Teddy had plans to break in and steal some guns or their VCR, I was gonna leave him to it.

He shifted into neutral and lit a cigarette. "If you got some business to take care of," I said, "I'll be gettin' on my bike about now." He looked at me, then looked at Vickie's trailer. He fingered the scant mustache above his lip. After a time, he eased the transmission into reverse. As we pulled off, his eyes turned back to the trailer. I finished up my second warm beer.

"She's crazy," I said.

"One crazy bitch," Teddy said, pulling hard on his Marlboro.

And so while we sat waiting for the flag woman, sexing up Vickie that one time was just something to say. Or so I thought. Teddy sat quiet. Then he let up on the brake until the pickup inched forward toward the big woman. He bumped her fat behind. She jumped like a spooked deer, slammed her fist on the hood then charged over to his window. "By gawd, I cut your neck off, boy!" she shouted. I looked over expecting trouble, but Teddy just laughed. He didn't say anything. He just flashed his eyes at me and laughed. She huffed back to her business. When she motioned us around, he laid on the horn. She gave him the finger.