“How’d it happen?”
Toby regretted the words immediately. This was worse than when he asked Samantha how long she was pregnant. Hopefully Danny wouldn’t handle it as poorly as Samantha did.
Egg punctuated his answer with another puff from his cigarette. Both men grinned at the irony, then Egg added, “Skin cancer. Too much time in the sun.”
With the reassurance of Egg’s nonchalance, Toby responded, “Like you can’t get cancer from eating or drinking anything, now you can’t go outside either.”
Frau rose in the back seat and said, “There are worse ways to die.”
Toby checked his odometer and determined it was at least another six hours to Detroit. He could search for radio stations or talk it up with these gentlemen who apparently weren’t shy to speak their minds. Maybe they’d have some insight on his situation, but that wasn’t a conversation topic to breach lightly. You know, like death.
Toby spoke over his shoulder. “How would you want to go?”
“Stay on 70 until you hit 23. Then you’ll hook up with 275.”
He cocked his thumb, placed his forefinger between his lips, and muttered, “Boom.”
Toby looked at the car radio and wondered if he could pick up anything other than country music. Egg elaborated. “Think about it. Dude back there bit the big one because he couldn’t find his brake pedal. My uncle slipped in the shower and cracked his skull on the tub spigot. Poor bastards every day dying of cancer, AIDS, heart attacks, stroke. It’s... inglorious.”
Maybe a little Hank Williams wouldn’t be so bad.
Egg persisted, ticking off fingers with his cigarette. “Drowning. Fire. Suffocation. Poison. You want any of those? A million kinds of accidents, a million more murders. Any of those sound appealing?”
“I figured I’d probably want to die in my sleep.”
“Pussy.” Egg showed his teeth, stained from years of tobacco. “No, I’m going on my own terms. Keep the gun fully loaded, just in case I can take it with me. I’ll walk up to Satan, shove the barrel up his **** and unload a couple rounds. Show him who’s boss.”
Toby reminded himself that Danny had just given him five hundred dollars.
They rode in silence for a few miles. Egg asked, “What’s your interview?”
“I don’t really know,” answered Toby.
“You’re shitting me!”
Toby glanced at his passenger and raised his right shoulder. “I’m supposed to find out when I get there.”
In the back seat, Frau kept his eyes shut. “What are you, some kind of spy?”
“No, nothing like that. I mean, It’s a job interview. I don’t have all the details about the actual position.”
Toby hoped the appointment had people more like Shirley and less like Danny. Better scenery.
Egg braced his hands on the dashboard and screamed a string of curse words, which woke Toby from his stupor. Part of the price for driving non-stop for so long was the occasional trance; Toby hadn’t noticed how quickly he was advancing on the moving truck in front of him. In fairness, Egg’s reaction was partly due to his recent accident.
Toby jerked the wheel and swerved onto the shoulder. The Ford braked hard. Frau shlumped into the back of the front seat, unintentionally shoving Toby into the steering wheel. When they finally came to a complete, honking stop, the threesome opened their doors, found solid footing, and collected their breath. Toby apologized profusely.
Frau had aggravated the cut on his forehead; he and Egg tended to the injury. Toby reached into the backseat to organize his passenger’s belongings. He considered returning at least some of Danny’s money. Then he spotted a rainbow assortment of folders. ****.
Egg grabbed him by the shoulder and breathed hot air in his face. “Jesus, man! Are you trying to kill us?”
Toby shook his head silently, whispered, “No,” and debated whether they could provide the same answer to that question.