Jake had been driving since early that morning, the sweet creaminess of caramel coffee having long since been erased by the inhalation of acrid smoke from the cigarettes he had been chain smoking. The miles whispered by as his beat-up Ford truck picked its way across Florida’s I75 toward the Gulf. Affectionately called Alligator Alley, Jake hadn’t seen one since leaving Miami. Just as well, he mused, the son of a bitch would probably have crawled out in front of him; wrecking the remains of what was already a perfectly shitty day.
With the windows down and the day’s heat already starting to pile up, deciding not to fix the truck’s AC was threatening to add to the long list of poor decisions he’d been making lately. It wasn’t just leaving Molly without saying anything either. He had quietly packed up early this morning as the sun shone through the windows haloing her in a golden glow, gently kissed her on the forehead and made his way down the back stairs; his cowardly silence echoing loudly in his ears.
He knew heading back to South Carolina wouldn’t solve any problems, he was just running from a month of maybes. Still, like most things for Jake, there was a feeling of déjà vu to his actions; He had come to believe Lady Luck and Fate were conspiring against him once again.
As the morning’s coffee kicked his gut up, he wondered how he’d explain this to the boys back home? What had it been? Six… no, seven months since he’d headed south hoping to pick up work helping rebuild South Florida after a long season of storms. Jake was an accomplished carpenter, when he was sober that is. His buddies had all laughed at his tales of hot Miami women and smuggled Cuban cigars. It hadn’t really worked out though had it? Too many missed mornings and too many drunken nights; word got around and no one needed a fifty-something washed up carpenter from Dixie who more times than not didn’t bother to show up. So, with his tools in the back, a few dollars and change shy of two hundred bucks in his pocket, it was time to head home. If sneaking out in shame without saying a word to the woman that shared your bed was considered heading home and not just running.
Molly, Molly, Molly. He hadn’t been able to figure out what the attraction had been, well for her anyway. He had felt something that he thought had died and hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her since that first afternoon at Pete’s. He had rolled into town looking for some easy work; she had been wiping the bar down and making time till the afternoon crowd wandered in. Now he was running north without having said a word, not goodbye, fuck you, thanks a lot, nothing. It was just another commitment in a long string of them he wouldn’t be keeping.
At least he’d picked up a decent classic rock station out of Tampa. The damn thing mostly faded in and out but came in strong if he fiddled with it. He fancied himself a crooner more than anything and on a rip-roaring Saturday night might let loose with the juke if the feeling took him. Mostly country but good old rock n’ roll took him back to his youth. Those hot, dusty nights in the Carolina upstate, racing the back roads to Skynyrd and Marshall Tucker. Him, Jimmy, and the Jordan boys, they had all thought it would never end.
The low rumble of thunder brings him back to the present, Jake could already see black clouds building off the coast. It was going to rain and rain hard. Jake hadn’t been able to get used to the afternoon storms down here: rain warm as bath water and heavy as a fire hose, and never mind the thunder. Sweet Jesus, it was like God himself was boxing your ears. He had better start looking for a spot to hole up for the afternoon; he wasn’t driving in this shit that was for sure.
Author’s Note: I began writing “Jake” a little more than ten years ago… started with this first chapter as a short story. It turned into a novel and the sequel will be released before Christmas 2017. Still amazes me when I go back and read those very first few paragraphs…
If you like the book it will be on discount week of August 4, 2017 – August 11, 2017 on Amazon.