Recuperating on a rubber raft in a motel swimming pool after driving 11 hours through the netherlands of south Texas, snorting and puffing because the air was so dry it hurt to breathe, I was licking a Pelon Pelo Rico trying to get some spit juice going when I heard a bump de bump off to the side. A metallic turquoise ‘64 Impala, a genuine lowrider, was twerking her bad self down the street. I ran over just in time to see her bouncy backend round the corner. It reminded me of the lowriders in old 70’s Cheech and Chong movies I used to watch with my Auntie Raylene, me and her giggling through a smoky haze.
I had decided to stay a while in this small New Mexico town that shimmered in a blushing mirage of sunsets and sunrises before continuing my drive to California. My boyfriend Hank, now ex-boyfriend, was back in Biloxi with his Nascar, college football, and ever-present ice-cold Buds that were like another appendage. I took two suitcases and my two sweet little girls, Nora and Posey, and ran without a plan other than to “rest my heavy head on a bed of California stars” - as far away from that fool as I could get.
The next day after showers and ponytails, we stopped in the motel lobby to ask the proprietor where a good but cheap place was to eat. Mateo flashed his brilliant smile and recommended a couple of restaurants, with directions, so off we went. Driving through the streets I took in the almost deserted townscape with more people walking than driving, feeling for all the world like a town from a time-warped spaghetti western. As we pulled into a parking space I caught a glimpse of turquoise in my rear view, whipped around to see the lowrider cruising down the street.
By day three my nostrils were getting more used to dust-dry inhales. My hair had smoothed out to a long shaft of sheen instead of its usual dandelion fluff and my skin was smooth and matte. Me and the girls were doing manicures on the bed when my cell tinged a text from Hank:
You’re not as smart as you think you are.
“Who’s that?” asked Posey with a frown.
“Nobody,” I replied.
“Hank,” spat Nora as she studiously painted another nail.
Hank was a mechanic with a side hustle installing GPS tracking devices for creepy people wanting to spy on their partners. This important fact slipped my mind in my rush west. He turned out to be a creep so I wouldn’t be surprised to find a tracker on my vehicle.
After a while I said, “Momma needs to run out to the truck. Y’all keep workin’ on your nails and I’ll be right back.”
Out in the parking lot I dropped and wiggled under the truck, began quickly looking and feeling for boxes or antennae, scooching over to the tire wells and bumpers while hoping the girls didn't decide to come out. I heard gravel crunching and saw a pair of well-worn hand-tooled cowboy boots I recognized as Mateo's appear below the bumper. He stooped down and looked at me.
“What are you doing under there, chica?” he asked.
I made a snap decision based on Mateo and his wife Nita’s kindness to me and the girls.
“Lookin’ for a trackin’ device.”
“Come with me,” he said.
I grabbed the girls and followed Mateo to his house next door. In the kitchen Nita was rolling out tortillas on a rhinoceros of a wooden table that looked like it had borne a lot of tortilla rollin’. She fetched the girls some chocolate milk and cookies, plopped them in front of a movie in the next room. Mateo tossed me a beer then we got down to business.
I related as how I came to be with Hank, how it was all moonlight and magnolias until it wasn’t. How the nasty comments moved to drunken accusations moved to shoves moved to the night of a come-to-Jesus moment moved to a westward trajectory for me and my girls.
“You think he put a tracker in your truck?” asked Nita.
“It’s his M.O.,” I answered. “I don’t know why I never thought of it before now.”
“We have to think he knows where you are right now,” Mateo said. “I know a guy. Would you be ok with him driving your truck up to Cheyenne? He can sweep your truck up there, get rid of the tracker, drive back. Then we’ll hide it for a while. I expect your old man might come sniffing around looking for you.”
“Go for it,” I replied.
Sometimes you have to put your trust in kind strangers and the Lord.
That night I dreamed a psychedelic panorama of flying Bud cans and piss-yellow liquid dripping down my face, little round eyes and mouths without voices, mile markers like shooting stars in the night, a gleam of turquoise in my rear view, and Cheech and Chong in their badonkadonk low rider, yelling, "Remember, when you're out of Bud...tough Schlitz!"
Auntie Raylene flashbacks meets my crazy-as-a-Bessie-bug ex back in Biloxi, I reckoned.
Next day, Mateo installed a couple of strategically placed cams and a new deadbolt on our door. We made ourselves scarce. I told my girls what was going on because I don’t lie to them and they need to know that shit happens in life. Mateo’s guy came back with my truck in a few days, minus the tracker, then Mateo parked it in his daughter’s garage across the alley.
I hadn’t heard from Hank since the text so we started going outside more, spent a good bit of time at Nita and Mateo’s or at their daughter Lucy’s place where Nora and Posey played with her two little girls. I decided Hank was too lazy to really come after us and only wanted to bully us one last time.
In an attempt to repay their kindness I began doing food prep, chopping, mashing, shredding, stirring, for Nita who ran a small catering business in their home.
“I want to help Lucy clean the rooms, too,” I said to Nita one afternoon.
The next day I followed Lucy through the motel lobby into the back storage area to gather linens and cleaning products. We spent a few hours cleaning and refreshing room. I was on the second floor walkway when I caught sight of a turquoise gleam down the street. The lowrider.
After throwing the linens in to wash, Mateo called us into his office to chat. On the wall behind him was a framed photo of an elderly man leaning against a metallic turquoise ‘64 Impala.
“Is that a relative of yours? I asked. “I’ve seen that car cruising around. It’s a beauty.”
“Oh no, chica,” Mateo replied. “It couldn’t be. That’s my papa who died a few years ago. His lowrider stays in my shed and there’s not another one like it in town. I don’t drive it much anymore. He once helped a young lady with two girls just like you in a similar situation when I was a teenager. I knew he would want me to help you and the girls.”
“But I literally just saw it down the street,” I said. “I’ve seen it several times since I got here.”
“Come with me, chica. I’ll show you.”
I followed him to the large shed behind his house where he unlocked a door and flipped on a light. Inside was the turquoise ‘64 Impala.
In the silence I heard the tick-tick-ticking of her cooling engine.
CHARLOTTE HAMRICK writes, reads, and photographs extraordinary everyday things in New Orleans. Her writing and photography is included in a number of literary magazines and anthologies including in the Best Small Fictions 2022 and 2023, Flash Frontier, Louisiana Literature, Still: The Journal, and Atticus Review. She is Co-EiC for SugarSugarSalt Magazine and Features Editor for Reckon Review. Sometimes she writes in her Substack, The Hidden Hour.