Queen’s City short story
Aleks was smiling, a rare thing for him these days. Jackson even seemed to be in a good mood, which was even rarer. They had just found a great haul of supplies- a moonshine still which would catch a lot more water than the buckets during the rain, six bottles of motor oil, and what Jackson called “The Mother Lode” of Spam. Aleks didn’t know how he could stand eating so much “Stuff Posing As Meat,” as his Grandfather would call it, but as long as the grumpy veteran didn’t throw his cans around the hotel, he was fine.
Then the engine sputtered and stopped. The car slowed in a surreal, horrific fashion. “What the hell?” Aleks asked, trying the ignition. It was no good.
“Doesn’t say much for your mechanical prowess,” Jackson replied, already reverting to his cynical nature.
“You can talk or you can help,” Aleks shot back, giving him am angry look as he got out of the car. He was already upset by the car behaving this way, he didn’t need a smart mouth on top of it. He lifted the hood as white smoke rose from the center block. He already knew what the problem was as soon as he saw the source. “The timing belt’s burnt out.” He looked around. The savage streets were no place to be stranded.
“How much are we gonna carry?”
“What?” Aleks asked, puzzled by the very nature of the question. Jackson got out of the car and it felt like beneath his gas mask he was already at the end of his paitience. “Car’s stuck, kid. So how much are we gonna carry?”
“I’m not leaving Valkeree here! She’ll be stripped for parts by morning tomorrow!”
“Yeah, well, that’s the breaks, isn’t it?”
Aleks stared at him incredulously. He had built this car from the frame to the black primer finish. He wasn’t about to abandon it when a simple fix would do. “Why do you give up so easy?”
“Oh, of course, we can just push it to the nearest service station and say ‘Pardon me sir, aw shucks I just wrecked a belt, could ya fix ‘er up today?’ It’s time to come to grips with reality.”
Aleks was fuming, but he had a point. He then brightened up. “There was a garage, ten minutes ahead of us. I made a note to check it on the way back.”
“That’s ten minutes driving time. By the time we make it there and back, it’ll be dark. I’m calling it.”
“And what time do you think we’ll make it back to the hotel on foot, genius?” Being sarcastic with Jackson always sent him over the edge, but at this rate Aleks didn’t care.
“You have yourself a good time playing around with your hot wheels!” he shouted, and turned around, starting to walk off.
Aleks sighed. “Jackson, wait.” He hated reasoning with the jerk, but without him he’d be completely alone. “I’m sorry. Look, our best option is to get the belt and drive back. You don’t wanna leave all this behind, do you?”
He turned around to face the aryan boy ten years his junior. “What makes you think it hasn’t already been picked over?”
The reality hit him square in the jaw. Their current haul was lucky. The stores they’d hit were fairly secluded, but that garage was in plain sight on the main drag. Looking at the ground, defeated, he acknowledged “I really don’t have a better idea.” His idealism failed him once again. He felt so naive. Why couldn’t he just-
“Come on! None of that mopey crap!”
Aleks looked up at him, a pleading look in his eyes. He was more desperate for leadership than support. “Maybe… we sleep in the car?” As soon as he said it, he felt like Jackson was looking at him like he was the biggest moron he’d ever seen. “I’ll take first watch,” he offered, hoping to soften the blow.
“You’re really not gonna give up on this, are ya?” It was like Jackson felt a nagging sense of responsibility.
“An hour after daybreak, I’ll go check the garage for what we need. We’ll push her under that canopy,” he said, pointing at what used to be a drive-up ATM.
Jackson looked at it, then looked at him, and said “If we die tonight, I’m gonna give you hell for it for all eternity.”
Aleks smiled as he opened the door and gripped the steering wheel, getting ready to guide it as he pushed. “You don’t descend from Scandanavia. I’m going to Valhalla, you’ll probably end up in regular old Heaven.”
“Shut up, brat,” was all he said, putting his hands on the back bumper and digging his heels into the pavement. They would make it another night.