I was still wearing my work uniform when I came to on my bathroom floor. Vomit covered my shirt, my throat was raw, and a gymnast was doing flips in my stomach. After worshipping some more at the porcelain god, I noticed a certain stench that told me I had also dirtied my diapers.
After I spewed my guts into the toilet, I began to feel the full weight of my truly toxic hangover. I was shaking and could feel my heartbeat in my head. When I rinsed my mouth out, I saw that my eyes looked like a McDonald's sign, all yellow and red. Then I had a flashback to something horrible, a blood-soaked face that was so smashed and torn up it didn't even look human. The more I struggled to remember, the less sense anything made. A black monster, like death itself. I told myself that it was just a hangover delusion, like seeing pink elephants.
What day was it? My phone was still in my pocket. Today was only Saturday. I tried thinking back to last night, and not much past work was there. The boss kept me late Friday Night to do a rush four-wheel brake job and four new 37 inch Goodyear Wrangler tires on a Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 that was too pretty to have ever seen real mud. It was another rainy May Fort Worth evening. I stopped at Walmart on the way home and refreshed my supply for the weekend, and was soaked by the time I climbed back in my truck. I popped a few Xanax and washed it down with a pull from a vodka bottle before leaving the parking lot to get a couple of Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburgers for dinner. After that, blackness.
I staggered into the kitchen. Every sound made my head throb. The light from the refrigerator crippled my eyes, but I quickly found what I was looking for. I mixed pickle juice, a can of Coors, and Pepsi in a quart cup and pounded it down with four Aleve liquid gels and a vitamin B tablet. Then I poured myself a second and lit a joint.
As I took a deep toke on the doobie, I noticed through the kitchen window that my truck was parked in the back yard, covered in a tarp. That was wrong. It should have been parked along the side of the house.
When I pulled the tarp off, my heart sank. The hood and grill were a mess. Blood had mixed with the bird poop on my truck's white paint, making a sickening concrete. At first, I thought I might only have hit a dog. I even found animal hair on the hood, but then I found dark threads of material too. My mind played the tape of the grim reaper suddenly appearing in the middle of the road and flying onto the hood of my truck. When I saw black threads on my grill, I saw the horribly mangled face again. Blood poured, and teeth showed through gaping holes in its flesh.
The idea of what I must have done made me sick, but my going to prison wouldn't help them. I had to figure a way out of this mess.
I had seen enough old Dragnet episodes on YouTube to know what would happen next. The police would figure out what kind of truck it was from what I left at the scene of the accident. It wouldn't take them long to come up with a list of suspect vehicles in the area. They would check them all. Uncle Willy's scrapyard car crusher seemed like an easy solution to my problem, but if I couldn't produce my truck, the cops would instantly make me the number one suspect.
As I smoked the joint, I had an idea. What if my truck didn't look like it had been in an accident? A ray of hope swelled within me. All I would have to do is change the front bumper, header panel, grill, radiator, hood, headlights, windshield cowl, driver's side door panel, driver's side mirror, and the wipers. That was stuff I could do blindfolded, and I had the tools. All I needed was the parts.
They couldn't be just any parts. Everything had to look as cruddy as the rest of my truck. I pulled out my phone and started searching Craigslist. There I struck gold - a ringer for my truck with a blown cylinder head, failing transmission, and one of everything I needed.
When I called, the owner said his name was Carl, and the truck was in a landscaping company's rock and gravel yard in White Settlement, about half an hour away. I loaded up some tools and supplies and hopped on my Yamaha.
I went to the yard office. Carl was a bald man with a flushed face wearing a Deadpool T-shirt that read "I'm Sorry. Did I offend you?" Behind his desk was a feral hog head on the wall that looked just like him. I smiled.
"Like the shirt? My boys got it for my birthday," he said. He seemed very proud of it.
Carl had some skinny Mexican kid named Pablo take me out back to show me the pickup. It had been their yard truck, used to move tons of gravel, stones, and bricks from the storage areas to the customers. One of the spark plugs was blown clean out of the head. The engine was so rough that it sounded like the muffler was gone and it shifted erratically. I talked Carl down to $500 cash.
The transmission was dying so I mixed brake fluid in the transmission fluid to swell the seals and topped it off. Standard Ford truck spark plugs are threaded M14x1.25 mm, so I drilled it out and screwed in an insert, and secured it with Loc-Tite. Both the spark plug and the brake fluid would only last a few hundred miles, but I only needed it to limp across town. After putting my license plates on, I lowered the tailgate to load my dirtbike in the bed of the truck. "Let me help you," a voice with an odd accent said behind me.
I turned and looked. It was a priest, a small man with glasses, a grey beard and a cane in long, black clothes. His eyes were gentle and persuasive. "No, I got this," I answered.
"Please. You need my help."
I pulled back on the bike, getting the front tire and forks on the truck. "Don't need you," I said as I hauled the rear end up and laid it down. Why would an old man like that want to get his fancy clothes dirty helping me? When I looked up to ask him, he had disappeared. Just as well. He gave me the creeps.
The truck ran so rough I decided to limp it home on the back streets. As I drove, I realized that I should try to be seen someplace. My truck couldn't have been in an accident if the store cameras showed me driving it. I went to the drive-in at Jack in the Box and then hit my regular O'Reilly Auto Parts store, parking right by the window so the register cameras would read my license plate while I bought new windshield wipers. That way, I would have credit card receipts proving where I was. I even made a point of telling Pepe the manager how bad my truck was running so he would remember me.
I tossed my bag in the truck, climbed in, and then the damn thing wouldn't start. When I got out of the cab and opened the hood, that old priest in black walked over, led by a German Shepherd that looked as big as he was. "What are you doing, following me," I said to him.
"Please, let me help you," he said. "You have a far bigger problem than you think."
I looked at the battery terminals. They were disgustingly corroded. "I'm a mechanic. I can fix this."
"No," he said. "You aren't listening. You really need help."
"I don't need your help. I don't want your help. Get lost. I got this."
Part of me wanted to ask him why he was so anxious to help me, but when I looked up, he had vanished again. Relieved, I put him out of my mind and got some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide from a grocery store to clean the terminals. In ten minutes, I was motoring home.
It was almost 2:00 by then. I knew the repairs would take all night long, so I stopped at Nachos, my favorite unlicensed pharmacy. I rolled up to his trailer and knocked on his door. "My friend," he said. "Come in."
Even back in High School, Nachos was always smoking weed and eating nachos and cheese. That's why his name stuck. His place reeked like the crack in Bob Marley's ass, but his pharmacy was well stocked and was open 24/7. I reached into my pocket and flashed a fifty dollar bill. "I am looking to make change. I got ten nickels. I need three quarters."
Nachos nodded with understanding. I wanted to buy three quarter gram bags of meth to gear me up enough to work all night and a bit more to crank my motor in the morning. "That's a bit odd change, my friend. A quarter is worth five nickels."
"Quantity discount for an old friend."
He thought it over, but my $50 bill was too tempting. Finally, he snatched it and tossed me the bags. "You make me go broke giving you charity."
The truck started this time but kept slipping out of gear. I cursed at it as I felt around on the shift lever for reverse. Then I heard the dog huffing and chuffing. It was sitting calmly while the priest looked at me like I was a hurt child. "Please, let me help you."
"You're following me! I got everything under control."
"You are wasting time, and everything you are doing is only making it worse. They are waiting for you at headquarters. Please save yourself and confess."
This guy was nuts if he thought I was going to the cops and hang myself. "Just get away and stay away, or else."
I tried the shift lever for a moment, and when I looked up, he vanished again. He was definitely creeping me out, but I didn't have time to think about it.
It was a darn shame to waste all that good pookie working, but by 3:00 in the morning, I had transplanted the parts. Then I chopped up anything incriminating and tossed it in a dozen trash bins as I drove the donor truck to my Uncle's yard.
The old man tried again on my way to work. I stopped at a red light, and he just popped out of nowhere, knocking on the window and shouting. "You must stop. It's almost too late. Confess now, while you still can." As soon as the signal turned green, I moved on.
By the time I reached work, that quarter gram of crank wasn't doing it for me. Naturally, I grabbed myself a cup of coffee from the waiting area. I glanced at the headlines from the Sunday Star-Telegram as I sipped the coffee.
Police are looking for a hit-and-run suspect who struck and killed a priest and his dog Friday night in Fort Worth.
The collision occurred around 11 p.m. on the Jacksonboro Highway, Fort Worth police officers said.
The victim, identified as 53-year-old Very Reverend Ivan Belenki from nearby Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Belenki and his dog were crossing Jacksonboro Highway at 21st Street in the crosswalk after walking his dog in Rockwood Park, police said. Witnesses said the truck did not slow for the red light and drove away from the scene. The vehicle was described as a white Ford pickup truck.
Community members described Father Belenki as a great man who cared for the sick and poor of all faiths and also as a loving husband and father.
Belenki is survived by his wife, four children, and two great-grandchildren.
Police have not determined whether speed or impairment played a role in the crash, the release said.
I stared at the picture in the newspaper. It was the same priest I had seen this morning. That was impossible.
Joel, my boss, turned to me. "Awful, isn't that? A priest and all."
"Unbelievable, just unbelievable." I turned away and downed my coffee. The idiot shouldn't have been wearing all black at night to walk his dog.
He just stood in front of the service bay, but now he seemed to be trying to talk to me but couldn't. My first job was an oil change on a Mercedes. It should have been goldbricking, but somehow him staring at me made it slow torture. People walked and drove right through him as if he wasn't even there. I figured he was a ghost that only I could see. As much as he wanted to get me, I knew my truck was in the parking lot and didn't have a mark on it.
I was doing a four wheel alignment on an Audi when Joel stepped from the register and into the service bay. "Brian, can you step inside?"
"Sure boss," I said, sneaking a last glance at my truck as I put my tools down and plastered my best clueless face on, even though I knew what was happening next.
Just like I figured, two detectives were inside. They showed their badges and ID cards. "I am detective Kuipers. This is detective Sanchez. We're with the Fort Worth Police department. Are you Brian Echols?"
"Yup. What can I do for you?"
"Do you own a white Ford truck? License plate BGR 2435."
I shrugged. "Sounds about right."
"Where is it?"
I pointed. "Back of the lot."
"Will you show us," Sanchez said.
I started walking outside, figuring my truck would do my talking. Then I caught a glance of it as I walked out. Not two minutes before, it looked like I was going to sell it, all cleaned and waxed. Now, it was lying on the driver's side, smashed up. I looked around and saw him, standing with his dog. "You did this," I shouted in rage.
"No, you did. I'm so sorry. I tried to help you."
"You killed him," said Kuipers. "You ran him down when you blew the light on Jonesborough Highway, then you hit the guard rail and flew into Rockwood Park and rolled."
"That can't be. I am here."
"No, you aren't." In the blink of an eye, the world turned to night. A cold rain was sprinkling down. I was standing in the park. Suddenly my truck ran over the rail and rolled down the hill. A big black man with dreadlocks and two pit bulls ran over, shining his phone flashlight inside the cab before dialing 911.
"The disfigured face you saw. It was yourself. You were holding that handle of vodka while you were driving. When you hit the guard rail, the airbag deployed and shot the bottle through your head like a bullet. It smashed your face and broke your neck. When the truck rolled on its side, gravity turned you towards your side view mirror. You saw yourself in the light of that gentleman's phone as you died."
"I didn't want my death to be the cause of your eternal destruction," said Father Belenki. "I begged them for a chance to redeem you."
"The chief gave him one day, 24 hours," Sanchez said. "You experienced what one day of life would be like if you hadn't died and you blew it. If you had tried to go to the cops and confess, the prosecutors would have let you cut a plea for a lighter sentence."
"Don't I get a lawyer, don't I get a trial?"
"Too late," Sanchez said, grabbing my wrists and slapping the cuffs on. "You testified against yourself. Everything you ever did, every word you said, your whole story has been recorded at headquarters."
"Let me repent now, please. I will, I will. I promise."
Father Belenki shook his head. "I am sorry, my son. There comes a time for all of us when it is too late to repent, and I am afraid your deadline has passed."
Written by DrBobSmith