Mid-afternoon found Mike on the desert road. Home territory. Mike knew roads, and if his sack was a little heavier than usual, his heart was heavier still. Five miles of undulating black tar stretched away behind him, separating him from the turn-off to the Wilbur's place. Twice that ahead to the nearest town. He covered the ground slowly all the while thinking of what he was leaving behind, and what he was returning to.
The further he walked, the more he wondered what was in store for him, and the more he realized that in his heart, he knew. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow - he'd be turning a trick. Some old John would be bumping and grinding into him, and he'd have to act like he was enjoying it. His stomach turned and he stopped, turning slowly to look back the way he'd come. Maybe if he went back - but no! He let his head fall and for the first time noticed he still had on his uniform shirt. When they find me on the road, they'll think I'm called Bob.
And they would find him on the road. He started walking again, straight down the center-line, so it would be harder for a truck to miss him. Mike decided that when he flipped, and that would be anytime soon, he would stay in the middle of the road so he had the best chance of never waking up again.
Something about the road made him take a second look, away into the distance where the black tar merged with the horizon. It had to do with the skyline, and how it blended in with the mountains. The scene called out to a memory that wouldn't form properly in his head.
I just know that I've been here before, thought Mike, just one fucking time before. He dropped his bag and tried framing the horizon like an artist does, with his hands. Then he took out his pocket watch and using that old boy scout trick, used it and the position of the sun to work out which way was north. Snapping it shut, he put the watch away, now knowing where north was, for all the good it did. There's not one road looks like this one. Not exactly like this road. One kind of place. One of a kind. Like someone's face. Like a fucked up face. He walked a few more paces and froze as something moved in the brush. It was that old jackrabbit. He knew it was the same one that had been out to get him and Johnny.
Mike howled like a wolf and the rabbit scooted. 'Where d'you think you're running, man?' he shouted to the bobbing scutt. 'We're stuck here together, you shit!'
Whoah, now, Mikey. Let it all out, one last time. Here it comes. His body drained of energy. The downtime express was on its way. Mike half smiled as he knew he was going to hit that tar road dead in the middle. He'd wake up good and squashed and dead. He sat for a moment, taking in the clouds and the sky. He would be part of them soon. He sure had filled up on living. As he closed his eyes and gave up the fight, he knew this was final curtain.