The Hold-Up by Diane Cattermole
That was then, and this is now. I knew Joe back then, when we were young and life was right on the pulse; wild and free as the wind. The tale that comes to mind, that you might care to hear, is the one where, far out west, where the pine wolves roam and the sky looks as clear as tears, we took the car, that long low mean set of wheels, all chrome and hotwired, and we just drove. Deep through the San Juan night all the way down to the coast.
All through that night we cruised. We smoked and laughed, talked of big fun yet to come and kissed, kissed, kissed, and as the heat was leached from the seared day and the night threw its dark cape on the land. We stopped at a road-side joint and drank beer, then drove some more ‘til the pale grey dawn crept from the east and the sun, hot as sin, rose once more and parched the land dry as bone.
Joe said we could drive all the way to New York if we liked, clean across the land and I laughed loud with joy, the gleam in my eyes said ‘Yes.’ The fierce love I felt for him then said sure we could, and I knew I would go with him to New York or Hell, should he ask. Joe, all tanned, black-eyed with night-dark hair, grinned and gunned the car ‘til the wheels screamed on the hot black top and we sped down the free-way like a bolt and my youth and my love held me in thrall.
Next day, with the noon-day sun, Joe’s mood seemed to change; he seemed down and deep in thought then he said: “Hey hon, you know if we want to do New York, we need more cash than we got.” I shrugged and said, “No pain, we can work our way east,” but his eyes told me work was not in his plans. Down the way we saw road side gas for sale and Joe stopped and said: “Here’s where we get the cash. Now hear me babe, you get out and go up to that guy, toss that long blonde hair and flash those green lamps you call eyes and I’ll do the rest.” I was real scared and screamed, “NO!” and tried to pull him back as he pulled out the gun and sprang from the car. I ran to the guy, tried to warn him, but like the speed of light the gun went off and it was done. All our lives changed for good.
The cops came and Joe was tried and put in jail for the rest of his life. And me? I raged and wept for fate, for the guy at the gas shack, for Joe, and for me. This is now and that was then. When life was so now.