By Randall Lee Lovejoy
I am sitting in my car at the National Bank of America, reading the novel Tick Tock by Dean Koontz, and eating Banana Twins. The passenger door opens. A man wearing a dirty barn coat gets in and closes the door, locking it. His obsidian eyes convey a maniacal energy. Pinning me with his stare, he clicks the seatbelt in place with a gloved hand.
“Can I help you?” I say in a baffled tone.
His long hair, an unkempt pasture of dark wires, shields his face, giving him a haggard look. His skin appears sunbathed. The jagged line of a scar underlines one of his eyes. A green rabbit’s foot hangs around his neck by a piece of twine. The stranger’s lips peel, showing crooked stumps of rotten teeth.
“Spoor cam de moth,” he shouts.
The hairs at the back of my neck stand at attention. My Adam’s apple moves up and down like the puck on the strongman high striker game—the mallet descends, and the weight goes up. Dings the bell. Comes down. Not understanding what he means or why he is in my car, I am terror-stricken.
I had come to deposit a paycheck. Instead of going into the lobby, which I now regret, I’d decided to stay inside the car, listen to classic rock on the satellite radio, read a chapter, and have a snack. “Enter Sandman,” my favorite track out of the whole Metallica album, was playing.
“Spoor cam de moth,” the man repeats.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I say. “Mister, who are you?”
“SPOOR CAM DE MOTH!” A load of spittle shoots out of his saggy mouth.
He eyes the last Banana Twin in the wrapper on my lap. Considering his sunken cheeks and skeletal body, the man might be hungry. If I offer him the last of the snack, maybe, just maybe, he will leave the car. But what if he doesn’t?
What if he has a weapon?
“You want money? Here—.” I pull my wallet from my back pocket. There is only lint and a calling card for an insurance agency inside. I am broke, but I need him to take the bait.
The stranger seizes my arm with one leather-gloved hand. “SPOOR CAM DE MOTH!”
“What the hell are you trying to say?” I holler, trying to shake him off me. “I don’t understand.”
He growls. His lips peel away, exposing those crooked teeth again. Finally, he releases my arm.
Overcome with relief, I cover my face with my hands, then reach for the door latch. I could open the door and fall out. No way could he catch me and pull me back inside the car. If he does muster the strength, I will kick and scream. Maybe somebody will see me struggle and call the police. I think long and hard about escaping, but a glimpse of a sheath attached to his belt worries me. He might try to cut me with his knife. Until I can disarm him, I will try to cooperate, but I want him out of my car. Right now.
What could spoor cam de moth mean?
The stranger peers out the rainy window. Now is my chance. I will carefully open the door and drop to the ground. Scream. Only I need a distraction. I do not want to die. Not here.
The Banana Twin. Yes. The snack.
I pick it up. Offer it to him. He turns his head from the window to the hand holding the Banana Twin. He is still grinning. His tongue lashes out.
“Y-y-y-you want this?” I say. “Have it. I am not going to eat the rest. Take it. I will pretend this never happened. You never got in my car. I will not say a word. I swear. Please take the cake and leave me alone.”
His eyes dart from the Banana Twin to my face. If he does not take the snack cake, what can I do?
“SPOOR CAM DE MOTH,” he shouts.
The greasy stranger grabs the Banana Twin and smooshes it against the window. White crème and banana-flavored chunks of yellow cake smear the glass. He gets out of the car. Slams the door.
I reach for the controls, press to lock the car.
I place my hand on my chest. My heart throbs.
Next time, I am going into the lobby.