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Holiday Blue Chapter 12.1: Temporary Matt
© 2022 James LaFond
Brock was an encyclopedia of local history and nature, talking like a tour guide as he drove off west along Route 150. Five minutes in, passing some beautiful lake surrounded by dead trees [1] and live fishermen, the pickup truck dashboard began to break into some classic rock guitar overture and Brock commented, “Rich lowlander billionaires make terrible invasive neighbors. But they did get a repeater installed on the top of Bald Mountain, otherwise my wife would be worried sick until I got back down the canyon road to Kamas and got back into service.
Brock answered the phone with a touch of his steering wheel and it was on speaker, “Hey Grandma!”
“Hey, Grandpa,” answer the young sounding woman’s voice.
“Coming down off the hunt, empty handed.”
“Thank God, I’ve been dreading the smell of venison stinking up my kitchen!”
“Grandma, I’m bringing something home that smells just as bad—a young fella named Matt, a drifter hiking through the Uintas with worn-out boots—offered him the yard under the quakies just for the night, until further inspection.”
“Hi Matt!” sounded the womanly voice that seemed so young to be a grandma.
“Hello, Miss,” he awkwardly responded, feeling bad about stinking so bad.
“Say hi to Matt, kids—Sky, Brode, Jaker, Trace!”
A gaggle of voices ranging from toddler to teen rang out, “Hi, Matt!”
“Gotta go, Grandma, traffic is getting thick up here, see you for dinner…”
The gap between the mountains they drove through was busy after a fashion, a car or truck or truck and camper every 30 seconds or so, lots of cars, he agreed, for some place with no buildings. The man looked over to him and down a little, as Matt was slumping from fatigue, “My eldest son and daughter-in-law, a car accident took them. We’re raising our grandchildren.”
“Sorry,” Matt mumbled, not good with that kind of stuff.
“God provides, declared, Brock. “Do you believe that, Matt?”
“Dunno,” mumbled Matt.
Brock backed off in his voice and payed more attention to the darkening road and the approaching headlights, “The old fella with the rig that gifted you that bug-out pack? That’s nothing a city kid like you would put together. That last buck running me up the side-hill, or I would have missed you and been home already with my family?”
Matt glanced over to Brock’s big hands on the wheel and felt kind of small and shrugged his raw, weary shoulders under the threadbare flannel shirt he had worn since Portland.
Brock eased off a little more in tone, “Just asking you to consider that a bigger hand than man might have a say in how we find our way.”
“Yezzir,” mumbled Matt, pretty much convinced that he was going to bail out as soon as they hit town. He started running scenarios for snagging the rucksack out of the back in case Mister Do Good here started a full blown Christian intervention.
“Look at that,” commented Brock as they sped around a winding curve past a big bald looking stone mountain to the right, “I’ve never seen shooting stars going up, and look, they, both of them keep on going up and up, they’re not fizzling out!”
Matt did see two streaks of light going up into the just fallen night.
A country music song began playing over the truck dash and Brock slowed as he thumbed the wheel and said, “Duke, headed down Bald Pass—can this wait!”
“Hell no!” came a big, deep twang of a voice. I just saw life flight fall out of the sky down here over Francis, chopper dropped like a stone!—rung 911 and no answer, not even an automated we don’t care! You think this is it—an EMP?”
Matt was interestingly watching what a real man did in time of peril and confusion, where Matt had always just run and hid or fought back blindly against circumstances.
Brock, of a certain used to calming people down, answered, “Listen Duke—an EMP blast would have taken all this offline—killed my truck too. I will make the right at Kamas in twenty minutes and if they have not already been dispatched, will have walked into the fire station and sent them your…”
Brock’s phone cut out and at that same instant, Brock fell face forward into the steering wheel and went limp dead, like his big and good soul had just been sucked out of his body.
‘Oh shit!’ Matt thought as he grabbed the steering wheel and turned out of the crossing path of the oncoming headlights and tried to reach the brake peddle, but missed and instead hit the gas and rolled up over a berm and a great grinding sound grated under the floor of the truck and the front wheels spun—and something slammed into the back driver’s side of the truck and turned the truck on whatever rock it was stuck on, facing the road, where another dead dude behind the wheel of a pickup looked blankly up, the dust motes in the headlights of both vehicles floated all about, and some sports car screamed over the side of the mountain down below and erupted in mere sparks, rather than the flame he expected.
“Brock, Brock, sir?” Matt asked and nudged, feeling no life in the tall strong body.
Feeling death all around, Matt could not wait to get out of the whining truck and opened his door, stepping down, and felt nothing under his feet as he fell for a second, hit some rocky dirt, rolled and heard and felt himself crashing into some little pine trees.
Dazed, and coming to rest, Matt looked up about twenty paces or so, and saw the truck up there, spun on a rock that had ripped the bottom of the truck up, the lights of that black pickup glaring sideways into the lights of the white truck it had hit…
‘It could fall back and roll over me, leaky gas and all,’ thought Matt as he scrambled left across the mountainside and bumped into something soft and familiar—‘old Ed’s rucksack!’
Still possessed of a sense of responsibility for Brock and infused with his instinct to survive bad stuff, Matt dragged the ruck sack with his left hand up across the stony mountainside, using his right hand to claw his way, not going straight up under the truck, but crab-wise sideways.
Within a few seconds, Matt was on the rocky ledge above a gorge he had just scrambled out of on his right and on the left above a stony berm. Below him were the two trucks, glaring headlights into each other, both having spun around to face each other askew, illuminating the dead drivers, the camper being towed by the white pick up having jack-knifed across the road. Actually, the beams were kind of diagonal, the headlights of both trucks shining on the camper, Matt standing back in the open end of the V shaped space between the two rear ends, both sets of lights actually shining on the rear end of the camper, which was a long expensive one.
The wreck of the sports car smoldered below.
Another set of head lights beamed up from the road rising in the direction where they had been headed.
‘I need to check.’
Matt did not know how to check for a dead person’s status. He walked up between the trucks and opened Brock’s door, and saw the man lying still across the seat. He climbed up and pressed his hand to his back, to see if the man breathed. A long moment detected no breath.
Now as much as a mortician in his own mind as he would ever be, Matt opened the passenger side door of the white pick up, and saw that there were two bodies there, a man and a woman, both with eyes wide open and chest’s not moving with breath.
‘The cops will blame me. I have to go!’
Matt stopped, stood, and waved to Brock’s body and mumbled, “Thanks, man.”
He then walked back around the white pickup and the camper, out into the middle of the highway and walked down past the camper. Below him he saw two more sets of headlights on what must be the road, winding around the stony creases of the mountain pass. The headlights were not moving, just there, marking the road.
“Oh, yeah, God must be a great guy,” Matt muttered.
He then stopped in the middle of the road, opened his ruck, extracted the machete and ax on their utility belt, latched that web belt around his hips below his pants belt, and checked to see if it fit.
‘Good, feels good.’
Matt then hoisted the ruck to his shoulders, buckled the chest and waist straps, and began walking down the mountain pass, on the center line of a now still highway.
He walked for a few minutes to the bend, stopped for a final look up at the wrecked trucks, which also kept the other headlights in his side sight, and, like a switch, all of those lights went out.
There were other lights, the stars, some of them shooting stars streaking up, and a few campfires down below, flickering through the spare alpine forest.
A cold sweat beaded on his back and Matt resolved himself to walk as hard and fast down this highway tonight as he could, so he would be nowhere near the scenes of this strange bad stuff when whoever—cops or military—came to investigate and assign blame, got here.
Then the ground shook, shook under him, and when he made to run off to the high side of the road, the evil world shook rocks loose from its broad shoulders there and sent him staggering down the cracking highway, trying to keep his feet as God finally convinced Matt that He “did provide” and that what he provided, Matt was unlikely to survive.
-1. The “beetle kill” blight upon fir and lodge pole pine in the Rockies is the result of rich land owners and influential tourists and progressive environmentalists not permitting forest fires to kill off the tree killing pest, in order to maintain residency and recreation for these elite and aspirational civic an economic invaders.
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