Chapter Two


      So stood Ruthie Root Beer ~ shimmering heat waves disintegrating into the distance before her gaze.  She stood on the desert's edge ~ a higher, hillier ground where the saguaro cacti grow, looking like people who have never moved.

     So she stood ~ her soul unrolled like a rug on the road ~ beneath the measureless dome of the finest blue that God has ever concocted.  The immediate landscape, craggy with rocks and boulders, howled a silent and forever enduring howl of desolation and contrition.

     So she stood ~ her bare belly blending with the bumpy landscape like it belonged there, as if she, Ruthie Root Beer, were an answered prayer in the midst of forgotten damnation!

     The fortune teller had dropped her off and had turned down a rut that doubled as a road.  The fortune teller was visiting Harold's herb farm, she had said.  If there was any kind of farm out there, it was well hidden ~ maybe in a gulch.

     Ruthie smiled as she thought about her last ride.  After all, she was going to heaven.  What could be better than that?  And Madam Time in the end had charged nothing for the privileged information.  Ruthie, full of refreshing watermelon, stuck out her thumb by her hip for a ride.

     A married couple, fat and old and frowning at her from inside their air-conditioned Cadillac, zoomed by.  So did a station-wagon packed full of cub scouts.  The little scouts all waved, except one, whose mouth fell open.  And the hot wind huffed ~ tried to take Ruthie's hair with it.

     She was just about to start a one-sided conversation with the nearest saguaro cactus, when a rickety Volkswagon van swerved off the asphalt and skidded to a halt.  Due to the skid, executed rather flamboyantly, a great cloud of dust arose like applause from a football stadium, engulfed in glory both Ruthie and the van.  By the time the dust settled, Ruthie was standing by the passenger's door with her pirate chest perched on her shoulder.

     A young long-haired feller with affectionate hound-dog eyes, sitting in the passenger's side of the van, smiled back at her.  "All aboard who's coming aboard, sister," he said ~ and pointed behind him at the rear-side door.

     Ruthie got in.  The van took off.  Another cloud of applause ~ or dust ~ arose and receded into the scenery behind the vehicle's rear bumper.

     It took a moment to adjust to the innards of a van and two strangers, after having stood for some time like a lone goddess in the wide-open outdoors.  Ruthie blinked.  The rear interior was a bit messy, a bit dirty, strewn with personal belongings: a couple of rucksacks, a beat-up guitar, moldy swim-trunks, an old army blanket, a couple of rifles, a soiled sock.  And empty beer cans.  Ruthie delicately placed undesirable elements in a corner and made camp.  She was handed a freshly-lit joint.  The Eagles, the rock group inside the tape deck, reached out with their musical know-how and tickled her ears.  After inhaling deeply upon it, Ruthie passed the joint back.  "Where're we headed?" she asked.



     Everybody was keeping beat one way or another to the music.  The driver's head was dancing on his neck in a jerky kind of way.  The other feller was tapping his knee.  Ruthie's left foot was bobbing up and down.

     "Strawberry is a little fairy tale hamlet secluded in the mountains where it ain't so hot."  This was the front-seat passenger speaking.  He was in his early twenties, like Ruthie, and sitting sideways in the seat.  He checked out her navel with happy lapping eyes.

     "Goin' varmint hunting up there," said the driver, who was a little older, maybe pushing thirty.  The back of his head was wild with straggly red curls.  He shot a quick look at Ruthie through the rear-view mirror.  All he could see was her pretty hair, her pretty face.

     She was sitting on a rucksack on the floor ~ and comfortably leaning back against the upholstered compartment inside which the engine was hoarsely a humming.  Her left arm rested on her left knee.  Her right leg was stretched out with its foot propped up on her buccaneer piece of luggage.  She reached forth and secured with her right hand the joint that was being passed around again.  "Dominus vobiscum, brothers," said Ruthie ~ and took a toke.

     The two long-hairs up front looked at each other.  "Sounds like a priestess," said he on the passenger's side.

     "Not quite," said Ruthie.  "I'm just the Road Princess of America, that's all."  Totally relaxed now, she passed the joint forward.  The passenger up front retrieved it.

     "My oh my," he said.  "I've always wanted to meet the Road Princess of America.  I've heard so much about you.  You're a legend, you know."

     "Yes, I know," said Ruthie.  This feller's hound-dog eyes were lapping her up like she was cool clear water.  She winked at him.

     He began to shine ~

     "You know, when I was a boy ~ "

     "You still are a boy," said the driver.

     "When I was a little boy," continued the passenger.  "When I was a little boy just so high, my momma done told me, 'Larry...'  My name, by the way, is Larry."  He pointed to the driver.  "He's Curly."

     Ruthie smiled.  "Just call me Moe."

     The driver snickered.  "And we're The Three Stooges, folks."

     "Moe.  Curly.  Larry.  Yes!  We're The Three Stooges, aren't we?"  The upfront passenger grinned.  "Where was I?"

     "You're momma," reminded Ruthie.

     "Oh yes!  When I was a little fella my momma done told me ~ "

     "Qwit bogartin' the joint, man," said the driver.

     Larry handed the joint to Curly.  "She didn't say that."

     "What did she say?" egged-on Ruthie, her head framed in meandering whirletts of marijuana smoke.

     "She said, 'Larry, when you're bigger than you are now and you're traveling upon the highway of life...'"  He hesitated.

     "Yes?  Yes?" said Ruthie.

     "Larry, if you let this woman slip away without doin' somethin', you'll be a frog forever!"  he blurted ~ and jumped into the rear of the van, sat down next to the beautiful young woman back there.

    "So you wanna be a prince, huh?" said Ruthie.  She peered at Larry's virile mouth, now so close, and yielded to him a tell-tale smile twitching with approval.  Larry kissed her on the lips ~ softly.  And softly, she reciprocated.

     "You're so easy," he huskily said.

     "That's because I know what I want," said she just as huskily.  She placed her hand on the back of his head and pressed him forward for another one.  Their tongues introduced themselves to each other and explored deeply.  Larry's hand ran back and forth across the expansively exposed, refreshingly cool, curvaceous splendor of Ruthie's tummy.  After a while, his fingers began to edge along the rim of her lower-than-low, low-riding blue-jeans.

     A button unsnapped.

     Clothes piece by piece were discarded.  The instant lovers crawled under the old blanket back there.  The van began to rock and Curly gritted his teeth as he drove onward.

     Meanwhile, the cacti outside shrank and disapeared.  Little pine trees sharpened their needles in the wind.  A squirrel twitched his nose.  The highway wound its way up into the mountains.

     After they consummated their love, or whatever you wish to call it, Ruthie fell asleep in her new beau's arms.  After all, except for the nap on Madam Time's lap, she hadn't slept for days.

     And she dreamed.

     She dreamed the same old dream ~ the second time in one day ~ a record.  She was a little girl again on the same old dirt road looking for her older brother who had died before she was born.  This time Mickey was no where to be found.  And Ruthie was all alone.

     "Wake up, Road Princess, wake up."  Larry was shaking her shoulder.

     "What?" moaned Ruthie.  Her voice was thick with sleep and so was her head.  The vehicle was parked on the side of the road, its engine incredibly silent.

     "Curly wants his turn."

     "His turn?"


     "To do what?"


     "So?"  Ruthie couldn't think.  She felt as if she were drowning at the bottom of a messy van.  She sat up, pulled the thin blanket up over her fresh apple breasts.

     "So I'm going to drive while you two get it on," said Larry.  Already dressed, he crawled over the front seat, started the van's engine.

     Then the rear-side door slammed open and there stood Curly.  He was grinning.  His eyes were glassy.  His wild red hair, framing his pumkin-like face, looked as if it might have been set aflame in hell.  The end of his nose was sunburned and peeling.

     "You've got to be kidding," said Ruthie.

     Curly stepped into the van.  The pine trees behind him ~ thick trunks, rough bark ~ slipped out of sight as he slammed the door shut.  The rickety old VW van ~ it was probably painted rainbow ~ sputtered onto and up the highway.  And the Eagles in the tape deck sang about Winslow.

     In the van's rear, Curly reached for the cover that was guarding the young woman's breasts.  "No!" said Ruthie, hugging it close.  Curly's hand came to a halt in mid-air.  He stared silently, curiously, at the little road princess.  They faced each other like Indians, sitting on the rug on the floor.

     Ruthie grabbed her panties from her little pile of clothes in a corner.  She was about to put her panties on under the blanket when Curly also grabbed them.  They each tugged on the skimpy silk until it ripped in half.  "Damn you," gritted Ruthie ~ and threw her half at Curly.  It hung on his face like a nose blanket.

     Up front, Larry popped the old tape out of the tape deck, popped in something new ~ a little harder, more acidy.

     "Sex, drugs, and rock n' roll!" gleamed Curly ~ and the tattered silk fell from his face.

     "What ever happened to love, peace, and freedom?" moaned Ruthie.  And she wondered, have the sweet spirited sixties finally disintegrated into ~ into this?

     Curly laughed some more ~ ripped the blanket from the road princess and gloated over her curvy nakedness.  Tears stung Ruthie's eyes as she sadly gaped at this ~ this flaming ass-hole.  He unbuckled his belt.  And unzipped his fly.

     A feeling of inexplicable boredom suddenly overcame the young woman.  She had been fighting off a lot of scoundrels lately ~ which was partly responcible for her not having slept for five days now ~ other than a couple naps.  Maybe life on the road was not all it was cracked up to be.  Not anymore, anyway.

     Curly had by now taken all his clothes off.  His skin was very white under his ruddy neck ~ pimpled and poke-marked around his muscular shoulders.  He was getting a little pudgy around the middle.  His dong was big.  In fact, it was too big.

     "Don't," said Ruthie.  "Please don't."  In the cornered woman's eyes, though, there were no signs of pleading or begging.  Instead, a veil of demented anger fell over her eyes, which had become two deep pools of blue darkness ~ like death in the middle of the sea.  She warned with an icy voice, "For God's sake, don't, Curly."

     He fell on top of her.

     The road princess shuddered.  "So this is how it's going to be?"

     "That's right," drooled Curly.  He flopped her into a more appeasing position.  They stared at each other as he pressed down on her.

     Then Ruthie smiled ~ but not with her eyes.

     "That's right," encouraged Curly.  He was captured by her lopsided grin.  With her left hand, Ruthie fondled his balls.  "Ohhh, that's right," sighed the wild man.  "That's right!"

     "Get up a little bit," cooed Ruthie.  The tremble in her voice had not quite disappeared.

     "Right," grunted Curly.  He got up on his knees ~ took aim.  Ruthie's left hand warmly, firmly held his balls.  Something flashed in her right hand.

     Dumbly, Curly said, "Whaaa?"

     In one clean stroke, Ruthie cut his nuts off.  Then she swallowed them.  Curly, unbelieving, saw sac, hair, and all disappear into her mouth.  He saw the two lumps of his family jewels slide down the throat of the woman he was about to, uninvited, enter.  He saw the woman smile with her eyes now.  Blood, his blood, trickled out the corner of her mouth.  "Did you cum, Curly?"


     Ruthie laughed at the expression on his face ~ an expression that silently announced he was out to pasture.  "Fuck you, Curly," sneered Ruthie.  She pushed him off.

     He toppled.  And, finally, he howled.  He curled up like a baby with his hands jammed between his legs and couldn't stop howling.  It was like having a coyote in the van.

     "What the hell's going on back there?" yelled Larry through the ear-splitting din.  He glanced over the back of the front seat.  "What the hell's wrong, Curly?"

     Curly just howled.

     Ruthie wiped with her hand the blood from her cheek and licked her lips.  She then wiped her hand and her blade off on Curly's stray jeans.  She returned the razor-sharp, thin blade (looked like a letter opener) to the lining of her light-weight hiking boot, and put her clothes back on ~ her low-riding jeans, her high-riding T-shirt.  She was tying her boot laces when Curly's howling began to subside.

     "What the hell's wrong with him?" said Larry.

     "He got his rocks off.  That's all," said Ruthie.

     "Turned him on royally, huh?"

     "You bet."

     They passed a road sign.  Larry announced, "Three more miles to Strawberry."  The music on the tape deck, performed by a heavy metal group, maybe Iron Maiden, screeched along.

     In the gloom of the rear of the van, down on the rug on the floor, Ruthie hunched up and concentrated on her heart beat, trying to slow it down.  She stared at Curly.  He was curled up against the back of the front seat, his face hidden, crying.

     How pathetic.

     Ruthie lay a hand in the locks of his wild hair and softly said to him, "Sorry, Curly.  But what is a girl to do?  Be violated?  Welcome your brutality with open arms?  All I know is to fight fire with more fire."

     She covered his nakedness with the old blanket as his tears flowed.  Unearthly like sounds, smacking of tortured demons, emitted from his hidden lips.

     Ruthie continued, "We could've been friends, enjoyed what each was willing to share.  We could've traded smiles and secrets like, like baseball cards, and slow danced once or twice in a little dive along the way.  That wouldn't have bothered me, Curly.  It wouldn't have bothered Larry, to whom I surrendered my love so easily.  That's for sure."

     A tear trickled down Ruthie's cheek and, with a new quiver in her softly spoken words, she continued her sorrowful lament, "But no, you had to come at me like a bully, like a dog ~ a dog with rabies ~ and with absolutely no consideration what-so-ever for your supposed feast ~ me!  Vultures show more consideration than you.  Those kind kind birds wait 'til their victims are dead before they tear into them."

     Ruthie took a deep breath and continued, "You can enjoy a tree's shade without carving graffiti all over its bark, can't you?  When you see a pretty sunset, a sunrise, a full moon, or a starry starry night, must you rape it to enjoy it?  Why couldn't you enjoy, enjoy me in the same way?  Was your hunger, your lust, so uncontrollable?  You just weren't man enough, were you?  That's right.  You weren't man enough.  You didn't have the discipline, the morality.  You didn't have the balls.  Well, now you have no balls at all!"

     Curly's swollen sobs died down.  The bonfire blazing, crackling, smoking in Ruthie's eyes died down too.  She paused pensively for a long moment.  And continued, "It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, kind of salty, and it fills me with, with, with the blue funk.  I'm sorry, Curly, so so sorry.  But not near as sorry as I would be if I had let you ~ "

     Curly had enough.

     He ripped the blanket away, and on his knees, if it is possible to do so while kneeling, reared like a grizzly bear ~ and growled, "Dammmmmmmn!  You ate my nuts!!!"

     Then he lunged for her.

     Ruthie leaped to the side and kicked him in the head.  She threw a moldy pair of swim trunks in his face, a soiled sock, and empty beer cans.  She scrambled up onto the higher level in the van's rear-end, grabbed hold of a broken-down guitar and knocked Curly over backwards with it as he tried to crawl after her.

     "What the hell is going on back there?" yelled Larry.  He snuck a quick glance ~ saw Curly falling over backwards, naked and bloody ~ and the cornered-rat terror in Ruthie's eyes.  Larry muttered to himself, "My God, hell is in full bloom now!"  He began hunting for a clearing on the side of the highway, at which to stop the van.  He passed two or three clearings accidently, then couldn't find any.

     Meanwhile, Curly tore at a rucksack, pulled out a handful of shotgun shells, dropped them all on the floor ~ except one.  This one he loaded into one of two rifles, no, they were shotguns, single barrelled, that had been tucked away in the back of the van.  He aimed the loaded shotgun at Ruthie.  She kicked the end of the barrel.  The firearm went off ~ blew a gaping hole in the ceiling.

     "What the hell," muttered Larry.  He slowed down the van.  Another vehicle behind them began honking.  Larry cursed whoever was honking and speeded up.

     Curly cursed too ~ at Ruthie, who threw the guitar at him ~ and missed.  Curly reloaded the obviously single-action shotgun.  Ruthie leaped on him.


     The windshield in front of Larry disintegrated.  "Jesus Christ," he muttered.  Wind whipped at his face.  "You guys having a good time back there?" he yelled.

     "We're having a blast!" answered Ruthie with a courageous defiance of fate in her voice.  Curly socked her in the jaw.  She fell against the rear-side door.  Curly, trembling on his knees and with rivers of blood steaming down his thighs, tried to reload the shotgun while the girl tried to regain her senses.  By the time she did, the firearm was loaded, cocked, and aimed at her head.

     Meanwhile, they passed through Strawberry without noticing it.  You could hardly call it a town, it was so fleetingly small.  Easy to miss, especially if you blinked.

     Now ~ Ruthie stared with wide-open eyes down the smokey barrel of the shotgun cradled in Curly's blood-gooey hands.  And it was now that a disturbing thought dawned on her.  She was somewhat benumbed by the fact that she hadn't thought of it earlier.  The thought was this:  if she was going to heaven, she had to die first.

     Curly laughed insanely.  "Good-bye, Moe!"

     Larry turned around, saw what was about to happen.  "Curly!" he hollered and jerked the wheel.  Ruthie slipped on the handle of the rear-side door against which she was leaning.

     The shotgun ca-boomed.

     The road princess fell backwards out the side of the van.


 (copyright 1990, 2010)




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