Close The Deal

It is an orgasmic moment for every salesman when he realize that his sell-pitch is hitting the target. that was exactly how Nick felt, driving his use to be expensive car down the twisty road out of town. Nick was about to close the deal, the client on the other side of the phone was actually about to buy a yacht from him. It was too long since Nick made any sale what so ever, not talking about a brand new yacht. It was time for Nick to give his well practice well proven pitch, and to seal the deal. “Sir, very soon you will find the true definition of freedom, you Sir, will look straight to the horizon with hundreds of horse-power pushing you across the ocean.” Nick talked on the phone in his car as he was talking to the client in front of him, when Nick said “look straight to the horizon,” he actually use his two hands to add some visual effect.

“Sir, can you hear me?” Nick was trying to get some reaction from the client on the other side of the phone, but for his great frustration the only thing he could hear on the phone was, “Hello, hello I cannot hear you”. I am right here, Nick shout into the phone, I can hear you, can you hear me? It was for no use, after a few more Hellos from the client on the other side, the call was over. Trying to save the deal, Nick tried to call back just to notice that his fingers are passing through the phone instead of touching the screen. It took Nick a second or two to understand that he is not driving anymore. In fact it took Nick a few more seconds to realize that there is not much car left to drive. He was sitting inside a bended metal box, that use to be his car. Its not clear what thought come to Nick’s head first, was it ” I am dead?” or was it “Oh My God, I have lost the deal” ? What ever it was, one thing is for sure. The fact that he lost the sale bothered him much more then the fact that he just died in a car accident. Stepping out from his crashed car, Nick was still mumbling how he was one minute from selling that damn yacht.

“Are we dead?” Nick heard a voice to his right. The voice came from a man standing near another car wreck. “Are we dead?” the man asked again. To Nick the way that man asked the question was like a kid asking his parents if today “is Christmas morning?” Yes, I guess we are dead, Nick answered. Realizing that the accident was probably his fault, Nick felt the need to explain to the man he just killed why he didn’t pay attention to the road. “I was too busy with the conversation on the phone that I didn’t pay attention to my driving”, Nick started his apologetic little speech. But it seemed like the other man was not really interested in Nick’s explanation of what happened. Instead the other man was walking around the cars debris like a man walking inside a museum. Realizing that the other man isn’t interested of hearing any of his explanations, Nick decided to end by saying, ” Its hard to sale a yacht, it is like to sale total freedom, people just don’t get it” . “What do you mean by total freedom?”, the other man stop his wondering around and look at Nick. “Total freedom means, Nick said, “only you and the sea, nothing around you, you are in control heading to the horizon”. Even though Nick accepted the fact that he is dead, it was still exciting for him to say it. “Total freedom with nobody around”, the man repeated Nick’s words. But then the man continue to say, ” without all the blood sucking leeches that are after everything you got”. Nick could see the man looking into the sky, and Nick could hear him say ” I like the idea of being alone in the middle of the ocean, its like death, nobody to find you”. Nick never associated his freedom pitch with anything to do with death, but as the professional salesman he was, he play along. ” I think that middle of nowhere at sea and death do have something in common”. Nick said. There was a moment of silence, while Nick watched the man behavior, he looked in a very strange way, happy.

“The accident wasn’t my fault, was it?”. Nick ask after a while. ” It was you that wanted to die, to get away from everything”. Nick continue. “Yes”, the man answered. “But I didn’t mean to kill anybody else. I am sorry for killing you and about your sale”. Before Nick had any chance to think what to say to the man that just killed him and worse then that, killed his yacht sale, another voice joined the conversation. “We need to go Nick”. It was a young girl wearing a white t-shirt and a blue jeans. “Lets go”, she said, “unfortunately you are not the only pickup I got today”. The two men looked at her confused. “Are you?” Nick started to ask, but before he finished his question the blue jeans girls answered. ” Yes I am, and I came for you Nick”. “What about him?”. Nick asked, pointing at the other man. “Yes, what about me?”. the other man also asked. He looked terribly disappointed. “No, its only you, Nick”. answered the girl. “And you”, said the girl pointing at the other man,” your death wish didn’t worked out, you will have a full recovery, and you will be just fine”

“I guess that we both lost”, said Nick to the man. “I lost my sale and my life and you, as much as you don’t like it, you will continue to live”. ” Yes I guess you right”, answer the man. The man could see the young blue jeans girl pulling Nicks hand for him to come with her. He started to feel how he is pulled back to his body, he could hear the sirens and the EMT talking around him. But there was another voice that he could hear. It was Nicks voice, he could hear it loud and clear.

” Buy a yacht, be my last sale before I am gone, you don’t need to die to get away from everything”. ” I will buy a yacht, I promise”, the man answered back. The last thing that he heard was a voice of a young woman and a man. ” Its a nice sell-pitch, no need to die to be alone”, the young woman said. ” You look like someone that can appreciate total freedom”, Nicks familiar voice said back. “Did you ever consider buying a yacht?”

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Dodo.

What do you mean you did not hear about Bobby J.? I asked my two kids while they were jumping between the beds. We have never heard about him, answer my daughter laughing. Is that going to be our bed time story? My son asked during a half summersault on the bed.

Bobby J. was undoubtedly the most amazing human being ever lived, I opened the bed time story in a dramatic way, trying to get my kids to stop the bed-gymnastic and to listen to my story. They say that Bobby J. started walking when he was less than a month old, In high school he use to run marathons with his girlfriend on his back and still get the first place, Bobby J. had a white shark as a pet that he swam with on the open ocean every day for ten miles. When he got into college, he had two professor degrees already. “I didn’t know that you can have a white shark as a pet”, My daughter wondered out loud. You cannot, her brother told her. Dad, are you making this stuff up? he asked me. Trying not to lose momentum I have decided to continue. Bobby J. Was so perfect that he farted only one time in his life, and that happened when he was a baby. “Now I know you making this up”, my son said, trying to get his voice heard over his sister’s laughter. Just listen, it’s getting better I said.

When it was time to choose who will be the man that will jump into a black-hole it was obvious that the only man brave enough to do it is Bobby J. “What do you mean jump into a black-hole”? My son protested. “Black-holes are millions of light years away”. “What exactly is a black-hole”? My daughter asked, shaking her brother’s shoulder for an answer. “It’s a place far away in deep space that nothing gets away from, not even time or matter”. Her brother answered. “Sounds like school to me.” My daughter started laughing again, with her brother quickly joining her. I love the way that both of my kids can make each other laugh, I thought to myself. “Maybe tomorrow we will go to school with a space-suit,” my daughter suggested. Hearing the word tomorrow I realized that it’s Monday tomorrow and my two kids need to be on their feet early to make it back to their mother’s house and from there straight to school.

It’s getting late I said, it’s time to go to sleep. You guys have a long week ahead of you. So, did Bobby J. jump into the black-hole? My two kids inquired almost simultaneously. Knowing that I cannot leave the story like that I continue.

As the daring brave man as he was, Bobby J. didn’t hesitate and jumped from his space-ship into the black hole. In the name of science. He endures unimaginable forces on his body. Plunging into a place that logic and reality the way we know it don’t exist. while his body is spinning and getting pulled at almost the speed of light, brave Bobby J. Was able to send a short message back to earth. “And what was it?” my son jumped on the bed, almost hitting his head on the ceiling. Come on dad his sister joined him. Enjoying the fact that I got my two kid’s full attention I continued with a low dramatic voice. Bobby J’s last words before he got swallowed by the space monster, we called a black-hole was, “I see a Dodo”. “A Dodo? really? My son wondered, “this fat bird that doesn’t exist anymore?” “What this bird is doing inside a black-hole, a million light years away?” My son bounced around the room, stopping only to bring his sister up to speed about what is a Dodo.

When I close the door behind me, I could still hear my two kids laughing and debating what a Dodo is doing in a black-hole. Good job putting them to sleep, I told myself. Outside at my small porch I have lighted a cigarette. “Nice story” said the man in the space suit sitting on one of the two chairs. Hey Bobby I said, how did you escape from the black-hole? I asked with a smile. You need to tell me, said the space-man, smoking a cigarette of his own. I am sure that my kids will come out with something until the next time I have them for the weekend. I am sure they will, said Bobby, “they will probably find some kind of a reason for a Dodo to be at other-space.”

Do you remember how many suits did you wear? I asked Bobby. I don’t really remember, Bobby said, but the first one was a business suit when you lost your father, after that it was the “cool” leather jacket when I was your only friend, and many more after that. And now you are a brave space-man helping me to put my kids to sleep, I said. Not with great success Bobby said, the voices of my kids debating and laughing about the space Dodo was heard all the way to the porch.

I need to get inside Bobby. I said while putting the cigarette down. Yes, and I got a Dodo to chase said Bobby smiling. Until next time, I said. You know where to find me, Bobby replied. Always I said closing the porch doors behind me, always.

Purpose

The king has left. No letter was left behind, no speech or reason was given. Nobody ask, why? Nobody wonder what now? the kingdom was vacant. No one to read any letter, no one to care for a reason

The king didn’t look back to see his bare domain he left behind. With a taste of gray in his mouth and his head pounding with nothing, he kept walking.

The sound of the waves greet him with contempt. Welcome king they say. Would you understand if you hear it? Would you comprehend if you see it? I don’t know, the king answered, like my kingdom, I am empty. This shore has no beginning or end, the wave laughed. Keep walking empty king, walk until you will see the boy, the boy with the rope.

Like a Greek God there he stood, proud and strong. With his two muscular hands he holds a thick rope that stretched into the endless ocean. What is on the other side of the rope? The king asks the boy. The horizon, the boy answered. Why are you holding this rope? The king continues asking. You silly king, the boy replied. If I let go off the rope even for a split second, the horizon will fall to the other side and it will be lost forever. Who will hold the rope when you get tired? Who will take your place when you will be no more? This shore has no beginning or end the boy laughed. Keep going hollow king, look for the old man that doesn’t blink.

As a stone statue he sat on the hot sand. Old man with his skin red from the blistering sun. With his dry eyes he looked at the sea. I cannot close my eyes, he said to the king. I must see her again. How long have you been waiting for her to come back? The king inquired. For as long as I remember answered the old man. Maybe she wasn’t real, maybe she was a vision of your imagination? The king wonder. You shallow king, the old man said. A beauty like her cannot been touched, it cannot be owned. If she was real or not it doesn’t make a difference, not anymore.

To his kingdom the king returned. No horizon to hold or a beauty to wait for. Only sand in his shoes played as a souvenir from a place with no beginning or end, a place with a Purpose.

Do You Want To Get Down?

The teacher closed the book, and looked at her third graders. All the kids looked at their teacher waiting silently for her to ask the question. It was a daily routine. So, kids, the teacher addresses the kids with a jolly voice. Why did the brown teddy bear went to prison for the rest of his life? Because he was sad, Miss Rachel, all the kids answer as one. And why it is so bad to be sad? The proud teacher asked. That was the moment that all the kids were waiting for. Sad makes you weak. they all shout happily. Sad makes you feel sorry for yourself. Sad makes you unproductive. Sad is contagious. Very good kids, the teacher said to her class, I will see you all tomorrow. See you tomorrow Miss Rachel, the kids answered.

After the last kid left the classroom the teacher sat down to write her daily report. Good afternoon Miss Rachel, the teacher heard her name. It was the school supervisor; he was actually working directly for the government. Before Miss Rachel had the opportunity to greet the supervisor back, he asked the question. Do we have one hundred? Miss Rachel knew the failure to answer this question honestly and accurately will result in severe punishment. Yes Mike, we have one hundred percent, she said with confidence. We didn’t have any sign of sadness from any of the kids for the last two months. That’s great news, the supervisor said, but to be honest with you Miss Rachel, I was completely confident of your ability to achieve the government’s goal on time.

Miss Rachel knew that Mike lost his wife and three kids in an airplane crash two months ago. “I hope that the new reality doesn’t affect you.” Said Miss Rachel, following the correct protocol in this kind of situations. Nothing will slow me down, answer Mike with a smile. We are living in the most glorious time for mankind, we need to thank our scientists for removing all the darkness from our life”. I thank, for people like you supervisor Mike, to make sure that none of this old weakness will ever come back”. keep up the good work Miss Rachel. I will see you again in a month from now, said supervisor Mike while returning his gun back to the holster.

It was already dark when Mike finished his last report and head to the dark street on his way home. The streets were empty and quiet, ” that is the worst,” Mike thought. This is exactly the moments that you become weak and emotional. As much as Mike try, he couldn’t but recall the announcement over the arrival area speakers that he heard two month ago, ” flight number 453 lost over the Atlantic,” and finished with a clear reminder, “don’t let it affect you”. It was amazing to Mike that only five generations before him, people will fall down on their knees and cry for the loss of their loved ones. this kind of unproductive behavior is long gone. Today you are expected to hear about the loss of your family, turnaround drive home and show up to work the next day as nothing happened.

One-hundred years ago a decision was made to eliminate any sign of sadness and self-pity, that was the only way for mankind to survive. The government officials said. Backed up with scientific reports. An aggressive program begun. Training to repress any feeling as unhappy and sorrow started at an early age. Baby’s where ignored when they cry. kids read and were questioned about books like the “Sad teddy bear”. In high school teenagers will write an Essay about ” Why is the death penalty justified in case of chronic sadness”. Every man and woman where required to attend a mandatory seminar at least once a week to practice, “Negative emotions compression techniques”. Every abnormal behavior was reported and handled immediately. That was part of Mike’s job, to detect and to eliminate any sign of negativity.

Men like mike were examples for the success of these measures. More than once Mike ask himself if he could feel any sadness if it was allowed. Is the feeling of sorrow still exist in my sub conscience or its lost for good together with previous generations?

Mike didn’t went straight home. He sneaked into the dark side streets to find it. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, he was addicted to the pill.

Mike felt a sharp pain in his stomach, he had started to feel this pain about a week after he lost his family. No, not now, Mike told himself while getting down on his knees in pain, the faces of his children and his wife flashes in front of him. I cannot be weak, I am better than that, Mike tried to fight the visions. But the pain didn’t go away, it just got stronger. very soon more faces come before him, like the doctor that begged him not to kill him, ” It’s not natural, people need to feel pain for them to be able to be happy”. that was the doctor’s last words before Mike put a bullet in his head. The face of his mother that he sent to a special place for people that will not accept the new reality.   Mike fell down on his face while still holding his stomach in pain.

A soft hand touched him on the back of his head. ” you are going to die soon”, a voice told him. ” you are a ticking bomb, that is about to explode from the inside”, the voice continued. Just give it to me Mike said, the pain was unbearable, he could barely talk. “There is no way back after this,” the voice said. For God sake, just give it to me, I cannot bear this pain any more. Mike mumbled. ” don’t take it here, you will be executed”, the voice said while putting a small pill in Mike’s hand. ” Don’t let anybody hear you” the voice said before leaving mike at the dark alley.

Mike didn’t remember how he got home, the pain was too strong to remember anything. But in his bathroom, he opened his mouth and swallow the pill. Laying down on his bathroom floor Mike felt the excruciating pain climbing up to his head and to his eyes. It starts with a silent moaning that soon turns to screams of pain. A stream of tears starts to come out from his eyes. Mike open his mouth and scream; it seems like a volcano erupted inside of him and invisible lava is purring through his mouth. Mike was crying. He cried so hard that he didn’t hear when the door opened violently and the government’s official rush to his bathroom. Mike was dragged to his living room just to see a barrel of a gun pointing to his face. ” look at this junkie” one of the officials said, ” all we ask is to be productive and happy”.

Just before the trigger was pulled and the metal bullet did its way through Mike’s head, Mike didn’t felt the pain inside of him any more. ” I’m happy, for the first time, I am really happy”, Mike thought. The last vision that came to Mike, was the sad teddy bear smiling and waving him good bye.

The End Is Quiet.

The nurse at the city morgue didn’t stop screaming. her voice sounded like a wounded animal. When the other morgue stuff came running, they saw her laying on the cold floor scratching her face to bleeding. What happened? the supervisor asks while him and another morgue employee tried to hold the hysterical nurse’s hands before she will scratch her own eyes off. The nurse turned her head and looked at one of the open drawers where the dead bodies where kept. ” his eyes moved”, she said “, he was looking straight at me, he is still inside”. You must relax said the supervisor, this man is dead for the last two days now. ” he is dead, but he is still inside”, the nurse screamed again.

Quietly and slowly they enter through the door of the house, it was a big living room with some pillows and a big carpet on the floor. Nobody sat down or talk, they all stood with their back against the wall, waiting. nothing will start until I will say so. For those people I am the last and only hope. All of them came crashed with guilt and pain, they use to spit on their own reflection in the mirror. I show them a different way, but most importantly I have said the words that each and every one of them was so desperate to hear. I told them” it’s not your fault”

When I entered the room there was a silent excitement. I could feel that. My eyes scanned the room, “I can see that we have a new member”, I said out loud. all eyes turned to the young woman that stood at the corner of the room, it looked like she is trying to be transparent. I saw it before.

My name is David I told her, what is yours? I have changed my name many times she said, but you can call me Merta. And what is this horrible guilt that brings you here? I asked. Too many to remember she answered. Come to me I told her, she walked while looking at the floor to the center of the room, her high heels shoes made a knocking sound even when she walked on the carpet. I shook her hand, it was frozen, it was like she just came out from a snow blizzard.

Let’s start the meting I said. The rest of the group clap their hands and sit down on the carpet and the pillows.

One by one the members of the group stood up and introduce themselves. The first one was a middle age man. “My name is Jeff; they say that I killed a family of five because I was driving drunk. “What do we say to Jeff? I said out loud. “It’s not your fault Jeff”, the group answer as one. It’s not your fault I said, it’s this greedy Angel of death that chose to collect these poor souls.

My name is Mike, stood the second one, “they say that my wife is dead because of me, they say I pushed her on the stairs, I don’t remember. I was drunk, I just don’t remember”. It’s not your fault Mike, the group said as one. It’s not your fault I said to Mike, your wife was supposed to be alive with you, she wasn’t supposed to die from this kind of a small fall. It was the irresponsible Angel of death that made the wrong decision.

Just like that they continue, one by one with their own grim story.

“My name is Dave; I was a lifeguard but I didn’t see this kid falling down to the water.” It’s not your fault. Dave.

“My name is Shannon, I was a Doctor, I made a mistake I am so sorry.” It’s not your fault Shannon.

After the last member talked, I asked the new member Merta if she want to say anything. Not this time David, she answered. It was the time for the end of the meeting, I open my hands wide and said.

The Angel of death is old, tired and confused, he cannot do his job correctly. He, the Angel of death collect the souls that not supposed to be taken, souls with great value. The Angel of death lost his ability to do his job long time ago. He cannot make the right decisions anymore. That is why I say ” all the lost that you feel, all the gilt that is sitting on your shoulders, all the judgment from the people around you, all the pain, all of it is not your fault.”

The group members came to me one by one to say thank you and promise to come again next week. also, the new girl came over to say goodbye, “You will see me soon, David”. she said, and left the room still looking at the floor, her shoes still make that knocking sound.

David didn’t mean to scared the nurse at the city morgue to the point of madness. He was just trying to say that he is still stuck in his own dead body. David knew very well that he is dead as a result of a massive heart attack. He was trying to move his eyes again when the supervisor looked at him while the nurse was screaming on the floor. but he couldn’t do it again. David’s dead body was pushed back into the fridge, living him in the dark. What now? David ask himself, waiting to the unknown. Only to hear a familiar knocking sound. When his body was pulled out again David could see her. ” I told you that I will see you again” She said, but first let me apologize for saying my name wrongly, it’s not Merta but Muerte”. David felt the horror rushing through his poor condemned soul. Muerte didn’t look at the floor any more, but straight into David dead eyes, straight into his soul. Do I look old and confused to you? she said. David wanted to say that he is sorry, that he didn’t really meant to say what he said, but Muerte Just said ” I will not take your valuable soul David. Enjoy your eternity in the dark, six feet under. “Please no, please don’t leave me inside this dead body, please don’t,” David beg but he could only hear the sound of the knocking high heels getting further and further away.

All Or Nothing

Judith looked at the endless empty streets, surrounded by gray empty buildings. In every building hundreds of apartments, they are all empty, but in one of them there is a girl, the girl that Judith needs to find, a girl that cannot move or make a sound, she is somewhere in this endless cage. To leave this world Judith must find her.

Judith felt a sharp pain inside her left hand vein, that was the only time Judith could feel anything. For a moment Judith could hear and smell the world that she is so desperately trying to return to. Judith could hear voices of people and cars, the sound of beeping monitors a smell of flowers, but there was one voice that was closer than the rest, it was a soft voice ” remember the rock on the beach, Judith Brown don’t forget her laughter, you cannot come back alone, Judith Brown. you must find her”. Judith tried to say that “it’s impossible, there are endless buildings with endless apartments, I want to come back, I want to wake up.” Judith wanted to scream.

Judith could no longer feel the pain in her hand or hear the voices, she was back in the gray silent world. I need to remember the rock and the laughter; my name is Judith Brown. keep moving Judith Brown she told herself, check under every bed and every corner inside every room don’t miss a thing, the girl is waiting for you, when I’ll find her I will see the rock on the beach again and the sound of happy laughter will ring in my ears.

Dr. Brown could not resist the happy shouts in his fancy new car asking him to drive faster. We are almost at the beach he said laughing himself, soon we can see the beautiful rock sticking out from the ocean. just before him and his small happy family got to the shore Dr. Brown wanted to show what the car can really do. That was his last happy memory, now standing over his daughter he couldn’t but think if he is doing the right thing. his daughter was in coma but he could wake her up, but he didn’t want to. I didn’t become who I am today by going half way, he said to himself. bending over her while he whispers in his daughter ear, “you must find her and bring her back with you, Judith.” Dr. Brown shifted his eyes to the bed where his other daughter was laying down, the daughter with the amazing laugh that he couldn’t wake up. he looks again at Judith “it’s up to you” he said, “bring her back with you. it’s all or nothing.”  

More Of The Same

Its only six in the morning, but it’s already hot, from my car window I can see his room in the parking-motel. I am trying to remember if I was here before, it doesn’t matter, I say to myself. Another parking lot another cheap motel, it’s more of the same. except now, I made it on time, his car still parked; he is still in his room. For more than fifteen years I’m on his tail, five years as a detective and ten more after I left the force. All that years and it come to this moment, the time to move is now. very soon he will move again, vanishing into the morning sun. I close my eyes and fall asleep, I’m tired very tired, it’s so hot.

When I open my eyes, his car is gone. I slept too much. Getting out of my car, my shirt is wet from sweat, I feel slow and fat. Starting to walk to the room, I missed him I know that. my steps are not steady, I didn’t wake up completely. It will take some time until someone will come to clean the room, I can still go inside and get a clue where he is going next.

The motel room is old fashioned, everything is brown with too many mirrors. even the television is big and heavy. I feel right at home. taking a deep breath through my nose, The small room is a combination of aftershave, cigarettes and alcohol. A nostalgic feeling, my father use to smell like that, I can almost see my dad in front of me, holding my shoulders and say ” Man don’t cry son, be strong my boy” I remember his face, his open top button in his shirt, showing his chest hair, and the way he smelled the same as this room smells the same as the man I’m chasing all this year’s smell. I miss my dad; I miss all of it.

On the coffee table I can spot a local newspaper, looking inside I can see a list of motels nearby. one of them got a mark with a pencil, that will be his next destination, it’s always like that, more of the same. I don’t feel fat or hot anymore but I need to pee, it used to be an easy task, not anymore. on the bathroom sink I can see his shaving blade, it’s an old school safety razor, it’s the same as the one I learned how to shave with, another warm memory is coming to my head. open my pants and waiting for the pee to come out, it takes some time and some pain but eventually its coming out.

He is waiting for me in the room, I was so busy concentrating on me peeing that I didn’t hear him coming back to the room. He is sitting on one of the chairs near the coffee table, there is another chair, he is pointing at it with his eyes, I sit down. It has been a while he is telling me, I’m tired it’s too hot he continues. Taking two cigarettes out of his pocket he offers me one, I quit, I tell him, I’m not a smoker anymore. The fact that you quite doesn’t mean that you are not a smoker, he tells me with a smile, I take the cigarette and he light it with a zippo. it’s like I never stopped smoking. Do you remember why? he asks me. I forgot long time ago, I answer. His eyes travel around the room. do you have anything else? he asks. Only this I answer. I cannot run anymore I am tired from running, you got me, he said. I look outside, I can see the parking lot and the exit to the highway, I need this I say. Its over he answers. I cannot runaway anymore, he said looking at the floor. So, what now we both asked without words. A sound of an eighteen-wheeler zooming across the highway brings a light to his eyes. Give me your wallet he is asking me while holding his own wallet in front of me. I take his wallet and he takes mine. He looks at me in the eyes and say “I give you one hour, now run”

Another motel another highway, need to move, he is on my tail. it’s more of the same.

Life is good.