“Hey?” The sound, a voice that was once as familiar as bread, now wooden and tired and indifferent.
“Christ. Cronic are you awake, or what? You almost hit that fuckin’ Dodge. If you’re too tired to drive, for Christ’s sake pull over.” Not wooden or tired or indifferent, but panicked and aware. Speedometer reading 70 miles an hour.
“Daydreamin’, I guess.”
“Daydreamin’s going to get us killed, you dumb fuck.” He could hear tears in the voice. Not being mean, just being scared. Shit, Daddy, who knew? Is that how I sounded? Is it how you sounded?
“Sorry,” he said. “Didn’t mean to scare no one. How’s the little kitty?”
“The what? You mean Doe? She’s fucking sleeping, just like you were fucking sleeping. Am I the only one who’s paying attention? Then let me goddamn drive. Christ.”
Cronic rubbed his face. He had been driving so long he forgot what he was doing. The miles were eating up his concentration. Cars and trucks and cats and dogs. What was happening?
“We’ll stop at the next rest station, I guess.” He glared at the man with the voice. “Don’t you go tellin’ me what to do. I can take care of this myself, I don’t need no help from some yippy l’il mutt like you. I’m just tired. Been on the road a long time. I forget y’all need to eat and piss like you were fuckin’ kiddies.”
The man cleared his voice. “You have no intention of taking Doe to see her mother, do you? I mean, come on, that would be pretty stupid. She’d open her mouth and you’d be locked up in about five seconds.”
He was tired, but his reaction time was swift. Without a pause, he extended his arm and smashed the man in the face, hardly aware he even intended to do so. “Don’t mess with me,” he yelled. “You just shut your mouth and don’t give me any more lip. I am in charge, an’ you’re just here for as long as I want you to be here.”
Excerpt from Cronic – Coming 5/1/15