“There,” said Cronic, and swerved.
The father grinned, sweat pooling around his eyes and jowls, barely noticing the driver and passenger, instead admiring the ‘Bird.
Cronic skidded to a stop a couple of feet in front of the two hapless travelers, sending up a plume of gravel smoke from the rear tires. Dad nodded appreciatively, a low whistle escaping his pursed lips. “Thanks, fellas. Hell of a car you got there, son. What is it, a ’62?”
“She’s a ‘61,” said Cronic and pulled his gun like Jesse James. Dad’s face disappeared in a vapor of bone and blood, his eyebrows still arched expectantly.
In a sane world, this is what should have happened:
Cronic was smitten with her from the beginning, but not in the way you’d expect. At least he didn’t react the way you’d expect. He looked at her as a pet, someone to be stroked and protected from the likes of me. It was odd, and somehow sweet, but he wanted to protect her from the crazy people of the world. Maybe he thought of her as a little sister, or a fellow kitten. Who knows? It was a strange relationship. Doe may have looked like she was auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club, but there was something wily and angry beneath that head of shiny hair, something that might have been just as volatile and ruthless as whatever it was that brewed in Cronic’s heart.
The girl screamed, of course. I felt a bit like screaming, myself, except I was getting use to Cronic’s violent nature. That made me as much a monster as Cronic himself. I was getting use to his volatile nature and I knew and feared it had to reach its peak sometime. It had to. With every action, there has to be a reaction, and I was running out of those. I could respond to every violent act, but it’s not quite the same thing. It’s an overwhelming numbness, a feeling of inevitability and acceptance.
The girl screamed, then covered her face with her hands, her chest hitching like she was incapable of ever catching her breath again. I could almost feel and even taste the mixture of sweat and tears pouring into her small palms, a concoction of sorrow and horror. I wanted to lick her face clean like a bitch cat caring for her mewing baby. God, what had he done to me?
Then she paused and looked up at us, first at Cronic and then me. She was gathering whatever strength and courage she possessed, staring at us with ferocious concentration. She stretched her arms out to chest level, flattening her palms, and it struck me as something Zen-like, it was that deliberate and focused. She closed her eyes and let out a deep, relieving breath.
“Why?” was all she said, and it was neither choked nor hoarse. It was flat and empty and cold.
“Couldn’t keep his model years straight,” was all Cronic said, and he smiled at her like she was a little sister asking him why the sky was blue.
Excerpt from Cronic – Now available at