The lights of Palm Springs were a distant glow in the rear-view mirror, and dwindling by the minute.
I pressed the accelerator to the floor, the car rocked slightly as it barreled down the deserted road, the sun would be up in a couple of hours, and I wanted to cover as much distance as possible by then.
Just one short detour to make, then eastbound all the way.
Julia was staring out of the window, her head resting on the glass, in the reflection I could see her eyes following the overhead lights as they sped past.
I flicked on the CD player, the smooth voice of Glen Campbell flowed through the speakers...
“By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be risin'...
She'll find the note I left hangin' on her door...
She'll laugh when she reads the part that says I'm leavin'...
'Cause I've left that girl so many times before...”
She would not be rising by the time I got to Phoenix, and if I had taken the time to write a note, and hung it on her door, I'm absolutely sure that her twinkly blue eyes would not be reading it, or her very sweet kissable mouth laughing at it. And there was no way I would ever write a part that says I'm leaving, I never had any wish to leave her.
“By the time I make Albuquerque, she'll be workin'...
She'll prob'ly stop at lunch and give me a call...
But she'll just hear that phone keep on ringin'...
Off the wall, that's all...”
By the time I make Albuquerque her shift will be almost over, I'm afraid the diner would just have to manage without her sparkling personality today, at least the other waitresses would get the benefit of any tips that would have come her way in recompense for sharing her workload. I'm sure her boss will be disappointed though, he had an extreme interest in her attendance each day.
Her dainty fingers will not be holding any phone handset today either, or her cute little ears listening to any ringing, off the wall or not.
“By the time I make Oklahoma, she'll be sleepin'...
She'll turn softly, and call my name out low...
And she'll cry just to think I'd really leave her...
Tho' time and time I tried to tell her so...
She just didn't know, I would really go..."
By the time I make Oklahoma she will certainly be sleeping.
As for turning softly and calling my name out low, I would be speaking to her about that soon.
I never gave her any reason to cry, I never once threatened to leave her, I couldn't leave her, I loved her, she always knew that.
The song came to an end as I took the exit ramp, a couple of miles later I turned onto a narrow track and then into an abandoned farmyard.
Julia struggled ferociously as I dragged her out of the passenger door, thrashing against the ropes around her wrists and ankles, trying to scream through the duct tape over her mouth.
Her eyes were shiny with fear and hate, sweat beaded on her brow, her hair, usually so perfect, a tousled mess.
By the time I had managed to get her over to the old well I was breathing heavily, you wouldn't believe the amount of strength that such a petite pretty little thing could have.
I held her against the low wall of the well, and pulled the .38 from my waistband...
“When you turn softly and call a name out low, it's not a good idea if it just happens to be your boss's name, you cheating bitch.”
I shot her straight between the eyes, threw her body over the wall, then made my way back to the car.
As I pulled out of the farmyard, and set off towards the freeway, the sweet tones of Olivia Newton John drifted from the speakers.
“Almost heaven... West Virginia...”
When I reached the main drag I floored the pedal again, I had a long journey ahead of me.
It was seventeen years since I'd walked those Blue Ridge Mountains, or seen my brother, boy was he in for a surprise, see you soon bro... I'm comin' home.
©2011 Stephen. J. Green.
Although the story "A short detour" is my own creation I give thanks and credit to Jimmy Webb, the original composer and performer of the song "By the time I get to Phoenix"
The version I am more familiar with, and the version I had in mind when writing this story was performed by Glen Campbell.
I extend my thanks and credit to both of these great artistes, for the lyrics, and for the inspiration.