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Dry Popcorn Snow (chapter one)

Dry Popcorn Snow (chapter one)

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chapter one first draft
chapter one first draft

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Published by: mary allison tierney on Sep 21, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Dry popcorn snow whirled in hypnotizing patterns onthe frozen asphalt. The edges of the winterlandscape furred in shades of grey: sky, adobebuildings, light poles, trash, electric wires, theconcrete on-ramp. Headlights of on coming trucksand cars floated in the grey blue haze of blowingsnow. The kneeling bundle on the side of the on-ramp rubbed his gloved hands together, pressingthem between his thighs. The snow stung his noseand eyes, the only skin exposed, as the dry crystalscaught in his trim beard. He stood and stomped hisboots to wake up his frozen feet. His jeans, pressedwith a sharp crease, felt frozen against his thighs andhe pulled the collar of the caramel colored downparka up against his ears.Clayton heard the signature putting of a Volkswagenvan’s engine and turned to see headlights. The vanwas crunching slowly up the on ramp and he waved aconfident hand and gestured with his thumbhopefully. The van passed and then slowed as theroad leveled. He lurched against the wind and pulledat the handle. It took two hard tugs to get the frozendoor open and then he jumped in and pulled it shutwith a hollow bang.“Thanks man,” Clayton rubbed his gloved hands onhis thighs.“I’m headed towards Phoenix. That suit you?” thedriver was a young man with a carefree grin, and hebounced a bit in his seat tapping the steering wheel.Leo had just been thinking what a long boring drivehe had ahead when he saw the man at the top of the
onramp.“Perfect. I appreciate you stopping and giving me alift.” Clayton took in the young man’s shoulderlength black curls, swinging under a knit cap with themomentum of his tapping, silver bracelets janglingand his small frame gypsy wrapped in layers of flannel and wool. Leo had the appearance of atwelve-year-old in wire rim glasses. Only the wispsof mustache and beard that patched his cheeks kepthim from being carded at Zia’s bar when he hadbeers with his fellow UNM grad students.Clayton tapped down his contempt. His years of military school were long behind him, but thediscipline was deeply engrained. His clothes werealways clean and pressed, his boots shined, his shirttucked in. Even during his daily exercise ritual, hekept his t-shirt tucked in. His beard and letting histhinning hair graze his collar were his only outwardflaunting of protocol, and both were meticulouslygroomed. Clayton scorned overeducated trust fundhippies, but he was desperate to disappear and feltthis kid would prove an unreliable witness if questioned later.Leo pulled back onto the freeway, slowly shiftingback up to third gear. The blue Volkswagen slowlydissolved into the storm.“Rough day for travel. There’s a thermos of coffeeright at your feet there. Help yourself.”“That’ll work,” Clayton sighed as he reached for the
thermos. He poured a cap full of black coffee andheld it in his gloved hand. “I can help with gas andpick up supper for your trouble.”Leo raised his eyebrows. “That’ll work,” he parrotedand grinned.Clayton grimaced into the cap of coffee and grunted,sealing the contract.Before the van’s headlights had given Clayton asmall hope of being rescued from the freezing windof the on-ramp, he had wondered briefly if this washow he would end up. That his frozen body would befound on the I-40 on-ramp leading from theAlbuquerque airport to points West. It was puresurvival instinct that led him to start walking fromthe rental car return desk toward the freeway andnot toward the Frontier Airlines terminal where aplane was waiting with two seats that wouldultimately not be filled.His plans had derailed when he reached into theinterior side pocket of his leather satchel to get thecash to pay for the rental car and his fingertipsgrazed a loose .38 cartridge. He startled and felt aice hot surge in his stomach. Where was the holster?At the motel that morning, Clayton had becomeirritated with Ben, who had insisted that they countthe cash for the third time. They were pressed fortime and he was worried about missing their flightback to Phoenix. The .38 was his favorite, lovely witha pearl handle. He had meant to return the zippered

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