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Heaven by the Highwayside
by Mike Amato

The scraw of the coal-colored bird was a familiar sound that ripped across the Midwest landscape. It belted through the clean, dry air like a saw blade dislodged from its shaft.

Buck had been standing facing south-southwest and hadn’t seen Julie set her lawn chair down straddling the yellow line. Apparently, he had given her the impression that these roads were abandoned.

“Got trucks racing through here all the time, you crazy bug-eyed woman.”

Julie stood and dragged the chair across the gravel and set it on the dry dirt just off the pavement.

“That’s good,” Buck said. “Move over and let me sit by the road.” He slid his chair up next to hers and settled into it. Julie opened up the cooler next to her and passed Buck a Lone Star. He cracked it open just before hearing a distant frrmt-frrrmt of the tractor-trailer screaming from behind them. The truck blasted its horn and barreled up the road without slowing down. Buck sucked a sip from the top of his can and pointed over to a short bush.

“Rattler,” he belched.

Julie looked over and nodded. “Mmm-hmm.”

The tractor-trailer roared up from behind. The horn hurled a sharp note that drifted flat as the behemoth rushed by them, inches away from Buck’s elbow. His ratty blond hair whipped at his face as sand and pebbles pelted him in the back of his neck. The dust whipped past and Buck quickly snatched up some diesel fumes with his nostrils before they got away.

The truck rolled on, drawing away until it was out of sight. In the silence, Buck and his wife lifted their faces to the sky and closed their eyes. The golden glow of the sun, even filtered through their eyelids, baked their pupils. Meanwhile, the cold beer chilled their lips and tongues.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Mike Amato is a working writer living in New York, with a degree in drama and fine arts from Marywood University. He is also a working stand-up comedian who has performed at Caroline's on Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club, and had bit roles on Saturday Night Live.

Read the interview.
Issue Sixteen (March 15, 2007): Heaven by the Highwayside by Mike Amato «» There Swells and Jets a Heart by Rusty Barnes «» Miss Hempstead's Brother by Myfanwy Collins «» This Is What You Left Behind by Tod Goldberg «» Ten Very Short Stories by John Leary «» Photographer and Model by Stefani Nellen «» On Mondays, Francesca Takes the Stairs by Cami Park «» Seven in the Morning by Max Ruback «» Baby in a Jar by Tom Saunders «» The Color of Moths by Holly Selph «» The List by Paul Silverman «» Glasgow Lullaby by Rob McClure Smith «» Night Birds by Craig Terlson «» Quake by Beth Thomas «» Deep in the Heart of Texas by Robert Travieso «» Disappearances by Jeff Vande Zande «» This Is Just Another Yarn by Ann Walters «» Travel by Nancy Zafris «» Interviews: Mike Amato «» Rusty Barnes «» Myfanwy Collins «» Alicia Gifford «» Tod Goldberg «» John Leary «» Stefani Nellen «» Cami Park «» Max Ruback «» Tom Saunders «» Holly Selph «» Paul Silverman «» Rob McClure Smith «» Craig Terlson «» Beth Thomas «» Robert Travieso «» Jeff Vande Zande «» Ann Walters «» Nancy Zafris «» Cover Art "A Gathering of Matisse" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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