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Killer Pair
by Trinie Dalton

Candy's Easy Rider Fantasy dwindled as she stood for twelve hours on a deserted two-lane highway, trying to thumb a ride. She got sunstroke standing there, disoriented like a Sasquatch, scraped up from hacking through miles of thorny bushes and vines. This road led out of the forest. Left behind was Candy's deliciously edible and cozy gingerbread house. Candy missed it already, though ultimately she was tired of living in a house from which people flee in terror, and her garden was too baroque and overgrown due to her struggle with gardening addiction. She thought learning some social skills would help her balance her witch life with an average one.

In many ways, Candy had it easy. Average mortals spend entire lives worrying about buying and selling stuff or raising families. Candy lived in a house she made for free, with help from her magic wand and broomstick. She never bought groceries or filled her car's gas tank with gasoline. But let us not forget that Candy is a witch. Only ugly monsters, like her vampire ex-boyfriend, are interested in befriending witches. Candy wanted glamorous female magician friends to practice tricks with. She missed her high-school confidant, Moira, who had dumped Candy after they broke into a grave in the cemetery and chopped off a deceased person's hand (long story). Moira was the only psychic friend Candy had ever had. Candy was bored in the forest, and needed new things to think about.

She had just decided to cast an Evil Spell upon all of humanity when an orange ice cream truck pulled over. It had a stoner's van vibe, with beefy, all-terrain tires. ESP was hand-painted in light blue on the side with yellow paint frosting the word like ice. Candy could still see inside it with the dusk light left, and the interior looked interesting too. She opened the passenger door.

"ESP?"

"That's me," he said. "Heading for a city?"

"I was just wishing for a new psychic friend," Candy said.

"I'm going to Oblivion. Hop in," ESP said.

"Sounds hickish," said Candy.

"They have skyscrapers," ESP said. "Supposedly there's a building there made of onyx. You can watch the sunset reflected on its wall."

He already knew what kind of place she'd like! Candy climbed up and sat down.

They drove four days straight. ESP and Candy started a new silent era in the van, never talking aloud. When ESP spoke, she saw the manic whites of his eyes all the way around his irises. His curly red hair shook like Medusa snakes. Maybe he'd been brain-fried by lightening.

When did you realize you had ESP? Candy asked, in her mind, while they were traversing a mountain range.

On the bus when I was a kid, ESP said silently back. The driver pulled over even though I didn't ask her to.

Where are you coming from? She asked. And why are you leaving?

I'm from ESP, he said.

It's a place too? She asked.

Everyone and everything has the same name, he said. It's all the same.

Maybe he was in a hippie cult.

We can hear other materials, ESP said. Tap a piece of copper, for example, and you will understand its structure.

I have no interest in metallugy, Candy said, all without uttering a word.

Think positive, ESP warned. Copper may save your life.

Candy couldn't think of a way to dispute this. Certainly everything has a use. Plus, she should talk, she's a person who carries a wand made of a petrified willow twig with an agate tip attached by iron wire forged and hammered by a metalsmith in the Middle Ages. Candy is the first to admit that everything has intrinsic value. Thinking about this made her want to animate objects. She wished ESP's backpack to unzip, and for a banana to hover into his lap. It floated over, and ESP ate it.

The conversation went on like this. Candy subsisted on a fanny pack full of her current favorite candies: Jordan almonds, black licorice, and Snickers. The sun rose, set, rose, set, and rose again, as if the van were a time machine traveling centuries. Their chats happened instantly. It's much more efficient to think something than it is to think something, then to say it. Candy started thinking of Speech as the middleman, who she wanted to cut out.

ESP isn't a cult, ESP said a few days of driving later.

You don't have to defend yourself, Candy said. I won't hex you.

It was night when they arrived. Oblivion was small, but a city at least, with light poles, buildings, and dumpsters. ESP and Candy cruised downtown to scope it out. She wanted to see hookers, pimps, and drug dealers, but the streets were deserted. They noticed boulevards named for gemstones—Moonstone, Quartz, Citrine, and Malachite. Candy looked at their road atlas and saw that mines and quarries surrounded the place. Maybe Oblivion was a city of rock hounds.

Where's the underbelly? Candy asked, disappointed. It's so clean here. That's why people live in a city, right? To get fucked up and have sex with each other?

ESP responded. People seek the company of others for various reasons. They eat and watch movies, for example... Here comes something, he said, slowing down for a store on the left.

ESP pulled up to a neon camel sign. The camel was wearing a thong and smoking a cigar. Letters spelled HUMP SHOP XXX. ESP parked and opened his door. I'll be right back, he said.

He came out with two ice cream cones. He climbed in the van and handed her one, and said,
These were free.

Complimentary ice cream came with a video rental titled Girls Lick Girls. ESP busted out a VCR-TV and popped the tape in while they enjoyed their scoops. When the butt-fucking scene started, Candy exited the van for a midnight stroll. The van bounced up and down as ESP jerked it, but Candy didn't turn around to look. She'd had her first glimpse of sleaze. Yummy, she thought, keeping her mind on ice cream.

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



Trinie Dalton lives in Brooklyn. She is author of Wide Eyed (Akashic), A Unicorn Is Born(Abrams Image), and co-editor of Dear New Girl or Whatever Your Name Is (McSweeney's), an art book based on confiscated high school notes. As a journalist, she writes about music, art, and film. She has an MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches fiction writing at various colleges.

Read the interview.
Issue Nineteen (December 15, 2007): The Off-Season by Jami Attenberg «» A Company Function by Grant Bailie «» Food Spectrum of the Rainbow Family by Melissa Bell «» Holiday Inn by Kim Chinquee «» Killer Pair by Trinie Dalton «» What Happened to My Purple Flip-Flops by Arwen Dewey «» Truth (ii) by Ben Ehrenreich «» How 9) Strange by Laird Hunt «» The Mess You Made in Us by C. Robin Madigan «» Red Brick by Darlin' Neal «» A Boy Not Born Yet by Tori Malcangio «» Taco Foot by Jack Pendarvis «» Boyandaquarter by Ben Stein «» Teec Nos Pos (Circle of Cottonwoods) by Beth Thomas «» Music from 1975 by Benjamin Weissman «» Interviews: Jami Attenberg «» Grant Bailie «» Melissa Bell «» Kim Chinquee «» Trinie Dalton «» Arwen Dewey «» Ben Ehrenreich «» Laird Hunt «» C. Robin Madigan «» Tori Malacangio «» Darlin' Neal «» Jack Pendarvis «» Jim Ruland «» Ben Stein «» Beth Thomas «» Benjamin Weissman «» Cover Art "Desire" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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