To read the first part of this story, go here: Fiction — Rock and Roll Life — Part 1
In a daze, Zane headed back toward the diner, guitar slung over one shoulder, backpack over the other, earbuds in place. His boots kicked up a spray of ochre dust that glowed in the blinding evening sun. He lowered his dollar-store sunglasses and let the words of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody sink in as they belted out the story of his life.
He sang along. “Mama, I just killed a man 🎶.”
Oh God, what have I done? I saved Mama, that’s what. There was no turning back now.
He was in luck. Two cars were parked on the gravel-spattered dirt outside the Traveler’s Oasis Cafe on Route 66. One he recognized as the owner’s jeep, the other must belong to an unsuspecting customer, whom Zane hoped would be entertained by Mr. Peterson’s idle chitchat for at least another hour while he enjoyed a leisurely home-cooked meal.
Zane fiddled with the wires under the dash and the Corvette roared to life. His mouth curled at the irony of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell playing on the radio. He probably hadn’t paid Satan’s dues yet, and wished he was headed to some party, but he figured hell was exactly where he’d end up. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel in time to the pulsing beat as the convertible sped toward the state line.
Maybe I’ll join the other lost souls haunting the ghost town of Nothing, Arizona. That sounds like a good place for a nobody like me to go.
The wind whistled past his ears, ruffling his thick hair, as he pushed the car past 90 mph heading east on Hwy 40. The classic Eagles’ song, Hotel California, came on the radio. His head bobbed in time to the music as he hummed along.
He pulled a hand-rolled joint from his shirt pocket. Holding the steering wheel with his knee, he cupped his hand around the lighter and flicked it to life. He took a long drag, holding each smoky inhalation as long as he could. Zane sunk deeper in the leather bucket seat and relaxed against the headrest. He smiled. Maybe life’s not so bad after all.
Time stood still as the world zipped by heavy-lidded eyes. He yawned. In the rearview mirror, the sun nestled down for the night in a fluffy bed of lilac and tangerine clouds.
Mile after mile of desolate scenery passed by.
The car hiccuped and sputtered to a stop. Zane cursed under his breath at the empty gas gauge and slammed the heel of his hand on the steering wheel. Khaki grit and stunted shrubs stretched as far as he could see in all directions.
And here I am, stranded in the middle of God knows where.
Since going back wasn’t an option, Zane threw his guitar over his shoulder and continued along the deserted highway. Occasionally, a distant object seemed to reflect the last vestiges of diminishing sunlight. He headed toward it for what seemed like hours. It was cool enough he didn’t break a sweat, but he soon felt covered with the same earthen film that caked his boots and the sparse foliage.
Zane flinched when a raindrop slapped him on the cheek. A showy flash of lightning snaked in the distance, followed by a growing rumble. Within minutes, a heavy downpour plastered his hair to his head. Since none of the scraggly bushes would provide any cover, he ducked his head and trudged on. He pulled his collar tight around his neck but not before the rain found its way in and ran down his back, spreading a wave of goosebumps in its wake. He pushed on toward the dim glow in the distance.
As crimson and turquoise splashed over the horizon, Zane noticed the shimmering light he’d sought all night was not just one light, but several. In front of him, a stone wall dotted with lit windows towered three stories high and stretched the length of a football field to either side. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, lush grass, and solar lights, the building looked out of place in the barren landscape.
Feeling like a drowned rat in a maze with only one direction open, Zane traipsed up steps framed on either side by concrete pillars studded with shiny pebbles. He raised his fist to knock, but jerked back when the dark double doors swung open before he touched them.