Children Of The Corn
Burt turned the radio on too loud and didn’t turn it down because they were on the verge of another argument and he didn’t want it to happen. He was desperate for it not to happen.
Vicky said something. “What?” he shouted.
“Turn it down! Do you want to break my eardrums?”
He bit down hard on what might have come through his mouth and turned it down.
Vicky was fanning herself with her scarf even though the T-Bird was air-conditioned. “Where are we, anyway?”
She gave him a cold, neutral look. “Yes, Burt. I know we’re in Nebraska, Burt. But where the hell are we?”
“You’ve got the road atlas. Look it up. Or can’t you read?”
“Such wit. This is why we got off the turnpike. So we could look at three hundred miles of corn. And enjoy the wit and wisdom of Burt Robeson.”
He was gripping the steering wheel so hard his knuckles were white. He decided he was holding it that tightly because if he loosened up, why, one of those hands might just fly off and hit the ex-Prom Queen beside him right in the chops. We “re saving our marriage, he told himself. Yes. We’re doing it the same way us grunts went about saving villages in the war.
“Vicky,” he said carefully. “I have driven fifteen hundred miles on turnpikes since we left Boston. I did all that driving myself because you refused to drive. Then – “
“I did not refuse!” Vicky said hotly. “Just because I get migraines when I drive for a long time -‘Then when I asked you if you’d navigate for me on some of the secondary roads, you said sure, Burt. Those were your exact words. Sure, Burt. Then -‘Sometimes I wonder how I ever wound up married to you.”
“By saying two little words.”
She stared at him for a moment, white-lipped, and then picked up the road atlas. She turned the pages savagely.
It had been a mistake leaving the turnpike, Burt thought morosely. It was a shame, too, because up until then they had been doing pretty well, treating each other almost like human beings. It had sometimes seemed that this trip to the coast, ostensibly to see Vicky’s brother and his wife but actually a last-ditch at-tempt to patch up their own marriage, was going to work.
But since they left the pike, it had been bad again. How bad? Well, terrible, ac-tually.
“We left the turnpike at Hamburg, right?”
“There’s nothing more until Gatlin,” she said. “Twenty miles. Wide place in the road. Do you suppose we could stop there and get something to eat? Or does your almighty schedule say we have to go until two o’clock like we did yesterday?”
He took his eyes off the road to look at her. “I’ve about had it, Vicky. As far as I’m concerned, we can turn right here and go home and see that lawyer you wanted to talk to. Because this isn’t working at – “
She had faced forward again, her expression stonily set. It suddenly turned to surprise and fear. “Burt look out you’re going to – “
He turned his attention back to the road just in time to see something vanish under the T-Bird’s bumper. A moment later, while he was only beginning to switch from gas to brake, he felt something thump sickeningly under the front and then the back wheels. They were thrown forward as the car braked along the centre line, decelerating from fifty to zero along black skidmarks.
“A dog,” he said. “Tell me it was a dog, Vicky.”
Her face was a pallid, cottage-cheese colour. “A boy. A little boy. He just ran out of the corn and.. . congratulations, tiger.”