"Ristau-Style", enter from the back of the house and talk fast.
Hand in hand, we are headed east, then south, then west.
I do the driving, because Marianne says her eyes ain't what they used to be, and we hold hands in the pickup across the entire state of Arkansas. I haven't driven while holding hands with anyone since I was nineteen years old, which means I've gone too long to go without feeling this good.
I left the Quad Cities as an employee. I signed on do the driving and the heavy lifting in exchange for meals and one thousand dollars cash when we reach the Pacific Ocean. On the way out of Detroit we're laughing like we've taken this trip together every summer since we were kids, and in Memphis we tell each other we are in love.
I love Marianne because she's the kind of woman who sets goals and sees them through to the end, arthritis be damned!
Marianne loves me because I'm the kind of man who does everything creatively, no matter how difficult or gruesome the task at hand. She tells me I have flare, and I lean across the seat to bite her ear.
Somewhere in New Mexico the truck's thermostat redlines. I pull onto the shoulder and kill the engine. With the windows and sun visors down, Marianne lies across the seat. I move on top of her--real slow and gentle, because Marianne says her hips ain't what they used to be--and the two of us dry-hump like a couple of teenagers. We grind together, making my jeans damp with sweat and soaking hers in something else, until someone knocks on the windshield.
The state trooper gives us a dirty look and tells us to move along. He doesn't ask what's in the back of the truck in that green plastic bucket, and we don't show him the six rubbery pieces of flesh packed in rock salt.
I know what kind of woman Marianne is, because she set a goal, and I'm helping her carry it out. She decided her eight ex-husbands should die violently, and the very next morning she was on the road making it happen. It was her idea to throw their hearts one at a time off the western edge of America, so I guess that proves she has some flare of her own.
Marianne knows what kind of man I am, because she watches me work. She just said she wanted them dead, but I have not killed any two of them the same way. I have used such diverse tools as a utility knife, hammer, weedwacker, toaster thrown into bathtub, and drowning when that toaster tripped the circuit breaker without finishing the job. Now that I think of it, the wrestling match it took to keep a half-electrocuted ex-husband's head under water proves I see my goals through to the end, too.
Marianne has been quiet for the last hour. Las Vegas is still out of view, but it's starting to brighten the midnight horizon ahead. Marianne presses her thumb against her dentures to keep them from slipping, and she says, "Hey. Why don't we get hitched?"
I pull her close, because Marianne says her ears ain't what they used to be, and I say, "Marianne, there's one more heart waiting for us in Los Angeles, and there's the salty blue sea waiting for him. Darlin', I won't feel right bringing this to a close without making you my wife."