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A Passing Star over Mars Jacob T. Fox
by Jacob Blue Fox
Jacob Blue Fox -- all rights reserved

Two very large men sat in a very small car as it and life sped by at about seventy-five miles an hour. They guessed that it was seventy-five because the gauge bounced between fifty-five and one hundred, and as they drove Jerry, the tipsy passenger, tilted his large head up to the sky and smiled.

"This is the shit, Phil."

The car, a 1971 MGB, a tiny red convertible with a black hood and three windshield wipers, was Jerry's and so was the fully loaded .357 magnum under Phil's seat. The night was clear and overhead was Draco stretching over the midnight travelers. Phil drove the MGB down the parkway, his large hands lightly holding the wheel as one of his fingers rested on the overdrive. Jerry was the more muscular of the two men and he brought a whole new meaning to the term 'muscle bound dolt'. Jerry's childhood dream was to become professional weightlifter or at the most a mechanic. Phil was the brighter and the older of the two by a good twenty years. But he was a car man and he drudged on the assembly lines of Universal Motors right along side Jerry. Phil stared at the road ahead smiling; he really liked this car. Jerry looked up to the sky; he really liked life. And after his visit with his girlfriend in Pittsburgh, Jerry loved it.

"Phil. She said yes, man! Oh, fuck! Shelly is my fucking life, Chief, and she wants me! Holy fuck!"

Jerry's arms shot up into the air and he screamed as loud as he could. Victory was his! The flat, dark farmlands absorbed the wind muffled scream. No other living soul other than Phil could hear him. Phil looked at the lucky SOB and then back to the road. He smiled, wiping his graying moustache as he did. The road forked to the Scranton/Allenstown exit on the right and the Philadelphia exit to the left. Phil turned the car to the right and headed to the two smaller towns. A big crooked goofy smile took over Jerry's face as the wind blew over his bald head.

"Good fucking times, Chief. Good fucking times."

Phil laughed; he hadn't done much of that in a while. Then he finally spoke out. "You do realize you are using the word fuck like most folks use a comma?"

Jerry looked over to Phil who was laughing at his own joke. Then Jerry gripped the dashboard with his muscular fingers and shook, joy transforming over into physical motion.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I love it!"

Phil slowed the little car down to what he felt was fifty-five and turned down a ramp onto another parkway. Nothing much changed in the scenery, silhouettes of barns filled the horizon. Everywhere they looked they only saw fields, sky and road. Jerry looked back up and saw a falling star leaving a fire trail from the constellations Vulpecula through Draco and then over the faint red dot of Mars. Jerry thought the streak looked like someone poured a line of gas across the sky and had lit it. He laughed to himself at that thought, remembering his pyromaniac childhood.

"Shit, Chief! A shooting star!"

Phil calmly looked to Jerry. "No big deal."

"No big deal! What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Shooting stars are just rocks or satellites or pieces of comets falling from space and burning up in the atmosphere. I've seen them before. Like I said, no big deal."

Jerry kept looking trying to find another streak. "It's a big deal to me; I never seen one before. It don't bother me any that it's just a rock, Chief. Still cool to me."

Jerry rustled in his black leather seat and spoke again. "You believe in Astrology, Chief?"

Phil sneered. "Fuck, no! If you think that destiny lies in the stars, you're truly fucked. That's like having a lucky rabbit's foot in your pocket. It don't mean shit!"

Phil turned off the parkway on to a highway that was the led to Jerry's home. He'd drop Jerry off at his small apartment and then drive home to sleep. Jerry would spend the rest of the night whispering to Shelly on the phone. A week later Phil and Jerry said goodbye as Jerry quit his job and drove his little car up three highways to be with the woman he loved, Shelly. Phil considered him the luckiest man on Earth.

Twenty years later, a bar was designed to give refuge to those who needed a place to rest and feel if not at home, at least safe. Now the bar it looked like a giant party for the not so mundane. There was revelry everywhere; it was a birthday party for a regular. In this joint, everyday was someone's birthday, or wedding, or, in the case of the middle aged woman smoking a cigarette at the bar, an anniversary. She wore an old black raincoat over a rather conservative gray dress and over her feet were a pair of flats. She raised the butt to her lined mouth and took in another drag. The smoke of which caught the attention of the bartender. Donnie could have been one of the biggest barkeeps in town; the horns had at least put him over the top. As he looked down on the woman, he tapped his hardened hand on a plastic sign that read 'no smoking'. The woman rolled her eyes and put the cigarette out right in the middle of the crossed out image and sighed. She'd been alive too damned long to be talked down by this guy. A sarcastic smile was fired at the bartender and she remembered a time when she could have taken him in a bar brawl, if she wasn't stuck in this useless body. . .

The woman looked past the mirror behind Donnie and thought about her life. She recalled her failed marriage to the one she loved, two kids they took away from her because she couldn't support them, and months of unemployment, which turned into years, which then turned into a debt she could never pay. A tear flowed from her eye. She had once been an optimist, but then most everyone else had been until the God damned Martian Flu. Now, she asked herself, does God even know what's going to happen next? Does he even fucking care?

A man whose nose and mouth bulged out into a raccoon muzzle waltzed to the bar and sat on the stool next to her. He grinned to Donnie and asked for a gin and tonic. He looked to the woman with concern.

"What's your name?" he asked.

She sighed. "My name's Jerri, Chief, and I'm not interested."

The woman tossed her cigarette at the floor and bumped into a stool where a large white rabbit was sitting sipping a Jack Strafford, his hare restorer, and instead of stopping his stool from spinning, the rabbit thought about what the woman said. Memories of a man came to mind and he told himself, nah, couldn't be him. He laughed but the thought lingered. He asked himself whatever happened to Jerry and he asked himself where he had smelled that woman's scent before. The front door to the street swung open and thoughts about Jerry, his wife, his two kids, and a very happy British car flowed into the little rabbit brain. Those happy thoughts were cut off as a sound of a gunshot, a .357 magnum, echoed from the street. Phil quickly understood why the woman was special; the scent coming from her purse was gun oil. He hopped off of the counter and threw the door open to find parked in front was a 1971 MGB backfiring and a woman swearing, slamming a gun into the steering wheel. This wasn't the first time that Phil had walked into a suicide. He had seen these things before, but not like this.

"Don't do it, Jerry." Phil calmly said.

She looked up to Phil and though she saw a white rabbit in front of her, Jerri could hear an old friend's voice from distant memory. A crooked smile crossed over her face; this was something Jerri hadn't done in a long time. She jerked the passenger side door open; after three tries it finally did. Phil spoke and laughed a little at the happy little car.

"You always did have to ram your shoulder into it to get it to work."

Phil jumped in and sat on the seatbelt, looking up at his sad, sad friend as they drove away. To Phil, suicides had become as common as shooting stars from the sky. But in time he learned that everything and everyone was special. Like Jerry, whose last happy memory was of the time that he went riding in his MGB watching a shooting star by the name of 'Beagle' burn up the sky.

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