They say there are two sides to every story, right? Let’s stop bullshitting shall we, no one ever really listens to both sides, they listen to the first story and make up their minds if it’s right or wrong, truth or fiction and they judge everyone involved from there, even if the truth is just a little bit muddy, even if it lies somewhere deep and shadowed, mired in shades of gray.
The purple Chevy Silvarado bounced its way along the gravel road, throwing up clouds of dirt in its wake. Sunlight twinkled off the silver lightning bolts airbrushed down its sides as "Redneck Crazy" blared from a half-open window. Whiskey rough, the singer’s voice was filled with pain as he sang about getting revenge on the woman who’d cheated on him. In the passenger’s seat the tan and brown bloodhound’s ears flapped each time the tires hit the ruts in the road. The old dog’s weathered face was a map of wrinkles, dotted here and there by gray scar tissue well-earned in its glory days as one of the best coon sniffin’ dogs in three counties.
Behind the wheel, scowling blue eyes stared from beneath the rim of a battered baseball cap, the skull and pink rose logo showing signs of dirt and wear. Strands of blue and purple hair fluttered out the window, trailing like ribbons in the wind while the rest was neatly secured by a plain black elastic. His arms were bare, showing off the winding patterns of the Celtic tattoos that wove around them, ending just before the thick green straps of his tye-dyed tank top.
The song changed and his fingers tapped along with the next song, a raucous drinking tune filling the cab of the truck, joined by the sweet tenor of his voice as he sang along. His nails were blunt, short and painted a sparkling sky blue that was a little chipped in places, the skin around them streaked with grime caught from the oil filter he’d changed just an hour before.
Up ahead, a small farmhouse began to grow bigger, until it was easy to make out the weathered green of the roof with its missing shingles and the way the gray screen door listed just a little bit sideways, as if someone had once kicked it off its hinges. The closer he got, the easier it was to see that a section of fence was down. There were tire marks on the wood and grass poking up between the slats. It looked like someone had driven a truck over it then left it lying there for a couple seasons. What paint was left on it was wind stripped in places, ragged flaps of white flaking and fluttering in the breeze.
The grass was more than just a little bit tall, had to be over three feet and creeping up the sagging porch steps, looking like it was trying to find a way inside the house to take it over. He slowed as he reached the driveway, let his eyes wander to the second set of windows on the left, framed by cracked shutters so dusty from the dirt in the fields that it was impossible to tell what color they used to be, but he knew. He didn’t need to clean them to know that his father had never pained over the dark jade paint his mother had chosen the year she died.
A lump formed in his throat and a cold, icy ball coiled in the pit of his stomach as he glared up at that window, watching the clouds play tricks on his eyes, making it seem like his old man’s shadow was waiting for him up there, watching for him to pull in. The thought of those cold blue eyes had his hands tightening on the steering wheel, his knuckles turning white while his teeth nibbled away at the inside of his lip ‘til he tasted blood. For a moment he considered turning the car around and heading back out of town, until he glanced in the rear view and was reminded that everything he owned was packed in the bed of the truck beneath a bright blue tarp.
Still didn’t make it any easier to pick his foot up off the break, not while “Sweet Annie,” was being drowned out by the remains of one of his father’s many sermons replaying itself in his mind, haunting him in the same way they sometimes did when the tornado sirens blared in the dead of night, jarring him from sleep with images of his father still bright from his lingering nightmares.