The Silverado whined and puttered as it ran out of gas, and Mike slammed a palm down on the steering column. He steered off to the gravel shoulder and banged the horn a few times in frustration.
The cabin filled with a haze as he walked around to the pontoon. He had no intention of doing anything, but sometimes looking at his prized boat made him feel a little better. But the more he looked, the more he realized being stranded on the side of the road meant they would be unable to use the boat, and depressed him instead.
He walked back to the cabin and leaned against it with folded arms. A few minutes later the growl of an old truck reached his ears, and he perked up as he saw one approaching down the two-lane road.
As it neared, he held out a hand to indicate he wanted the driver to stop. The driver did, leaving his truck idling as he hopped out and walked around to greet Mike.
“Having some engine trouble,” the man said, pronouncing engine like old cowboys used to pronounce Indian.
“No, unfortunately, we just ran out of gas,” Mike said, embarrassment warming his cheeks.
The man laughed. He had a grisly face furrowed with wrinkles and facial hair and dirt. He smelled a little, but not exceptionally so.
“I’m surprised a young thing like you didn’t whip out one of those satellite phones and rang up some help.”
Mike sighed, a little thrown off by being called ‘young thing’ and also by someone calling a cell phone a satellite phone. He put a smile on his face, more embarrassment filling his face with warmth.
“Funny thing is, this was supposed to be a weekend getaway without all the technology. Supposed to be romantic with the missus and me.”
Mike thumbed back at the hazy cabin, and the old man looked, moving his tongue around behind his lips as if he was trying to get something out from between his teeth.
“Sorry there, young thing, but it looks like she went up in smoke.”
The poor joke made even Mike laugh, and his laughter was furthered by the old man’s riotous, pulled-from-the-belly bellows of glee. The noise made Sally pop open Mike’s door. Her eyes were red from being encased in the smoke, which she loved to do for some reason. According to her, she got more out of the nicotine that way, but Mike was pretty sure she was just crazy.
“You going to help us, mister?” Sally said, mild annoyance on her voice.
“I sure am, ma’am,” the man said, doing a curtsy and pretending he had a skirt. Mike raised an eyebrow at the guy continued. “I got a few jugs of gasoline back at my place. I’ll hook you guys to me, and we’ll get rolling.”
“Can that thing haul the truck and my boat?” Mike said, looking at the shaking hood and doubting.
“This baby’s a 1980 Chevrolet Blazer with a 6-liter V8 diesel engine. She’ll haul you without so much as an extra sputter.”
Mike shrugged and helped get the two vehicles linked. When they were, he put it in neutral and sat back as the old man hauled them down the road. Another 30 minutes later and they pulled off the main road onto a dirt one. A brown cloud drifted behind them as they went.
“This is giving me the creeps,” Sally said, sipping her beer. “I feel like we’re about to be in a horror movie.”
Mike ignored her, and they stopped a little while later, pulling up in front of a large cabin. Tree stumps and decorate scrap metal sculptures littered the yard. The sculptures were an assortment of people in varying poses.
The couple hopped out their vehicle, and Mike checked his pontoon for any damage. Seeing none, he walked with Sally, following the old man who had said nothing but walked toward his cabin. As they passed the sculptures, Mike was taken aback by the fact that each figure had various type of hair glued onto them. None of it was very long, and some heads bore beards that had been haphazardly glued.
“You folks make yourself at home,” the old guy said, holding up a large key ring with a number of rusty keys. “I’m going to fetch that gas for your guzzler.”
“If it’s, all the same, we’ll just wait here. Won’t belong?” Sally said, folding her arms, a thing she often did when she was uncomfortable.
The old guy shrugged, finally finding a key and revealing a crooked smile. He headed off toward an old shed and Sally gave Mike a look that meant ‘I can’t believe this guy.’
A scream made them both jump and turned their attention to the cabin. They shared a look and ran up to the front door. It was open, so they pushed their way in. A smell like death smacked them in the face, and they both gagged.
Holding up a hand to his nose, Mike looked around and gasped in unison with Sally. There were cats everywhere, mewling and purring and hissing at their presence. One gave out a scream that was exactly like what they’d heard before, and they both took a step back. Further, each cat had been shaved, and a pile of their fur was stacked on the table.
“Didn’t let any of them out did you?” came the old man’s voice, and the couple jumped, whipping around.
Startled and a little terrified, Mike balled up a fist and sent it into the old guy’s cheek. The gas can be held dropped to the floor, and the gas sloshed around inside. Grabbing the handle, Mike sprinted out the front and Sally followed, ignoring the old guy as he yelled, “Hey, young thing, that hurt. What are you doing?”
With a shaking hand, Mike unscrewed the gas cap and dumped down as much gasoline as he could. The old man recovered and started jogging toward them shaking a fist. The couple hopped in the Silverado and Mike popped a U-turn as smooth as he could with a pontoon hitched to the back.
They sped off down the road all huffs and puffs and adrenaline.
“We almost just died!” Sally said a little laughter on her voice fueled by the escape.
Mike’s mouth was dry, and he kept quiet, turning onto the main road back the way they’d came instead of heading to the lake. They could go fishing another time.