Summer Sabbatical In A 1975 Dodge Swinger
Summary: Crowley enjoys a less-than-voluntary summer sabbatical in a 1975 Dodge Swinger trailer in Tennessee. Ah, well. Even the King of Hell could use a vacation. Set between spn season 6 and season 7. Canon compliant (for once). Complete.
This fic was originally written for the July 2020 SPN Coldest Hits Challenge, the theme of which was send a character on a canon-compliant vacation. Due to real world events, I sadly wasn't able to post in time for the challenge. Full disclosure: this fic includes references to 2011 pop culture, written in 2020, by someone who wasn't living in the United States in 2011, and doesn't know anything about pop culture anyway.
If you are hoping for one of my Crowley-as-one-of-the-boys fics or Crowley redemption fics, know this is not one of them.
This was how the summer began, then. With Castiel's betrayal of their arrangement and the sudden and unfortunate and unprofitable end to their little Purgatory scheme. With Crowley forced to flee or die, the death of an archangel, the abortion of yet another apocalypse, and the creation of a new, less-than-benevolent, trenchcoated god.
It was time, Crowley decided, for a vacation.
The truth of the matter was that he was a little burnt out. The past year of ruling and reorganizing Hell and getting demonkind in line and all the while collaborating with that tarnished halo of an angel had required more concentration and control than Crowley had anticipated. It wasn't that he no longer wanted the responsibility that came with ruling Hell or the power that came with ruling Hell or the occasionally Winchester-related incidents and world-ending scenarios that came with ruling Hell, though certainly fewer of the latter were preferred. Only that, in Crowley's estimation, a first mostly-successful first year on the job had earned him some rest and relaxation. And if that rest and relaxation happened to prevent him from ending up smited by the new, less-than-benevolent, trenchcoated god, so much the better.
As far as vacation spots went, his only real choice was not the sort to inspire envy in anyone, or at least anyone who's opinion mattered to Crowley. He had his selection of spas and resorts, luxury hotels and wind-swept beaches. His estate in Kent in the south of England or his condo in Los Angeles or his cabana on Anegada or his flat in Paris or the villa in Morocco or the crumbling relic of a manor home built during the reign of Catherine the Great on the Baikal Lake in Russia. He could have called in favors, stayed as a less-than-welcome houseguest with members of the grand coven or the powerful Stein family or a billionaire or two who owned a certain king of the crossroads their soul.
But if this was as much about his survival as it was about a little vacation, and it was, and he wanted to keep a low profile, and he did, then there was only one real option on the table. And Crowley, being Crowley, was determined to make the most of it.
The 1975 Dodge Swinger trailer sat on a short, shady lane at the far end of a trailer park in Tennessee.
The trailer park was, like most trailer parks in the southern United States and anywhere else trailers home tended to gather like large aluminum bison, unremarkable. It abutted an interstate heading nowhere of any importance. Thick stands of maple and oak and dogwood and popular crowded in around the park and the trailers, providing privacy and some refuge for local wildlife. There was a tin can of a convenience store at one end of the trailer park which strangely sold the most beautiful, fresh looking produce. And at night, the woods around the trailers lit up with the glow and glimmer of fireflies. There were not many dogs in the trailer park that summer.
The Dodge Swinger had been acquired only two years before from a down-on-their-luck acquaintance who had recently become wheelchair-bound due to the embedding of a certain demon knife in stomach lining. The lot it slouched on was bordered by a corpse of trees to the left; an unused picnic table separated it from a trailer for sale to the right, which the other residents of the short, shady lane had long accepted would never sell, and across the way sat an empty trailer lot of weedy gravel and ominous potential.
The trailer was as dingy and as tacky on the inside as it looked on the outside, the pale buff-colored seats and dark clapboard cabinets and a sticky linoleum floor that had never in its existence encountered the head of a mop. Washed-out yellow, cream and grey plaid curtains were the full extent of any attempt at interior decorating. The amenities boasted a busted air conditioner, a fridge that hummed along at a balmy 20°C in the main compartment and a chilly 10°C in the supposed freezer, a gas stove that clicked but rarely lit, a plastic fold-down dinette table for two, a fold-out couch with a mattress comprised primarily of springs, an 8-track player and ham radio, a knobbed tv set from the 80s complete with rabbit ears that had to be judiciously perched at various locations around the trailer at any given time, and a ratty old recliner, upholstered in brown and yellow plaid, naturally.
The kaleidoscope of protection symbols, invisibility symbols, symbols to omit or overlook or disregard, symbols to hide from scrying or spellcasting or summoning, symbols to discourage Jehovah's Witnesses and girl scouts and door-to-door salesmen and even demons and – above all – symbols to dispel or hide from angels on every interior surface of the trailer did nothing to improve the decorating scheme. Black on the walls on the ceiling on the moss-lined shower, and a discouraging red on all the windows. Enough protection symbols and invisibility symbols and all the rest to ensure that for all intents and purposes, this particular Dodge Swinger trailer on this particular short, shady lane in this particular trailer park in Tennessee simply did not exist.
Crowley kept the washed-out yellow plaid curtains of the Dodge Swinger drawn and the door tightly shut and the windows all closed and paid his neighbors the least amount of attention possible and hoped they would return the favor.
How long this little vacation would last, Crowley wasn't certain. And so he came prepared.
There had not been much time to do any sort of pleasure shopping, and so Crowley had brought with him only the basics. There were bottles of 30-year-old Craig and single malt Irish whiskey and bubbling bottles of rosé, bottles of maraschino cherries and martini olives and sprigs of rosemary and mint. He brought along his favorite shaker and tumblers and shot glasses and sangria pitcher, and stocked the fridge that hummed along at a balmy 20°C with lemons and limes and peaches and slid an ice cube tray with something that passed for a prayer into the chilly 10°C freezer. He arranged jars of garnishes on fridge shelves, and bags of microwave popcorn and tins of gourmet nuts and packages of chocolate biscuits in the dark clapboard cupboards. Though resigned to the indecency of boiling tea water in a sauce pan likely coated with decades-old mac-and-cheese grease, or perhaps canned tomato sauce, he was pleasantly surprised to discover a busted old tin kettle which squatted on the gas stove that clicked but rarely lit. It whistled morosely over the fine Earl Grey and Mono Super Grade Oolong and Chocolate Raspberry Cupcake tea Crowley had brought for the misty mornings and muggy evenings of Tennessee. Beyond that, he used whatever lay moldering in the 1975 Dodge Swinger.
He'd brought along some entertainment, too. He couldn't afford the risk of checking in with Hell or processing paperwork or supervising deals or anything else which might garner unwanted attention. What he could do, however, was indulge in the guilty pleasure of popular culture, however much he cared to indulge in it, for however long this little vacation might last. And Crowley cared to indulge quite a bit.
There was the first season of Games of Thrones to catch up on, with all the back-stabbing and incent and scheming for the iron throne. What a heavy burden a crown was, and how rarely it was worn by the most cunning, the most worthy. Still, the last books had yet to be written. There was still time for the imp to earn the respect and love and kingship he deserved. Downton Abbey was a pleasantly nostalgic return to a faded world of gentility, of high tea and fine linens and brass bells and the heady days of dying empires. Boardwalk Empire was another trip down memory lane. The seedy and sublime and the flow of whiskey and rum and moonshine, of dark alleys and bright, gilded dining rooms with chandeliers and champagne and kings coming of age.
Crowley mixed a drink, kicked back, watched Inception and Bridesmaids and – how could he resist? – Angels & Demons. He reread Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbs and Noam Chomsky, and read Ken Follett and James Patterson and Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. The knobbed tv set from the 80s only picked up American television and provided endless hours of primetime reruns: Dancing with the Stars, NCIS, Will & Grace, and Desperate Housewives. He watched natural documentaries and America's Funniest Home Videos and played along with contestants on trivia game shows. He created a Twitter account and watched, impressed, as souls managed to successfully damn themselves in a mere 140 characters.
He played a guessing game with himself about which news story could be attributed to demonic activity, which could be chalked up to plain old human barbarity, which were born of or led to the crossroads, and which good intention would lead the most horribly astray. There was the blatant hypocrisy of the US boycotting a United Nations anti-racism conference. A New York congressman was caught sending dick pics. Ninety-six year old Dorothy Cooper was denied a voting ID in nearby Chattanooga, new warning labels featuring graphic images were slapped on cigarette packaging, another state passed same-sex marriage, and the Boston Bruins won their first NHL title in 39 years against the Vancouver Canucks.
Crowley created cocktails. He gave himself a pedicure. He bet on the beetles crawling across the ceiling. He leaned back in the ratty old recliner upholstered in brown and yellow plaid and enjoyed the lack of responsibility and the way time moved like molasses inside the Dodge Swinger.
There was a gremlin living in this part of the trailer park. A gnarled, rangy creature, feral and nasty, with long claws and muscular limbs and a hunched shape, which nested in the empty trailer lot directly across from the Dodge Swinger. It survived on squirrels and beetles, and cats allowed outdoors, and at night it stole into trailers to snatch small dogs. It ate the little Pekinese of the middle-aged couple who lived on the other side of the trailer for sale, and then the pug, the spaniel, the dachshund, the Maltese. Each week, a new dog was procured to replace the one that supposedly wandered off in the night, and each in turn found their way to the empty lot.
Of the middle-aged couple who lived on the other side of the trailer for sale, not much could be said. They liked dogs. They took long walks around the trailer park, and called out pleasantly to their neighbors across the way, and only once dared come knocking on the Dodge Swinger, to ask if its occupant had seen any of the multitude of their missing pets. Crowley ignored them, and the couple went away. But they left a lost dog flier on the step of the Dodge Swinger, and a half dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies in a ziplocked bag, and so Crowley looked kindly upon them, even as he remained indifferent to the goings on of the gremlin.
The trailer across from the middle-aged couple was a paradise of all things green and growing, a bountiful and boundless garden to rival the one of biblical lore. The walls of the trailer itself crawled with morning glory and ivy, the roof bore a thick layer of mossy turf, and where there had once, many years ago, rumbled an engine built of cylinders and pistons and gaskets, now grew a yellow poplar with a spindly trunk as thick around as the handle of a shovel. Where other lots were comprised of bone-grey gravel and dandelion weeds, here pine-sided raised beds rose up out of lush grass, from which burst bulbous heads of cauliflower, bouquets of collard greens, and the swelter of summer okra and sweet peppers. The borders of the yard were staked out with sunflowers and storied trellises of bush beans, pole beans, lima beans, runner beans, and snap peas. Light rippled along rows and rows of glass mason jars from which sprouts of all sorts raised their first leaves. There were lavender and lilac, roses and daffodils, juniper and willow, and the occasional, hardy orchid. On this otherwise shady lane of the trailer park, here the sun shone down in resplendence.
The younger of the two women who lived among the green and growing things set out for the tin can of a convenient store on the far side of the trailer park every morning before dawn. And she returned every morning, with her cloth sack toting an item or two, at exactly the same time every day. Exactly the same time, not a minute earlier or a minute later than the day before. Her step was rigid and steady and slow, her feet and eyes never wavering, never shifting. Each step crumbled into the sole of her shoe and settled before the next foot was lifted.
Each morning she made the journey. Each day she spent in the garden with her elderly housemate, tending the sprigs of lemon balm and bushels of geraniums. Each night she lowered herself down under the teepeed trellis of hops and honeysuckle and slept with her ear pressed to hear the soft rumble of the earth.
The trailer that was a paradise of all things green and growing, with its spindly yellow poplar and its garden viridescent against the scrubland of the trailer park, and the elderly lady who lived within, was tended by this golem, this daughter shaped of dark earth and binding words. She coaxed the seedlings that nurseries sought after and sold her vegetables to the tin can of a convenient store to feed her neighbors, and cared for her charge and owner with the same tenderness and love with which she tended the garden. Often the two were seen out in the sunshine, out along the shades of shamrock and sage, smiling and speaking softly to one another as their hands dug into the soft, loamy shadows of the soil.
When Crowley observed the crone and her clay servant, whenever he noticed them at all, his otherwise fine, peaty Scotch always left behind an unpleasant grit. He ground it irritably between his teeth.
The trailer between the empty lot and the trailer of green and growing things was likely the most well-kept trailer in the entire park, or perhaps even in any trailer park in all of Tennessee and its neighboring states. It seemed ill-suited to the short, shady lane and its proximity to the Dodge Swinger, with its marriage of Scandinavian and Japanese architecture, its pristine white paneling, it bamboo-slatted porch and overhanging roof, its sleek and minimal style. The meticulously groomed yard boasted a rock-walled Jacuzzi hot tub, and a teak patio set and 60" television sheltered under a slate overhang held up by two solid stone walls down which rivets of water trickled tantalizingly, the sort of tantalizing that should warn the wary about venturing too closely.
Gifts arrived on the porch of this stylish, state-of-the-art trailer nearly every day. Gifts of fruit, which swelled in the heat and burst onto the bamboo slats. Gifts of wine and whiskey and moonshine and tins of finely rolled joints. Other times, gifts of work, which showed up with hat in and offered to tend the lawn or cook a meal or warm the sheets. All gifts and offers were turned away. The sharp-faced man with blue tattoos who opened the door to the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer and greeted the gifters and sent them on their way had already gotten from them exactly what he wanted. Still, that is how he had acquired the fine remodeling of his previously derelict trailer, how the hot tub and the teak lawn furniture and the walls with their rippling waterfalls had found their way onto the lot.
There were other people who came to this trailer, and from them, this djinn took gladly and hungrily. They came to the sharp-faced man with blue tattoos with desperation in their eyes, with their own yearning hunger that the world or the opportunities open to them or their own exertions could not slake. They came with their dreams and their wishes and their wants in hand. Dreams of lipstick red convertibles and marbled kitchens on acres of rolling hills gently trampled by pure-bred racehorses. The desire for distant lands and strange customs and golden idols waiting to be scavenged from jungle-lost temples and the thrilling fear of a poisoned dart or tussle with a white-coated tiger. Or the want of love, of the orange and blue pulse of heat that might solder two souls together for all eternity, that would shower sparks in their joining, and burn any hands that sought to break the conjoined metal of their hearts. The wishing for a world without hatred or pain, a world of justice and humanity. All of them, dreaming and wishing and wanting that which was not attainable for them. That was what the djinn gave them, however fictional and fleeting. And in turn, they gave him their blood.
Not once that long summer did the sharp-faced man with blue tattoos drink enough that a corpse needed to be carried from the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer. Not that summer. Maybe not many before it either. Always, they stumbled from his trailer, sunken-faced, smiling. Always they returned with gifts. And always, the djinn turned them away. There was only one thing he wanted from them, and if that was not something they were offering, the sharp-faced man with blue tattoos wasn't interested in them. He never left his well-kept lot. He gave civil if disinterested greetings to his neighbors. The world came to his door willingly, and so he had no need of anything more.
From behind the pale, plaid curtains of the Dodge Swinger, Crowley watched the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer and its occupant, and approved.
Jennifer's Body was an absolute delight. The proto-feminism, the campy representation of demons, the revenge against male entitlement. Fifty Shades of Grey was a sad, suburbia daydream that failed to capture the inherent pleasure and delicious selection of bondage available to any well-versed connoisseur – and worse, the writing was lousy. Exxon Mobile's oil spill up in Montana looked like it might get out of hand, and it felt like a personal blow when Miranda's lemon cupcakes didn't carry her to victory in the Great British Bake Off.
He re-read Dante's Inferno and enjoyed the self-deluding romp of Don Quixote and though he loved the man himself dearly and privately championed his view of the world, Crowley simply could not read another stale, repetitive word of Richard Dawkins. Avatar was a disgrace. Watchman was a feast. Crowley discovered he had something of a soft spot for anti-heroes who proved themselves more moral than the over-bloated, self-righteous sort. Tarantino's latest masterpiece was a true triumph of storytelling and historical revisionism. Shame the man had only gotten himself ten movies in the deal for his soul. Crowley made a note to himself to revise that particular contract, once this little vacation as over.
The Supreme Court overturned a ban in California on violent video games sold to children without direct parental consent. That one had been a few years of deals and schemes in the making. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives managed to misplace 1,400 military-grade guns in Operation Fast and Furious, a wonderfully named little venture that had gone according to plan. And there was a killing spree in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a place that sounded vaguely though he was fairly certain that particular mass murder had not been demonically inspired. Crowley discovered Angry Birds.
He read the Kitchen House, and Stephen King's 11/22/63, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer. He chuckled his way through Heaven Is For Real, and thumbed through Packing for Mars. He read Marie Kondo to learn about getting his (Hell)house in order and You're Not So Smart for a little self-insight into recent events and played endless hours of online poker and read The New Jim Crow because demons were rarely better at torturing people than people were at torturing their own kind. Katniss finally got around to choosing between the rebel-wannabe and the baker boy.
In one of the dark clapboard cabinets under the sink, Crowley found an old bottle of the previous occupant, some sort of rot-gut that he sniffed on his own dare before pouring half down the drain. But then he thought better of it and that there might come a time when 30-year-old Craig and single malt Irish whiskey and bubbling bottles of rosé were in short supply, and so he stashed the bottle with its remaining swig of gastronomic gasoline back among the cobwebs and the colony of black mold under the sink.
Crowley set up a chessboard on the plastic fold-down dinette table for two. He arranged the cheeky black king and his loyal pawns against the amateurish, dull white king and its foolhardy followers and won almost instantly. After that, Crowley set the board with black pieces on both side and challenged himself to remember which was which as the knights and bishops and horses moved across the board. He allowed himself only one move per day.
He followed the headlines from Minneapolis and Portland and Yemen and Hong Kong and all the places around the world, all the churches and conversion therapy centers and hospitals and prisons and penthouses and boardrooms and houses of power that their new god blessed with his presence and then left an unholy slaughter in his wake. Tongues swallowed and eyes gouged out and genitals inverted up into body cavities, the occasional pillar of salt. The old testament on a grand world tour. Not exactly the sort of thing that won – or – changed hearts and minds. But then public relations and complex problem-solving had never really been Castiel's strong suit. All the power to remake the world, and yet the nuclear weapons slept peacefully in their silos and the ticker tape of the stock market continued to tick-tick-tick into dollars and wealth and power, and if a utopia of peace and prosperity and safety and inclusion had come to the children of the world, it had missed the trailer park in Tennessee where the Dodge Swinger slouched.
The hunters arrived in a beat up blue jeep, splattered in dried mud and the speakers softly strumming indie folk music, and parked in front of the trailer for sale on the short, shady lane. It was obvious they were hunters. Not because they wore plaid and jeans or carried EMF meters cobbled together from appliance store rejects or because their rolled up sleeves revealed anti-possession tattoos, though any those things would have declared them hunters. And this pair did, in fact, wear plaid and jeans, but there were hunters that did not. It was the way they carried themselves. It was the way they moved through the world.
This pair of hunters, who might have been friends or lovers or cousins were a blond woman and a blond man – and a dog. It was no surprise the pair hunted with a dog, a bullmastiff that looked as though it could take down a wendigo or a werewolf or fend off an entire pack of nachsehrer all on its own, a dog which the pair might have had even if they had not been hunters, because they were related to or very close to the middle-aged couple with their own fondness for dogs. They came for a visit, and camped in the empty lot across from the Dodge Swinger and next to the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer. And for a week Crowley waited for the pair to discern the natures of their neighbors, of the djinn and the golem and the demon, and to be the sort of nuisance that only hunters could be, and for a week the gremlin withdrew into its nest and subsisted on the bones of squirrels and raccoons and Pomeranians it had stored there.
But the pair of hunters who might have been friends or lovers or cousins were oblivious to the nature of their neighbors and never once questioned the bounty of the trailer that was a paradise for all green and growing things or the comings and goings around the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer or recognized the symbols painted on the windows of the Dodge Swinger. And if the sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos stayed inside the trailer that entire week and never once enjoyed the trickle of his rock waterfall despite the heat, it could be said that he simply did not appreciate or want to intrude on the camp fire revelry and long walks and impromptu games of bowling in the short, shady lane enjoyed by the middle-aged couple and the pair of hunters and their dog. The woman made of dark earth was never a minute earlier or a minute late on her walk from the tin can convenience store on the other side of the trailer park, but she did busy herself within the emerald luster on the far side of her trailer, and only the elderly of the two woman, who was both charge and owner, sat at the edge of their lot under the shade of the yellow poplar to cheer on the games or chat languidly in the late afternoon sun.
They were either very recent to hunting or very bad at hunting, this blond woman and blond man and their dog. If they were home, then they were glad to be home, and if they were visiting, it was with old friends, and if they told stories around the campfire about their lives beyond the trailer park, it was with words the middle-aged couple could understand, and did not involve ghosts and magic and monsters. On their last day, they made a gift to the couple of a shih tzu, with a collar and tags and a bow tied in its hair. Then they packed up their campsite, hopped in their jeep, and the pair of hunters and their dog left the middle-aged couple and their neighbors and the trailer park in the dust behind them. The road ahead opened up to swallow them whole, and they might as well have never been.
The small, dark figure of the gremlin scurried through the night once more, and the shih tzu went the way of all of those that had peed on the tires of the Dodge Swinger before it.
In the early afternoons, Crowley switched over to the classic movie channel and watched Casablanca and Some Like It Hot and Singing In the Rain. He followed Rob Lewitsky's coverage of NASA's expedition to Jupiter and the heat wave that killed two dozen people that summer, and felt a keen loss when the prime-time Muscular Dystrophy Telethon aired and Jerry Lewis didn't take the stage. He watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, an old favorite. He watched the Godfather and the new Start Trek and Paint Your Wagon and The Pacific and Horrible Bosses. Despicable Me was far more to his liking than Mega Mind. And while lower level demons weren't that much more competent than the blabbering yellow boogers in their odd little overalls, they could certainly learn a thing or two from the banana-brained henchmen about loyalty and the power of a positive attitude. And though Crowley didn't have any, he played countless hours of Words With Friends.
He received only one communication from Hell that entire summer. It was a text. This was, after all, the year Crowley had required all demons top-side to now carry cellphones and Hell finally had a decent wifi signal. Enough of that blood-in-a-bowl old-school nonsense. Still, if Crowley had wanted to know what was going on in his kingdom and with his minions and with Hell in general and was willing to risk his location being discovered in the process, he would have made the necessary inquires himself.
And of course it was an update on the Winchesters. Those Tractor Supply mannequin rejects were in Sioux Falls, elbow-deep in engine grease and car parts and no doubt surrounded by laundry baskets full of paisley-printed handkerchiefs wet from dabbing at man tears and other bodily fluids. As much as he'd prefer they were busy straightening out a certain bent halo, Crowley couldn't really be bothered with them. As long as those two weren't mucking up anything involving demons or Hell, Crowley was content to let them be.
The headlines were full of miracles and healings and smitings and acts of divine intervention. The diversion of Hurricane Irene, the disbanding of the KKK, the death of nearly 50 people at the Indiana State Fair when the main stage suddenly collapsed. Crowley wasn't entirely sure what Castiel had against the band Sugarland. Personally, It Happens always got his toes tapping.
He decided to forgo watching the movie 2012. The last thing he wanted to concern himself with was anything resembling the end of the world. The King was on vacation.
Of the djinn, Crowley had nothing but admiration. The sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos was the sort who could turn a situation to his advantage, who's survival was ensured by his prudence and acumen, who understood what the hungry-eyed visitors at his door craved and used that hunger to feed and fuel his own existence. That he turned away their gifts and expressed little interest in the material wealth he had garnered for himself was in Crowley's estimate a failure to enjoy the additional benefits of his cunning, a mistake Crowley himself never made. That the sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos never tasted the last drop, never accepted the offer of those who came to his door barely able to stand, never ushered into the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer those who would gladly slip into a reaper's arms in the embrace of the unreality he offered, was an unexplored opportunity.
When it came to the golem, Crowley was less fond of the trailer that was a paradise for all things green and growing. Golems were creatures of intentional animation and servitude, it was true. They were bound to their makers or masters, loyal to a fault, obeying all commands without question or calculation or self-consideration – unlike demonic minions, it was worth nothing. But the woman made of dark earth who spent her days in the garden and slept beneath the hops and honeysuckle was not without her own agency. That much was clear. It was she who chose which seeds to plant, when to transplant, what to sell to the tin can convenience store and for how much. Occasionally she argued with the elderly woman that was supposedly both her charge and owner. Sometimes she did not greet her neighbors. Sometimes she stood beside the skyscraping sunflowers planted along the sunny strip of the lane, and pulled yellow petals from their porous faces, slipped them into her mouth where it lay between tongue and palate, as if tasting sunlight.
She was her own creature, her own creation, one of infinite potential, one of near invulnerability and conditional longevity and perhaps not at all bound by words on a scroll to an elderly old crone, however kindly that crone might smile or how heartily she leaned on this daughter of dark earth. And yet, the golem did not leave the trailer that was a paradise of green and growing things and burdened responsibilities. She stayed. She stayed and she served, and so it must have been beyond her to leave. That such a powerful creature as a golem with agency should be bound to that frail, needy woman did not sit well. It did not sit well at all.
Crowley thought nothing of the gremlin. It was simply doing what all creatures, supernatural and otherwise, did – whatever was needed to survive.
And Crowley had never been particularly fond of small dogs.
He reread Nietzsche. He reflected on humility and compassion and devotion to others at the expense of one's self as the consolation prize of the weak and the moral philosophy of the insignificant. Greatness could only thrive through selfishness.
The pre-release of Wright's interpretation of Anna Karenina was lush and beautiful and would have very much been to Tolstoy's liking. Crowley was left surprisingly breathless. A love for which one might destroy themselves was horrific, and it was spellbinding.
Sherlock crashed and burned in its fourth season. The alluring trailers for Black Swan and American Horror Story were enticing. Crowley made a note to really praise his black-eyed boys in the tech department – the blue hell site that was Tumblr was really something.
He read McKibben's Eaarth and Flat, Hot & Crowded and the World Without Us, and wondered what the humans were going to do – and more importantly, what the demons were going to do – when the planet was no longer habitable. Of course, every crisis was an opportunity in disguise, and there would be plenty who would be willing to sell their souls to breathe clean air and drink clean water and blast their way off this doomed rock before the final end. What would happen to all of them – human and demon – after that, Crowley couldn't say, only that none of them might have to wait for the inevitable catastrophe of climate change, considering their new, not-so-benevolent, trenchcoated god seemed hell-bent on bringing about his own version of the end.
A rare eastern-seaboard earthquake of 5.8 magnitude struck Virginia, rupturing the seismic fault and impacting infrastructure as far away as Washington D.C. and New York City and even the short, shady lane of the trailer park in Tennessee. Crowley resorted to playing Solitaire.
The middle-aged couple that lived on the other side of the trailer for sale gave up on owning small dogs. They settled for a full-grown white German Shepherd instead, a fine looking dog that proved more resilient than the ankle-biters that had come before it. For one thing, it could not easily fit through the crack of an open window. For another, the dog could hold its own. It raced out into the night only once, chasing after something only it could see and smell, a small rangy shape leading it down the short, dark lane as its owners called and called. That same night, this dog limped its way from the empty lot back to the trailer of the middle-aged couple, ear torn, broken front leg, bites bleeding into the shamble of its soft white fur. This dog survived that night, and might survive all the nights after, so long as it did not journey again out into the dark. The gremlin was forced to hunt elsewhere.
Crowley was not the least bit fond of small dogs. But he rather liked dogs which reminded him of hellhounds.
There were no more new movies and television episodes to watch. And there were no more movies and television episodes that deserved a second or third rewatch. The only books left in the trailer to read were A Reliable Wife which Crowley had read when it first came out and remembered too well to pick up again, The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and really, after The Da Vinci Code, that man had lost his touch – he had, after all, only sold his soul for the one book to begin with – and the most recent vampiric lovelorn misadventure featuring Sookie Stackhouse. Crowley couldn't acquire more unless he used his powers and risked revealing his location. He rather wished he'd thought to bring along the collection of Supernatural books he'd recently acquired.
He had played all the 8-tracks, multiple times. He began randomly turning the dial on the radio to hear whatever could be picked up on the airwaves by the old antenna of the Dodge Swinger. He came across a good country music station that way, so there was that at least.
The reception on the knobbed tv had only gotten worse. The garnish stock in the fridge was depleted. There were only a few bottles of 30-year-old Craig and single malt Irish whiskey and bubbling bottles of rosé left. But his slippers were still comfortable, he'd not yet won the chess match against himself, his neighbors continued to provide some mild entertainment and more importantly, Castiel had not yet found him.
But of course, eventually, Castiel did find the Dodge Swinger, and Crowley inside it.
Crowley wasn't smited, however. And he wasn't demoted, and Hell was only downsized and not terminated entirely, and so really, of all the impending possibilities, it wasn't the worst of the lot.
And so Crowley prepared to leave behind the pale buff-colored seats and dark clapboard cabinets and sticky linoleum floor that had never in its existence encountered the head of a mop. The washed-out yellow, cream and grey plaid curtains, the busted air conditioner, the fridge that never froze anything and never kept anything cool, the knobbed tv set with its rabbit ears and the ratty old recliner, upholstered in brown and yellow plaid. He took a moment to make the final moves in the chess match, pulled the half-empty bottle of rot-gut from under the sink, and poured himself a glass. It burned like Hellfire going down.
He might even miss the trailer, a little. Except, of course, Crowley knew that he wouldn't. It was just nice, for a moment, to imagine that he might. But there was Hell to get in order and his freedom to secure and revenge to arrange, and – goodness! – wasn't it nice to be getting back to work. He was pleased to be leaving.
But every vacation, Crowley reflected, should have a memorable ending.
And so for the first time that entire summer, the door to the 1975 Dodge Swinger swung open, and Crowley went to visit his neighbors.
He went to the empty lot first, that empty trailer lot that sat across from the Dodge Swinger, that had served as a temporarily campground and where the dog of the middle-aged couple had shuffled home from and where so many other dogs and cats and other companions of the trailer park had met their grisly ends. The empty lot where the gremlin lived.
The nest was easy enough to find, if one knew what they were looking for. If they had watched the gnarled, feral creature climb out of it and scamper away into the dark each night. It was a mess of twigs and moss and candy wrappers and broken clay pots, for all appearances nothing more than a midden left behind by the empty lot's multitude of previous human occupants. The gremlin within was dreaming sweet gremlin dreams, of cat collars with tiny, twinkling bells, of unattended grills laden with plump sausages, of fireflies that made little gremlin cheeks glow before they swallowed the bright buzzing things, and of pudgy, gurgling infants that waddled too close to the thick stands of maple and oak and dogwood.
It was startled awake by a blast of demonic power, a blast that tore away the twigs and the moss and the trash to reveal the feral little creature to the unwelcome, hazy light of a southern summer afternoon.
The gremlin did not have time to run. It did not have time to do much more than snarl and chitter and bare its long claws and even longer fangs before the heel of Crowley's oxford mashed it into a mess of green blood and white, pustule pulp. It was not so small a creature, the gremlin. Its muscular arms and legs and the length of its ears stuck out from underneath the expensive leather shoe. No wonder it had felled so many and fed so well.
Crowley intended to clean the bottom of his shoe on the grass, but then thought better of it.
He thought instead how nice it would be to take his hellhound hunting again, and made his way to the stylish, state-of-the art trailer.
The trailer of the djinn was even nicer close up than it had appeared from the window of the Dodge Swinger. The wood of the wide porch creaked pleasantly underfoot, the bamboo slats provided cooling shade, and a motion detector flicked on the sconces on either side of the front door. A bottle of fine Scotch stood eagerly, gratefully, at attention by the threshold. The sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos opened the door.
Crowley did not come offering what all the other visitors before him had come offering. His blood ran black. And he did not come wanting what all the others had wanted. He came with an offer of his own.
There were those who wanted more than the djinn were willing to give them, Crowley observed. Those who would gladly die if it dying meant believing they had obtained the thing they desired most. It was pathetic, and yet – he smiled at the sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos – so very, very profitable.
The sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos did not smile in return. He was used to people coming to him because they wanted something. He was waiting to find out what it was this demon wanted.
And so Crowley made his offer. Once his visitors were no longer of use to the sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos, once he could no longer drink from them without risking a corpse, if those visitors still desired and still desperately hungered and still came to the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer, the djinn was to send them to the crossroads. He was to send them to the crossroads with the promise that whatever it was they desperately hungered for could be fastened into reality. And it wouldn't cost them one drop of blood. And in return, it could be ensured that two particular hunters were never seen again. And Crowley spread his arms wide, and smiled.
The djinn's sharp face became sharper. He knew now what the demon wanted. And he knew the demon came like so many others after all. He might as well have come offering diamonds in a silk draw-string bag or a greasy cheese burger and limp french fries in a brown paper sack, for all he had come like all the others, bearing gifts the djinn did not care for or need.
Crowley did not have to be told this. He could read it in the razor contours of the djinn's face. And so Crowley lifted his shoe.
Or – he explained in the same tone as he'd made his offer – the sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos could be slick slim and bits of bone on the sole of the King of Hell. It was his choice.
The djinn looked at the shoe. Whether he recognized the remains of the gremlin was irrelevant. What was relevant was that he agreed to Crowley's offer.
Crowley plucked the fine bottle of Scotch from where it had waiting in vain, cleaned his shoe on the bamboo slates of the porch of the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer, and continued on his way down the short, shady lane.
The trailer that was a paradise for all things green and growing was awash in the late afternoon sunlight.
The glass of the mason jars rippled and sparkled, casting prisms of rainbows across the heavy cerulean leaves of the neptune hosta that obscured where the ground and bottom of the trailer parted ways. The sunflowers bobbed their heads in deference, the yellow popular rustled in agitation, the woman made of dark earth did not know to interrupt her work from among the emerald luster on the far side of the trailer.
It was not the golem Crowley was here for. Or rather, it was. It was for her sake he was here. But it was not the golem whose neck he intended to snap like a seedling.
The elderly woman broke easily. She broke like she had been made of hollow reeds or dried corn stalks or the desiccated vine of a gourd ready for harvest. The elderly woman had seen the sunflowers part for him, had raised a hand to her summer bonnet and smiled a wreath of wrinkles as he'd approached. She had not thought to call out, to call her servant, to utter anything other than her last gasp.
She laid among the lisianthus and the hydrangeas and the lilies of the valley, the petals of her dress crumpled and furled. The old woman had been weaker than Crowley had expected. Her human frailty was a loathsome thing.
From behind the trailer came the golem.
The younger of the two women – the only living of the two women – came like an avalanche down upon the broken stalk of a body. She buried her in the soft soil of her arms, her hair a scattered trail of fallen leaves, her own dress a mudslide that engulfed the two of them, and she wept.
Crowley cocked his head and pursed his lips in mild confusion. A little gratitude might be nice, he remarked, rather than all the water works.
But what the demon saw as a lesser creature coveting and subjugating and binding so powerful a being as this golem had been none of those things. The golem could have left the trailer that was a paradise for all things green and growing whenever she wished. She was her own creature, her own creation, one of infinite potential, and she had chosen this woman and this garden and this trailer as her home. What had bound her to this elderly, frail old woman – who had not been her charge or owner at all – had been mutual kindness and respect, companionship through the long, cold winters when nothing grew and celebration of the spring and toil in the summer and anticipation as the days bled into the reds and golds of autumn. It had not been servitude, because it had been given willingly. It had not been magic. It had been a bond of love.
No, nothing about the golem and the trailer that was a paradise for all things green and growing sat well with Crowley. It did not sit well at all.
Still, what was done was done, and he left the woman made of dark earth to her water works and her watering, and pushed past the deferential sunflowers and ignored the furious shaking of the yellow popular tree and stepped back onto the bone-grey gravel of the short and shady lane.
Across from the trailer that was a paradise for all things green and growing and the elderly woman dead in the garden and the heap of earth shaking and crumbling about her stood the middle-aged couple in their own yard. They had heard the commotion. They had come out to learn what had happened to their neighbors. To help if possible, though of what help a ziplocked bag of chocolate chip cookies might be to anyone, however kindly meant, Crowley didn't much bother to consider. Beside them stood the dog, ears up, tail down, waiting for a command or a scent or an inclination. What a good dog, that one.
Crowley raised a hand and called a cheerful greeting to his neighbors.
And then the vacation was well and truly over.
With a snap of his fingers, the King of Hell was back on his throne, refreshed and ready for the work to begin.
The summer, too, came to an end. The trailer for sale eventually did sell, to a man who was a single parent and who lived his life on the road but wanted a permanent place for his two sons to call home. He took down the for sale sign, and build a solid wood fence between the trailer that was no longer for sale and the Dodge Swinger, and built a clubhouse on the roof and a basketball hoop in the driveway and a doghouse for the white German Shepherd next door. He gave the middle-aged couple what money he could to watch the boys and ensure they went to school and had a place to do their homework while munching on chocolate chip cookies and called home every night to tell his sons he loved them and wish them sweet dreams.
The sharp-faced man with blue tattoos continued to open his door to visitors with desperation in their eyes, with their own yearning hunger that the world or the opportunities open to them or their own exertions could not slake. They came with their dreams and their wishes and their wants in hand, and the djinn took gladly and hungrily. The gifts were delivered and ignored. The fictional and fleeting were exchanged for survival, those that could walk on their own across the threshold were welcomed inside, and those that could not walked or crawled or begged to be carried to the crossroads. Perhaps there were only three such visitors to the crossroads. Perhaps there were more. Perhaps there were none at all, because the sharp-faced man had not been offered anything of any real value in that particular arrangement.
The mud-splattered blue jeep and the pair of hunters who might have been friends or lovers or cousins and the bullmastiff returned to the trailer park. They were more seasoned now, the blond woman and the blond man and their dog. They had hunted vampires and ghouls and skinwalkers and read lore and had some common sense beaten into their thick skulls by Bobby Singer. They knew a djinn now when they saw one, and they killed the sharp-faced man with the blue tattoos with a silver knife dipped in lambs' blood.
It is unclear what the middle-aged couple thought about the sudden death of their civil, reclusive neighbor at the hands of the pair, or what would eventually become of the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer, with its slatted porch and overhanging roof and pleasant marriage of Scandinavian and Japanese architecture. Only that the pair of hunters who might have been friends and might have been lovers and might have been cousins got back into their jeep with their bullmastiff and drove out of the trailer park and never returned, for the dog was felled by a wendigo which it could not, in fact, take down on its own, and the blond man died at the hands of a demonic Dean Winchester some years later and the blond woman left the country to join the British Men (and Women) of Letters.
The trailer that was a paradise for all things green and growing continued to be a paradise. The two women remained on the lot, one entwined with the roots of the yellow popular tree that continued to grow spindly out of where the trailer's engine had once been housed, and one among the lushness and blooms of the garden. The woman made of dark earth continued to grow seedlings the nurseries sought after and vegetables she sold to the tin can of a convenient store to feed her neighbors. Every morning, she set out for the far side of the trailer park before dawn and every morning she returned, with her cloth sack toting an item or two, at exactly the same time every day. Exactly the same time, not a minute earlier or a minute later than the day before. Her step was still rigid and steady and slow, her feet and eyes never wavered, never shifted, each step crumbling into the sole of her shoe and settling before the next foot was lifted. Her heart never wavered, and her love continued to bloom, and the golem lived in the trailer that was a paradise of green and growing things, and may still live there still.
And that is how summer ended on that short, shady lane in that trailer park in Tennessee. The demon king returned to his throne, and the empty lot remained empty, and the golem tended her garden, and the middle-aged couple and their dog guarded the two boys in the trailer that had finally sold, and the 1975 Dodge Swinger was taken over by an entire rangy, jabbering horde of gremlins, who continued to prey upon the squirrels and beetles and small dogs of the trailer park, except, of course, for the dog next door.
Some notes on canon compliance: "Summer Sabbatical In A Winnebago" would have been a much better title, but after a great deal of unnecessary research, I am fairly certain Crowley's trailer is a 1970's Dodge Swinger. The middle-aged couple and their white German Shepherd are also canon. They appear in the wide shot of Crowley's trailer in 7x01 "Meet The New Boss". The inspiration for the stylish, state-of-the-art trailer was taken from this mobile home, and is worth the peek: /trailers-homes/fancy-trailer-homes-mobile-trailerwrap_1865067/
Rob Lewitsky is likely a direct reference to Rob Stein, a senior editor and correspondent for NPR (National Public Radio) on issues of health and science. This matters to no one else but me. And definitely wasn't worth the bare minimum of research for , which apparently believes it's a veiled reference to Monica Lewinsky?
All news stories referenced – with the exception of the disbanding of the KKK, referenced in 7x01 "Meet the New Boss" – were real life events in 2011. The only one I tweaked for this story was Hurricane Irene. All movies, television shows, social media, etc used in this fic were all available by the summer of 2011.
The inspiration for the pairing of the golem and the djinn as Crowley's neighbors, and for the characteristics of golem for this story comes not from the SPN universe, as the golem so obviously differs from the golem the Winchesters have encountered, but rather from the wonderful stand-alone fantasy novel by Helene Wecker, The Golem & The Jinni, set in turn-of-last-century New York. I cannot recommend this book highly enough: book/show/15819028-the-golem-and-the-jinni
Now, who's ready for a bit of a vacation?