Summary: Scorching along the road on a thunderous night in July 1968, the Anderson brothers have a strange encounter.
A/N: Many, many thanks to Meowen for taking time to read this through and edit it, your input was very helpful, and I hope you'll enjoy the final result.
It's so late it's early when the Anderson brothers leave the bar, wasted and with two girls in tow. Their petty share of the purse for tonight is already spent on drinks, but at least their strumming has attracted the ladies' attention.
The redheaded girl nods at the brothers' black T-bird parked outside. "Nice car." Odin's forgotten her name, but has decency enough to light a cigarette for her.
"It's ours". Tor puts down the drums he's stacked on top of each other like a wedding cake, and starts loading them into the trunk. Two tom-toms and a stand fill it up, so he opens the passenger door to try and fit the rest into a corner of the back seat. But no matter how he arranges the drums there's not enough space left for the chicks to sit, and he hasn't even loaded in the bass drum and the Strat yet.
"Shoulda smashed your guitar" Tor mutters and punches the bass drum. When Odin doesn't bother replying, he adds: "So it'd be easier to fit in here. Do you ladies have a car of your own?"
The redhead grinds the cigarette butt to ashes under her boot heel. "Thanks for the smoke" she says, before she and her friend head back into the music-pounding bar.
When the brothers drive out of town, the air between them is tense. Both have their minds on the girls. Yes, those hags were only interested in the rock image and flashy car, but that kind of girls are also easiest to get rid of if you're out for a simple one-night stand.
The muggy night lies heavy on their heads, the road grinding on through vast cornfields that stretch towards the grey horizon. Where they end, miles of planted needle forest follow. But at least the monotony cools Tor's distemper enough for him to speak:
"Fuck, I'd never wanna live in Westford".
Odin grunts in agreement. "Summer of love my ass. Those liberated flower-people must've frozen to death last winter."
The hatch is buried for now. Tor peers towards the pre-dawn gloom ahead. "Wonder how fast this ride can go?"
Good question. In the three years they've owned the car it has taken part in quite a few street races, but nothing that has proven its full potential. Now they're here, with miles of deserted straight stretch ahead and not a single patrol car in sight.
Tor steps on the gas until the meter grazes 60 mph. Odin rolls down the window to let the rush of air hit his face, and the streaming wind tugs at his rocker mane. It's the brink of dawn; a bleak sun glints briefly over the dark ground before it disappears behind a grey mass of clouds. Tor pushes the car past the first hesitant rain drops, right into the cloudburst.
They scorch through a sleeping Farfields, scaring a dog and its owner off the road and burning tire marks into the concrete. Volleys of rain pelter the windshield and sluice between the tail fins as the car swooshes along the slick road. Lightning tears at the edges of the sky.
"Let's stop by Tom's," Odin proposes, "he could use some cheering up." Suddenly it's the poet who needs a bit of company, a round of poker and booze for his own good. He should still be up scribbling this late at night.
The road climbs closer to the murky clouds, slithering in between hills that loom over it like slouching giants. At last the brothers are approaching Bright Falls, and they take the curve on two wheels.
Summer guests appreciate Bright Falls for the quietude which embeds the town center even at the peak of tourist season.
So when a Thunderbird swoops in along the main street and bursts the silence, jolting the residents awake at 04.20 this rainy Sunday morning, local sheriff Breaker is called upon at once.
Tor pulls the hand brake. Gravel spurts when they skid onto the road going past Cauldron Lake, or "cold damn lake" as Odin mutters when the headlights flash over the signpost. Wet pebbles glisten on the road. Tor stretches out in his seat and gives a savage cry, "Yeeeehaaa!"
From nowhere it jets towards them, a black car with two blank faces behind the windshield. Tor brakes hard, hooting furiously at them. The T-bird swerves over the road, and the brothers brace for impact just as the driveway to Tom's cabin appears round the curve.
Tom's been up late and hears the roaring engine, the commotion coming ("This never ends well"). A horn bleats, tires screech, and he's on his feet when the crash comes.
An awful sight meets him near the end of the driveway up to Bird's Leg Cabin. The crashed T-bird has snapped a young birch in half, and its quivering crown lies across the mauled engine hood from which steam rises – the only things moving. Tom recognizes the car wreck even in this state, as well as the loud stream of curses sounding from inside it.
"Tor!" He calls out, too stunned to remember the man's seldom used real name. "Tor, is that you?" He circles the wreck, not sure whether to pull or push at the doors. Then he hears the police sirens approaching.
A few beers. Loose instruments in the back. A hundred and ten per hour headfirst into a tree, and no seatbelts. Really, a few bruises and cuts should be the least of the brothers' problems. But as Odin puts it, "Only hurts when I laugh" - something he does a lot when he calls to say they're alright and can walk out of the ER by themselves.
"Yeah", Tom hums, thinking Odin sounds more like it was a memorable fishing-trip than a serious car accident. Maybe he should call back later and ask the ER staff if the man was on laughing gas. "Your brother's alright, too?"
"Bastard's got a broken nose, but he'll be fine. The car took quite the hit, but we're made of tougher stuff than that." Then he suddenly asks: "Did you find the guys in the other car?"
"What car?" Tom asks, puzzled.
"The one that skidded into our way", Tor prompts. "The hit-and-runners".
"Oh, them. No. Breaker says he met nobody on the way from the lake, and he was pretty close behind you."
A long lapse into silence follows his words. "Bummer," Odin eventually mutters at the other end. "'S gonna be tough explaining this one to the law enforcement."
After hanging up, Tom walks down to the road, too riled up to sleep. The distant thunder storm has petered out to smooth streaks of clouds drifting along the horizon, and today's first sunrays gild the damp ground. Just an hour ago Breaker's patrol car stood parked in the curve, and the tow truck will be here at noon. But right now no other tyre marks cross the grooves the wrecked Thunderbird has plowed into the gravel. Tor and Odin must've been absolutely hammered to think they slammed into another car.
Still wide awake Tom returns to the cabin. He could busy himself with writing, but for once his mind is raked clean of creative spark. He's just finished revising an epic poem inspired by Odin's and Tor's knowledge of Norse mythology, and its last page still sits in the typewriter when he peers into the study.
Where Tor thundered
And trees foundered
Met with wraiths
Whom death forebode
Tom's been thinking of showing it to the brothers before they go on touring the festivals, but he can't expect even thick-skinned rockers to find this amusing. Sighing - for here goes three weeks of effort and writer's high - he gathers the papers sheets, tears them across and throws it in the wastepaper basket.