A Novel Excerpt By Austen Brauker
Turd felt like he had been driving forever, which is a long way on an empty stomach. Days flew by for every passing second. He was hungrier than he had ever been, but there were no stores anywhere, not even any houses. He started to wonder how many days it was since he began this never-ending quest for a destination he couldn’t recall.
The road was straight and flat, leading endlessly past the horizon. It seemed like some kind of celestial oddity had clad his world in night forever. Turd was tired. He noticed the speed limit had gone up to 65 and pressed the gas. The grassland whizzed by as he looked over through the open passenger window. It had been closed before.
The night wind woke him up, somewhat, and he suddenly noticed what was riding in the seat next to him. It was a Little Debbie’s Swiss Cake Roll, about a foot tall. It wore a traditional clear plastic wrapper. They rode on in silence. The snack smelled good. Turd didn’t know that the company made them that big. They drove for hundreds of more miles before it finally spoke.
“Do you mind if I smoke?” it asked politely.
“No, go ahead.”
The package looked bigger next to him. It flicked the ashes out the window and exhaled.
“So where are you from?” it asked.
“Back on the rez,” Turd answered.
“Oh yeah.” Responded the snack cake. “Lots of my family go there. Myself, I’m not really Swiss. I came from a factory in Ohio. It’s a misnomer. There isn’t really a Debbie either. She’s just a marketing gimmick.”
The rolled chocolate and cream emitted a sweet smell when it spoke and Turd wondered how it would taste. It was an awkward situation. The speed limit sign read 75 and he automatically accelerated. The engine churned and chugged.
The cake roll was definitely growing since he first saw it. Now it could easily see over the dash. He looked at the beautiful creation once more to make sure. It was definitely bigger. The swollen dessert enchanted him. Turd imagined the pride that must have beamed in the faces of the workers on the day when they created this one. He was romanticizing, maybe even falling in love.
“I know a few jokes.”
It started, uneasily, almost sensing the man’s perverted direction and meaning to quell it.
“A termite walks in to a saloon.”
It paused for dramatic effect.
“He said…‘Where’s the bar tender?’ ”
The cake roll laughed, seeming to inflate from the inside, making Turd feel smaller at the same time, not emotionally, but like he was really physically shrinking. He was having trouble seeing over the wheel now. The cake was still laughing. A signpost with a big white rectangle bolted to the top shot up out of the grass. The speed limit read 85 and Turd struggled to press the pedal with his extended foot.
The engine responded. His toe could barely reach the accelerator from the end of an ever-shortening leg. The scenery lost rational weight and garbled out the window on self-fulfilling math, like an invisible dog that tried to chase along beside them, trying to keep up as it leapt ditches and fence rows. The stars above were multi-colored blips that led it like a fake race-track rabbit.
“Bars are made of wood. Get it!”
The chocolate Swiss laughed until it cried. The wind was fluttering its wrapper as they went faster, giving Turd a whiff of sugar through the cab. He was heavily lusting.
“Just a small bite.” he thought.
It swelled again.
“Here’s another one.”
It turned to face him. The logo across the front on the treats clothing was getting bigger.
“Two monks go to a hot dog vendor. The guy says, ‘what’ll ya have?’ And a monk answers, ‘One with everything!’ ”
It cracked itself up again, rousing the same response. The pleasant scent had become intoxicating and it made Turd speak without thinking.
“What about the other monk?” he asked, trying to divert his own attention from the epiphany of pheromones, which were running unchecked, leading him closer toward an unsanctioned action. Saliva rode behind his teeth.
“What do you mean?”
The thing stopped laughing abruptly.
“You said there were two monks.” He giggled. “Why was the other one in the joke?”
Turd didn’t care about answer to the riddle. He just wanted to see it naked.
“Sometimes there has to be a witness.” It stated dryly.
The speed limit read 95 and Turd was standing on the seat, looking under the top of the steering wheel to drive. The cake roll had swollen to the point of bursting. It’s top mass was wedged between the dash and ceiling. It lit another cigarette. Turd clicked the cruise control.
“So how do you feel about product labeling?” It asked between puffs.
They went through a series of sharp curves, squealing the tires through the turns.
“Product labeling?” asked Turd, confused, feeling like a circus midget.
“Yeah, you know, a list of things that make a roll like me what I am: sugars, fats, vitamins--although I don’t have many of those myself. Got a lotta calories though.”
It seemed proud.
Turd was standing on the bottom of the steering wheel now, with his arms outstretched to reach the top, his belly pressed at the center, about to beep the horn. There was barely enough room for the cake roll anymore, and it still smelled so horny good. If only Turd’s hands were free to partake.
The voice boomed louder, it sounded like it was getting angry.
“How would you feel if you had to wear a visible label of all the things that you were, all your constituents for the world to see. A diagnostic separation of your worth, on a billboard!” It tapped on the dash, awaiting a response.
“I wouldn’t like that.” Turd’s answer was like a tiny mouse.
“Damn right you wouldn’t!” boomed the cake.
It was almost deafening. The charismatic roll was going to blow up. The speed limit went to 105. Turd crawled over to the cruise control and pulled the acceleration switch toward him. The motor raced faster, breaking his concentration for a moment from the loquacious snack.
The unhealthy entity wasn’t finished yet.
“How about this.”
It took on a different voice for a minute, like it was reading a list of ingredients.
“Turd. A fat Indian driving too fast on an unknown road, talking to a giant Swiss-roll with a nicotine habit!”
It reached over and grabbed him by the collar like a mob boss, laying it all on the table.
“I know what you’ve been thinking about, Turd, almost this entire trip.”
The truck was swerving from one side of the road to the other.
“Don’t think that I’m stupid.”
There was an edge to it now, close to psychotic.
“My filling. You’ve wanted to eat me since you laid eyes on me! Do you want to know what it’s like? Do you want to taste my creamy center? Well, now you will! Eat me! Eat it out! Eat me from the inside out!”
It swallowed Turd in one bite, drowning him in angered sugar. The tires squealed. A speed limit sign symbolized 115.
The Swiss Cake rolled from the vehicle before it crashed. Its wrapper was on fire as it came to rest at the side of the embankment. The thing seemed stunned. The truck flew off the road and exploded in a nuclear mushroom cloud, which sent a wall of radioactive hurricane fire hurtling outward at the speed of light. The cake roll withstood it for a moment but then hardened like an overcooked S’more. Its skin was flaky charcoal but underneath was a warm magmoidal heart.
Turd burst from the middle at full size, covered in a layer of chocolate cake and soft icing. He happily licked himself off, tasting good all over.
He awoke and stood up involuntarily, forgetting where he was.
Turd smacked his head into a storage counter above him. Pots and pans rattled with the bang. A bag of Big Chief granulated sugar fell from the shelf and exploded on the floor. The crystals hissed as they escaped the bag with twenty seconds of snake-rooted memory. A wide-eyed Turd realized he was awake and at the old woman’s shack. Dog was tossing wood on the fire. It was only a dream, though he could almost still taste the inorganic gorgonoid heart. The bump on his head helped him get back to sleep.
Austen Brauker plays lead guitar in a rock band. Dreaming Bodies is an excerpt from his recently completed first novel, Homunculus.
Photo "Road Trip 1" courtesy of Mark Miller, U.S.
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