[S01E02] "Crossroads and Chill"

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They made their way outside. Even though there was a patio, they couldn't sit down because the metal furniture was ice cold in the Indiana spring night air. Rick lit up a cigarette.

"You want one, Liz?"

"No. I don't smoke. Just wanted a change of scenery, Fresh air. You know, Rick, you look familiar but I can't figure out where I know you from."

"Oh, I doubt we've met before. I don't spend much time in Indianapolis."

"Are you from Muncie? That's where I grew up."

"No, I'm not from Muncie. I'm from L.A."

"L.A.? You don't seem like you're from L.A. Isn't everyone there fake?"

"Fake?" Rick cried. He grabbed his chest like he was about to have a heart attack. He wasn't of course. The years of abusing his body with cigarettes and alcohol had added a touch of gray to his hair, but he was still a relatively young man in the age of modern medicine.

Sure, he hadn't seen a doctor in ten years for any situation that didn't involve stitches, but he was sure all the preservatives in the gas station food he had been ingesting must have had some sort of positive effect.

He scanned his momentary companion who, for some strange reason, had followed him out of the bar. He tried to determine if she was naive or if she was just messing with him.

It used to be easy. You would just count the number of tattoos and piercings or watch how burnt their hair was with peroxide when they shook their head. Back in the day, that's how you figured out how for real someone was, but the kids these days seemed to be born with that stuff.

"Let me tell you something, Liz. All you know about LA is what you've seen on TV. People don't look at a car and think they understand everything about Detroit. Watch a couple of episodes of TMZ or Top Model and you think you know the place, but that's all just another product. LA is a living, breathing city where the dreamers go to battle against the bullshit of reality."

Liz's eyelids sharpened into slits. She raised her chin. Her shoulders fell back. Her black plastic jacket slipped across her clavicle and her fishnet shirt. There it is, Rick thought to himself. She's waking up. Let's see how wild this girl really is.

"Okay, smart ass, tell me about it," said Liz.

"I'll do better than that," said Rick, "I'll show you. Come on." Rick began to walk away.

Liz followed him for a few steps before her better senses got a hold of her.

"Where are we going?" She asked.

"L.A.! I've got a hankering for some Out 'n About Burger like you would not believe."

That was enough for Liz to get a better hold over herself. She suddenly realized this guy must be out of his mind. She had followed him out of the bar because there was something about him that she liked. She wasn't sure what it was. He had a crispness about him. Sometimes that was all it took for her, the way a guy stood at the bar or the way he moved his arms.

Rick was animated, especially for someone his age, but there was something more about Rick. He was confident and yet bashful all at the same time. Both hard and soft. Powerful and gentle. It was an absolute novel experience for her.

If he had said he was going to another bar or back to his place to show her some movie, or something on Netflix, she wouldn't have had a second thought about it. Thirty seconds ago she would had totally banged him in the bathroom...

If he had asked, that is... It was one of those kind of nights.

Liz was up for just about anything to take her mind off having to look for a job tomorrow. But to expect someone he just met less than a half hour ago to go driving across the country with him? He must have been out of his mind, possibly dangerous.

"You're joking, right? What do you have a private jet or something?" Liz asked.

"Nope," said Rick as he threw his arms out to his sides spreading his leather jacket like the wings of a bird. "All I got is four wheels and a dream of a hamburger."

Liz's eyebrows lifted into her hairline. "You're crazy, Rick."

"You know what would be crazy, Liz?" he asked as he started walking back to her. "Staying here. You know what this place is?"

"My home. Indianapolis. Which is way far away from L.A. Too far," she replied.

Rick put his right hand on her shoulder. He didn't grab her. He just used her as a cane for the moment. He took his left hand and began sweeping it across the traffic circle full of bars and hotels.

"This is the crossroads of America." Rick said. "Right here where we're standing. That guy who stands on top of that obelisk in the middle of the road, his name is Mercury, Hermes, whatever. He is the god of travel. There are four roads leading away from that spot and with them you can go anywhere in the country."

"That one there." Rick pointed across the traffic circle. "That one goes to LA. That's the one I'm taking. That's where I'm going." He took his hand off of her shoulder and stumbled backwards. "This place here, this isn't a place you go to. This is a place you just stop for a moment on the way to somewhere else. You want to stay here? That's crazy, Liz."

He pulled out another cigarette and lit it. He looked at Liz from under his eyelids and tapped at an imaginary watch on his left wrist. It was a big drink of whiskey and Rick was hoping he was coming across more cool than wasted, but he was too drunk to be able tell.

She shook her head at him in disbelief. He shrugged at her, turned his view towards the statue of Mercury and gave it a sharp salute. With that he walked away into the night.

Liz pulled out her phone to post an update about her bizarre encounter about the man who wanted to take her to LA for a hamburger but the battery was red and the phone had already started to shut itself down. Amy burst out the doors of the bar.

"What the hell did you do, Liz? There is a huge mess behind the bar!"

Screw it thought Liz.

"Sorry, Amy. But I got to go do something. I'll talk to you soon!"

"Where are you going? Are you going to look for a job tomorrow?"

But Amy might as well have been shouting into an empty sky, for Liz wouldn't be looking for a job tomorrow. She was sick and tired of people telling her what to do.

Rick was about half way to his car when he heard the clomping of a woman's boots on the concrete behind him. He smiled as he flicked his burning cigarette butt into the street.

"Hey, Rick! Wait up!"

When he turned around, the out of breath girl grabbed the lapels of his jacket with both hands and pulled him close. He crossed his arms behind her waist and pressed his lips firmly against hers.

"Okay" said Liz, "Let's go try this hamburger of yours."

"

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