Authors: Annetta Ribken,Baylee,Eden
Allegories of the Tarot
Edited by Annetta Ribken
Word Webber Press
Fairview Heights, IL 62208
This anthology is a work of fiction. Names, places,
businesses, characters, and incidents are either products of the author's
imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons,
is purely coincidental.
Allegories of the Tarot © 2013 Annetta Ribken
Cover image © 2013 Kris Austen Radcliffe based on
photographs of artwork by Pamela Coleman Smith
Copy edited by Jennifer Wingard
Ebook formatting by Dog-Ear Book Design
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express
written permission of the authors, editor, or publisher with the exception for
the use of brief connotations in critical articles or reviews.
2013 Word Webber Press Kindle edition
Published in the United States by Word Webber Press
Fairview Heights, IL
Kindle Edition, License Notes
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hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses,
characters, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination
or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, actual events or locales is purely coincidental.
On the Road to
~ Peter Giglio
The Intern's Story
~ Billie Sue
~ Spike Marlowe
Dmitri and the Mad
~ Kris Austen Radcliffe
On the Shoulders of
~ Jessica McHugh
A Modern Affair
~ Annetta Ribken
A Promise in the Dark
~ Rochelle Maya Callen
~ Red Tash
~ Catie Rhodes
Path of Sacrifice
~ Anne Chaconas
~ Patti Larsen
~ Jordan L. Hawk
~ Samantha Henderson
~ J.H. Sked
Strange Case of Sal and the Solar Elixir
~ Tristan J. Tarwater
A Body for Your
~ Jennifer Wingard
~ Laura Eno
On the Road to Devil’s Gulch
By Peter Giglio
When Max looked up at me with those sad eyes of his, I
smiled, trying to be reassuring. “A car will come along soon, boy,” I said,
“take us to the next town and more good times.”
Max’s dry bark said he wasn’t buying it.
“I’m not your owner. Run away if you think you can do
better without me.”
A blast of prairie wind rolled across Highway 23.
Although Minnesota was said to be land of 10,000 lakes, the
slogan clearly didn’t carry to this remote corner of the state. The way I
figured it, every land left their armpits and assholes out of the brochure. But
it was fine by me, even if Max was having one his many moments of doubt.
You see, I was looking for experiences that couldn’t be
found any other way. The land must be felt, smelled, and touched to be truly
understood and that wasn’t a thing you could do thirty-thousand miles above the
earth. Even in the air-conditioned comfort of a car—though Max and I often
counted on the kindness of travelers to bridge wilds like these—it was hard to
appreciate the complex beauty of the terrain.
Max and I met many kind people along the way, and we had
a lot of fun. Trust me, that dog knew he’d found a good thing, even if he
challenged me from time to time.
A hopeful bark sounded, one I knew well, causing me to
turn. From the north, a Lincoln Towncar approached. I stuck out my thumb,
flashing an enthusiastic smile, and the car slowed before pulling to the
shoulder. Yanking the heavy pack from my back while Max ran in excited circles
around me, I strode to the open driver’s side window. There, a wizened man took
my measure through his squinted gaze.
“What’re you doing out here?” the man asked. “Did your
car break down?”
“Funny, you don’t look like a homeless. Don’t smell like
I smiled. “I’m not. I’m just looking to get a little
further down the road. I’ll gladly pitch in for gas.”
“So you have money?” The man’s tremulous voice rang with
“Haven’t you ever heard of planes and buses, young man?”
It wasn’t particularly funny, but I chuckled. I guess
that’s a natural reaction when you’ve heard the same thing too many times to
Repetition seems to anger or annoy
most folks. Perhaps my parents were right—I’m just wired wrong.
“I like to experience the land and meet new people,” I
Shaking his head, the old man reached down. A click
sounded as the trunk lid popped open, then the driver hooked his thumb toward
the back of the Lincoln and said, “I’m going as far as Garretson, South Dakota,
about twenty miles from here. Will that work for ya?”
I nodded eagerly then started around the car. For a
moment, I was struck by the emptiness of the trunk. Most travelers carried some
kind of luggage. But it didn’t seem like a worry worth dwelling on. After all,
the car had Minnesota plates. And, as the man said, we were only headed twenty
miles down the road. I stowed my pack and slammed the trunk.
Despite the age of the Lincoln, the interior sparkled.
Clean and fresh, like a car just driven off the showroom floor.
react to Max
, I thought, worried poor eyesight
had caused the old man not to notice my traveling companion. As Max jumped onto
the leather passenger’s seat, I said, “He’s a good boy, very well-behaved.”
The old man laughed and threw me a dismissive wave. “Oh,
I can tell he’s a good boy. I used to have a Jack Russell just like him. Best
dog I ever knew.” Then he scratched Max’s head, and Max's big doggy smile widened
I slid into the car, and Max made himself comfortable in
“How long have you had that dog?” the old man asked.
“Max joined me at a rest stop in Pennsylvania.”
“He must have been abandoned by a family. Maybe
forgotten. I just couldn’t let him fend for himself. Besides, it’s nice to have
a friend along for the journey.”
“A journey, huh? Well, where are you headed exactly?”
I shrugged as the old man steered the car slowly back
onto the empty highway.
“You know,” he said, “a journey ought to have a
destination. Or are you some kind of rambling man?”
“I guess that’s what I am.”
“Fellas like you were around a lot in the ’60s, but I
suppose you’re something of a rarity these days.”
“That’s what I hear.”
“Don’t think I’m
about it. Fact is
it kinda takes me back a bit.”
I didn’t know what to say to that.
“So,” he said, “what are you hoping to gain from all
this? You ain’t one of those kids who’s trying to find himself, are you?”
“No,” I said. “I’m just looking to broaden my horizons,
gain experiences that I can write about someday.”
“Ah, so you’re a writer.”
“Hope to be, but I think I need to do some living
A moment of silence followed as the car sped down the
road at ten miles above the posted speed limit. That rate of travel,
counterintuitive to how I’d seen most elderly folks drive, surprised me.
Although I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere, a glance at Max told me he
approved. Panting, he stared at the blur of yellow through the window. I’d
treat his patience with a big fat burger when we reached the next town.
When I shifted my gaze to the world outside the car, a
sign welcomed me to South Dakota. “Great Faces, Great Places” the marker
assured, and the iconic countenances of Mount Rushmore hung above that slogan.
“South Dakota,” the old man whispered. “Hell, I haven’t
been here for thirty years.”
“Is it a long drive from where you live?” I asked, my
mind flashing back to the empty trunk.
The man shook his head. “Nah, I’m from Mankato, not too
far from here. I just haven’t had a reason to come back for a long time.”
“Why are you returning now?”
“The wife and I honeymooned here. We didn’t have much
money in those days, so we couldn’t afford a fancy trip. I’d served my country
in Vietnam, so I’d seen a good bit of the world. But Ellen, God rest, had never
left the state. She was tickled to see something new, even if South Dakota
ain’t much to brag about.” The man pointed up through the windshield and
smiled. “There’s a reason why they call these the fly-over states.”
“I understand how she felt,” I said.
“Yeah, I suppose you would. Guess you’re just looking
for something different, too, huh?”
“Maybe you’re just hunting for a good place to settle
“Well, you ain’t gonna find it out here. I’ll tell you
“So why are you coming back now?”
The old man, who’d dodged my question the first time,
wasn’t quick to answer. His sad stare lingered on the road, and it was clear
I’d hit a nerve. I hoped he wasn’t offended.
Finally, he said, “I’m coming back for one last look, a
trip down memory lane. Ellen, you see, she passed away last year, and I know my
own time on this rock is winding down, too. She always wanted to relive our
honeymoon by coming back, but I kept putting things off. There’s always enough
time, you tell yourself. Always enough time…’til there isn’t.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said.
“Oh, don’t be silly.” The man’s outward mood seemed to
shift in a more positive direction. “You’re on an adventure. I guess I am,
“Is that why you didn’t pack any bags?”
The old man nodded then he fell silent again. I feared
further questions would only spark more painful memories, so I kept my mouth
shut. Able to see for miles, I took in the flat landscape and tried to enjoy
the scenery, but those bleak environs failed to inspire my attention.
Then the trouble started.
The old man took a deep, consumptive breath, and the car
swerved into the oncoming lane.
My heart thundered.
I grabbed the steering wheel and guided the car back
into the proper lane. The old man shook his head and sucked another lungful of
air. Exhaling slowly, he gazed at me, his eyes misty and distant. Then, turning
his attention back to the road, he gripped the wheel.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he said with a grin. He added, “I bet
you’re excited to see Devil’s Gulch again, aren’t you?”
Now I was confused. “Like I told you, sir, I’ve never
been here before.”
The old man laughed. “Now you’re just pulling my leg,
you old kidder.”
“Forty-one years ago,” he said in a wistful, faraway
voice. “It’s been a long time, but certainly you must remember.”
“I don’t understand,” I said. “I’m only twenty-three.”
He turned to me, and I readied myself to grab the wheel
again. “Oh, Ellen,” he said, “you’ll always be twenty-three to me.”
I backed against the door, putting as much distance
between me and the old man as I could. “Stop the car,” I shouted. “I want out!
Sadness swept the man’s parched face. “Don’t act like
“My name’s Bill,” I said. “I’m…I’m not your wife.” I
reached for the door handle, calculating my chances of survival if I leapt from
the moving car. Not good. And then there was the matter of Max, who was still
growling at the driver. Like most dogs, Max granted trust with graceful
indifference, but at the first signs of trouble, he didn’t hesitate about
changing his position.
Perhaps it was best to just play along, I told myself. Max
and I would make a run for it in Garretson. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t know
what’s gotten into me.”
The old man smiled.
“Ah, nothing to
worry about, dear.
Happens to the best of us.
You’ll be glad to hear we’re almost there.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“I wonder if the old tales of Jesse James and Devil’s
Gulch are true, don’t you?”
I nodded as if I understood what he was talking about.
“I just don’t see how a man could jump that ravine on a
horse and live to tell the story.”
“I don’t, either,” I said.
“Well, I guess we’re gonna find out in Garretson, aren’t
we?” He patted the dashboard. “This old girl has far more horsepower under the
hood than Mr. James ever dreamed of.”
I felt the sudden jerk of the engine in the pit of my
stomach. Faster…faster…we sped down the highway. My gaze became frantic. Where
was the state patrol when you needed them?