I don’t think it will spoil my story one bit if I tell you up front that I’m dead. It isn’t the fact that I’m dead that makes my tale most interesting, but the how I ended up dead. This is that story.
I started long-haul truck driving the year I was discharged from the Marines. October of ‘78 I was driving a load of “toothpicks” to the east coast. It was late Halloween night, approaching 2AM, so the trick or treat goblins were long gone to bed. I had just reached the other side of Whitefish, Montana when the bed of logs I was carrying, not to mention my eyelids, started feeling a couple tons heavier than they had the hour before. I was making pretty good time on my haul so I figured it was a good opportunity to pull over at the next truck stop for a cup of coffee and a cheeseburger.
After miles of driving through pitch black, I could finally see light up ahead. A small, greasy spoon, no bigger than a mobile home, sat just off the road, bathed completely in red neon light. The sign out front said “The Scarlet Kilt.” It could have been “The Purple Panties” for all I cared. I was hungry and needed some caffeine. I pulled over.
When you’ve been driving a rig for as long as I’d been, you’ve seen pretty much every type of truck stop, restaurant, diner, dive, pub and piss hole out there. They’re all mostly the same with the same heartburn-causing food, same tired, bored employees. I’d never been to The Scarlet Kilt before, but I’d seen it over a thousand times in every state in the lower 48. I walked in, lit a Marlboro and took a seat at a small, wood table in the darkest corner.
I propped a menu in front of my face and pretended to read while my eyes scanned my surroundings. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with a late night appetite. An old cowboy-guy with filthy clothes was sucking down a brew, while a leather-faced woman, old enough to be his mom, chewed on his disgusting ear. A white-bearded biker with a huge gut stood up and fished around in his pants for his wallet. The cook, a hulking Elliot Gould look-a-like, flipped greasy beef patties and chomped on a two-inch stogie. The biker dropped a ten on the counter, walked over to the juke box and punched in Jim Stafford’s “Spiders and Snakes.” He then turned and walked out the door. Certainly no shortage of freaks in this place.
A piercing, cackle of a laugh sliced through the smoke and grease in the room. A short, middle-aged waitress skittered up to the counter, whipping a rag around like a propeller.
“Arnie, sugar, if your burgers get any blacker I swear we’re going to have to give these customers a coal shovel to eat ‘em with!”
Arnie, the cook, continued frying and flipping without even acknowledging the waitress. She’d obviously spent a lot of time giving him shit and he seemed perfectly immune to it. She glanced my way, picked up a glass and pitcher of water, then strutted like a queen over to my table.
“Don’t let that scare you none, doll. I wouldn’t say it to his face but Arnie makes a fantastic cheeseburger. I just love busting his balls. It’s a nightly ritual I’ve been doing for 25 years. Between you and me, he doesn’t hear too well so I’m not even sure he knows I’m doing it.”
She let loose anther cackle laugh and poured some ice water.
“Welcome to The Scarlet Kilt, handsome. I’m owner, CEO, and your waitress tonight. My name’s Evanora, what can I get for you?”
The waitress propped herself on one arm directly in front of me and stared into my eyes. The front of her low-cut blouse dropped another few inches, exposing her flawless, freckled cleavage. A sassy, sideways smile pushed up cute, round, apple-cheeks on her cherub face.
“Well, ma’am, I think I’m going to have your cheeseburger and coffee special this evening.”
I held out my hand.
“I’m your customer tonight. My name is Tom. What can I get for you?”
The waitress’s smile turned into a sparkly giggle and she shook my hand.
“Oh, honey, I think I have just about everything I need in this world, right now, but thanks for asking. Now, let’s see, I’ve got this dump, my little upstairs apartment, directly behind the diner, and a non-stop steady stream of good-looking men dropping by on a regular basis, ordering cheeseburgers and coffee. A girl never gets tired of that kind of eye candy. Even when it’s not Halloween. And you, Mr. Tom… well, you’re the type of eye candy that would make a girl glad she has an extra-large Trick or Treat sack. Tell me, what are you doing out this way so late, sweetie?”
She reached across the table and put her hand on my forearm.
“Don’t you know that only maniacs and murderers are out this time of night?”
“You see that big rig out there stacked full of wood? That’s mine. Driving it down to West Virginia where I guess they’re going to turn it into furniture or baseball bats or somethin’ interesting. I never know what they do with that stuff after I drop it off. None of my business, I guess.”
The waitress’s hand went from touching my forearm to tugging at her necklace.
“That sure is a lot of wood you’ve got there, Tom. Wait. Don’t tell me. Your name isn’t something ironic like “Tom Woods,” is it? Or “Tom Plank?” Oh my god, you’re not the famous porn star Tom Logg are you??”
“Corbett. Tom Corbett is my name. And your last name would be…?”
“Oh, sugar, there have been so many last names I’ve lost track. Don’t worry yourself about all that. Just call me Evanora.”
“Evanora. Let me guess… you really, really love peaches.”
I took a gulp of ice cold water.
“Your peach pit necklace there. A necklace made of peach pits is rather unique, I’d say. I figure you either really love peaches or you have a kid who excelled in crafts at church camp.”
“Hmmm, let’s just say… I’m a girl from Georgia. You know, ‘Georgia peach’ and all? I haven’t lived there since I was young but this helps me stay in touch with my roots.”
“A southern belle? I’d never have guessed.”
“It’s been a long time. I didn’t fit in down there and so I got out as quick as I could. I consider myself a Montana girl at heart. Listen, honey, I’m going to put your order in and check on Monty. He’s the one over there wearing the cowboy hat and the whore. I’ll be back with some hot coffee for you in a couple minutes.”
Evanora scooted off to the counter. Her delightfully well-shaped ass waved goodbye to me and I felt a little tingle down below. She was the cutest thing I’d seen in quite awhile and she was obviously doing some serious flirting. So what if she was a year or two older than me. She was more than a fine-looking woman. Maybe a little loopy but that was okay. A crazy woman is a refreshing distraction from the monotony of the road. I’d been driving for three days and been longer than that without the company of a woman. The conversation and attention from Evanora was a welcomed occasion.
The cowboy-guy and his date paid their tab and staggered out the door.
“There ya go, Arnie, your cooking has run off another customer!”
Evanora giggled, looked over at me and winked.
“Let’s hope you don’t kill off this good-looking guy in the corner. Maybe he’ll hang around for awhile and I’ll get lucky tonight.”
She gave me another wink. This was starting to look good.
The cheeseburger and coffee arrived and both were better than your average truck stop fare. That Arnie might be quiet but he sure knows what he’s doing. At this point, though, my cravings had shifted from burger to brunette as I watched Evanora work the room. Two other customers had come in and Evanora made them feel at home but she still visited my table regularly for a shoulder squeeze or neck rub. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make a move with her but I knew I had to. And soon.
I took my last swallow of coffee. Immediately Evanora skipped over, pulled out the table and sat right on my lap.
“Look, sugar, my shift is over and I’m going home but I don’t think I want to go home… without you. You look like you could use a warm shower and a soft pillow and I have plenty of both at my place. How about you walk with me to my apartment and consider staying the night? No strings attached. I don’t need to know your address or your situation. Tomorrow, bright and early, you hit the road and you don’t even have to turn around for one last glance if you don’t want to.”
She combed her fingers through my hair.
“The offer is on the table, doll, if you want to reach over pick it up.”
I put my hand on the small of her back and pulled her in closer.
“Absolutely. And if you don’t mind me saying so, you seem to me to be a woman worthy of at least a couple of ‘last glances.’”
“Listen, honey, you need to do me a favor. I have this rule around the diner that says no dating or personal mingling with the customers and, you know, I have to set an example. I can’t be seen taking some strange trucker off to my apartment. So, wait 5 or 10 minutes after I leave and then go out that front door and around to the back of the diner. You’ll see a wood staircase that goes up to my apartment. I’ll leave the door unlocked.”
“Got it. One question.”
“Do I still have to leave a tip here?”
“You better believe it!”
She kissed my cheek and darted off.
I waited a few minutes, then paid my bill. I left a hefty tip, walked out the door and into the red neon light. Making my way around the back of the diner, I climbed the wood staircase as I was told. The apartment looked rather dark inside but I turned the doorknob. It was unlocked as promised.
The entrance went directly into the kitchen. There were a couple of lit candles on a table and on the stove, a tea pot of water not yet boiling. Dried herbs hung from hooks all around the kitchen. I walked into the living room which was cozy warm from a small fireplace. A framed photo of a smiling couple was on the mantle. It appeared to be a young Evanora sitting on the lap of a red-bearded man. Over the fireplace was a large painting of a naked man with a goat head. Creepy. A dozen or so lit candles placed around the room gave the air a waxy smell. A few stuffed birds and animals stood guard throughout the space. Lots of Native American and ancient Celtic trinkets, wall hangings, crystals and amulets made it look something like a museum. An ash tray with a fat stalk of burnt… something… sat at the center of the coffee table.
“I hope you’re up for a cup of tea, sugar. I make it myself. China Black, raspberry leaves, chamomile, rose hips, some other stuff. It’s very relaxing. Will help you sleep.”
Evanora came into the living room tying a red satin robe around her waist. She was wearing no shoes, no bra and her peach pit necklace. She was simply stunning. I couldn’t figure out what it was about this woman that had me under a spell but I was captivated. It isn’t often a woman can make me feel off-balance but there was something about Evanora that left me ruffled.
“Tea… would be great. And if you’ll point me toward the shower, I’ll freshen up and be right back.”
“Right through that door, sweetie. Be careful, the water gets very hot. There’s a robe hanging on the door if you want it.”
The hot shower felt good and invigorating. I felt revived and more focused. I put on the robe and went to the living room. Evanora was on her over-stuffed couch. The red neon light bleeding through the window illuminated her red robe and made her glow like a firehouse lantern.
“Here’s your tea, hon. Come over here and sit next to me. Let me show you something…”
She reached into an old cabinet drawer next to the couch and pulled out a small carved box. She opened the lid and produced a hand-rolled cigarette.
“I hope you don’t mind, but this helps me to relax. I always smoke a little when I have my tea.”
“Not at all.”
She lit the joint, closed her eyes and sucked in the smoke. She offered the cigarette to me, I took it and inhaled deeply. The sweet, earthy smoke instantly melted the tension in my muscles.
“My ex, Rory, introduced me to weed. He was my first husband. The best one. He was a wild man from Scotland. The name of the diner, “The Scarlet Kilt,” came from him. He had this red kilt he believed contained the spirits of all his ancestors and when he put it on, their spiritual essence would enter his body and make him invincible. We used to get high and naked and dance all night on the rocks by the lake. He was into paganism, nature worship, magick, rituals, all that stuff. He taught me the craft. He was the first to open me up.”
“The “craft?” What does that mean… you’re…”
“A witch? It’s okay darlin’, you can say it. I was 19 when he introduced me to witchcraft. It isn’t what everyone thinks it is, of course. We don’t eat babies or mutilate black cats. There are spells and rituals but it’s mostly about becoming purified and perfected through nature. We each have our own gifts. “Super powers,” if you will. My gift is energy manipulation and transference. I know, ‘other-worldly,’ right? People say “witch” but there’s no such thing as one type of witch. We’re all free to do our own thing.”
The weed was starting to do things to my mind and I was beginning to think maybe there was something a little stronger than just tea in my cup. I looked into Evanora’s eyes and saw what looked like a flash of misty red flame. The witchy talk was making me see strange visions, I thought. I felt a surge of desire in me and I leaned in to her. I wasn’t sure how I felt about making love to a witch but I was about to find out.
“I have that same philosophy. Free to do my own thing. But right now, I’d rather do yours.”
I moved in and kissed her lips. She tasted like rose hips and smelled like vanilla and herbs. Her tongue traced my mouth and I reached down and loosened the tie on her robe while she freed me of mine. Our hands explored each other as we slowly fell back into the couch.
We made love for an hour and a half, the details of which won’t be shared but it was sex unlike any I’d had before. I’d hope to continue but Evanora stood up and started slowly dancing around the living room. Her nude, middle-aged body still looked youthful and toned and she closed her eyes and slithered to her own inner music. I was thoroughly enjoying the show when she came over to me and held out her arms.
“Dance with me, baby.”
I’ve never been a shy or overly modest person but I admit I felt somewhat self-conscious here. I’d never danced naked with a witch before and I wasn’t sure I would be a perfect partner. Still, I stood up with her and gave it a try. I started by mimicking her moves. She seemed to be hearing a musical soundtrack I wasn’t, so I had no problem letting her be the lead in this dance. She lifted her arms above her head and skipped around like some sort of wood sprite. I did my best to follow along. She rubbed her hands over her body and writhed like she was making love to an invisible partner. After what seemed like 15 or 20 minutes, I began hearing the music too. I don’t know where it came from but I didn’t question it. We seemed to have connected through the dance on a deep level and I felt like I was absorbing her presence. I felt sweat breaking all over my body and my heart was pounding faster from the workout. The music and dance accelerated and we held each other’s hands and spun around the coffee table. Evanora suddenly stopped moving. She lifted her head and arms high and whispered something in a language I couldn’t identify.
“Naestra, finna, toldor enna candorom! Shallae umstra lammacrom!”
She took the herb stalk from the coffee table and held it to the fire in the small fireplace. It lit immediately and she placed it on the coffee table where the fire extinguished but the stalk continued to smolder. She quickly ran off to a closet and brought back what looked to me like a red kilt.
“Please. Put this on. Don’t ask. Just do it.”
I was completely under her power now and didn’t question her instruction. I’d never put on a kilt before and didn’t know what the hell to do with all the cloth and buckles but Evanora took it from my hands and wrapped it around me while she swayed and whipped her hair side to side. She pulled the buckles until they were secure and then picked up the smoldering herb stalk and danced around me, waving smoke and embers in the air until a veil of fog surrounded me. The faster she danced, the more it seemed the scarlet kilt glowed from the red neon light.
I looked out the window and realized the diner’s red neon Scarlet Kilt sign was no longer illuminated. The glow of red light that saturated the entire room was originating from the scarlet kilt I was wearing. My head felt cloudy and confused and I wasn’t sure if everything I was seeing and experiencing was reality or a dream. Evanora began whispering the strange language once again and the scarlet kilt glowed brighter. I decided I’d had enough of the spooky shit. I wanted out of the kilt and I reached down to release the buckles. The metal was hot and the buckles seemed to be fused closed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get out of the kilt.
I felt the waist of the kilt tighten and constrict around my body. The rest of the kilt which was at one time open and flowing began closing upon me like a hand making a fist. I fought to pull the cloth away but I couldn’t grip it and didn’t have the strength to move it away. It felt like the thing was eating me alive. The kilt glowed even brighter, to the point I wasn’t able to look directly at it. It closed tight around my scrotum and a sensation I can only describe as a “fire orgasm” consumed me. All the energy drained from my body. I began seeing visions of ancient, Celtic pagan priests and warriors. I began melting into them. I could feel their feelings and think their thoughts. I no longer could feel my own body and became light as air and ghostly. The sights, sounds and smells that were surrounding me before had dissipated and were replaced with a vast nothingness. I had passed from the earthly plane to one of pure spirit. From the human standpoint, I was dead.
The spirit world does not accommodate regret, only awareness. One does not evaluate one’s present or past actions in this existence. One only sees actions as they are and as they were. I now know why Evanora prompted me to wear the scarlet kilt but I do not have the power to wish I had not. I did not share the ancestry of Evanora’s ex-husband, Rory, so I had no right or privilege to wear that kilt. While blood keeps an ancestry alive, in this case the ancestors could only live by stealing my own essence. Rory and his ancestors, remained alive in the weave of the scarlet kilt as long as they could either take life from others or find an ancestor to wear the kilt and contribute to the collective ancestral pool of life. Had I been an ancestor, my life would have been spared, refined and magnified. As one of strange blood, I became nothing more than life food and another two charms on a Montana witch’s necklace.
©2017 Rick Baldwin. All Rights Reserved.
(COPYRIGHT NOTICE – This story is under the full copyright of the author who gives permission for royalty-free performance/readings of the story for non commercial purposes. This story must not be changed or altered in any way without permission of the author. Any performance of this story must credit the author, Rick Baldwin. This story may not be reprinted without permission of the author.)