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number 2

Patrick Paddywhack and the Desert Hills Autos

By Ronan Conroy

Patrick Paddywhack’s eyes followed the yellow balloon as it floated up into the blue sky over foothills that were a patchwork of shadow and sunlight. The car behind him honked and he returned his gaze to the road, proceeding through the intersection and down the highway. After a short time he was there—approaching a faux adobe building set back from the road.

"Desert Hills Autos" read the banner hanging on the sun-bleached wall above the glass doors of the entranceway. To get to the building you had to drive into the lot out front, park your car, and then walk through the rows of gleaming vehicles and the colourful streamers and the bunting. Patrick pulled onto the hard shoulder and stared out the window of his Buick. SUVs and four-wheel-drive trucks and jeeps were lined up on the roof, and Paddy looked dreamily at them against their backdrop of craggy hillsides and distant mountains visible beyond them. When he finally broke his gaze and restarted his car, Patrick's expression was one of irritation, disgust. He put the car into gear, the clutch catching, squealing and wrenching, until finally the battered engine dragged him out into the highway traffic once more.

"Jesus, Patrick, why didn't you call?"

"Oh sorry, Mona, I didn't notice the time."

"You're getting home later and later—why don't you let me know so the food doesn't spoil?"

Hands on her hips, mouth set, and a dishtowel visible in one fisted hand, Mona waited for an answer. Patrick walked to the stove where a covered plate of food was being warmed gently by a pot of simmering water. He lifted the cover and saw the dried-up chicken strips that Mona had grilled, along with some feeble looking rice.

"Doesn’t look spoiled to me, Mona!" he said cheerily, taking the plate back to the table with him, stopping on the way to give her a kiss on the cheek.

After dinner Patrick sat down to watch the news, followed by the day's Corneo Tree show. Corneo Tree was a damned riot—nothing like sitting and unwinding, letting the brain cool, helping it along with a beer or two. During the commercial break Patrick stared half-drunk as SUVs of differing colours (bright colours like red and white, sleek colours like pale metallic gold and silver-grey, sharp and dangerous colours like yellow and jungle green) streaked across rugged desert landscapes of sun-eaten rock and twisted gnarled trees. In formation they took sharp corners and streamed down the hillsides past scrub brush and giant cacti. One appeared on top of a rocky outcropping, braking suddenly on the edge and coming to rest like a majestic beast of steel and fire, windshield catching the colours of a slowly setting sun, and throwing them like liquid fire into Patrick's eyes.

On Saturday morning Patrick drove Mona to the K-Mart to pick up some groceries. On the way back he swung the Buick off the Old Road and onto the highway.

"Where are you going?" Mona asked.

Patrick pretended to be engrossed in the vehicles ahead and behind as he sped up the entrance ramp and merged with the traffic heading south.

"Patrick—you're going the wrong way!"

"It's a short cut."

In a few minutes, Patrick slowed the car down as they drove through the intersection ahead of Desert Hills Autos, staring at the gleaming vehicles on the roof. He imagined sitting in the driving seat of one of the SUVs, starting the ignition and slamming through the low roof wall, sending a spray of brick and plaster down onto the cars and asphalt below. He imagined hanging in the air for a second, then crunching down onto the lot, pulling a U-turn, and speeding into the desert.

"Patrick, look out!”

The Buick front-ended with an oncoming SUV, and both Mona and Patrick Paddywhack were killed instantly.

Ronan Conroy received his B.A. in English and German from University College Dublin, and is currently employed in the dot com sector and lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Recent publications include "Pledge Allegiance to the Flag" in this month's issue of Pace University's Scribe.

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