This article is part of the We Do Battle for the Lord series.
He made a sound of panic, but he wore his seat belt and the noodle couldn't pull him out of the seat. I started to grab the noodle, but Isaac pointed to the steering wheel. I grabbed it and steered the damn thing while he reached down and pulled out his buck knife.
He started sawing into that noodle but the dang thing wouldn't let go. That stinking, green blood gunk was falling all over the inside of the car. Isaac was trying to keep his foot on the gas, but that noodle had just about pulled him out of the seat. He'd almost cut through it. Just a little more. The knife fell from his fingers down between the seats. Realizing there was no time to get the knife I did the most heroic thing I ever done in my life.
I bit the noodle.
It was just holding on by a little strap and my teeth sunk into it like jerky. Didn't taste too bad at first, little gamey, but then I got a big lump of stewed spinach. It even tasted like the stuff, only worse. I had to swallow to keep biting and by the time I'd chewed through that last inch of noodle I musta eaten about three cups of stewed spinach. It was basically my worst nightmare and all it did was save our asses. The front end of the noodle fell to the floor of the Nissan and the rest of it went whipping out the back like a cut rope under tension.
"Thank you Jesus," Isaac said. His back was all cut up, but he seemed okay. He added a heartflelt, "Thanks, buddy."
It was suddenly very quiet in the car. We drove the snowy road back to Truckso's feeling pretty beat. Got ourselves cleaned up and sat down in the little area with the phones they put on the wall so you could call your wife and kids, but nobody uses those phones no more since everybody carries phones around. White man's luxury. And the Japanese.
"Looks like you boys had a rough night," said the waitress, a stocky, tired sort of beautiful. A noble mess, like the old, watchful patriarch gorilla at the zoo. "Roads bad?"
"Lots of rough road," I said.
"What can I get you two?" she asked and gave me a wink.
"Chicken fried steak and cheddar grits and, you got corn on the cob?"
"Course we do."
"That and some pie after. You don't got beer, do you?"
"Sorry, hon, just Cokes and juice."
"Well you go on and pick me out the sweetest juice you got back there," I said, and sorta smiled after saying it so she could tell I was making an innuendo of sorts.
"That'll be fine for me too," said Isaac, rubbing at his shoulder that had near been dislocated by the noodle. "Could I get some ice for my shoulder?"
"I'll bring you some in a towel," she said.
When she was gone I looked at Isaac and there was a whole unspoken communication going on. We'd just got beat for the first time in our brief avenging angels careers. Not just beat, either, terrified and beat. That thing had come awful close to doing us in.
"Did you see its teeth?" I asked Isaac. "That thing has been eating people and animals."
"Yep. It wasn't supposed to be that big. It's growing. And it's gonna keep growing until somebody puts a stop to it."
"I don't know," Isaac looked down at his hands. There were lines of green under his fingernails. "We should probably go to some of these other places. Take care of business while we think up a plan. There's something going on not far from here."
"What is it?"
"You won't like it," he said. "It's about kids."
Hell, that's one thing I can't stand. Don't get me wrong, kids are fine by me, happy to toss a football at 'em or tell them about the Eagles, but I been trapped up with kids by women too many times to count. Getting all secret pregnant on me with no recourse. My trucker salary got sliced up worse than a french fry potato. You know, before I died and turned into an avenging angel.
"Fine," I said. "Where is this?"
"Fargo," he said.
The waitress brought the food and the ice pack. She seemed distracted by something on the TV. Food smelled great and I was powerful hungry. Isaac looked at my plate with a queer expression.
"What's that for?" I asked.
"How can you eat that whole plate after eating all that gunk from the noodle?"
"If there's one thing I'm good at," I said, lifting a forkful of chicken fried steak to my mouth, "it's eating. Lots of practice."
Great food. I think I could have put the hammer down on that waitress too if I hadn't had Isaac around messing up my game. I did get her number wrote down and put it on a piece of paper in my wallet. You never know when we might be back through Minnesota. She kept craning her head back to see what was happening.
"Why do you keep looking at the TV?" I demanded.
"Oh," she smiled as if I'd caught her doing something wrong. "It's just the news."
"Well, what happened?"
"It's breaking news. The space shuttle exploded takin' off." Tears quivered in her eyes. "That teacher is dead. Challenger blew up. Isn't that horrible?"
I looked past her and could see it on the TV behind the lunch counter, the burning stethoscope shape of the rocket trails suddenly ending in the blue sky.
"Yeah," I agreed. "It's really horrible."
Next stop: Fargo, North Dakota. We'll catch y'all on the flip side.
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