“Don’t drive out there with all that trouble. Don’t go,” is what people said.
But other people couldn’t help themselves. They had to go.
People called it the hellhole highway, and they weren’t kidding.
Sometimes people called it that because it sounded good when they said it, like they knew what they were talking about, saying it and smiling big and nodding when they said it.
Sometimes they said it because it proved they watched the 11:00 o’clock news and they were informed; and it proved they didn’t live out in the South End with the assembly-line workers and the knifings and the drunks.
But mostly, mixed in with the other reasons, they called it that to warn their good girls about what could happen to them in a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of way without warning if they found themselves driving out close to that end of the county line, out by the rundown tinderbox houses and the human-built sludge of shopping strips and the tacky string of neon signs fired up at night like a mad carnival place.
Yes, people did like to talk about the hellhole highway. They did talk, and that is what they did.
She ponders this as she applies her bright-red lipstick. Janice Baddington can't say no to the hellhole highway. It attracts her more than she can stand.
Tonight, a full moon; beads of sweat gather on her smooth brow like pearls on a string. Her keys flash in the silvery pale moonlight and she slides into her car, one long leg after the other. She is ready to watch and to wait and to hope . . . for trouble.
The drive is long. Long to the South End, to the hellhole highway. Sometimes people call the drive a writhing snake. Janice Baddington prefers to call it “Justice.”
She turns on the car radio. Madonna belts out “Like a Virgin" as Badd--for that is what she prefers to call herself--drives past the tacky string of all-night porn shops, past the rundown, 24-hour pawn shops with their prison bar windows, past the machine-built sludge of doughnut shops with their cop cars out front like piglets suckling at a sow's teats.
The hellhole highway is the colon of the South End. But how else is Janice Baddington supposed to get to the Wal-Mart?
Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Anon./EE/Stacy