Word Count 946
The volatility of Duke and Sally was easy to understand. Duke was a high functioning alcoholic. How high functioning? He was on the verge of introducing Adventure, the first social media to take on both Facebook and Twitter. He hadn’t released any details, but investors like Mike Wilkie, the local billionaire owner of Gold in Portland Oregon, had invested hundreds of millions into the project.
When Duke was sober, he charmed everybody that he was around. He had positions as a Royal Rosarian, the organization running Portland’s Rose Festival, and was on the board of the Portland Art Museum and the Oregon Zoo. Besides his drinking, Sally did not like how much women, from matrons to teens, liked to get close to him at public events. Duke claimed nothing went anywhere, but she got jealous enough to give him a scar on this left cheek from a thrown wine bottle after she saw the school board chairwoman rubbing against him.
Sally had all of the entertainment bases covered. She had a local variety show where she sang and danced with other local celebrities. The long running “High School Drama”, filmed in Portland, featured her as a drama teacher.
Their battles were great entertainment for Oregonians who missed the drama common in other cities. The monthly local scandal sheet, Portland Follies, even ran a Duke and Sally thermometer graphic about their relationship. “Freezing” was a complete breakup and “Boiling” was near public intercourse. They spent most of their time on the ends, rather than the middle. Rather than being offended by the public interest, they gloried in, to the extent of angling for a reality show ala Kardashians. The fights gave them great make-up sex too.
The couple’s taste in music did not intersect much. Sally was country and Duke was rock and roll, but they both loved “Together Again”. Naturally Sally liked the Buck Owen’s version and Duke preferred Ray Charles’. Peaches and Herb’s “Reunited” was second on their joint hit parade.
To celebrate the beta testing of Adventure, they went out US 26 east towards Mt. Hood to a favorite dive-bar in Welches, “The Other Place”. It was named, so if someone asked if so and so was there, the answer was “He’s at the other place.” Except for Sally, who was the designated driver, everyone got staggering, slurring drunk. Around midnight, Duke and Sally decided to drive up to Timberline Lodge and stay the night.
Duke somehow got to the Corvette first and said “We can switch drivers a few miles up the road”. Sally hated it, but couldn’t dislodge him from his seat. She got too hot in her coat and unhooked her seat belt to take it off. Duke took his eyes off the road to watch her, something he enjoyed nearly as much as drinking. That was all it took for him to drive off the road into some unyielding trees.
Duke was a little beat up from the exploding air bag, but Sally had hit the windshield. They checked with each other and both claimed to be all right. Duke was going to call for a tow, but noticed Sally bleeding from the forehead, and decided he’d better call an ambulance.
While waiting, Duke remembered through his foggy brain that he’d already had several DUI’s and accidents. He could be sent to prison for years with another one. “Sally, do me a favor, you were driving. You’re sober; so for you this is just a plain accident. The guys at The Other Place think that you were driving and you could save me jail time.”
After a few minutes of world class profanity, Sally agreed, but said “You owe me big for this.” Duke agreed with extensive groveling.
When the ambulance arrived, they told the agreed upon lie to the attendants. Both rode in the back and decided to try the trip again after Sally was checked out, but without the stop at the dive bar.
After a few miles towards the nearest, but not near, hospital Sally quit talking, then began incoherent mumbling and ended with singing “Together Again”. At the end of the song, her eyes rolled back in her head. The medic who had been checking her vitals turned white and said “She just died.”
“No, no, no. Not Sally. My one love. The one who keeps me going, the one that I depend on. No.”
The autopsy found a brain hemorrhage.
Duke the charming local celebrity became Duke the hermit, only emerging to drink. He hated to sleep because he would dream of Sally dying in different ways. The worst was during sex. She would scream at him and then die at the brink of orgasm. A week after the dreams, she started to talk to him while he was awake. “Why didn’t you let me drive? I’d still be alive. How can a genius be so stupid?”
After a month of hanging around his house and drinking in local bars, he went back to “The Other Place”. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was an act of brain disarray and pain. On the way the radio played “Together Again”, but not by Buck or Ray. Sally was singing. After the song, she said “Duke it is time for us to be together forever”. After spending time at The Other Place, on the way to Mt. Hood, the new Tesla’s accelerator hit the floor and the steering wheel pulled to the right. The Tesla crashed where he had crashed the Corvette.
There were no skid marks left on the road. Coroner’s verdict – either suicide or extreme inebriation. The smile on the corpse was unusual.
My first ghost story. Or is it a ghost story? Novemember 2020 Dark Dossier.