SPOTLIGHT: A Slice of American Pie: New and Collected Poems and Stories by Jared Morningstar

High Speed Midnight Drive to Heaven

I fired up that ol’ V8
and it hummed along to the sound
of the smoking Chuck Berry riffs
on the radio
as bright lights guided me
to the highway,
and as I broke free
from the exit ramp’s grasp,
I felt the power
of Detroit Muscle in my hands
as I squeezed the wheel tighter
and the speedometer read 75 miles an hour
and rising…

Hail Hail Rock and Roll!
I sang along to the music
and the screaming wind outside,
and my hands felt like
ol’ Chuck’s blistered, calloused fingertips
as I held on to that wheel
like I was bound for heaven
and had to get there before sunrise,
and no promise of a good night’s sleep
at a Holiday Inn
was going to slow me down.

Dead End

You used to love driving at night
to escape ghosts and mundane realities.
The road meant happiness
in the form of exit ramps
and taillights of fellow midnight Kerouacs
in the distance ahead.
Like you, they knew
the world’s greatest love song
was the hum of the engine
and the percussion of tires on pavement
with some Willie Nelson playing on the radio;
the welcoming thought that
a goodnight’s sleep could be found
at a mom-and-pop motel,
and that a cup of coffee,
a club sandwich,
or both could be served
by a smiling waitress at any hour
where streetlights,
that gorgeous neon,
appeared on the horizon.
Even the smell of gasoline
during an early AM fill-up
would make your heart beat faster,
for as long as that motor was running,
you felt alive.

But the highway is dead now.
Those city lights don’t shine anymore;
the 24-hour diners are closed,
the jukeboxes no longer play.
You’re lucky if you can find
an open McDonald’s drive-thru,
where a masked worker
nervously accepts your card
and gives you a greasy burger and fries
that you now wonder if you should even eat.
And there’s no room at the motor inn;
it’s closed, perhaps permanently,
you can’t tell,
but you sure know the road
no longer feels like home:
home is where you’re stuck
in late night silence.
You no longer have the miles ahead
to look forward to when the sun rises;
instead, when your weary head hits the pillow,
all you can do is pray in loneliness
that life will return one day to the interstates,
that this dead end isn’t forever,
and that when you wake up,
you’ll still be able to breathe.


I didn’t expect him to join us so quickly. Hearing a familiar voice above the pit, I glanced up. Two demons were holding him over eternal damnation.

Curious, I maneuvered my way through my fellow shades and the flames that keep all of us miserable company towards what would be his landing spot. I always knew he’d end up here. Like me, he was a Commandment breaker, adultery being his one-way ticket. And there he was, eyes closed, pleading like a child for mercy. It was as though he didn’t expect to end up here. At least when I put the barrel of the gun in my mouth, I knew where my final destination would be.

With one terrible heave, they threw him in. I knew what was coming: the scream. The same hopeless scream that fills this place. Everybody’s sounds the same. Then again, you don’t really notice the others when you are shrieking in agony yourself.

But nothing could have prepared me for the hideous sound that emerged from his pathetic form. It was like the cry of a lobster hitting boiling water, only much, much worse. A terrible shiver coursed through my condemned soul, and for the first time since I walked the earth, I felt a different pain than the one caused by the fire.

Did he make her scream this way?

His soul flopped around in the orange and yellow blaze, and each scream seemed more intense… more passionate. I trembled as memories from my past life flooded back into my mind. Those memories never more troubling, I wanted to stop listening and look away, but I simply couldn’t. I stared on as the flames danced around him and injected themselves into every pore. The grimaces on his face as the fire worked its way inside him sucked me even further into the moment. The memory of seeing him and my wife engaged in the sin that brought him here, and the sights, sounds, and every twitch of his soul tortured me. I was burning up faster within these flames than ever. Hell had never felt more like punishment.

But then, he opened his eyes. I peered into his enflamed soul as he faced his fiery eternity for the first time. The last time I had seen those eyes, they were full of pleasure. Now, only agony resided within him. Agony for tearing apart a family… my family! A different sensation began to consume me, followed by another. Two sensations I hadn’t felt in a long time: anger, and pure pleasure.

Everything blackened around me. My eyes flared as I felt a smile come to my weightless face. My body long dead, yet my heart was still pounding and adrenaline still pumping.

“That’s right! Scream! Scream, you son of a bitch!”

As I shouted, he finally recognized my presence.  I can never remember having felt so free or having had such an incredible release of satisfaction. I broke into hysterical laughter, and in that moment, hell was heaven, for I felt no pain.


1 thought on “SPOTLIGHT: A Slice of American Pie: New and Collected Poems and Stories by Jared Morningstar”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s