Short Fiction for Guests of the WordFeeder
Sunday, May 23, 2010
On his way to meeting in questionable weather, Mo (short for Morris, as in “What were your parents thinking?” which is what his wife asked him on their very first date) Williams reached up to touch and hold the button on the side of his earpiece. “Call Marlene Mobile.” A few second later, his wife answered her cell phone.
“Hi, honey, What’s up?”
“Hey. I know I promised I’d be home early, but I just picked up a voice mail, the second one in the past few minutes from a Mr. Gutierrez who says he needs talk to me as soon as possible.”
“Gutierrez. Sounds old. Heavy accent, doesn’t speak English well, plus his voice kept breaking up. I think the address is a farm property near the Carol County border where all those new subdivisions are going up. I’m not all that far away and we could use the listing.”
“Do you still want to go out for dinner?”
“Sure. I shouldn’t be too la…”
“I tell you what. The weather’s turning pretty fierce. Call me on your way home and I’ll order something for you to pickup. We’ll go out for a movie and something to eat over the weekend.”
“Drive carefully. It’s already starting to rain here, and the weather guy on channel 11 didn’t sound like he was kidding. Doppler this, Doppler that.”
“Sure. ..I love you,” and Mo tapped the side of his ear piece without waiting for her to say goodbye, straining to see the next turn as if moving his face a couple of inches forward would make any real difference.
“Turn right in 500 feet.”
“Thanks, babe.” The “babe” he was talking to was the automated voice of the portable GPS navigator he kept on his dashboard. It was an older model, the kind shaped like an old TV set, but still got the job done. Its three legs with oval feet made it look like a little robot. Instead of the standard voice, he’d set it for the slutty Australian woman whose accent conjured up images of Naomi Watts. (He was married, definitely married and crazy about Marlene. He just figured that, if Marlene were ever hit by a bus, heaven forbid, he’d give Naomi a call. It was a safe fantasy, the only kind he allowed himself.)
Looking up ahead, an almost perfectly straight line of black clouds stretched across the road for as far as he could see in either direction. Down from the leading edge of these clouds, a dark gray storm curtain seemed as impenetrable as it was inevitable.
“Yikes.” Talking to himself had a certain calming effect, as if he wasn’t really alone. “..Aw, hell. It’s only water.”
“Pcholll!! BAMMMM!!!!” Out of what seemed like nowhere, a bolt of lightning stuck a lonesome tree in the middle of the recently plowed field on the left side the country road. Instinctively, his foot pulled back from the accelerator as heavy rain began to make noise on the hood and now the roof of his car. As if in slow motion, he drove through the shower curtain into the storm. And it was fierce, his windshield wipers doing little, even at high speed, to give him more than a moment’s glance at the road ahead of him.
“Com’on, Naomi. Just get me to this guy’s farm and we’ll wait it out.” There was no shoulder – no traffic either, for that matter – so he pulled toward the center of the narrow country road, as best he could find it, worried about the drainage ditches on either side.
“Turn right in 100 feet onto unnamed road.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he responded, reaching to turn the defroster up to full blast, leaning as far forward as he could and still drive. “There it is,” he said out loud, “just past the red mailbox. Care-ful.” The side road was paved, but even more narrow than the one he’d just been on. There was some kind barn building well up ahead.
“BAMMMM!!!” Another lightening strike, much closer this time.
There was flash flooding where rain water filled the uneven surface the farmer had plowed almost to the edge of the road. The drainage pipe underneath where he was driving at a snail’s pace couldn’t handle the flow and some water was just beginning to run across the surface of the road.
“Arrive at your destination in 100 feet, on the right.”
“What?” That barn or whatever it was has to be a good quarter of a mile away.” Slowly, he moved forward, focusing on the road ahead of him, the surface immediately in front of the car now completely covered by water.
Suddenly, in the weak glow of lightening flashing high overhead, he could see it. A small pickup truck, facing in his direction, on its side, just off the road to his right. The driver’s side now submerged in fast moving water, wheels still turning and… and a woman struggling to get out of the open window he could see.
“Hey!” Stopping his car, Mo slammed the gearshift into park and pushed open his door, ignoring the rain. “HEY!!” he shouted to her, walking as quickly as he could to what he thought was the edge of the road next to her truck, but then missed it, slipping, but without falling over, down the two feet of mud that ran up to side of her door.
“COM’ON. I’LL HELP YOU,” he shouted to be heard over the sound of the storm. “Let me open the door!” Pushing the door up and holding it open with his right arm, Mo extended his left hand to grab the arm of a young, very pregnant Hispanic woman. Even through the rain hitting her face, he could tell she was crying. Writhing in pain, her anguish muted the smile she did her best to make when she realized that Mo had come for her.
“My baby’s coming, but I think there’s something wrong,” she told him, “and my phone is out. …There’s a hospital just a few miles from here. I’ve got to get there!”
“Put your arms around my neck. …There. I’ll pull you out. We’ll do this.” And they did, together.
Walking slowly toward the back of the truck where the ground was higher, Mo and Cate, which turned out to be her name, stepped through the mud onto the road and walked back to his car, Mo’s arms around her. They were soaked, but okay. Backing out slowly, aiming to the right of the mailbox he could barely see, he backed onto the main road, and let Naomi take them to the hospital. Visibility was near zero for the first couple of miles, so bad, they kept the front windows rolled down to help them see the edges of the road. But they made it, and Cate and her daughter, born very soon after they arrived, turned out to be okay. “Anna Maria” – after her grandmother – “Rojas,” Cate named her. Apparently “Mo” wasn’t really an option, although she was thankful, really nice and promised to invite him to the christening.
“Cate, will you be okay? ..I’ve got to go. My wife’s expecting me.”
“Sure, I’ll be fine. The nurse called my parents. They’re on the way. Thanks. Thank you,” and she grabbed Mo’s hand, pulling him closer to the side of her bed, and kissed the back of it.
“Hey. I was in the neighborhood. ..See you later,” he said, smiling back at her. And then, on his way out of her room, remembered why he’d been there in the first place. “Hey, Cate. I almost forgot, I was on my way to meet with a Mr. Gutierrez. Was I even close when I saw your truck?”
“Well,” she hesitated, “..Emanuel Gutierrez was my grandfather, my mother’s father, but he passed away years ago. I don’t know any other around here.”
“Hm. Maybe a got the name wrong. ..Take care of yourself.”
“Honey. ..Honey, wake up.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Honey. You fell asleep during the ‘Twilight Zone’ marathon you were watching. The weather’s starting to suck. I ordered Chinese. You need to go out for it while I finish up the article I’m editing. ..Go. Before the rain starts, and ask for an extra bag of crispy noodles.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Shaking his head to wake the rest of the way up, he used both hands to push himself off the couch. “You can’t believe the dream I had.”
“You can tell me about it later, over dinner. Right now,” Marlene was hunched over her laptop on the table between their kitchen and family room where they ate and she worked, “don’t talk to me.” And then she made a kissing noise with her lips as if to apologize for ignoring him.
“Oh-kay,” he said I the middle of a yawn, on his way to his study that he used as his office and where he had left his car keys on the table that was his desk. Picking them up, he caught a glimpse of the message light flashing on his work phone. “Hmm.” Hesitant, he pressed the play button, to hear the sound of his friend, Jack’s voice asking if he would be jogging past his place that Sunday morning. If he was, Jack would join him and they could run all the way to Bagel Deli to pick some up. “Sure,” Mo thought to himself, relieved that everything was back to normal. “but I’ll call him back later.”
Leaving by their front door, instead of the garage, Mo walked quickly to his car that was parked by the curb out front, feeling the weather changing for the worse as he did. In the front seat, he started the car, looking out the windshield at gathering, but not yet stormy weather – and then at his GPS navigator which was just coming on line for business as usual. And he sighed, and then looked over his left shoulder before pulling out, just to make sure there were no cars or kids on bikes coming up from behind him.
“Buenas noches, señor Williams.” The voice coming from his GPS was old, gruff, broken, talking fast ..and familiar. “Lamento tener que imponer, pero mi nieta necesita su ayuda. ..Por favor. No hay tiempo que perder!”
“He said, ‘Good evening, Mr. Williams. I am sorry to impose, but my granddaughter needs your help. …Please. There’s no time to waste.’”
Reaching to the center of his dashboard, Mo grabbed the little GPS, yanking it off its feet to within inches of his face, and stared at it – as the skies continue to darken overhead.
“Let’s get with it,” Naomi’s voice was insistent. “Follow me!”
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