Saturday, December 11, 2004

A story I wrote

Life Begins at 120
Brandon C.Kerlee

The wind whipped through her red-blonde hair, tossing it around her face. She glanced down at the dash and saw she was going just under eighty, so she stepped harder on the gas and watched the tach needle spike towards the red before she dropped the clutch and slammed the car into fourth gear.

It was a 1969 Corvette, and a real monster of a car. Three hundred and fifty-plus horsepower propelling a fiberglass body that was the deepest red she had ever seen. The sunlight twinkled off the chrome bumpers and reflected into the heavily sloped windshield every few seconds, but not enough to blind her.

As she stood harder on the gas and watched the speedometer needle edge towards one hundred and fifteen miles per hour, she grinned and whipped the steering wheel to the left, dashing into the adjacent lane and nearly sideswiping a car that had been in her lane. The car had just appeared in front of her – she could have been killed! The thought made her laugh out loud; after all, if her boyfriend caught her with his car, he’d kill her anyway. Not that he would catch her, at least – at least, not while she had his car.

Three hours ago, she had driven over to his apartment to surprise him. She was supposed to be spending her spring break (only five more quarters at Ohio University to go) with her parents in Nevada, but she had blown them off with a weak lie; something about a project due in one of her classes. She intended to spend the week with him, just hanging out (and doing all kinds of incredibly naughty, scandalous things, too) and taking a well-deserved break from classes and responsibilities.

She headed to his apartment, looking at the sky and noticing a tiny bit of sun peeking from between a couple of puffy white clouds. They looked like cottonballs, she thought to herself. She smiled – maybe they could go on a picnic! Even though it wasn’t very sunny, it was a nice, cool, dry afternoon, and she loved to ride in his car with the top down on days like that. Lost in her daydream, she nearly missed the entrance to his apartment complex. She laughed at herself under her breath and drove towards his part of the complex.

As she parked her old Ford next to his Corvette, she noticed something odd. There was a strange car parked in his other parking spot. He hadn’t said anything about a new car; in fact, he had been complaining about having the Corvette in the shop all of last week for a tune-up and how he had to walk to the store for everything. Dismissing the momentary strangeness, she hopped out of her car, walked to his door and rang the bell.

When the door opened, she was shocked to see a woman answer, wearing nothing but an oversized T-shirt and bikini briefs. The woman started to ask what she needed, who was she, what was she doing here, but she just brushed by the strange woman and began yelling for her boyfriend.

He walked down the stairs to meet her, ignoring the rising protests of the T-shirted woman and just stared at his girlfriend. He said that he was sorry, that he should have told her that he was seeing someone else and was in love with her. He just didn’t know how to end things. He said that she shouldn’t have found out this way. Then, in a final heartless gesture, he told her that she needed to leave.

That was when she noticed the keys to the Corvette on the table by the door. She sprinted to the table and snatched them off, knocking a vase with a few wilted, sickly roses to the floor. The vase shattered as it hit the floor, spraying shards of glass and blackening petals across the entrance.

The woman in the T-shirt grabbed for her as she dashed toward the door, but only received a hard shove to the chest and a large slash across her cheek, courtesy of the ignition key to a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette. The woman howled and clapped her hand to her torn face, and stumbled towards the bathroom. Glancing up the stairs at her shocked boyfriend (with his mouth hanging open that far, you could probably fit a softball in there, she thought) she glared at him and then turned and walked out of the apartment.

She was shaking as she walked out of the apartment – she really didn’t mean to hurt the woman, she had just lashed out in a furious rage. She looked at the key held tightly in her hand and noticed a small smear of bright red blood on the tip. She wiped it off on her blouse and began to walk towards the Corvette. A coldness descended upon her – she was going to destroy the thing he loved most to hurt him, the same way he had hurt her.

Then she realized she could never damage such a fine car – the sloping fenders and the polished wheels with their huge white-lettered tires. The steel sidepipes, raw and angry. The convertible top, hidden under the red fiberglass cover. The chrome bumpers sparkling in the sunlight, and the bulging, sloping hood that thinly disguised the power beneath. He didn’t deserve to have a car this nice, she thought; but she couldn’t bring herself to destroy it. Just then she realized something. He didn’t deserve to have this car.

She did.

Jumping into the car, she floored the clutch and slipped the key into the ignition. The car started right up – the rumble of the exhaust was low and ominous – the sound of raw power and anger. She slipped the shifter into reverse and backed out. Stomping on the gas, she dropped the clutch and left two fat burn marks on the asphalt parking lot as she sped away.

So here she was, cruising the interstate at one hundred and fifteen miles an hour with the wind in her hair (that feeling was the best reason to own a convertible, she thought) and nothing on her mind anymore but speed. She was sure he had called the cops by now, but they’d have to catch her first. She didn’t know where she was headed, but as long as she got as far away from him as she could, everything would be alright eventually. After all, there were a few clouds in the sky, but she could see the sun hiding, waiting for its chance to reveal itself.

That was when she finally noticed the flashing red and blue lights in the rearview mirror. Stealing a glance into the side mirrors, she saw one – no, two more cops coming up fast on either side of her. She returned her gaze forward to the road, and just in time as she barely missed hitting a slow-moving truck in her lane (and when you’re going this fast, she thought, they’re all slow-moving) and had to wrench the wheel to the left to avoid a crash. The car wavered for a second, seemed to contemplate spinning out, and then steadied itself and resumed its former straight course.

She realized then how close she had come to losing control – both over the car and her life. And all over a jerk of a boyfriend who wasn’t even worth it? That was just a stupid decision, she thought – a “real no-brainer” as her mom would say. She let off the accelerator and listened to the rumble of the sidepipes as the car began to decelerate. The patrolmen pulled up on either side of her and kept pace with her as she continued to slow down. She glanced at her knuckles and saw they had gone a pale grayish-white, and then happened to glance down past her hands to the floor of the car. On the floor, sticking out from under the seats was a bit of fabric. Keeping her eyes on the road, she reached down and pulled out a pair of bikini panties that were not hers.

She dropped the car back down into third gear and smashed the gas pedal to the floor. The car leaped as if it had been struck by lightning and then fishtailed, nearly sideswiping one of the patrol cars and causing him to dart onto the shoulder. He almost regained control, but the heavy patrol car slid off the road and into a ditch. The other patrolman backed off to help his wrecked comrade, leaving her alone again with the car and nothing but the open road ahead of her.

The sun was out all the way now, bathing the highway in a brilliant light. The wind whipped across the road, pulling ever so slightly at the wheel of the Corvette, but she hardly even noticed. She thought for a second about where she could go, and then she realized that it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was car, the beautiful day and the road ahead. She glanced down at the speedometer and smiled a little to herself as she saw the needle pointing to one hundred and twenty miles per hour.


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