The story so far:
I scampered between the vehicles in the parking lot until I reached my Explorer. Chancing a look over my shoulder, I saw the church doors open. Inviting me back into the fold. Thanks, but no thanks.
I hadn’t noticed how badly my hands were shaking until I tried inserting my key into the ignition. Fairly certain I hadn’t refilled my sugar bowl with cocaine to add pep my morning coffee, I braced my wrist on the windshield wiper control and consciously, deliberately willed the key into the slot. It turned. The engine started. I had gas. The car did too. This was no horror film.
My nerves needed calming. I counted to ten, then twenty. Thirty didn’t make me look any less like a Parkinson’s sufferer. I could’ve reached a thousand with no results.
I clicked on the radio to a commercial, then gently shifted into reverse. The advertisement for Ultra Fact Plus pregnancy test made me smirk – it sounded like Ultra “Fat” Plus. If the plus sign appears, then you’re a blimp. Yeah. This was what I needed. Some distraction. Easy listening on Soft Rock 107.1. Lionel Richie never sounded good to me before today, but if he and the Commodores promised it would be easy like Sunday mornin’, I wanted to believe him.
After mumbling my way through the first verse, I cranked both my car and the song into high gear for the chorus. No zombies in my rear view mirror. Driving. It’s why I’m easy.
“Going somewhere, Peter?”
The oxygen in my lungs suddenly vanished, though I didn’t remember exhaling. The Preacher leaned forward from behind me, his face brushing against my headrest. Acrid breath hissed, “You can drive to the ends of the earth, but do you really want to leave them behind? Don’t you want to be with them?”
I felt electrocuted, my joints tense and stiff. The SUV sped up as my right knee and ankle locked, flooring the accelerator and pushing me deeper into the back of my bucket seat. I could lean to the right, but otherwise steering the wheel with my frozen arms was impossible. Charlie horses manifested in my calves. I lifted my butt, thankful to have disregarded my seatbelt. I quickly tilted my torso and repositioned my left foot squarely on the clutch before dropping back into my seat. The motor screamed at drag race decibel levels. Something beneath the hood popped like a gunshot, prompting blue lights to flash as a cop car rolled from the cross street’s four-way stop.
The Preacher whispered, “See you later,” and disappeared.
My elbows cracked, suddenly able to move. I was going too fast to break in time. The police officer must’ve noticed; she slammed on her brakes as I almost swerved past, clipping the patrol car’s right headlight. The SUV tagged a passenger-side mirror of a parked car and spun skidding past a gas station and through the T-intersection at Abbott Street. I stomped the parking break down. The compass on my dashboard went crazy. My tires lost whatever traction they had as they dragged sideways across a front lawn and through styrofoam tombstones inscribed with novelty epitaphs. The front wall of the house finally stopped my vehicle.
I stopped later, slumped across the passenger seat. Dizzy, woozy, nauseas. My glove compartment had popped open and vomited its contents in the impact. On top of my expired registration, photographs of Trevor and Angela stared at me.
The wailing police siren neared, then stopped entirely.
An old man threw open the front door to the house, ignored my dilemma, and yelled to the cop car: “Call an ambulance! My wife!”
I reconfirmed this was no horror film. If it was, I’d have blacked out then and woken up in a jail cell. I wouldn’t feel the throb in my right wrist. I wouldn’t smell fertilizer or taste blood. Trevor wouldn’t be on one knee, baseball glove on the other, palm on a bat’s knob, cap too low over his forehead, game face giving way to a smile. Angela wouldn’t be standing tall in her pink tutu, arms arcing over teased brown hair. Officer Brianna Charles wouldn’t be commanding me to put my hands where she could see them. I remembered the term “divine comedy,” and wondered if God had me in mind.