….so life has given me pause at red lights and merging lanes. I swing my head right and left, amazed that the tar-pit buggy to my right doesn’t realize that it’s not going fast enough to move ahead of me and not nearly slow enough to get behind me. I have only two choices, really….neither of which will work unless I risk plowing into cement or another tar-pit buggy.
The Penta-side of the Fourth part.
Emily’s fiance sat in the leather armchair with his knees drawn up. A faded, leather-bound notebook was cradled in his lap. His left thumb frequently found its way between the obscenely white edges of his teeth–Emily’s fiance liked to gnaw on his fingertips. He had been waiting for her at the Insomniacs Inn for twenty to thirty minutes without even realizing it. She had been very late and apologized numerous times upon arrival. He didn’t seem to notice. After she was there for ten minutes, she finally made him aware of her presence.
“I killed a woman today,” Emily chirped in her best would-you-like-to-buy-some-Girl-Scout-cookies voice.
Her fiance’s gaze propelled up from the book. Still no words but at least there was acknowledgment. Emily blinked a few times and smiled.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I killed a woman today…or very likely killed a woman today.”
“You either did or you didn’t.”
“Hmmm.” Emily proceeded to explain the reason for her tardiness. After leaving Uncle Flint’s house, she decided to take the scenic route rather than the tree-less route to the Insomniacs Inn. Five miles on the road and Emily slowed her car to a drag as she spotted a black tent on the opposite side of the path. At the exact moment that she was almost past this nylon dome, the front flap opened and an emaciated, middle-aged woman’s face bolted into view. Emily nearly swerved off the road. It wasn’t fear or disgust that stirred the calmness of driving down a tree-lined avenue. Emily had wanted to be a coroner and was academically two-thirds of the way through training in the not too distant past–she was accustomed to sights of physiological disturbances.
Instead, Emily reacted to the utter randomness and absurdity of such a David Lynchian moment there and then of all places and times. Once she was fifty yards away from that woman, Emily drove over two thin, black ropes running across the road. Thirty yards later, the tent went up in hell fire.
“Negligent homicide, perhaps? Involuntary manslaughter?” Emily’s fiance remarked.
“Can’t I plead WTF-was-that-cide?”
Emily’s fiance didn’t get the joke. “Were there any witnesses?”
“Maybe a cow 100 yards before I saw the tent,” Emily replied as she watched her fiance practically ingest his left thumb. She was going to excuse herself and pretend to make a phone call to put some distance between her and this man that, up until this dialogue exchange, had never struck her as peculiar to the point of unappetizing. She didn’t have to pretend. She caught a whiff of amaretto and cilantro. Her uncle’s special teams coach was surely in the room. Before she could take a look around, she felt his hands on her shoulders.
“How’s my favorite almost-medical-examiner doing today?”
“Coach Floyd,” Emily said as she stood up to embrace him. “Cell phones and a laundry room?”
“I know, I know. Just don’t tell the defense coordinator.”
Emily looked back down at her fiance, who was still biting on that thumb, and then to Coach Floyd. She knew what she had to do. “Right, or else he’ll get butterscotch and Little Debbies on your hind quarters.”
The special teams coach nodded his head slowly and said, “Your uncle wanted me to give you something for that, uh, situation you mentioned to him. It’s in my car. Why don’t you come out with me and I’ll help you load it into your trunk?”
Emily thought it was a great idea. “I’ll be back in five,” she said to her fiance, who had returned his attention to that leather book.
When Emily and Coach Floyd were outside, she told him, “Thank you.”
She didn’t go back inside.