Three Wishes

I have no idea what inspired this short bit. Sometimes a character appears and has something on her mind and you just can’t stop her.


He wouldn’t listen. That’s been his problem from the beginning. If he’d only listened when I said, “Ernie, don’t take that bottle down off the shelf,” we would have avoided a whole mess of trouble. Trouble like you wouldn’t believe. Like you don’t even read about in books, cause nobody would even believe that you made it up. But no, I saw it with my own eyes. Well, there not as good as they used to be, whose are, right? But I saw. And he took down that bottle and I said, “Ernie, you oughtn’t go messing with stuff you don’t know,” and him being a man and all, he just had to. You know how they say “watch out, that plate’s hot” and they gotta go touching it anyway? Yeah. Just like that. Wasn’t even a real pretty bottle, neither, not like the ones in the museum or in the catalogs, even. You know. That pretty blown glass all shot through with colors. No, he musta thought he was that Aladdin boy or something, the way his eyes lit up, the way he’s giving me the elbow and whimpering and all. Like, “Oh, Sylvie, look at that. Now that’s something you don’t see every day.” Uh huh. Right. You see them all the time. In the horror movies! The one you pick up and say “Oh, it’s so fragile, I can’t even believe…” and then some axe murder comes through the door and you drop it and it shatters into a million pieces. Well, okay, we didn’t have no axe murderer. Just that bottle. And then he has to shine it all up, since he can’t read the label. Thinks he might have hit the lottery with some expensive bottle of wine that got bought up in one of those auctions, rich guy died and they had to auction off all his stuff and it ends up in some shady secondhand store. Then what do you know, this smoke starts pouring out. Oh, he went and done it now. Then this big ass guy in fancy pajamas is hovering over him, and I damn near fainted. He looks like that big blue dude Robin Williams played in the movie. I damn near peed myself. And Ernie, he’s looking like the fox in the henhouse. Already he’s planning his three wishes. He didn’t even get one out yet when the big blue dude cuts him off cold, says, “Let me tell you how this is gonna work. I’m sick and tired of you guys coming around here asking for stuff and me always doing all the work. This time it’s gonna be different. This time I get the three wishes.” Well, that sounds fair to me, ‘cause he’s got a point and who asked Ernie not to go touching that bottle? And Ernie just stands there like a dodo. Like how’s he gonna grant a genie three wishes. The guy says, “One. You’re gonna do me a favor. You’re gonna get me a pack of cigarettes. Cause I’ve been stuck in this gol darn bottle for a hundred years having one serious nicotine fit. Two. I want a burger. Like the biggest burger you can find.” Ernie’s just about as white as a sheet at that point, cause the guy’s huge and leaning over him. He looks like he’s gonna faint and can barely talk, but he says, “What’s the third wish?” And the guy just leans back and crosses those damn big arms over his chest—who’da thought a genie would have that kind of muscle? Then he says, “You get me the other things, then we’ll talk.” Well, Ernie looks at me and I look at Ernie and I say, “You heard the man.” I’m starting to kinda like this genie and maybe while Ernie’s gone I can take a lesson or two in getting my way once in a while. So Ernie takes off down the street and we’re just chatting away, trading tips about how to clean bottles and stuff and you know, we don’t even notice when Ernie comes back in. “I got your smokes and your burger, now you gonna let me have one wish at least?” Yeah. Mr. Genie didn’t care much for that. He sits up a little taller and says, “For my third wish. You’re getting into that bottle, cause I kinda like it out here.” Ernie should have known better. Before he could even say a word, there’s this big puff of smoke and a whoosh and Ernie’s gone. We keep him on our shelf, Mr. Genie and I do, where he won’t get himself into any more trouble.

Flash Fiction: A Call to Prayer

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A Call to Prayer

The heavy footsteps came closer, echoing through the cool stone corridor, and stopped in front of Aaron’s cell. A man grunted the short, guttural words he’d come to associate with the delivery of a meal, and he waited for it to clank through the hatch at the bottom of the door. By the slant of light through the tiny barred window near the ceiling, and the last time he’d heard the call for prayer, Aaron expected dinner: lentils or rice with a bit of meat. Over this meal he’d say his own prayer, thankful for what he’d been given.

The tray snapped through and there was no dinner. No lentils or rice or meat he could not recognize. Only a black hood. He said another prayer, put the rank cloth over his head, and waited. The man called out a question. Aaron said yes and the door creaked open. By his own arrogance, he’d once learned what was on the other side of the hood—a guard with a rifle—and didn’t think it would be wise to tempt fate again.

He let the man nudge him out and down the hallway, their footfalls ringing in lockstep. Each heavier than the last. Aaron’s heartbeat stole the air from his lungs, the saliva from his mouth. He thought of Jesus on the cross, of that iconic prayer: Fatherforgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

The guard stopped him. A door swung open. He was led forward. Made to stand in a certain place and pushed down at the shoulders. That meant sit, and a hard surface awaited him, and his hands were tied behind his back.

The hood was removed from his face and the door clanked shut and he was alone on a blue plastic chair in front of a flat-screen television. He knew what came next. The interrogator would come and turn on the set and watch with him. When the cloaked men got through their litany of crimes against the accused, the end was mercifully swift; he prayed that his compatriots had not suffered long. Then he would provide the same answers to the same questions he’d been asked so many times. No, he didn’t work for the government. No, he wasn’t with the military. No, the church he claimed to represent was not a front for a ring of American spies.

Part of him prayed that he would be taken next, just to have it done with.

The door opened again. It was not the same interrogator that had sat with him the last two times.

This man gave him a sad smile, almost one of gratitude. “You are Aaron Westbrook?”

“Yes.”

“You are the same Aaron Westbrook who went to Syracuse University in 1980?”

Aaron blinked. “Yes.” This man didn’t look old enough to have even been a sparkle in his father’s eye all those years ago.

“You saved my uncle’s life. He was going to university there. Some men pulled him from his car and called him terrible names and beat him and stole his wallet and left him for dead in the street. He says you took care of him. He speaks of you often. How you got him a doctor and let him stay with you and…”

“Saleh?” Aaron smiled. He hadn’t thought of his old friend for so long. “Speaks? He’s still alive?”

The man nodded enthusiastically. “Yes. In fact, he is the reason I’m here. He recognized you on the news and asked me to find you.” After a quick glance at the door, he started working on the ropes that bound Aaron’s hands. “Come with me. I know a way out. For both of us.”

Flash Fiction: Traitors

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While I was working on a passage for my National Novel Writing Month project, one line of dialogue kept pulsing in my head: “I know who your father was.” It prompted me to write this story for 2-Minutes-Go. You can read all of this weeks’ wonderful writing here.

——

Traitors

Nobody talked much about her father’s job, when Valerie was little. Mother only said that Papa worked for the government and was in charge of helping people get along with each other, which Valerie thought was a very important thing. That’s why when Ricky Alvarez pulled her hair in the cafeteria and said her father was Benedict Arnold, she punched him in the face. Valerie cried all the way home in the back of the black sedan, and even though Alphonso the Secret Service man said nice things to her, and even offered to let her wear his mirrored sunglasses, it was no consolation. She had let her father down. He spent all day helping people get along, the least she could do was try not to punch them. But over cookies and milk that afternoon, she thought about that again. She asked Angela the cook, whom she always trusted to tell her the truth. “Mrs. Angela?”

“Yes, my little mouse? You would like another cookie?”

“No, thank you.” She set down her glass. “Mrs. Angela, is my father a traitor?”

Mrs. Angela’s lipsticked mouth squinched tight. And she stared, long and hard. “Who is saying these things to you? Was it that boy?” Her fist pressed into the counter. “I will tell your mother, and she will call that awful boy’s father.”

“No!” A bite of cookie fell into Valerie’s lap. “I mean, no, please.” She picked up the crumb and set it daintily onto her plate. That would probably make Ricky Alvarez angrier, and she didn’t want to have to punch him again. Because she thought he was sort of cute. If not for the pulling her hair and the Benedict Arnold thing.

“Your father is a wonderful man. And don’t you let anyone tell you differently.”

“But…but what does he do?”

“He makes the world a better place. That is his job. And we should all be thankful.”

And that was that. Valerie finished her cookie and slunk out. She walked out onto the wide, green backyard, where the gardener was clipping dead branches from the trees, where a camera pivoted atop a tall, sturdy fence post, and looked up, into the sky and the clouds and the sun.

Then someone was talking to her, and the memory dissolved. “Your time is up.”

She sighed. Her father stood, his prison uniform hanging on his thinning frame. “Thanks for the cookies,” he said, and a guard took him away.

Flash Fiction: You’ve Tried Everything

woman-74595_640I wrote this flash piece for last week’s Two-Minutes-Go and wanted to share.

—–

You’ve tried everything. The pills, the chanting, the download-for-half-price-right-now self-help lectures that are supposed to teach you to love yourself and your body, deeply and completely and without judgment. You’ve repeated the affirmations that you don’t need to self-medicate your feelings with a box of Oreos or a jar of coconut-pecan cake frosting and a spoon. But here you are again, another week gone by, another crumpled five in your purse ready to tango. You walk the aisles, telling yourself that because you are carefully considering what that five will buy, weighing how horrible you will feel from eating a sleeve of peanut butter cups versus a sack of trail mix, that makes it better, somehow. Or at least you’ve given yourself the chance to change your mind, even though you know you won’t. Even though you know that you’ll eventually make your choice, wait for a few of the customers to leave, then sidle up to the skinny, lipsticked twenty-something at the cash register and say, “Yes, I’d like a bag, please,” as if you’re not going to eat it all in the car on the way home, as if she doesn’t know that, too. It’s not fair, really. It’s like a secret shame you’ve asked her to carry, without actually asking.

You feel compelled to add, “Oh, that’s for my husband, he can’t stop eating that junk,” and she nods and makes that old, tired noise with her tongue, as if she or maybe an older sister has one like that at home. And maybe she’s not as thin as you first thought, and maybe there’s a bit of a vacant look in her eyes, as if she’s counting the minutes until she can clock out. You wonder if she’d rather be a million other places than behind the register of a convenience store, what her life is like outside this place. And if she too trolls the aisles, buys a random whatever with her paltry employee discount and is surprised to find the container empty when she’s finished her commute.

Something thick lodges in your throat, and as she’s handing back your change with a practiced smile, your voice is barely above a whisper. “It’s for me.”

And then she nods, the smile softening, and says, “I hope you have a better day, hon.”

Sunday Flash Fiction: Deja Vu

navigation-1048294_640This piece was inspired by this week’s 2-Minutes-Go Flash Fiction, and I wanted to share it:

Deja Vu

Lunch wasn’t sitting well, the sudden rise in the humidity was making his sinuses throb like a mother, and Malcolm still had one more job to do before he could call it a week and collect his money.

The déjà vu of the address he plugged into his crappy GPS stopped him for a moment, but then he shook it out of his head and followed its schoolmarm directives. He knew the cardinal rules of the job: have a short memory and don’t get involved. Maybe that was why he drank so much. It helped with the memory part, but it didn’t help so much with the guilt. He woke each morning with the gut-sinking sensation that he’d ruined someone’s day, maybe even someone’s future. But several cups of coffee usually killed that. So did the piles of bills on his kitchen table and the rationalization that if people hadn’t done something stupid he wouldn’t be visiting.

But when he turned up the broken driveway and saw the sheared off gutter dangling by one clamp over the raggedy lawn, one of those smothered memories snuck up and sucker-punched him.

He’d been there before. The driveway had been less choppy; the lawn had been shorter. A pale wisp of a girl, many months pregnant, had answered the door. She’d looked like his daughter, whom he hadn’t seen in years. He’d mumbled the name on the papers and she shook her head and he said he was only doing his job and she stood there growing paler and he shoved the papers at her and got the hell out of there as fast as he could and downed most of a fifth of JB when he got home.

Now he turned the car off and sat, staring at the crumbling stairs, the sagging gutters, and one intrepid weed growing straight up out of it. The doorbell glowed orange. The papers lay crisp and stapled on his front seat. His breath quickened. His mind snatched at excuses. Had an accident. Lost the paperwork. Nobody home… His smile dissolved. No matter what he dreamed up, this would not end well for her.

Then a car pulled up behind him. The pale and less-wispy girl flew out, fists clenched, eyes blazing. “You people. You people, haven’t you people done enough? He’s not here. He’s not here, all right? You want him? You go to his girlfriend’s house, you get him there, and you know what? You tell him he owes me for the care and feeding of our child.”

And with that she pointed to the backseat, and the pale, towheaded baby, and the lunch that hadn’t been sitting well in Malcolm’s stomach punched him too.

Her once-pale face flared red, but she seemed to have shouted herself out, so he rolled down his window. She stood with sagging shoulders, her right hand extended. “Okay,” she said. “I get it. The papers are all made up there, and you’re only doing your job, and I guess”—she sighed—“I guess I’ll have to find a lawyer or something, huh.”

“I can help you,” he mumbled.

“Huh?”

Malcolm cleared his throat and said, louder, “I can help you.”

And when he got home, the undelivered summons back in his briefcase, he collapsed into a kitchen chair and made two phone calls. One to his boss, telling him he quit. The second to the public defender, telling him the name and new address of the deadbeat dad.

He then tried to make a third, but the same sort of schoolmarmish voice that scolded him from his GPS said that the number had been disconnected.

The robotic words were still echoing in his mind when he drank the JB straight from the bottle, knowing it would not kill everything that he’d done, but he damn sure hoped to give it a try.

Flash Fiction Sunday: The House

house-54570_640I want to share one of the flash fiction bits I wrote this week for 2-Minutes-Go. It’s a fun freewriting, freewheeling word adventure. Maybe one day you’ll join us.

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The House

You’ve passed the house a hundred times at least, in all seasons, when the leaves swirled around the horseshoe drive, when the snow piled up against the mailbox, when the water ran down the culvert in sparkling ribbons, when the boards on the small front porch popped loose from the heat. You’ve passed it so many times you feel a kind of ownership, and you pluck fallen branches from the driveway, and cut down the pokeweed that grows tall over the mailbox, and fret over the chipping paint and the buckle in the asphalt and the shingles that blew off in the last windstorm. You’ve never seen a car there, or a light in the window, but occasionally the lawn is whacked down as if by machete, and maybe there’s an irate neighbor who takes his anger out on it occasionally, fearing it brings down his own property values. One day, idle speculation slides into a thirst for fact, and you happen to be in the neighborhood anyway, so you ask at the town office where they keep records of such things. You get a name and the status of ownership, and the bored clerk pushes her glasses back on her nose and slides her “World’s Greatest Nana” mug away from her record books and sniffs at the ain’t-it-awful history of the place. Death in the family, lost in probate, squabbling children. She goes on, and it breaks your heart. “None of ’em sound like they even want it,” she says, shaking her head. “And it’s not worth spit. I think it’s just about ego, at this point. Can you imagine?” You can’t, or can, and don’t want to, and can’t believe such a thing would ever happen in your own family. You go back to that house and peer in the windows. It’s not a bad little place. It needs a good cleaning and some love, and you’ve been thinking for a while that a change of scene might help you forget. In your soul, you already feel like you’re halfway to ownership. And on your way out, you wonder how the porch railings would look painted sage green, and if there’s enough sun on the south side for a garden.

Two-Minutes-Go Road Trip

cropped-file0001608482449.jpgHi, everyone! While Mr. Mader is out schooling a few fish, the Friday 2-Minutes-Go luau and sewing circle is over here. What’s this thing all about? Maybe these words I lifted from his website will explain:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.

Here’s one to start us off:

The grass is greener on the other side. Stupid cliché, you think, muscling the hand mower while sweat pours down your face and wet clippings pepper your shins. You have the damn greenest lawn on the whole street, on the whole planet, but you’re still pushing a hand mower and wish you could pay someone else to do it while you watch from your hammock, sucking on a beer. Like that dude next door. He isn’t an old dude, either. He wears saggy old-man shorts, some kind of faded plaid like your aunt Betsy’s summer sheets, but he looks fit enough to push a mower around. Just chooses not to, you guess. And he doesn’t really sit around too much out there anymore, lording it over his half-acre while the lawn maintenance guys pull up with their flatbed and do their thing. In fact, you don’t remember the last time you saw him outside. If you did, you might tell him that the lawn guys screw off a lot. That they laugh and tell jokes and do shoddy work and peel out of there in, like, ten minutes. That if nobody minds, you’ll be glad to go on over and tidy up the spots they miss. You peer over the fence. Yeah. Looks like shit. You don’t hear any noise from inside, so you wheel old reliable through the gate and neaten up the worst of it. And then you treat yourself to that beer. This becomes a regular thing, and you don’t mind. It feels kind of nice, and afterward, the beer tastes better. But then you start to wonder why it’s been so quiet over there. Just when you’ve finished up both lawns and you’re about to muster up the juice to go over there and knock on the door, the old man steps out. He looks even older. The plaid shorts sagging even lower. He gazes in your direction, nods, pulls his wallet from his back pocket. You walk halfway to meet him. His eyes are red, and also sagging, and he extracts a twenty and pushes it toward you. “For your trouble,” he says, his voice creaking. “Thank you.”

You’re already shaking off the money, but the door is open just enough for you to see the clutter, the oxygen tank, smell the disinfectant. “No trouble,” you say.

I’ll be in and out today, but have FUN (because fun is GOOD!) and I’ll be back later. Feel free, everyone, to write and post and read and comment.

Heart

heart-772637_640I’d like to share a story inspired during this week’s Two-Minutes-Go on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination blog. Great writing happens there. Maybe one week you’ll come by and play. Because it’s fun. And fun is good.

—–

Heart

He didn’t recognize the purple-inked handwriting on the note he’d plucked from beneath his windshield wiper. Maybe his eyes were whacked from staring at computer code all day. So he blinked again, and again, and saw only the same few words in the tiny and most likely female script: “I heart your car.” A black cloud descended over his thoughts as he shook his head and crushed the slip of paper in one pale fist. More jokes. He drove a beat-to-crap Honda Civic that wasn’t even born in this century, hardly the stuff that inspires women to verb a perfectly good noun like “heart.” And if this writer of purple prose knew who owned the car? Yeah. Game over. He saw how they reacted to him. Women whispered when he walked past, gave him a wide berth in the hallways, as if afraid they’d catch something. A computer virus. Nobody wanted to talk to the dorky code guy. He wasn’t all smooth and sexy like the dudes in advertising or sales. No. He sat in the basement under the fluorescent lights and drank cold coffee and wore Spiderman socks.

Maybe he should rethink the socks.

He tossed the crumpled note on the back seat of his car.

When he turned, a girl was standing there. He jumped, and pressed a hand to his heart, which from her sudden materialization, had started to verb.

“Sorry,” she said, the left side of her mouth lifting for a second. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She was pretty. Her hair was long and dark and neatly parted on the side. Her glasses sat crookedly on the bridge of her nose, and he couldn’t explain his desire to straighten them. He opened his mouth to say something hopefully clever, maybe to ask her name or if she was new because he’d never seen her before, but his mind felt like a giant intersection, all the strings of words confused as to which had the right of way.

She gestured to his car and said, “I have the same one.”

That explained the note. He looked up, across the neat rows of parked vehicles, and as if to assist him, she pointed. “I keep thinking I should get something newer,” she said. “But then I’d have to find new bumper stickers, and I don’t know that they make any like that anymore.”

She kept talking, something more about her car, but he had followed the line of her finger. One of the stickers read, “I’d rather be watching Firefly.”

And then he smiled, and his heart really started to verb.

Two Minutes Go: Spring Break Road Trip

Strange golden smoke taking away from coffee seedsHappy Friday, everybody! JD Mader is having some technical trouble today, so Two Minutes Go is at my place. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself some coffee, and enjoy. Or, as he so eloquently wrote in the bit I stole from his website:

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON’T IDENTIFY AS ‘WRITERS’ – all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the ‘comments’ section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds … no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send ’em here to read your ‘two’ and encourage them to play.

Here’s one to start us off.

“He is always the smartest man in the room.” That’s what everyone used to say. Best student, best and brightest, all spit-polished and gleaming, walking tall in a beam of God-ordained sunlight while occasionally he wafted a little my way, as if in pity, as if sometimes hit with a sliver of consciousness that the good lord was lavishing too much goodness upon him and it was unfair to do that to humankind. Not once did he lack for something clever to say; not once did the hems of his pant legs not break crisp and perfect over his shiny shoes. But I knew differently. I saw her. Picking up his dirty socks as if he didn’t have human feet that sweat and stank. She smiled when she did so. Most of the time. Most of the time like a Disney princess in training. And then I skipped a class. Came home to the room I shared with Mr. Inevitable. Maybe she didn’t hear me come in; maybe for a second she was transfixed by one of those dirty socks, reexamining her life in a way I never thought her capable. I always thought guys like that grew to a certain age and God handed them one of these women, who had been similarly groomed to serve, and I felt pity for these women in the same way Mr. Sunbeam pitied me and the other paltry citizens of the planet. She and I, we’d never really talked before. Nothing more than the hellos and goodbyes in passing, the nods of recognition, her shy smiles that attempted to explain why she had a key to our room. It was not for nefarious reasons, certainly not the commerce of key juggling my friends and I had performed for our girlfriends. She was there to serve him in a more Godly manner. And serving him was what she was about that day, until I found her sitting on the bed, clutching one sock between her knees. Tears gleaming in the one beam of sunlight he’d left behind, a shining path of enlightenment down her bruised left cheekbone.

The Ride

hitchhiker-691581_1280Hi, everyone! I’m sharing one of the pieces I wrote for this week’s 2MinutesGo flash fiction luau and quilting bee on JD Mader’s blog, Unemployed Imagination. Maybe you’d like to drop by and see what we get up to. It’s fun, and free, and there’s some great writing.

—–

The Ride

“Been out there long?”

It was the first thing he’d said to her since the car pulled away from the shoulder. She stared at his unshaven profile, the pointed chin, the glasses sliding down his nose. Was he dim or just trying to make conversation? Of course she’d been out there long. She was soaked clean through and her backpack was a dripping mess in the trunk of his ancient Gran Torino. Then she sighed. As if the damp, overheated closeness inside the car needed any more twice-breathed air. He didn’t have to stop. He could have just left her there in the pouring rain and made an anonymous phone call from the road.

“A while.” She drummed her fingers atop her wet jeans.

He nodded, keeping his eyes on the slick road ahead. His skinny arms, tense from gripping the wheel, reassured her. If he were a big hulking guy, she might not have gotten in. Her mother’s warnings about taking rides from strangers had only partially penetrated her brain. She was certainly old enough to discern whether a driver represented a threat, and although the weather might have flavored her judgment, he seemed kindly. Like an uncle. Like the kind of guy who might have teenage daughters at home that he would want picked up by a law-abiding, decent man if they’d been stuck out in the rain.

“Where are you headed?” he said finally.

She shrugged. “As far as you’re going would be fine.”

His laugh came out like a tiny squeak. “Well, you might not want to be going that far. I’m aiming for Canada.”

“Funny,” she said. “That’s exactly where I’m going.” She liked the sound of Canada. Of starting over somewhere no one knew her, where no one looked at her sideways because of what her father had done.

He didn’t answer. Cold rainwater dripped down her back and she shivered. What if he started asking questions? Like how old she was, and why she was leaving the country, and if there was someone he ought to be calling? But he said nothing. The tires sluiced through the flooded roads; passing eighteen-wheelers drenched them and he flipped the wipers on high.

As they approached the next exit, he cleared his throat. “Okay, then,” he said, as if making some decision on the spot. “But I need to, um, pull off here and take care of an errand, first. Maybe you can help.”

Considering that he was driving her a couple hundred miles, hadn’t asked her any questions, and there wasn’t that much money in her mother’s purse, she’d be willing to give him a hand. Within reason.

“What will I be doing?”

He smiled at the tollbooth collector and handed over a few singles. As he rolled through an intersection and took a left into the parking lot of a small strip mall, he said, “There’s a gun in the glove compartment.” He brought the sleek, giant car to a stop but left the engine on. “If anyone comes after us, start shooting.”

(New: audio version on SoundCloud!)