(This is a challenge presented by my Red Dress Writing Club. The key word is “Resignation”)
“I’ll be there if I have to sprout wings.” Marvella’s steady voice belied her level of exuberance as she spoke into her cell phone.
Marvella listened to the Box Office representative. “The Rules and Regulations stipulate that the prize must be claimed, with your signature and photo ID, by five p.m. today. Otherwise we draw again to find our winner.”
“I’ll be on my way as soon as my car is repaired.” Marvella shivered in the crisp Prairie wind not warmed by the morning’s bright November sunshine.
Winning two tickets to the Leonard Cohen concert more than made up for this lousy sales trip, she thought as she walked back into the garage. Now she faced a car problem.
She had been so thankful to reach a gas station with a garage mechanic. The car had been continuously losing power as she progressed up the long hill. When she pulled into the service station, the mechanic had greeted her by saying, “It’s your lucky day. I just received a cancellation. Bring it into the bay.”
Now she really needed to get home. She stood in the entrance of the bay. “Excuse me, Bruce?”
Bruce, the mechanic, came out from under the hood of her car. “I was hoping it was just a dying battery, but it’s your alternator. I’m gonna hafta order a new one.”
“Order one? How long will that take?”
“At least four hours. We’re three hours from the city.”
“Four hours? Oh, that won’t work. I have to be at the Arts Theater in…well…five and a half hours, by 5:00 p.m. Otherwise I have to redeem two free tickets to the Leonard Cohen concert next month.”
“Wow. That’s a drag,” said Bruce wiping his hands on a piece of flannelet bed sheet.
“There’s no way I can have your car ready in 2 and a half hours. As you can see, this little berg doesn’t have any car rentals. But…oh yeah…here’s something.” Bruce pointed towards the cash register. “Boy, it really is your lucky day! A guy just moved here and was tellin’ me yesterday that he has set up a taxi service. He left a card. It’s there taped on the cash register. Other than hitching a ride, I don’t know what else to suggest. Meanwhile, you want me to order a new alternator?”
“Yah, go ahead.” She headed for the cash register, opened her cell phone and dialed the number.
Marvella finalized plans about her car and stood outside, waiting for the prescribed red, 1995 Ford Taurus that was to be her taxi. While making arrangements with George, the taxi driver, Marvella detected a slight accent. He said he would arrive in fifteen minutes. That was over a half hour ago.
She wiped away tears generated by the cold wind. She paced with frustration. She called again, but only got his answering machine. ‘It is what it is,’ she thought, wishing she felt acceptance rather than resignation.
When the Taurus finally pulled up, she quickly opened the door to the front passenger seat and slipped in. “Hi, George. Thanks for doing this. But we really have to watch the time.” She was concentrating on finding the seat belt.
“There’s no seat belt. If you want, you can sit in the back. It may be damp. I have been cleaning the seat. There’s a blanket to sit on. I’m in the middle of fixing that seat belt.”
Marvella stopped to look at George. A man in his 40s, he was likely close to six feet tall. His barrel chest did not host a large stomach, but gave the impression of a stocky physique. His dark blonde hair framed a ruddy face, slight shadow of whiskers and piercing blue eyes.
She turned and looked at the back seat. Whatever cargo it had carried, the cleanup had not been effective. She considered calling off the trip, but Leonard Cohen’s concert was too precious to forgo. ‘No wonder his price was so damned cheap,’ she thought.
George said, “I’m taking the old highway. There’s construction on this main one just by the Turnbull Overpass. It could hold us up. You decide if you want to ride in the back.”
With a heavy heart, Marvella knew the clock was ticking and said, “Okay. Let’s just get going.”
After an hour into the trip, a time spotted with long periods of silence, Marvella sensed an uneasiness in the man.
“Do I detect a slight accent in your speech? Where are you from?” she said.
“I’m a Canadian farm boy. Grew up in Manitoba. I get kinda tired of people askin’ that question.”
“Sorry, George.” Out of habit, she reached over and touched his arm for just a second. “It’s just…you know…we Canadians are an interesting mix of cultures.”
“Maybe I lived around too damned many cultures.” Marvella glanced at him to see if he was being humourous. He wasn’t.
A little later, George reached over and took hold of her arm. “So you’re the touchy type, are ya?”
Marvella pulled her arm away. He wouldn’t let go. Dread spread inside her like heartburn. She tried again. She said calmly, “You better keep both hands on the wheel, George.”
“I’d like you to move over here and sit closer to me,” he said. He pulled her towards him.
She twisted her arm out of his clutch. Mind whirling, she realized he was a sick man. An Oprah show flashed through her memory about kicking out tail lights if ever locked in a trunk. She had to avoid becoming a victim.
The demanding man reached for her again even though he continued to drive. Now he wore a pathetic grin, “Come on over here. I’ll keep you nice and warm.”
Marvella knew the Turnbull area was fast approaching. She had to convince him to get on the main highway.
“You know, George,” she said, “I’d really like to treat you to something special since you were kind enough to give me such a good price on this trip. If we could get to the city a little faster, I could make some really special arrangements to show you how much I appreciate your generosity.”
Marvella prayed that there was still a shred of prairie boy decency in this man. If not, he could assume whatever meaning her offer held. She had to get near the construction crew.
He reached over to her again. This time, she gently removed his hand and returned it to the steering wheel. Though it turned her stomach, she rubbed his hand as though it belonged to a little boy. She forced enthusiasm, “Let’s go to the highway. Let’s get into the city faster. Then we can have more time together. Let’s go to the theatre together. I’ll pick up my tickets and then we’ll be free. Even if there’s a little wait at the construction site, we can make up for lost time on the highway.”
“You’re shittin’ me. You’re playin’ with my head, aren’t you?” he shot at her.
“What have I said that sounds like bullshit?”
“You’re shittin’ me. You’ve probably got some honey at home panting away right now, counting the minutes until you are home. He’s probably thinking about doing the same stuff to you that I’m thinking about.”
Hearing the dreaded confirmation, Marvella said, “If I had someone waiting for me, I would have asked him to pick up the tickets. Why would I have hired you?”
Marvella had driven this highway many times. Her cell phone would have no signal right now. She had to gamble. “I’ll call the Box Office right now and I’ll give them your name. You can be the one to sign for them.”
“Give me that cell phone!” he said.
“Okay. I won’t touch it. But I think you and I deserve more time together.”
“Give me the cell phone!” he yelled at her.
She handed it to him. He threw it out the window.
A kilometer from the turnoff to the Turnbull Overpass, Marvella knew that the two roads almost converged. She needed to get someone’s attention if he wouldn’t go to the main highway.
She considered her over-sized purse that held all her credentials along with her appointment book and toiletries. She’d written George’s phone number in the book under the current day while she waited for him. If the purse was hurled out of the car, at least her identity would be known. Someone would find it and be smart enough to call the police hopefully.
Suddenly, she spotted Turnbull Crossroad in the distance. She couldn’t believe it. The construction now included this road. She had a chance. At quite a distance, a flagperson waved people through at reduced, but not slow speeds.
Suddenly George said, “I want you out of sight. Get on the floor in the back seat. Now!”
She grabbed her bag, slipped over the seat and slumped to the floor. She listened to the construction sounds. She prayed for good timing. Suddenly she sat up and threw both back doors wide open. She moved back and forth, making certain that at least one door was open at all times. She hollered. She screamed. She yelled for help. Workers stared at them. She screamed more as her abductor tried to grab her while he drove. She threw her bag at a nearby construction worker.
Just when she decided she would have to jump out of the car, she saw more signs and barriers coming up on a narrowed lane. She couldn’t jump into them so she braced her feet against the open back door. Signs flew in the air with each impact. She continued yelling. If she wasn’t rescued, she believed George would kill her. She had nothing to lose.
In the middle of signs flying in all directions, she saw a man talking on a radio, pointing at her. “Please God!” she cried. The cars ahead of them had sped forward leaving a good sized gap in front of them.
George hit the gas pedal, but the Taurus only responded hesitantly. A huge dump truck with tires bigger than the Taurus slowly pulled out across the road and stopped in the only path available to the Taurus. George slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the car and escaped through the vacant field like his shoes were on fire.
A month later, as Leonard Cohen sang ‘Hallelujah’ at his December concert, Marvella sat with tears in her eyes and thought, ‘You have no idea, Leonard!’ Her date slipped her a handkerchief. He was the police officer who talked the Box Office into letting him pick up the winning tickets for her that day.