How Like a Man, Part Two
Copyright © 2013 by Michael Litzky
Raymond Fleck pulled back into traffic, letting the GPS guide him. But he knew how to get to the freeway, he didn’t really need that maddening voice telling him “Turn right onto Joaquin Statler Pkwy,” pronouncing it “Jokewin State Ler Puh Kwee.”
“I’ve already had a look under the hood,” Cindy’s voice came, fading in and out. “I saw nothing that I could handle. Maybe I should just stay with my car till dawn. If I leave it here overnight, it could get stolen.”
Her voice had no conviction in it. He was glad he was coming to get her. He felt alive, powerful.
“We can leave my house right when the sun peeks over the edge of the world,” he said grandly. “I’ll get you back to your car before she’s been up a half hour. It’ll be fine.”
He didn’t mention the thought that suddenly came to him. The car probably would be safer with her in it. If a human was making the car her temporary home, the vampires couldn’t touch it. But an empty car they might destroy just for the fun of it.
Should he mention it? Oh Jesus, it was so hard to be a hero. In the real world nothing was ever pure and simple. He wanted, he needed to be her hero, but if her car was a smoking heap in the morning, what would she do? She didn’t have the money to replace it and insurance companies had become very canny about covering vampire damage.
“I’m on the freeway now,” he announced, accelerating smoothly up the on-ramp.
“Thanks, baby, thank you.”
Would she think he was trying to chicken out if he started saying she should stay with her car? The time was 7:27. Twelve more minutes to get to her. Still he said nothing. He no longer felt like a hero. He was doing the bravest thing he’d ever done in his life and he felt like shit. What would his therapist say if he was still seeing her? Damn it!
And locked in his brain was an idea which he was sure could save the world. How like a man. The earth is not a spaceship, the earth is… Oh god, he almost had it. What was it?
And why did it suddenly seem to have something to do with Heckle and Jeckle? He played back his memories of those crazy cartoon magpies. Was he losing his mind?
The minutes ticked by and he made reassuring small talk and she replied. 7:35 pm. He suddenly felt frightened. Sunset was at 8:05, he was cutting this close.
“I’m only a minute away from you, according to the map. Is there any trick to finding you? Are you clearly – I see you!”
He braked too hard and nervous drivers around him blared their horns. The roads were emptying. Anyone still driving was terrified, racing the clock. What was he thinking? But he pulled in behind her little Honda Civic, turned off the motor, stepped carefully out.
And then she was out of her car and in his arms and they were kissing like they’d never kissed before and suddenly it was worth everything to be here, helping her.
“Listen, sweetie,” he said, pushing her reluctantly away.
She sobered instantly, said, “We gotta get going, I know.”
“Baby,” he said firmly. Where did this sudden confidence come from? He liked it. “I realized on the way over that if we just leave your car here, the vampires might destroy it.”
Her eyes went wide and she said “Oh shit!” She got it instantly. She was smart, he’d always liked that about her. “It’s not sanctified if a person isn’t making it her home,” she said.
“Right. So this is what I want us to do.”
“You should turn around right now, leave me here, shit I don’t want that, but –”
“I’m going to stay right here. I’ve got to stay in my car, I can’t replace it, but I’ll be right behind you all night, we’ll stay on the phone with each other, we’ll talk all night.”
The sun, growing red as it sank, widened like an amazed eye.
She was silent. “Baby,” he pleaded, “I can’t risk –”
“Hush. Of course you can’t. I wouldn’t ask, my god, you’re here, I never expected you to be here. But could you, like, pull your car in front of me, maybe even turn it around, I think there’s room on the shoulder, turn it so you’re facing me, pull up real close, bumper to bumper. So I can see you?”
“Of course, I’ll do it right now.”
Facing a night of vampires was nothing. He felt like a giant again. He felt amazing. He’d done a brave thing and he’d told all the truth and a beautiful woman was gazing at him with adoration.
He got back in his car. The freeway was empty enough that he could simply make a wide turn and pull in facing her. He inched forward until his front bumper touched hers with a slight clunk. It felt more sexual than any of their actual lovemaking ever had.
The sun was almost at the horizon. Daring, he got out of his car again. She saw him coming and stepped boldly out too, and into his arms. He felt her passion surge against him. “I wish I could hold you all night,” he said huskily. How like a man.
Suddenly reckless, he said, “I will, I want to, to hell with my car, I want to be with you.”
She wanted him to do it, he could see, but her decency won. “No baby, I couldn’t feel good about that. You need to get to work, you don’t have any more dough than I do. Please, just keep the phone, oh shit, without a charger, without my battery, I won’t be able to talk to you once my battery dies, oh, oh I hate this.”
The spreading sun touched the industrial buildings on the horizon. Smoke streaked its face like tracks of tears.
“I’m staying with you,” he suddenly decided and knew it was right. “I’m a different man and I have an idea that might save the world if I can just access it and I’m staying with you.” He turned to run and grab his laptop, his books, the few valuables and the emergency food and water in the trunk.
“Baby, I can’t let you.” She pulled him to a stop. “I love you.”
She’d said the words I love you! “Just be there facing me. I’ll ration out the phone battery. Get in your car, now! I love that you came, get in now, talk to me from inside.”
She ran to her car, jumped in, closed and locked the door. Raymond hesitated, but she shook her head and pointed to his car. Fast, her voice came faintly.
The red light around him was fading. He turned and sprinted around the rear of his car for the driver’s door.
Shit, he could have gotten into the passenger door, he realized as the last fleecy puff of sun sank into the hazy waver.
Terror seized him like he’d never known. The driver’s door seemed a million miles away as he heard a rushing sound all around him, a scrabbling, a breath of cold wind.