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Writing Fiction - Chapter 20
Here's where Chapter 19 left you.
While I’d been waiting and waiting in the coffee shop, he’d been sitting in his car…probably laughing at the idea of standing me up. He’d been sitting in his warm, cozy, cocoon of a car. And that made me so angry.
I stomped over to his car door and rapped loudly on the glass with my fist. He ignored me.
I hit the glass again, harder this time. And then he looked up.
I was shocked. His face was all scruffy, covered in salt and pepper whisker stubble. But that wasn’t what shocked me. It was his eyes. They were red-rimmed. He looked terrible. He looked like me on the mornings I felt brave enough to actually look in the mirror. Well, not the salt and pepper stubble part, but the rest of his face looked the same…all puffy and beaten and old. After our eyes met, he looked embarrassed. And then he looked away.
I tapped on the window again, a little more gently. He made a “go away” motion with his hand. I saw his other hand reach for the key to start the car and without thinking I quickly ran around to the passenger’s side and hopped in. I think it caught him by surprise. I think if he’d known that’s what I was going to do, he‘d have locked the door. I think if I had known that’s what I was going to do, I’d have taken a moment to think it through.
But he didn’t. And I didn’t.
I closed the door behind me and sat. Now that my butt was firmly planted on his gray leather seat, I wasn’t sure what to do.
And now, Chapter 20 begins...
He kept his head turned away from me…transfixed on something outside the car.
I squirmed a bit on the slippery leather of the seat. It was warm inside the car. The warmth should have made it cozy, but sadness overwhelmed the space.
I wiggled around a little bit more and then, hesitantly, said, “So…did you super glue your butt to the seat or something?”
He turned towards me, eyebrows raised, “Excuse me?”
“You heard me,” I said, “Did you super-glue your butt to the car seat? You couldn’t manage to walk the 100 feet to the coffee shop and meet me?”
“I have no idea what you’re even talking about,” he replied, “Do you know you’re insane? Do insane people know they’re insane, or do they just wander around the world trying to suck other people into the vortex of their craziness?”
Huh? Vortex? Craziness? Insanity?
“Listen buddy, I’ve had just about enough of you,” I gritted out through clenched teeth. Although I admonished myself to remain calm and kind, (after all, he did have those red-rimmed eyes) it was a heroic battle. “Crazy. Insane. Angry. Emotional. Irritational.” Just that quick, I lost the battle.
“I’ve had just about enough of your name calling too! There’s a long list of names I could call you, you know!”
“You already have,” he gritted out between clenched teeth.
“I did not! I wanted to call you names! I wanted to lose my temper! But…”
“Do these ring a bell?” he asked me, “Moronic? Stupid? Ignorant? Rude? Horrible? Technically you started the whole name calling part of our conversations.”
Oops. Ummm… yeah. Maybe he was right. Maybe I had started the name calling. But what kind of a jerk and idiot says that out loud? I sighed in frustration.
“And sighing now? Sighing? I thought you hated sighing. You’re a hypocrite! Get out of my car! Now!”
“No! I won’t!” I didn’t care that I sounded like a spoiled five year old. Okay, I cared, but my frustration and anger caused more zen-like retorts to elude my grasp.
“Gee, that’s mature. You don’t strike me as the kind of person who could even care for a dog…much less Spot,” he snarled in a nasty voice.
I opened my mouth, ready to start screaming at him. But instead of words, what came pouring out was sobs. I cried like a baby. In front of this stranger. Sitting in his car for all of Main Street to see. And I couldn’t stop.
But I tried to stop. Really I did.
At one point, I think he patted my shoulder. He even shoved his handkerchief into my hand.
Can I just tell you something here? Between friends? I’m not a good crier. I’m not one of those women whose glistening tears slip down onto rosy cheeks or whose eyes glow like wounded stars in their sorrow. I am a full-on, nose-blowing, puffy-eyed, red-faced crier. It’s not pretty.
He never said anything. He just sat, looking out the window. Finally, when I’d taken a few wheezy breaths and mopped my face with his white cotton handkerchief, he said, “Okay. Now can you get out of my car?”
I kept my head averted from his gaze and felt for the cold metal of the door handle. I started to open the door, but then I thought of Edgar/Spot and how his little cookie-scented body and big, brown eyes had kept the lonely away. So, instead of running, I decided to face the whole situation head on. No dash there.
“Listen,” I said, “I really want to just ‘cupcake out’ here and get out of the car, but I can’t. I really, really need Edgar. I mean Spot. I really, really need Spot. “
“Lady, he’s a sweet dog, I know, but he’s my dog…not yours. And why are you talking about cupcakes?”
“Look. I’m not saying you’re a bad dog owner, but when I found him he was in terrible shape. He was scroungy and starving and stinky…If you were such a good dog owner, why was he out wandering the streets? Why did you let him…”
“Lady, you don’t know what you’re talking about! I looked for him everywhere. I called the vets! I made signs! I went to the dog pound and animal shelters every, single day. I know you. You just want him so you can prance around town looking all stylish with a cute, little dog. Get another dog! Spot is mine.”
I was so startled by him calling me stylish, I couldn’t say anything. Prance around? That was hilarious. Did I look like a prancer? And a stylish one at that? “I can’t get another dog. I love Edgar!” I told him in a desperate voice.
And then, in a much softer voice, I asked him, “Could you just get another dog?”
He sighed. I didn’t care.
I waited. It felt like I’d been doing that the whole day anyway.
He sighed again.
“Lady, listen. It’s complicated. I don’t want to get into this with you, but I really need Spot to stay with me.” He continued to talk for awhile but it all just sounded like a bunch of empty excuses.
“So now do you understand?” he asked.
“I don’t understand a word you said. What I do understand is, if that little metal loop wouldn’t have gotten tangled in the nasty mess of Edgar’s fur, I’d still have him. I shouldn’t have called you. I shouldn’t have done the right thing because obviously it was the wrong thing. You aren’t responsible. You let him get lost. You let him wander the streets…alone and afraid. You let him starve. You let…”
“Enough!” he yelled. He slammed his hands down on the steering wheel. “Enough! Stop it! You have no idea what you’re talking about. Get out of my car! Get out of my life! Lose my number! Spot is mine! Get your own dog!” He leaned forward a bit and then yanked his wallet out of his back pocket. He took a big wad of money out and threw it at me. “There! There’s a reward! Take it! Take it all! Take the stupid money and just leave me alone! GET. OUT. OF. MY. CAR. NOW!”
I was stunned by his anger. Geez! Talk about over-reacting!
“Listen…” I started to say and he shouted at me again! “I won’t listen! Get out of my car! Lose my number!”
“Yeah, yeah,” I interrupted him, “I heard that already, but…”
“No ‘buts’! GET! OUT! OF! MY! CAR! Spot is all I have left of my family. Go! GET! OUT! OF…”
Suddenly, it hit me; his wife must have left him. She must have taken the kids and left him. But why hadn’t she taken the dog? Why had she left Spot behind with an obviously half-crazed man? His accusations about my husband divorcing me came back to me.
In the careful, gentle voice that people often use around the mentally challenged, I told him, “Okay, I understand. Divorce can be difficult, but you can rebuild your life. Perhaps I could care for Spot while you work through these anger issues. I could help you by giving you time to think things through…”
I would have continued, but his mouth was open in surprise. “Where did you get the idea I was divorced? How could you possibly assume that? Some people, like your husband, are lucky to be divorced. Trust me, there are worst things and I really want you to GET. OUT. OF. MY. CAR. NOW.”
“No, I won’t,” I said again, more firmly this time, “I will not get out of your car until you hear me out on the whole Edgar/Spot issue”.
“Fine,” he roared at me, “Then I’ll get out.”
And slamming the door behind him, he got out of his own car and raged off around the corner.
For a moment I was surprised, unsure of what to do. Then I realized his actions were fueled by the pain of a failed marriage. I jumped out of his car and ran after him.
I raced to the corner and saw him go into the coffee shop.
By the time I walked through the door, he was already seated at a table in the rear corner, his back to the door, shoulders hunched over.
I’d just walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, when Walden piped up, “Oh, so good to see you back so soon, sweetie!”
“Please,” I said quietly. “Please talk to me about Edgar. You don’t understand.”
He made a harsh motion with his hand. I chose to interpret it to mean, “Please sit down and we’ll talk about this.”
So I did.
To be continued, Tuesday, January 25th.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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