TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
Even with the heater on high, and wearing her snow pants, parka, mittens and scarf, she was shaking from the cold. Her shoulders tensed as she she peered over the steering wheel, dodging black ice and snow banks. She knew she’d picked the wrong time of year to pull this off but it was too late to change her plans now. Her mind briefly wandered as she fantasized about her destination. And, that’s when she misjudged a curve…
As she quickly rounded a curve, she was instantly pulled out of her reverie. A tiny, shivering boy was sitting alone by the side of the road…
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
“Would you stop saying my name, Harold.”
“Yes. When you stop saying my name, Janet.”
“You are a stubborn old man, Harold. Just answer the question.”
“I am not a child, Janet. Stop treatin’ me like one.” The man folded his arms, stuck out his bottom lip, and stared out his window at the passing cars.
“Give me a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ so I don’t have to keep askin’ you, Harold!” Janet’s teeth clenched as tightly as she gripped the steering wheel.
“Yes, Janet. I took that nasty pink medicine and, yes, my stomach is feeling better, thank-you-very-much.” Harold pulled the brim of his newsboy hat lower. “I swear, woman, you’re gonna start inspecting my toilet wipes.”
“I already do, Harold, every time I wash a load of your underwear.”
“You are mean old bitty, Janet.”
“You are a dirty, flea-infested, butt-scratchin’ dog, Harold.”
Harold looked at the passing cars again and sighed, his breath fogging up the cold window. “What’s for dinner?” he asked.
“Lasagna,” Janet answered, leaning forward. She looked as if she was in a high-speed chase. In reality, every car flew by Harold and Janet’s Chevy Caprice as it puttered down the highway. Janet did not believe in moving to the right. Janet preferred the middle lane. And she preferred going 40-50 MPH, regardless of posted speed limits.
“I like lasagna,” Harold mumbled.
Winking, Janet replied, “That’s why I made it.”
“With sausage?” Harold scratched his stomach.
“Of course, puddin’.” She smiled, her pink lipstick carefully outlining her mouth with a little stuck on her teeth for good measure.
A passing car honked, the driver cursing at Janet.
“Go faster,” scolded Harold.
“Harold, I’m not getting a DWI,” Janet yelled back.
“Woman, you haven’t been drinkin’.”
“Of course not!” Janet dared to take one hand off the steering wheel to clutch at her faux fur collar. “Why, I would never place the devil’s drink upon my lips! How could you imply such a thing?”
“You brought up DWIs.” Harold rubbed his long silver eyebrows. “That’s what it means, darlin’. Driving While Intox—” Before Harold could finish, he pointed at the highway sign. “Here, take this exit.”
“I will not,” Janet flatly replied.
“Because, I take the next one.”
“The next one is wrong, Janet.”
“Well, I disagree, Harold. I have this same hair appointment every week. I drive myself there every week. And I take the next exit every week,” Janet responded with growing volume.
“Well, then you take the wrong exit every week.” Harold had never been to Tina’s Boutique, but he was certain he was right. The first exit had the least traffic lights and the most right turns. It would probably shave a good two, maybe two-and-a-half, minutes off the trip.
“First, you call me a drunkard and now, you are tellin’ me how to drive to my beauty parlor. I should have left you home.”
As the highway signs counted down the miles to the exit, Harold began pointing more frantically until Janet gave in, turned on her blinker, and, with a sudden jerk of the wheel, crossed two lanes of traffic to her husband’s preferred exit.
Harold smacked his cap on the dashboard. “Sweet Jesus, Janet, you’re gonna get us killed.”
“Now I don’t know where I am!” Janet cried as she wrinkled her forehead.
“Just follow this road,” Harold insisted.
In front of Janet was an unfamiliar, solitary back road towards town littered with black ice and snow banks. Even with the heater on and her best Sunday coat, she began shaking. “Harold!” Janet’s shoulders tensed at all the strange twists and turns in the road. She wanted to be at the beauty parlor already. She wanted to sip Tina’s fancy European tea named after that earl. She wanted to—
As Janet rounded a curve, she caught sight of a poor, shivering young man sticking his thumb out.
“That poor boy!” she shouted.
“Woman, that man’s gonna rob us. I promise you.”
Janet, ignoring her husband’s warning, started braking and pulling the car to the side. “Act like a Christian, Harold. That boy needs help.”
Harold lunged and pushed the wheel towards the road. “He’ll rob us.”
“Harold!” Janet began yelling. “The Lord is calling to me!” She pushed against Harold’s arms, redirecting the car to the side. “And I shall listen to my Lord Almighty.”
“The Lord says old people shouldn’t pick up strangers. I know because on Sunday while you were tsk-tsking about fellow congregants’ hem lengths, I was listening to the preacher.” Harold pushed the wheel back towards the road.
Smacking Harold’s hands, Janet yelled back, “Well, they are entirely too short, Harold, and you know it. The Lord is not pleased with kneecaps. The Lord wants—”
The car slid to a stop on the snowy shoulder. Janet looked in the rearview mirror. “Harold?”
Harold looked out his window. “Janet?”
The hitchhiker was no longer standing by the road.
Janet smoothed down her faux fur collar, put on her blinker, and calmly accelerated to her preferred 40-50 MPH. “Harold, if anyone asks, we took the second exit, mmkay?”
“Janet, you might have to wash another load of underwear.”