BEHIND THE WHEEL...Such a gorgeous day. After lunch, Esther went outside to sit on the porch swing—and the refreshing spring breeze moved through her hair. It reminded her of having the wind coming through the car windows when going for a drive on just such a day. Closing her eyes, her mind drifted. She could almost hear the songs on the radio, and her best friend Alice’s pleas to turn up the volume, as they cruised the streets after school.Smiling, Esther’s eyes popped open. Not one to waste a perfect day for a drive, she went in search of her handbag, and slid behind the wheel of the car.When it was nearly supper time, Jennifer looked for her grandmother to help her set the table. It wasn’t like her to not already be there, asking to help. Checking the usual spots – the day bed in the study (where she would often look at books), the rocking chair in front of the TV, and the front porch swing. A bit worried, Jennifer went out the front door and started down the sidewalk to go next door to her Aunt Evelyn’s house, to see if Nan had gone on her own for a visit.Jennifer pulled up short, startled to discover that her grandmother had found the keys to the car and was sitting inside. The windows were all down and she was singing “Peggy Sue.”“What are you doing, Nan?” “I was on my way to pick up Alice and I remembered she has cheer practice after school.” said Esther, smiling. “So I decided I would just listen to the radio a bit before I go.”Relieved that her grandmother had not wandered off, and had not tried taking the car for a drive, Jennifer reminded herself that the keys to the car must be kept in a more secure spot. “Let’s wait for Alice in the house, Nan. It’s nearly supper time and the table needs napkins. Will you help me with that?”“Oh, yes. I’ll help with supper. Can Alice come over to eat with us when she’s done with practice?”Helping Nan out of the car, Jennifer replied, “Of course she can.”
BEHIND THE WHEELTravis Halper's head hurt. That fact he knew for sure. But, exactly who he was...well that was another story.Slumped over an exhaustedly deployed air bag, Halper moved slowly. He winced from the ache in his ribcage. He drew his palm through his blood crusted hair. Travis couldn't feel his legs.Visions that bombarded his thoughts held no explanation for the incident. He remembered the girl...pretty, blonde, slightly taller than he with a smile that could melt tempered steel.Vanessa, he remembered... or Valerie... he wasn't sure. Now he had doubts if there even was a girl. He tried to turn his head to scope the damage, but he could not. Travis called out; a verbal sonar waiting for a bing back."Hey! Anyone here? Hello... anyone?"Nothing. He was alone. Or his passengers were...Wait a minute. He had no passengers. He was at the "Gallery" last night... Earl's stag party.Whiskey, wings, women... yes, there was a girl.Yolanda. A fiery latina "dancer" and a shady brute of humanity as her "body guard", or keeper.Sirens now. Travis heard sirens approaching. Damn, they hurt his head. His head. He felt the gooseegg that sat above his right eye. Blood down his face, matting in his beard. "Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark!" Travis thought. "Anyone?" he called again.Nothing.A bet. Travis recalled a bet with Ryan... or it was a dare. Something about the gorilla with Yolanda. Fight him...? Fight Yolanda...? A drag race. With a gorilla in drag? Travis wasn't sure.He heard voices now. Activity... folks scurrying excitedly. Angels, Travis imagined... with filthy mouths."Dude, you fucking did it!" Halper heard Ryan holler. He could see Ryan's face through the windshield. Upside-down. Ryan slapped the glass."Fucking did what?" he heard himself say."You jumped the lift bridge, man! That was so freakin' cool!" Ryan congratulated.The Fuhmann bridge over the canal. They raised it for the taller ships passing through the gates. Travis' head hurt. Too much booze; too much stupidity... too much windshield.And Travis couldn't feel his legs.