Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Angry (08/02/07)
TITLE: The Drive
By Thomas OBrien
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The paved road unfolded before him, miles and miles of unswerving asphalt set amongst parched landscape, dulled blending browns stretched out in endless monotony. It was somewhere in the southwest, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, he could no longer tell. He didn’t like his surroundings, nor did he want to think about them.
The white stucco house with pink trim drifted through his mind, the blue-green water of the bay slapping the wall of its back yard. Beyond the house there was an island where he swam to for exercise. He could still smell the sea air and the way it crusted his wet skin. He could feel his arms lifting and cutting through waves, his straight legs and arched feet kicking him along, and those quick breathes taking in sea water with air. He recalled the swaying motion that lingered within long after the waves of the gulf tossed him about. He hoped to dwell on this memory, but it was interrupted. The hungering was surging again, the one that gnawed at him relentlessly, insatiable and whirling within, the same one that drove him forth directionless. It could take him from contentment to anger in a moment’s notice. Busyness was the compliant. He moved around a lot, most recently settling on the west coast of Florida, hoping that warmth and water could somehow subdue it. He found jobs, several different ones, each short lived, and sowed seedless hope into classes he took at a local junior college. He liked the sound of the words, “I’m attending classes,” they implied purpose. Yet it was words only, he could never escape the gnawing long enough to stay focused on them.
Three, or was it four mornings ago, anxiety driving him, he packed up and headed west in his white Chevy van, California the destination. He had driven straight through to that point, stopping only for an occasional cup of coffee or bite to eat. Actually, he did pull over once, into a rest area and grabbed a few hours of sleep, but mostly he drove fuelled by rushes of uncertainty. He wanted to get beyond this landscape and to his final stopping point, California. He felt in his pocket. There was still a twenty and change in the ash tray. Hopefully it was near.
He fought it, the trance engulfing him. Several times his head bobbed and these momentary lapses drifted him across the road. With his right hand he reached for the tape on his console. He stuck it in the cassette player, hoping it would help keep him awake. It was that same dusty one that sat there for a time now, the same one a friend had given to him. She said she liked the way the singer weaved God in and out of her songs, it let others know who her anchor was. He hadn’t listened to it yet, it sat there leaning against an empty Styrofoam coffee cup, but it was within reach, so he played it, listening inadvertently as the twanging voiced female slid her way through life’s peaks and valleys.
Another lapsed moment veered him off the road and into the brown expanse. When he jolted awake, the front right tire was heading into a gulley. He swerved left causing the van to roll. Blackness followed. Coming to he was still strapped into the driver’s seat, his head throbbing and the van on its side. He unbuckled the seatbelt and climbed out through the driver’s door window, jumping to the ground. In a rage he beat his fists on the van door. All the while he could hear the voice of the twanging female singing, “Jesus, take the wheel.” The tape stilled played. “Oh yeah Jesus, he screamed, shaking his right fist, “You take the wheel, you do it.” Let’s see you show me how it’s done.” With that he fell to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. He lay there huddled up, wailing, screaming that he just couldn’t do it anymore. It was awhile before he got up, maybe he was all cried out, maybe he knew he had to get some help before it got dark, He reached through the window of the driver’s door and shut off the ignition. Afterwards he headed towards the road. “Jesus, can you help me out, he mumbled, struggling over his words. “Do you think you could take the wheel?”
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