Elaaaaainee

Welcome Back Elaaaaainee!

1

Elaine’s first taste of alcohol had been a spur of the moment thing when she was 12 years old. Her dad drank with gusto when the guys were over but her mother didn’t allow all that beer to be kept in the family refrigerator. So, “Big Ed Martin” kept the cans out of sight in a big blue cooler in the garage. Elaine had been looking for a tennis ball and found the leftovers from the night before. Seven cans floating lifeless at the bottom of a cooler full of lukewarm water.

She couldn’t resist. That first taste was warm and bitter but it made her head swim with a dizzy happiness she had never felt before. Sneaking a can of warm beer became a ritual when there were enough beers left over for dad not to notice one missing.

2

“Elaine, are you okay to drive?”
“Don’t be silly Jill. I’ve had stronger drinks than these and made it home alive.”
“Okay. But slow it down. I’m trying to wrap this shindig up before 2 which means I can’t drive you home tonight.”
“Last one. Promise.”
“Want to spend the night?” Asked Jill.
“Can’t. Got a 8 am court appearance tomorrow and my overnight bag is under the sink in my bathroom. I’ll be fine, really.”

3

If there’s one thing Elaine is good at, it’s driving while buzzed. She’s had lots of experience but she is definitely not a drunk like some people she knows. She drinks just enough to feel good without losing a grip on the reality of the situation she finds herself in. Well, that’s always been her story anyway.

However. There was one occasion in college where Elaine’s judgment had failed her. Shots in the dorm room. Shots and Manhattans at the bar before dinner. More Manhattans, Mai Tais, at least one Whiskey Sour and a few more shots at the club. She was down for the count. Knocked out on her feet.

Elaine was belligerent, laughing too loudly, bumping into people, she even knocked over a high top table by the bar. She was the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. The last thing Elaine remembers that night was telling the bartender to go bite her butt. She was unhappy about the bartender’s decision to cut her off.

The first time Elaine awoke the next morning, it was still dark outside.

She found herself hugging the small waste can by her desk. Her head was filled with the echo of upchucking as she centered her face over the small trash can.

The second time Elaine woke was to the sound of someone choking. It was her. Actually, she was not choking, it just sounded like she was. Elaine had flopped onto her bed with her head hanging off the side, face up. She cracked her eyes open tried to swallow and focus on a world that was upside down. Her dorm room was spinning. Not good.

Her room also seemed to be too bright. Her throat was thick and sore and there was a rank taste in her mouth. The smell of vomit pierced the warm stale air in the room. As she forced her body upright the room shifted and leaned. Her head exploded from the sudden rush of blood to her brain and a wave of cold nausea swept over every inch of her being. She lurched violently toward the dorm room door, hand pressed tightly to her mouth as she bound across the hall into the restrooms.

Elaine’s dorm mate, Connie, found her standing bent over, legs spread as she hurled into a shower stall drain.

“Elaine, are you okay?” Asked Connie.
“Blaaaggghhhh…”
“You got blasted last night.”
“You think?” She said wiping chunks from her lips.
“Oh girl, I know. I was there, I saw it. Everybody saw it.”
“Great.” Elaine moaned.
“Who else was there?”
“Oh, the usual crowd. Mostly nobody we know but if strangers give you a double take, they were probably at the club last night. It was a Friday night and the place was packed. Other than knocking over the table and making a huge scene, most of the real embarrassing stuff happened after we were kicked out of the club. Well, allow me to rephrase that. After YOU were kicked out of the club. We couldn’t let you stumble into the night alone.”
“I was kicked out?”
“Oh yes. Actually, you were escorted out by two of the security guys. One of them was that cute guy you are always flirting with.”
“So what else embarrassing did I do?”
“Well, you dropped your panties and pissed on a street lamp standing up. You thought a stranger was your brother and you told him about sneaking beers when you were a kid. You flipped off an old lady sitting at a bus stop. The old lady flipped you off back so you mooned the old lady while simultaneous sticking your hand between your legs and returned the bird. It took all of us to get you up the dorm stairs and into your bed.”

Luckily for Elaine, the only people of importance who witnessed this embarrassing episode of her life were friends who were not completely innocent of similar behavior. Sometimes the most valuable lessons learned at college are experienced outside the classroom.

You would think this event would make a sane person give up alcohol. Not Elaine. She didn’t stop drinking. She did cut back for awhile but she didn’t stop. Over time, on random occasions, Elaine let a few too many drinks cross her lips. However, she never pissed on a lamp post or mooned an elderly woman again.

4

“Jill, I’m outta here!” Elaine said.
“You okay to drive?” Asked Jill.
“We had this conversation already. I’ve had five weak drinks. Hell, I drink more than that on Sunday mornings before church.”
“You’re going to go to hell,” Jill said.
“Not until I die and I ain’t dead yet.”
“Call me after work tomorrow so we can plan this weekend.”
“Will do. Love ya!”

“Your ticket please,” said the handsome young man standing at the valet parking station.

Elaine fished the ticket from her purse and stood shivering in the early morning air. She could hear the low rumble of her new Porsche 911 GT3 well before it rounded the corner. The sight of the brightly colored Lava Orange beast made Elaine giddy inside.

“This is one beautiful ride Ms. Martin,” the valet said, exiting the car.
“Yes it is,” said Elaine, sliding a twenty into the hand of the young man.
“Thanks Ms. Martin. Always a pleasure to be of service.”
“Ms. Martin, take this.”
“What’s this?”
“Breath mint. Better safe than sorry. This ride probably attracts the attention of the cops by itself.”
“Thanks but I have friends in the law. You might say I have a get out of jail free card.”
“Wish I did.”
“Go to law school. The pay is good and the benefits are great.”

The young man eyed Elaine as she slid behind the wheel and eased onto the street.

Life is good, Elaine thought. A new car. A new condo at the very top of the overlook with a view of the city and a new position with a firm that’s paying twice as much as the last and hinting at a partnership. Sanderson, Parks and Martin, now that would be sweet.

It took long enough for Elaine to arrive and she was sure she would be paying student loans until she died, but al least she could afford to make the payments. Why would you go into debt to be an English major when you could get a law degree and drive a $130,000 Porsche?

“Indeed,” Elaine thought.

The giddy buzz that comes from one to many drinks and the power of the 475 horsepower motor sent a wave of goosebumps through Elaine’s body. As she eased the car onto the boulevard, she could feel the rumble of the six cylinders through the gas pedal, through the leather seats, through the shifter. Suddenly the energy of the German machine was pulsing through her veins and she did what she had wanted to do for weeks. Elaine punched it!

For a second the car fishtailed as she slammed the shifter into second gear. The beefy tires gripped the road and the bright orange beast lurches hard and fast. From 30 to 70 in two seconds, Elaine jammed into third, by the time she looked at the speedometer the Porsche was blowing past 110. Heart pounding, a steel grip on the wheel she slammed the shifter into fourth gear and lifted her foot from gas pedal. Coasting at 135, Elaine’s whole body felt electrified.

“Hell yeah!” Elaine shouted.

The car reached almost 140 in less than a mile. A red light ahead turned yellow and she decide running the light at 200 might be a bad idea. Sitting at the red light, she considered the road ahead. Sweeping curves, long straights and no traffic at two in the morning. She pumped the pedal contemplating her reaction to the impending green light.

She had been drinking all night but the drinks, in her experience, were weak. She had a slight buzz but nothing more than any other night out with the girls. There was the possibility of passing a cop on the divided four lanes but she would know any cop on duty tonight and any cop on duty would know this car. After all, she had wanted to test the limits of this sweet ride and there was no better time than the middle of the night when the road ahead was deserted and hell, the light just turned green.

The magnificent machine had seven gears and topped out at 200 miles per hour. Elaine reached 185 in less than 15 seconds and that was going easy on the accelerator. She felt like she was piloting a jet. At top speed, the car was surprisingly quiet. Smooth. Sexy. This speed made a tickle in Elaine’s stomach.

She mashed the clutch and coasted for a few minutes. Even at 170 mph, the Porsche blew through the sweeping curves of the canyon like a roller coaster on rails. Rounding the widest curve on the highway, she knew there were a couple miles of straight road ahead.

“No need to quit now,” Elaine said.

Shifting back into fourth, she slowly pressed the pedal and started climbing in speed. 110, 120, 130, 150, 170, 190. It’s hard to describe 190 mph in the blackest of night. The lines on the road are a blur. The speed limit signs fly past so fast you can’t read them. There is a sensation of floating along but the visuals suggested a ride on a low flying rocket.

Heart pounding, palms sweaty, arms trembling as Elaine gripped the steering wheel. The ride was almost over when it happened.

Straight ahead, almost imperceptible at first were two small lights. Then two more and again, two more. The lights blinked off and back on, then again. Then again. Elaine knew instantly what she was seeing. She saw these same small horizontal lights every year at this time. The lights were eyes. The eyes of deer. There were, at least, three deer in the road ahead. Traveling at almost 200 mph, deer come quickly. Too quickly.

When you’ve been up since 5:00 am. Had five or seven or nine drinks till 2:00 am and find yourself flying into a herd of deer at 2:45 am, judgment is not on your side.

Elaine closed her eyes, stomped the clutch and stomped the brake harder. The quiet of the night was violated by the scream of tires and an explosion of sounds and glass. A pair of blinking eyes entered the warm comfortable atmosphere of the $130,000.00 automobile bringing with them the cold of the night and a sticky, warm spray. Elaine the Porsche and, at least, one deer exited the highway flying through cold night air, impacting the landscape at a speed no one should ever experience.

5

“Driving a stick is not as hard as you think,” said Elaine’s father. “You have to slowly release the pedal on the left while you slowly mash the gas at the same time. Now give it a try”

The engine revved, the tires barked quickly and the little Nissan truck lurched violently like it was a bull in a ring trying to throw the rider. Or in this case, Elaine and her father. The truck bucked to a stop, the motor dead.

“Dang daddy, did I break it?”
“No girly. You just killed the motor. It’s not broke.”
“Crank it up and try again.”

Elaine releases the clutch and slowly pushes the gas pedal. The truck begins to inch forward. No hopping, jerking or revving of the motor. A huge smile flashes across Elaine’s face. “I’m doing it! I’m doing it! Dad, I’m doing it!”

The motor starts to whine as Elaine reaches the limits of first gear and then she panics. She quickly pushes the clutch to the floor and jerks the shifter back into second gear. The truck bucks from the sudden release of the clutch hops down the road a few feet and jerks to a stop.

“Well dad, I did it for a minute.” Smiling confidently, Elaine turn to face her father but he is gone. In his place is a dog, Elaine’s dog, Lucky Chuck, is sitting in the seat beside her.
“Lucky Chuck? What are you doing here?”
“Hello Elaine. I’m not sure why I’m here. Are we going somewhere?”
“I was learning how to drive. Dad was teaching me how to drive a stick. I can get my learner’s permit next year when I‘m 16 if my grades are good and I can drive well enough. Dad was just here, teaching me to drive this truck. It will be my first car or truck, once I learn how to drive on the roads, around other cars and trucks.”
“Dad was just here. Sitting right there, where you’re sitting.”
“Have you learned how to drive on the roads? I think you’re doing a good job,” said Chuck.
“Thank you. I’m not sure. I was about to ask dad how I did but he is gone and now you are here. I’m still learning. I think I have a lot to learn.”
“You get better. I remember you driving this truck. Coming and going. Sometimes every day.”
“This must be a dream.”
“A dream?” Chuck asked.
“Yes. Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Elaine asked.
“Well, the stop was kind of sudden and I almost slid off the seat but I’m okay.”
“No, that’s not what I mean. Chuck, I killed you. I accidentally ran over you in the drive when I was 17. You liked to sleep in the shade under my truck, this truck. One afternoon I was late for work and I backed over you.”
“When you were 17?” Asked Chuck. “Aren’t you 15 now?”
“Why, I’m not sure. I learned to drive this truck when I was 15. With dad sitting right there. Right where you are now. He was just there. I guess I am 15.”
“Well, then my death hasn’t happened yet. I’m still alive. See!” Chuck said wagging his tail.
“Yes I see, but I don’t understand.”
“I cried and cried when you died. Mom said you were not in pain, that you were in a better place. You were very old when I… You looked like you were sleeping. You never made a sound. We buried you in the backyard under that big Oak tree. We buried you where your old house was. Dad said you would rest in peace there, where you slept on summer nights. Chuck, I missed you so much! You were my only dog. I could never replace you. I loved you Lucky Chuck. I still love you.”
“I love you too Elaine.”

A blinding flash of light startles Elaine. She jerked her head toward the windshield and remembers she is still in the parking lot. Elaine looks back at Chuck, he’s gone. Her father is still gone too. She is alone and the sky begins to darken. In an instant, blackness engulfs Elaine.

6

Voices. Elaine hears voices. Whispers. Male and female voices are whispering. They all laugh at the same time. She hears her name, in the blackness, the voices are talking about Elaine.

Elaine feels like she’s in a dream but she also feels awake. She tries to move, her hands at first, nothing. She tries to lift her head. She wants to look in the direction of the voices but her head will not respond. She can hear her own voice as other voices murmur in the distance. Can they hear her?

“Dad, Chuck?” Elaine shouts. “Is that you? Who’s there?” Elaine can feel someone or something is very close to her.
“Elaaaaaine,” said a creepy screeching male voice.
“Who are you? Where are you?” Elaine asked.
“Why, I’m the voice in your head Elaaaaaine. The new voice in your head and I’m right here, right in front of you Elaaaaaine. You can’t see me Elaaaaaine. You will never see me Elaaaaaine.”
“Where am I? Where am I at?”
“A nightmare Elaaaaaine. You’re in a nightmare. You’re not alone Elaaaaaine. I’m watching you. I will always be watching you here.”
“Who are the others I heard? Where are they? Is it my father, Chuck?”
“Chuck is dead Elaaaaaine and no, you’re father is not here. I’m here Elaaaaaine”
“I’m here in your nightmare. I’m in your dark world Elaaaaaine. No matter where you think you are Elaaaaainee, you will always end up here in your new dark world.”
“Get away from me!” Elaine shouted.
Okay Elaaaaaine. I’ll go, for now. But I’ll be back soon and next time, it’ll just be you and me Elaaaaainee. Good bye for now. See you soon Elaaaaaine.”

7

Elaine is sure she is awake in a dream, She seems to remember reading about people who could wake themselves while asleep deep in a dream. She is certain this is what is happening. Except, she is suspended in total blackness. She feels like she is floating, disconnected from her body but not her mind. She is not sure if her eyes are open, maybe that’s why it’s so dark. Dream paralysis. That has to be it. She is deep in a dream and paralysed. She knows she has heard of dream paralysis.

Elaine is not in the truck with her father anymore, or with Chuck. Lucky Chuck was talking to Elaine, that had to be a dream. Dogs don’t talk. Elaine is not sure if she is dreaming now or was she dreaming before? Except for the part about Chuck, that had not been a dream. That was a memory. Her father had driven her to the parking lot to teach her how to drive the truck. That was a memory. Elaine remembered it all.

She had stalled the truck in second gear. Her father had told her how to press the clutch first, lift her foot from the accelerator then slowly slide the shifter into gear then start all over. Give it gas while releasing the clutch and go. She did it. By the end of the day she was doing it. She got better every time they went out. Then, the family ate at Dairy Queen that night. Elaine, Ricky, mom and dad. Talking Chuck was not in the truck that day for sure.

“The other voices. After the truck memory. The laughing voices. The creepy man. Something has happened. Am I dead or is this some crazy dream?” Elaine asked out loud.

Elaine feels far away. She is certain her mind is right here with her wherever here is, but she can’t feel her body. It is now silent in Elaine’s dark world. But she feels like someone or something is near, very near to her.

“Is someone there?”
“Yes. I am here,” said a young female voice.
“Who are you? Where are you?” Elaine asked.
“I am like you. I am near you. I can feel you. Are you new here?”
“Where is here? Where am I? What do you mean you’re like me.”
“I’m not sure where we are.”
“What do you mean you’re not sure? You are here but you don’t know where here is?”
“I’m not sure where I am or where you are or where the others are.”
“Others?”
“Yes, there are others here.”
“I am not sure where we are. All I know is it is very dark and sometimes scary here too. I think we are all in a dream. A dream you don’t wake up from.”
“A dream. What makes you think that?” Asked Elaine.
“What else can this place be? I remember things that I have done and places I have gone but sometimes the things I remember can’t be real. Like a dream.” Said the girl.
“I was just remembering or dreaming about my father. About a time when I was 15 years old. He was teaching me how to drive.”
“My dog Lucky Chuck was in this dream also. Chuck is what makes me think I was dreaming and not remembering. In the dream, Chuck was talking to me but Chuck was not with me and dad when we were in the truck that day and dogs don’t talk.”
“So this memory or dream was when you were younger?”
“Yes, 15 I think. That was when I learned to drive the truck.”
“How old are you now?”
“I’m 26.”
“How old are you?” Elaine asked.

Before the young girl could answer there is a tremendous flash on the right side then the left side of Elaine. These flashes are like light explosions in her mind. The flashes made blurry shapes like ghost lights in the blackness. When she tries to focus on the shapes they move away quickly and fade into the blackness.

“What was that?’ Elaine thought. “Am I dead. Is this what death is?”

8

A voice right in front of Elaine speaks to her but she can’t understand what the voice is saying. It sounds like a blob. Like someone talking under water.

“Elaine, I am Doctor Richards. You are heavily medicated. We have you sedated. You have been in a very bad accident. You have severe head trauma. I believe you can hear me and I just wanted you to know we are here to help you. You will receive around the clock care. Family and friends will be visiting you. Hopefully, soon we will take you off of the drugs that are keeping you asleep and then you will wake up on your own. I have to go now Elaine but I will be checking in on you throughout the day.”

The voice is a man’s voice but Elaine does not recognize who he is. She is not sure what he’s trying to tell her. She knows this man is not where she is. He is somewhere else. She does not know where.

“Elaine, your father is here.” Said Doctor, Richards.

“Laney. I’m here. Daddy’s here. ”

Elaine feels like she should know this voice. There is something familiar to the tone of this voice. Elaine immediately finds herself back in the truck with her dad again. He’s beside her in the truck. She’s driving. Really driving. No jerking or bucking or stalling at red lights and stop signs. He did it. Dad taught her how to drive. “I’m driving!” Elaine shouts with joy.

“Elaine, I am so sorry. I sure wish I could take your place. I’d give anything to take your place.” Her father sobs quietly beside her.

“Dad, why are you crying? I don’t understand. I’m driving, you taught me how to drive.”

“Laney, I should have been a better example to you. How many times did you see me falling down drunk? Me and all my drunk friends. It’s all my fault, Laney. I never should have let you see me like that. I never should have been like that. I’m sorry Laney. I love you so much.”

Suddenly Elaine’s father is gone. He’s not in the truck. Night is coming. It’s getting dark fast.
“I need to get home. Mom and dad don’t like me on the roads after dark.” Elaine thought.
The night is very dark. Blackness surrounds her. Far away she can hear someone sobbing. Elaine thinks It’s her father. He’s crying but she is not sure why.

Elaine can feel his sadness. For the first time, she can feel what she think’s is some part of her body. She believes it is her heart. Elaine can feel her father’s sadness and it’s hurting inside of her. “I can feel sadness in my heart, my dad’s sadness.” Elaine realized.

She also realized she had heard her father’s voice, where he was, not here where she is. He didn’t sound like he was under water like the other voice, She was sure she heard what he was saying while having a dream. A dream about being back in the truck.

9

The blackness slips Elaine’s mind away so easily. She can feel herself drifting away again. She’s floating. No. she’s flying. She’s in a rocket or a jet and she is flying very low to the ground. She can see the trees zoom past. The landscape rolls and dips. Moonlight shimmers across bodies of water. Elaine looks up and see’s the moon. Big and bright. She aims for the moon. She can feel a tickle in her stomach as she climbs higher and higher then she feels like her body has come to a stop. There is no longer a sensation of speed. Elaine is floating high above the Earth.

“Elain.”

A voice. She heard a voice calling her name. Elaine looks down. The Earth is miles away. Suddenly she loses her balance and starts to tumble, turning slowly, falling back to Earth. The jet is gone. She is free falling faster and faster. She feels like she is traveling a thousand miles an hour. The ground is coming at her very fast. She can see the spot where she will land. There is a road directly below her.

“Elaine, it’s me, Ricky.”

“I’m going to hit the road and die,” Elaine thinks.

She closes her eyes. Her body jerks violently and she feels herself turning. She skims the surface of the road and flies directly toward the trees that trace the highway. There is an ear-splitting sound. She tries to scream. The blackness engulfs her again. A chill creeps across her face and down her body. Her mind sways like your body does when you fall backward into a pool of water. She can hear that sound. The sound of water when you are deep under its surface. She heard a voice. The voice pulls her from this dream, this black place as she drifts back from the blackness. This voice she knew. This was the voice of her brother.

“Elaine.” Ricky said again “I’m here.”

“I talked to Doctor Richards and he thinks you will come out of this. It could take awhile. Dad is taking this very hard. He blames himself.”

“I feel I have some blame too Elaine. I’ve known about your drinking for a long time. I guess since I was 13. I saw you once in the garage. I saw you pull a can out of the cooler in the garage. I thought it was a soda at first. But when you went to wipe your mouth on your shirt sleeve, I saw the can. I knew what it was. I had seen the beers in the cooler before. I couldn’t believe you were drinking one of dad’s beers.”

“I thought you were so cool back then. I thought you would be angry if you knew that I saw you. I found a bottle in your room once. I was snooping around your room and found the empty bottle under that big stuffed bear in the corner of your closet. I guess you were 16 then.”

“I’ve always thought you were so cool. so pretty, so smart. I guess I should have snitched on you, told mom and dad but I could never get you in trouble. I guess that was a mistake. I’m sorry Elaine. I’m sorry.”

Elaine desperately tries to scream out to her brother but she is not connected to her body. She can hear the words of her brother but the words sound far away. She feels far away.

“Dad and I met with your boss, Don Sanderson. They don’t know alcohol was the cause of the crash. The police who responded to the scene knew you and didn’t put anything in the report about alcohol. You hit a deer on the highway on the way home last night. Only a couple of police officers, the doctors and dad and myself know you were drunk. Don promised you had a job waiting for as long as it took for you to get well again. I don’t know if you can hear me but I am here for you Elaine. We are all here for you. We are praying for you Elaine.”

Elaine heard these words and she can feel the sadness from what her brother has said. That feeling is back. The feeling that feels like her heart. It’s breaking. She has never felt more awake than she does now but she is awake in the blackness and she feel very disconnected from her body.

She replay’s her brother’s words over in her mind. You will come out of this. I’ve known about your drinking for a long time. I thought you were so cool. They don’t know alcohol was the cause of the crash. We are praying for you.

“What have I done. I am so stupid. I have hurt all the people I care about the most. I have hurt myself, maybe forever. I have ruined my life.” Elaine cries out. No one heard her. Elaine lies silently in a hospital bed in the ICU.

“I’m in a coma. Some people never wake from comas. How long can I live like this? I’m sure my family and my friends will stop visiting me. It’ll be just me and the doctors and nurses who get paid to deal with people like me. People who live in blackness.” The realization hits Elaine all at once. “And those voices in the dark.”

Then she remembers. Like a flashback, a movie reel spinning her life at high speed. She remembers the look on the people’s faces. At the club when she knocked over the table. When she was pushed into the street. She remembers waking up in her truck when she was 17 behind her house, passed out in her truck. She snuck into the house at sunrise, still buzzing. She remembered seeing her brother as she crept down the hall to her room. Ricky saw her with puke on her shirt. He saw her and never said a word.

She remembers waking up at 3:45 on a Wednesday afternoon. She had to be at work at 4:00. She remembers rushing to her truck, frantically fumbling for her keys. Elaine remembers the bump as the back tire rolled over Lucky Chuck. She was late to work because she accidentally backed over her dog. No, she was late to work because she was drunk at 2 in the afternoon and passed out on her bed. She remembers so many more times when her drinking had caused a problem.

“What have I done?”

10

“So Elaaaaaine, now you know. You know where you are and why you are here. You know it’s your fault Elaaaaaine. Hmmm?”

Elaine does now know. She remembers. The accident. The car. The blinking eyes in the middle of the road. She was drunk from drinking at a party. Jill’s party. Jill. How is Jill taking this, she wonders.

“Elaaaaaine, can you hear me?”
“I hear you! Who are you?” Elaine snarls.
“Ooohhhh you’re a testy one aren’t you Elaaaaaine?”
“Get away from me! Get the hell away from me!”
“Funny you should use that word. Hell. Some people here believe that’s where they are.”
“This is not hell!” Elaine yelled.
“Oh, but it will soon feel like hell. Since you know the cause of your calamity, would you like to know your fate Elaaaaaine?”

“Silence! You bitter old ball sack. Leave this young woman be.” Said a strong male voice.

Elaine was silent too. These voices were too much to deal with. Everything was too much to deal with and now there was another voice.

“Hello, my dear. I hope Edgar didn’t frighten you too terribly. He gets a thrill from terrifying the new arrivals. Especially the females.”
“Edgar? The voices have names?”
“Well yes, we are or were people. Just not in the way that we use to be. What is your name?”
“Elaine.”
“And how old are you Elaine?”
“I’m 26.”
“Elaine, I am Jacob and I am 28. Have you encountered anyone else here?”
“There was a young girl. She seemed confused. I’m confused.”
“I am sure you are and you probably have questions. The young girl is new and she does not talk with the males here. Maybe you can befriend her.”
“Maybe.”
“Where are we?” Elaine asked.
“That is one question I don’t have the answer to. But wherever we are we seem to be able to sense others that are around us and we can communicate with each other. I hear you and you hear me but I have no sensation of my body. I can’t feel my lips move, can you?”
“No, I can’t,” said Elaine. “Weird isn’t it?”
“Not as weird as waking up in a black place like this and then finding out others are here too.”
“Do you remember what happened to you?” Asked Jacob. “Some people don’t remember.”
“Yes I do, Just recently, I remembered what happened. I heard my brother talking to me in my hospital room and I remembered the accident. For some time, I couldn’t remember anything and I couldn’t hear others either.”
“You mean others over there? In the real world?”
“Yes, in the real world.”
“So then you know, over there, you are in a coma. Probably some type of head injury but almost anything that causes the brain to swell can cause a coma.”
“I was in a car accident. I ran off the road. I think I hit a deer in the road.”
“I was jumping from a rope under a bridge and my foot got tangled. I swung too close to the cliffs and hit my head as I fell into the water.”
“How long have you been here?” Asked Elaine.
“I’m not sure but I think it has been a long time. Time is different here. My mother and father have stopped coming to visit me in the hospital. That’s why I think it has been a long time. My father stopped coming first. He didn’t say much when he did visit. We were never really close.
“Dad works long hours. He is a VP of an IT company. Mom would come every day at first. I would know it was every day because she would tell me what day it was. She would tell me all kinds of stuff. Now she comes less often and she doesn’t tell me what day it is. Sometimes she tells me how nice it is outside and about family stuff but her visits have been shorter lately.”
“How sad.” Said Elaine.
“Yes, it is sad but I don’t seem to have any feelings about anything. I could hear the sadness in those that visited me but I felt nothing. It’s like I can’t feel feelings anymore.”
“I think I could feel something when my brother was talking to me. I think I felt his sadness. And my dad was talking to me in a dream and I could feel sadness then too. I was dreaming or remembering when I felt my dad’s sadness but I was not dreaming when I felt my brother’s sadness. I had just woke up, or, whatever you call it.”
“It can be confusing,” said Jacob. “Here is what I have found.”
“I can dream. I have had the most amazing dreams while here. You will know you are dreaming because you can see people and places, like in the real world. I can also hear when people are around me over there. Mostly I ignore the voices from there but if someone speaks to me there then I hear whoever is speaking to me. It’s like I am in the room but I don’t really feel anything. I can just tell that I am there because someone who is not here is talking to me. If no others are speaking to you and you are not sleeping you can simply exist in the blackness where time doesn’t seem to apply anymore. Understand?”
“Not really.”
“Elaine, it is very quiet here now but there have been people here who were messed up bad. They would scream and cry out. They sounded tortured. These people eventually go away. I assume they died back there. I assume that people who are here are alive back there so if they are no longer here, they either died or woke up there. I hope I wake up.”
“Me too.” Said Elaine.
“Oh God! Oh my God! Elaine, I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” Jill cries.
“Jacob, my friend Jill is in my room.”
“Go. I will be here.”
“How will I find you?”
“Just call out my name. I will come to you if I can.”

11

For the first time, Elaine knows that she is not dead but her new existence is torture. Jill is sobbing like a child. She thinks the accident is her fault. Elaine feels so sad, not being able to comfort Jill. Her cell phone rings and in true Jill fashion, she answers like she was just walking in the park. Elaine knows Jill will be fine, their friendship was more business than personal. Dad and Ricky, on the other hand, may have a difficult time dealing with this mess she has created.

This might be a little bit easier to handle if her mother had not died just two weeks before Elaine was to graduate from college. She had complained of severe headaches for months and then one afternoon, Elaine’s mom had laid down to cover her eyes and rest for a bit. This is how she dealt with the headaches. Later that afternoon, Elaine’s father went to wake her. She had died of a stroke. Now two years later, Elaine is on the brink of death herself.

“When mom died, dad said I was the woman of the house now. What a disappointment I turned out to be,” elaine said.

“Your mother is dead?” Asked the soft voice of the young girl.
“Yes, she died two years ago.”
“When you were 24 years old?”
“Yes, when I was 24.”
“How did she die?”
“She died in her sleep, she was very sick.”
“I am very sick. I have a brain tumor and I am going to die,” the girl said matter-of-factly. “I thought I was dead but this is not heaven. Mom read the bible to me and I know what Heaven looks like. Heaven is light not dark. I can sometimes hear her and daddy. She tells me every day that she is praying for me and the pain will soon go away but I don’t feel any pain. She tells me to be a brave girl but I’m scared.”
“What are you scared of?”
“The dark. I don’t like the dark. And the voices in the dark. They scare me.”
“Are you afraid of dying?”
“No. When I die I will leave this scary place and be in the light with Jesus.”
“You don’t scare me. What’s your name?”
“I am Elaine. What is your name?”
“Elizabeth. My mom and daddy call me Lizzy. The doctors and nurses call me Lizzy too.”
“Are you sick?” Asked Lizzy.
“No. I was in a car accident. I hit my head.”
“Are you going to die?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. I hope not.”
“I hope not too. People should die when they are old, not when they are 26 like you or 13 like me.”
“You are 13?”
“Yes. I’m not going to live long enough to be 14. When I am 14 I will be with Jesus.”
“Lizzy. I think you are very brave,” said Elaine.

12

Elaine has begun to feel almost fluid in this place. She can be in the darkness with the others or she can be in the darkness in her hospital room. There she can hear the doctors and nurses. Her father sometimes leaves the TV on when he leaves and she can hear the shows she used to watch. It’s almost like being alive again. She wonders if this is what it’s like to be blind. Well, except for the part about being paralyzed.

The best part of this sad existence are the dreams. In her dreams, she can see the world she lived in before the accident. The people, the places, everything. Some of the dreams are very realistic. Some are memories, those are the best. Some are crazy, not realistic at all.

In the last crazy dream, Elaine was a deer like the deer she hit with her car. She could see the other deer. She could see the woods where the deer live. It’s like she was seeing the world through the eyes of the deer. She could even hear the birds in the woods and she heard the cars speeding down the highway. This sound of the cars frightened the deer and Elaine awoke back into the darkness. In her dream, she could feel the fright. In the blackness, she felt nothing.

Remembering Jacob’s suggestion to call out to him if she needed him, she does just that. “Jacob! Jacob, can you hear me? Are you there, Jacob?” She waits for some time but there is no reply. Elaine remembers what Jacob said about the voices going away. Did Jacob wake up or did he pass away? If either had happened, would she ever know.

One thing Elaine was learning, just before a dream, there was a swaying floating feeling that came over her. At first, it was hard to recognize but it only took a few times to realize this must be the sleep state coming on that allowed her to dream. She was also learning that it was easy to force this dream state to come on. All you had to do was be silent. So Elaine went silent and the sway slowly overtook her.

13

”Elaine. Doctor Richards is here with me and we have removed some of the bandaging around your head and eyes.” Said the nurse. “It’s time to introduce a little light back into your world.”

Instantly there was a slight brightening to the blackness Elaine had been living in. For the first time since before the accident, Elaine thought she could feel her body. It was as if she was starting to reconnect with herself. There was also an old familiar feeling. Elaine was drunk again. The medications that had Elaine suspended in that dark place were strong and she could feel their effects as she slowly drifted up from the pit she had been suspended in.

Some of the voices she could hear were familiar. Elaine cracked her eyes and there was a blinding light. Beautiful bright light. A nurse was hovering over her face as Elaine blinks back into the world she had drifted from for what felt like many days.

“Hello, Elaine. I am Nurse Nancy and I have been taking care of you along with a few other nurses and doctors here. They will be glad to know you are back with us again. I will let your father know you are awake.“

As quickly as the world reappeared the memory of the world Elaine just left started to fade. Jacob, Lizzy and Edgar were dissolving from her mind. Now almost fully awake, Elaine is not completely sure why she is in this room. It’s obviously a hospital room but why was she here.

Knock, knock, knock, came a rap at the door.

“Elaine. How are you feeling?”
“Daddy. What happened? Why am I here?”
“You had an accident last night.“
“Last night?”
“Well, it was actually early this morning. Jill said you left her house a little after 2 am. Another driver saw your headlights off the road. Looks like a deer crossed your path. He probably never knew what hit him.”
“A deer?”
“Yes, it totally destroyed your new car.”

For just a second, Elaine thought she could remember blinking eyes on the road in front of her. In another second the remembrance was gone. A deer, Elaine thought. A deer has destroyed my car and seems to have done a number on me.

Elaine. I’m going to step out and make some calls. There are some people who have been worried about you.

As Elaine’s father exits the room a tall and very doctorly looking man enters.

“Elaine, I am doctor Richards. Can you tell me how you feel?”
“Maybe a little dizzy.”
“You have been sedated most of the day. When you arrived there was some swelling around your brain so we sedated you. The swelling has subsided so we will not need to sedate you any longer.”
“My face feels funny.”
Yes, your face is a different story. The swelling of your brain was caused by the impact of the airbag to your face. Your nose is broken, your lips are busted, you may lose some of your front teeth and both of your eyes are blacked. The good news is, you fared better than the deer. Oh, and I hear your new car is banged up beyond repair. You, on the other hand, will repair quite nicely.”
“Do you need anything?”
“Doctor, what time is it?”
“It’s almost 9 pm. You came in just after 4 am this morning. You had to be cut from your car. I’ve got a few other patients to see but I will check back in before I leave tonight. There are a few people waiting to speak with you. I’ll let them know they can see you now.”
“Thank you, doctor.”

Over the next hour, Elaine’s small hospital room is filled with family and friends who have spent the day waiting to learn of Elaine’s outcome. Her father had been the first to arrive before the sun was up. Ricky had also come by very early and coordinated the communications with family and friends and filled Elaine in on all of the people who had stopped what they were doing to come and be with Elaine, her father and Ricky.

Elaine’s father was unable to handle all of the visitors under the current circumstances. He spent most of the day pacing across the waiting room. Jill had come by as well as officer Stevens, the first officer on the scene and one of Elaine’s newest friends. Don Sanderson stopped by for almost an hour. He assured Elaine’s dad that her position at the firm was safe and they would accommodate her needs until she was fully healed. A number of Elaine’s friends, most of whom Ricky had never met before, arrived throughout the day. Some stayed for a few minutes, some stayed for hours comforting each other, Ricky and especially dad.

“Little sister, you’ve got quite the collection friends around you. And none of them look like the gang of slackers I run with.” Ricky smiled, Elaine tried.

Knock, knock, knock, doctor Richards stuck his head in the room and asked if Elaine was awake.

“Yes, I am.”
“The nighttime nurse will be in shortly to give you something for pain. Nothing too strong, but your face looks like it lost a round with Mike Tyson. Maybe two rounds, Mike put them down quick.” Again, Elaine tries to smile. “You should try to get a little sleep tonight. You’ve had a serious head injury. Some people don’t survive injuries as bad as the one you’ve experienced. Your father said you’ve always had a hard head.” Elaine nods and, this time, feels a successful smile cross her swollen lips. “I will be back in first thing in the morning. Sleep tight.”

Visiting hours ended at 10:00 pm but the nursing staff didn’t seem to notice the time. Friends and family hung out in the room until well past 11:00 pm. The pain medication along with a lack of real food was beginning to take its toll on Elaine’s ability to stay focused on all of the excitement. She had felt herself start to nod off during long blinks. Everyone said their goodnights and promised to see Elaine again tomorrow. “Tomorrow.” Elaine thought. “What will tomorrow bring?”

As the blue glow of the TV flickered in the dim room, Elaine could feel sleep and medications dim her mind. The darkness of the room turned into blackness and surrounded her like a slow moving thick fog. Elaine could feel her body drifting down. She realized she was not asleep, she was awake but all she could see was the darkest dark she had ever seen. Blackness, familiar blackness. Elaine could feel a presence. Someone was nearby.

“Jacob?”
“Lizzy?”

“Welcome back Elaaaaainee. I’ve missed you.”

The End

I did it!

As of 10:15 pm on January 31st, I officially finished my first real short story. Total word count, 8,282.

It was a goal to finish my first official short story before February. I did it and I also finished two additional very short stories in January and I am almost through with a third very short story though this third story has a greater word count than the first two stories and it’s not yet finished. Here are the totals so far.

Elaine Martin ( Working title, I don’t have a title to this story yet. ) ~ 8,282 words

I Had Unruly Hair As A Child ~ 1,123 words

When it Comes to Cars, I’m a Cheapskate ~ 2,341 words

I Was Asked To Go On Tour With The Rock Band Aerosmith ( This story is approximately 2/3rds finished, I think. ) ~ 2,681 words

This makes my total word count for January, 14,427 words! Not bad for someone who decided in December to become a writer. More on this decision in a later post.

I feel successful. I don’t think any of the stories I have written so far suck. I have written a great deal more than I expected and I have a number of ideas for additional short stories and Novels.

I think I can do this.

Stay tuned.

Buy Here Pay Here

When it comes to cars, I’m a cheapskate

A word about this short story.

To get the feel of the writing process, some of my first writings are fictional representations of factual events in my life. This story is one of those. If you enjoy this story, please let me know by leaving a comment below. If you would like to know when I post a new story, subscribe to my email newsletter.

Thanks!

 

When it comes to cars, I’m a cheapskate. I hate car payments. Most of my cars were bought with cash and not much at that. I have owned four different cars I paid $500 or less for. This is the story of one of those cars.

I thought I was getting a great deal on a 14 year old 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. I first saw the beast on a buy here pay here lot down the road from my apartment. In big letters across the windshield it said, $750 CASH. At the time I was between cars and driving my parents custom conversion van. It was a gas hog but this was the days of dollar a gallon gas so it was still cheap to drive. However, five bucks didn’t get you through the week so I was looking for something a little more economical. The Monte Carlo seemed like the deal for me.

The price was right, if the car was in reasonable shape and drive worthy, I might have found my next “new” car. The only thing left to do was the test drive.

A test drive is mandatory when considering a buy here pay here purchase. Back in the day and this was the fall of 1992, the buy here pay here lot was pretty much a collection of cars a few years away from the junkyard. You could find a hidden gem from time to time but in my price range, that was almost impossible. When purchasing a car for $500 or less, you are buying a throwaway, you are not making an automotive investment.

However, this 1978 Monte Carlo looked pretty good. The paint was in good shape, the body was in good shape, the seats were a little ratty and the headliner was loose and hanging but that’s not a disqualifier for the buy. The guy from the small office brings me the keys and sticks the magnetized lot tag to the back of the car and I am headed down the road.

I check the electric windows, they work. I cut on the air conditioner and it blows cool. I check the heat and it blows hot. It takes a few minutes but it gets there. Nothing sucks worse than finding out on one of the random cold winter nights in Tennessee that your heat will not defrost your windshield. The radio works and sounds good enough. It’s not a kickin system but it will do. It’s a factory radio with a cassette player.

No test drive is complete without getting the car up to at least 55. So I make my way off the main boulevard and head to the closest highway. The car drove straight and smooth with plenty of get up and go and it looks like this Monte Carlo might be my next ride. Then, on my way back to the lot, it happens. The car dies and I coast into someone’s driveway.

This is a problem. As I am about a mile from the lot, I have two choices. I can walk back to the lot or I can try to use some stranger’s phone to hopefully reach the lot or a friend to come pick me up.

Back in 1992, people generally didn’t have cell phones and the cell phones of that time were nothing like they are now. Back then, everyone who had a phone had it hanging on the wall or sitting on a table. When you called someone, you might not reach them.

I got lucky. The elderly woman at the house I was stranded in front of was home and let me use her phone. I called the lot and no one answered. I waited a few minutes and called again, still no answer. So, I called the only friend I knew who would be at home that time of day. She was home and she arrived to rescue me within minutes. She took me to the lot and dropped me off. I explained the situation to the lot guy and he promised to tow the car back and figure out what the problem was. He asked that I come by the next day. For some dumb reason, I did.

At 9:00 am the next morning I was back on the lot giving a closer inspection of the Monte Carlo. The tires were in good enough shape and there was no indication of bondo in the body. It was then that the lot guy approached with a big apologetic smile on his face. He explained the gas gauge was broken and the car had run out of gas. That was it. That was the only problem with the car and if I still wanted it they would fix the gauge and cut the price a little.

“How much is a little?” I asked.
“Weeell I’ll have to check with the owner but I think probably somewhere round a hunderd dollars.”
“A hundred? Not enough.”
“Weeell like I said, I’ll need to check with the owner first, he usually comes in around 11. How much you thinking?”
“I’ve got $500 in cash. That needs to cover the tax, title and tags. Otherwise I’m not interested.”

Now here is where you get the car you want at the price you want. I showed the lot guy five one hundred dollar bills and I left the lot saying I would be back later. Showing used car salesman hundred dollar bills of any amount makes their mouth water. It’s like steak to a starving dog. I’ve bought a number of used cars using this approach, always at the price I want to pay, within reason. You have to know the value of the car you want and understand the buy here pay here lots sell cars for cash because they want to move them quick. They have already made a profit on the car from previous sales of said vehicle or the car was a trade in so there is really no money in the car.

An hour before closing, I drove off the lot with my, new to me, 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. They had not yet fixed the gas gauge so I paid $250 and agreed to pay the balance in two weeks when they agreed to fix the gas gauge. It was a deal.

I have always enjoyed driving. After obtaining my driver’s license when I was 16, I would fill up the tank and drive for hours going no place in particular or picking a destination an hour or two away and just heading out.

My first car was a Plymouth Duster, a very faded lime green color. Even by 1984 standards, it was the kind of car most 16 year olds would not drive. For me, it was cheap entertainment and about the only adventure my life afforded. Plus, it was free.

At the time the Monte Carlo entered my life, I was in a bizarre and often lonely place. I had just ended a fairly serious relationship and was living on my own close to my work in a part of Nashville that, to this day, is still considered a seedy part of town. Looking back, there were some very unusual happenings that took place then so the demise of this car was not entirely a shock.

For starters, I was living in an efficiency apartment. This means my living room was also my bedroom and my kitchen was three feet deep and also technically in my living / bed room. My couch was also my bed. There was an open closet in the corner, across from the only room with a door, the bathroom which was about as big as a walk in closet. The entire apartment would fit into most people’s living room.

My work hours during this time were 12 hour shifts, 36 hours one week and 48 the next, 8pm to 8am with every other weekend off. On my nights off, it was easy for me to be up all night long though I tried to maintain a normal daytime schedule. In reality my off time made for crazy living. It was not uncommon for me to be up all night, sleep most of the day or sleep through or be awake for two days or more. Sounds complicated and confusing? It was.

The only neighbor I ever saw was an admitted schizophrenic who claimed to be related to the then Nashville Mayor, Ned Ray McWherter. He proved his claim by producing a very large framed family photo including himself and Ned along with a number of other people. The neighbor frequently said things that were, let’s say, unusual. Conversations were mostly statements from him to me without much context. He was always offering me a beer and I was always obliged to drink one but I found my neighbor became a little scary after the third beer. I never felt threatened by him but he did become increasingly more bizarre as he drank.

He would often knock on my door at night after having had a few and tell me things, random things. One night, about a week after I bought the Monte Carlo, as I was getting ready to head out for some dinner and a movie, my neighbor pounded loudly on my door yelling there was a fugitive on the loose. As I was literally walking out the door, I couldn’t ignore his warning. As I open the door, I was met by my frantic neighbor, again saying very loudly that a fugitive was on the loose in the parking lot. I was also met with a beam of light from a helicopter sweeping across the parking lot, A very loud police officer’s voice also boomed from the helicopter telling me and my neighbor to get back indoors, there was an active foot chase in progress.

About an hour later, after everything had quieted down, me and the Monte hit the road for some late night Taco Bell and a midnight movie at the theaters on Nolensville road. The movie was Glengarry Glen Ross and I don’t remember anything about that movie, most likely because of what happened about thirty minutes after it was over.

Since this was a Friday night off from work and since I had slept all day long I was in no hurry to go home. I was literally five minutes from my apartment but instead turning left on Nolensville Road, I went right and headed toward 440. I was going to go home the long way and take my first mini road trip in my week old ride.

From 440, I looped around the North side of Nashville, headed back south and merged onto Briley Parkway. It was on the exit ramp that I became aware that something was not right with the Monte. At first the car sputtered like one does when there is trash in the gas. The sputtering went from mild to severe in about one minute. It was then that I noticed a big puff of smoke in my rear view mirror. I was pumping the gas to keep the engine running but my speed was slowing rapidly. Ahead on the right was a Texaco gas station and the Monte died as I rolled into a parking spot beside the building. I poped the hood and a thick cloud of smoke rolled from underneath. This is not good I thought. As I pull the lever to lift the hood I see it, the flicker of flames. My motor was on fire.

“Hey man, your car’s on fire!” Then laughter. There were two men sitting in lawn chairs in a back yard up the hill from the station. They apparently were spending their night watching the traffic and drinking some beer. There was a cooler between them. Now they really had a show. “Dude you better call the fire department. Your car is going to burn up.” Then more laughter.

Through the gas station window I could see that the attendant could see there was a problem. In a flash he was at front of my car with a fire extinguisher. He stuck the hose just under the popped hood and pulled the trigger. There was a quick blast of white mist then nothing. The extinguisher was empty. He ran inside and came out with another extinguisher and a cordless phone. He gave me the extinguisher while he called 911. That extinguisher was emptier than the first. He ran back inside and came out with a third extinguisher, you guessed it, that fire extinguisher was also empty. I decided to shut the hood. The good ol boys up the hill were having one of the best Saturday nights of their life. “Hey dude, my friend called the fire department. They’re on the way but your car is toast.” More laughter, louder laughter.

The fire department was just up the road and they did indeed come and put my car fire out. The good ol boys were right. The Monte was toast. The good ol boys came to the fence behind the station and we drank a beer while the fire department finished cleaning up. A cab took me home and a tow truck brought the Monte back to my apartment. In the light of day, with the hood closed, you really couldn’t tell the motor had burned up. With the hood up, the Monte was beyond repair, at least by my standards.

I called the buy here pay here lot the next day and explained what had happened. Mr. personality reminded me that there was no warranty on the car and I still owed $250 on the car. I told him good luck getting that last payment. I gave him my address in case they wanted to come tow the car back. The Monte was sitting in that spot six months later when I moved from the apartments on Welshwood.

Some throwaway cars last longer than others.

Barber Shop

I had unruly hair as a child

A word about this short story.

To get the feel of the writing process, some of my first writings are fictional representations of factual events in my life. This story is one of those. If you enjoy this story, please let me know by leaving a comment below. If you would like to know when I post a new story, subscribe to my email newsletter.

Thanks!

 

I had unruly hair as a child. Picture Bozo the Clown without the giant bald spot or the bright red color. My hair was frizzy, curling several directions at a time and never in the way that makes curly hair attractive. I believe the term is cow lick. My hair had several cow licks in several places on my head. I hated my hair.

As a young child, I had always gone to barber shops for my haircuts. Barber shops where the only style for a boy was the buzz cut. Then, at the age of 13, an age when hair could be cool, I decided I wanted someone to fix my hair. I no longer wanted a buzz cut, I wanted a cool haircut. I wanted a part down the middle. I wanted feathered bangs. So, my mother took me to a beauty shop not far from our home and boy was the beauty shop different than the barber shop.

At this place, each beautician had their own small room from which they worked. You sat in a soft and comfortable raised chair that looked like it belonged in the family room. The experience was very inviting, the beautician was focused only on you with pleasant small talk and lots of smiles.

The barber shop had very uncomfortable stool like chairs lined side by side out in the open. The only small talk was between the barbers themselves. At the barber shop I felt like a number. Actually I was a number. If the shop was busy, you had to pick a number when you walked in the door. At the beauty shop, I felt like a friend of the beautician.

There were many differences between the barber shop and the beauty shop but the biggest difference was the person cutting the hair. The men in the barber shop were grumpy old frowney guys. The women at the beauty shop were not grumpy, old or frowney. Music was playing, ladies were laughing and Kelly, my first beautician was hot! I mean really hot.

Mom dropped me off at the shop and went to the grocery store around the corner. Kelly, my beautician, popped out of her room as soon as I sat down.

“Are you Terry?” She asked.
“Uhhh. Yes.”
“Come on in.”

Kelly was very chatty. She asked my age and talked about when she was 13 and she told me she was 26 and talked about how different her life was 13 years later. She had a mutt dog named Rufus she had rescued from a shelter. There was a picture of Rufus attached to one of the mirrors. There was also a picture of Kelly leaning against a Mazda RX7. I know the car because I wanted one and was pretty sure the RX7 would be my first car as soon as I had my driver’s license.

Kelly asked me if I had a girlfriend, I lied. I said I did but at 13, I could barely sit next the pretty girls at my school. Nevermind actually talking to them long enough to become a boyfriend to one. Kelly asked me my girlfriend’s name and I paused for just a second. I wasn’t expecting that question. Stupidly, the name Kelly came out of my mouth. She smiled at me and said “What a great name.” I’m pretty sure she knew I was lying.

Kelly would be my first woman crush. She was beautiful even now as I remember her. She was tall and slender with long curly blond hair that hung loosely over her shoulders. Her eyes were a deep brown and her skin had a bronze sheen. It was easy to see Kelly spent a lot of time in the sun. Best of all, she smelled heavenly. Also, her feet were perfect. She was not wearing shoes, I noticed immediately because of her toes. If ever anyone had perfect toes, it was Kelly. I was about to find out Kelly had other perfect parts as well.

The buzz cut doesn’t require a great deal of precision. For the most part, the cut can be done in a matter of minutes with the barber talking to and looking at pretty much anyone in the room. Zip, zip done. A center part with feathered bangs, on the other hand, is a different matter. Kelly had combed all of my hair straight down and was trimming my bangs with the concentrated look of someone pondering the answer to the greatest question ever asked when it happened.

I almost missed it. Kelly was bent over low, scissors in her right hand, her face less that a foot from my face as she concentrated on the trimming of my soon to be feathered bangs when something just below her chin caught my eye. It was a perfectly shaped bronzed boob. The angle of her body and the hang of her loose fitting blouse gave sight to only the right boob but the presentation of that one was enough. It, like her toes, was also perfect.

For what seemed like a very long minute, I was less than an arm’s length away from a 13 year old boy’s fantasy. My first observation, it jiggled like jello. My second observation, it was as brown as the hand holding the scissors. There were no tan lines!

In a blink it was gone, from my sight anyway. As a socially awkward 13 year old boy way back in 1980, it never occurred to me that grown women didn’t wear a bra in public. I must have turned a bright shade of red as Kelly asked me if I was okay. I said I was and she said something about how warm her room gets in the middle of the day but it was very difficult to follow much of what she said over the following minutes.

I was in a daze. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat. My hands were trembling. I think my eyes might have crossed for a minute and I was pretty sure I was about to hyperventilate when the sound of the jet powered blow dryer snapped me back from the brink. In just a few minutes Kelly finished up and had given me a new look, in more ways than one.

I revisited Kelly several times over the following months but none of those appointments included another peek at her boobage. It would have been nice but it didn’t really matter. Nothing could come close to my experience that first day. Those few seconds were burned into my memory forever. I can still see it now more than 30 years later.

I never went to another barber shop again.