Gary was driving home from a Friday night poker game with old friends which beer and b.s., mostly b.s. of the sports variety, had prolonged into the wee small hours.
He wasn’t drunk, but he was tired and tapped out and saw by his dash that it was after 2 a.m. This was just as he was driving along the seemingly endless expanse of the large Elysian Fields cemetery.
As he looked away from the digital clock and back to the road, a young woman in white came rushing out of the darkness of the cemetery and ran right in front of his car. Barefoot, no less. And in a long gown. Gary swerved and hollered the expletive-laced name of a messiah at her.
His car braked to a stop less than fifteen feet from the woman, whom he could see now was more of a girl. She was standing stock-still, facing directly away from Gary’s Hyundai. He thought about blowing his horn, but he figured something was wrong with the girl. Seriously wrong. Maybe something horrible had just happened to her. Maybe she was the victim of an assault or worse. She certainly appeared to be in an altered state. She was holding a small bouquet of flowers upside down in her right hand. He watched as she tossed it off towards the cemetery bushes without even looking that direction.
“Are you alright? I’m sorry, but you just came out of nowhere. You know?”
He was talking loudly out the driver’s side window, hoping she could hear him.
The night was very still, so she had.
“I know,” the girl said. She still wouldn’t turn to face him. It unnerved him.
“Listen, I would normally offer to make a call for you, if you need a ride. You’re probably not going to believe this, but I don’t have my phone on me. I can offer you a ride if you need one, but I understand if that’s not something you’d be comfortable with. I mean with a stranger out here in the middle of nowhere…”
But before he could finish his sentence, she shocked him by turning and walking directly to his driver’s side window. She leaned her arm there, her slender white arm, and smiled with little trace of fear. A big smile on a small, pretty face.
“How about this? You move over and let me drive. I’d be much less afraid that way.”
“I’m not so sure about that. You seem to be missing your shoes. Where did you come from, anyway? Is that a prom dress? It seems an odd time of year for….”
“Do we have a deal?” She was still smiling.
Gary reluctantly slid over and she opened the door and took the wheel.
“I’ve never driven one like this. All these new-fangled doodads!”
But already she had them in motion, headlights picking out their way down that long street otherwise deserted. Everyone in the small town had found their beds already.
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I have to ask: you haven’t been drinking, I hope?” Gary realized it was a slightly ironic question to pose.
“No, Buzz and Joey were the ones drinking. Drinking like hogs. I told them to slow down. That punch bowl stunk to high heaven. But they don’t listen to anyone but each other. Egging each other on like idiots!”
“Where exactly are we going?”
“Why, of course, I’m going home.”
“It isn’t far?”
“No, not far at all. You’re very kind to help me out.”
By now, she had already taken some dozen turns and they were in a part of town with no streetlights. Gary was not familiar with these rural areas at all. He began to wonder if this might not be a set-up. Was there some guy waiting with a gun out in the countryside to roll him where no one would even hear his cries for help? And the one time he didn’t bring his phone. He slipped his wallet under his seat surreptitiously. She didn’t seem to notice.
“I’m gonna need to use my g.p.s. to get back out of here. I don’t know all these backroads. I can see we’re getting higher. Could you do me a favor and keep a few feet more to the right of that barrier? That looks like a hell of a drop off.”
“What the heck is g.p.s.?” she laughed. “You know, it was just terrible what happened to Joey and Buzz. Some say they deserved it. But did the others?”
“What happened to them?”
“They went off the cliff on River View Road. They were picking up pieces of them in the ravine for days. Them and all their passengers. That car was just crammed with kids who had come from the dance.”
She shook her head, crying then.
“I’m so sorry,” he commiserated. “Listen, you seem pretty upset. Why don’t you pull over and we can switch seats.”
She began to accelerate then. It really scared Gary.
“No point,” she said. “We’re almost home.”
“What do you mean we’re almost home?” Gary asked. “And you’ve gotta slow down, this road is getting narrower and narrower. Where the hell are we, anyway?”
And then the headlights picked out an old street sign that read “River View Road.”
The car was going about seventy at that point and he began to scream at her to stop the car, hit the brakes, this isn’t funny at all.
But she was laughing now through her tears.
As the car left the road and Gary felt his stomach, his ass, everything, try to float, the girl turned to him and said, “This is the part where you hope, but it doesn’t come true.”