Friday, January 29, 2016

John Denver Didn't Sing About It

“Holy Cats,” shouted Terry.
               The road swerved and curved in front of Terry’s car like a drunk stumbling home from a bar at two o’clock in the morning. The darkness swallowing the road didn’t make it any better.

“Who designed this road? it’s a mess,” said Terry.

The road was in fact, designed after an old Indian trail through a dense forested area. It was then adopted by the settlers in the area who used it as a wagon route to and from the center of town to sell their goods, like candles and beef and Okra. It simply got wider, paved, re-paved and made a historical landmark. Terry didn’t know any of that. He was on a business trip from Cincinnati and this winding Virginia road was something out of a nightmare for him.

Terry slowed his rented Buick and turned on the high beams. He had a little trouble finding them at first. He thought rental cars should have more obvious buttons for stuff like window wipers and high beams. It was dumb to struggle in the dark interior for the right button, knob or switch. He longed for the days of standardization. The road was greatly illuminated but still a winding mess of switchbacks, hairpin turns, one lane and dips. The posted speed limit was 70 MPH and that seemed insane to Terry. He didn’t think a Dale Earnhardt or Mario Andretti could navigate these roads at that speed.

The Buick crested a high hill and then began a steep decline on the opposite side. Terry had his foot hovering over the brake, just waiting for some pick-up truck or giant deer to come bursting out of the surrounding forests. He had a terrible feeling that his trip to Virginia to sell industrial rubber flanges would be his death. He started to re-evaluate his life as the Buick neared a sharp turn right as the road leveled out. Terry steered the car toward the right and then had to quickly cut left as the road made a surprise direction change along a curve toward a valley of what looked like giant walls of reddish yellow bedrock rising on each side.

“Dear God, is this murder road,” questioned Terry.

He looked down at the GPS screen on the dashboard which had fallen silent, still just indicating he had 17.8 miles to go until his destination. Terry missed her voice suddenly. The radio had faded out almost as soon as he embarked on this road. It was just static or some low wattage Bible beating preacher prattling on about the end of days and the coming of the four horsemen. It was too much for Terry so he had turned the radio off. So it was just the GPS voice and he, until the GPS didn’t have anything to say, except for the occasional “recalculating”.

The road took another sharp right into a very long curve. A curve that seemed to hold for far longer than any Terry had previously experienced. He looked at the compass on the GPS and it went from North, to East, to South, to West and then back to North, all through his long curve. Terry felt as if he had just gone in a complete circle without any change in elevation or anything. It was a strange feeling. The road straightened out and the car’s high beams reflected off the high bedrock walls of the valley. Terry thought it was more of a canyon than a valley. Terry looked at the GPS screen; 18.3 miles to go.

“What the hell,” said Terry, “how did this just get longer?”

Terry felt the car start to rise up another hill and he slowed down. He didn’t want to shoot over the top of the hill and fly off into a river or wind up in the rear of some semi-trailer like something out of the Blues Brothers.  He drove the Buick up to the top of the long hill. Terry half expected to see Sherpa's guiding a climbing expedition party up a mountain side with the height of this hill. He reached the acme of the hill and the car angled down, like a roller coaster car at the front. Terry felt his testicles suck up into his body out of a primitive fear response. The car’s nose dipped down like a barrel going over some waterfall with some 1920’s type daredevil sitting on it. Terry yelled.

“Oh My God!”

             The car shot down the steep decline and Terry held the steering wheel with both hands. He had his foot on the brake as he tried to control the speed of his decent.  The car resisted any attempt to slow it down.

“Turn left in 200 feet,” said the GPS.
             “You’re God damn kidding me,” yelled Terry.

The descent never seemed to end, a mysterious tissue box fell forward from some undisclosed rear part of the Buick and Terry’s briefcase on the passenger seat slipped to the car’s floor. Terry gripped the steering wheel with white knuckled fear and adrenaline.  His teeth were clenched together as the yellow dividing line in the road sped past reminding Terry of some Warp Speed image from a Sci-Fi film.

“In 100 feet, turn left,” said the GPS.
             “What? How the hell…,” said Terry.

Terry was staring at the speedometer. He had his foot on the brake but he was still going 85 miles an hour, almost straight down. He couldn’t imagine coming to a stop and making a left turn. He started to press hard on the brake, pushing it to the floor. The Buick resisted and started to buck and skid unlike anything Terry had ever seen a car do.

“Make a Left turn on Primrose,” said the GPS.
             “How,” shouted Terry.

The road dipped and flattened and the Buick came to a tire screeching stop. The brakes came to life and the Buick skidded and swerved on the level ground. The screeching tires and groaning brakes echoed through the darkness.  Terry’s nose came inches from smashing into the steering wheel. The car ticked and rattled. The high beams flickered and then normalized. A single yellow caution traffic signal hung silently over the intersection where the hill ended and the road opened up again. It hung over the Buick like a warning. An ironic warning.

Terry leaned back in his seat. He looked up at the yellow traffic light. He looked at the cross road and flicked on the left turn signal. He turned left onto Primrose.

“You have arrived at your destination on the left,” said the GPS.

Terry looked out his window to see the flickering neon of the Motel Six.

“Son of a….,” said Terry.

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