Here’s the sixth story in my 2011 flash fiction project. As always, I’d love to hear what you think.
She was the one
By Laura McHale Holland
Aggie white-knuckles the steering wheel as she speeds the old Volvo down Mountain Highway. New clicks coming from the engine poke a million tiny cracks in the morning calm. She wants to scream.
She slows as she approaches a familiar intersection, brakes to a stop, rests her head on the steering wheel. Half an hour or more could pass before she sees another car pass by.
It’s been three days since she’s slept. Three days since she’s been home. Three weeks since she’s gone to work. Three weeks since Bill went in for routine heart surgery and failed to wake up in the recovery room.
Home is to the right, just a few miles down the hill. Home, a shower, a change of clothes. Home, food spoiling in the fridge, a beeping red light for phone messages waiting, newspapers yellowing in the driveway, Bill’s fishing pole by the door. Home is to the right.
Aggie looks at the passenger seat, the tartan scarf Bill left behind, the information about the Grand Canyon she’d downloaded and printed out to bring to the hospital. They were going to go as soon as Bill recovered, maybe even ride the mules down to the bottom. She sees the case of CDs Bill burned before he got an iPhone. She unzips it, put a CD into the player and turns the car to the left.
Familiar guitar licks fill the car. It’s the Ventures’ “Walk Don’t Run.” The electric chords vibrate to her bones. She becomes a human mandolin, a drum set, a jazz dancer, an airplane soaring to the sky as the car chugs up the hill. She turns the music up as far as it will go, pulls the car over near a trail she and Bill have walked many times. She gets out of the car, dances around it and then gyrates along the trail, redwoods swaying overhead.
The trail leads to a footbridge over a winding creek. A bridge she loves. A creek Bill loves. She sees Bill twirling toward the bridge from the other side. They meet in the center of the bridge, and when their fingertips touch they are both jitterbugging, twisting and hitch hiking in their junior high school gym. They dance on and on until Aggie drops, exhausted and old to the wooden planks of the bridge. Bill keeps on dancing. He is old, too, but dancing as though he’d just begun.
Bill dances backwards into the forest. He looks content, mater of fact. Aggie sits up, wraps her arms around her legs, puts her forehead against her knees and cries for the first time since the doctor insisted she was the one who would have to decide whether to pull the plug.