Saturday, March 31, 2012

Road Trip-Part 6: Objects Sharing a Quantum State and their Identical Natures

I think I meant a version of myself from a different dimension once...
Klang.  Klang.
Hard to tell since it happened in the middle of the night.
Klang...  Klang...  KLANG!!
I jumped up.  I looked around with post-nightmare certainty that danger is close at hand and I had only a moment to find it.  
Then I remembered.  I was in Russell, Kansas.  My car broke down, for the second time, on my road trip to get to my folks' house.  I was sleeping in my car because I was almost out of money.  
Ok...  Got it.  I lay back down in the passenger seat of my Chevette.  I snuggled in my sleeping bag.  I took a deep breath and hoped I'd drift quickly back to...
I jumped up again.  There had been a noise...
Klang.  Klang.  
Yeah.  That one.  
I lifted my head peeked over the edge of my car door.    
A car was there.  It hadn't been there before.  Its dome light was on.  I could see a woman in the passenger seat.
Klang.  Klang.  Klang.  
She wasn't making the noise.  She was holding a baby.  Normal babies didn't make loud, metallic banging sounds when you bounced them.
Klang.  Klang.  
I saw that the driver's side door open.  The driver's seat was empty.  
Klang.  Klang.  
Women with babies weren't dangerous. People whacking things with heavy metal objects were.  Was safe to go back to sleep?  How long before I had to get up?
Klang.  Klang.  
I reached over to grab my key, still inserted in the ignition.  I turned it just enough to get power to the radio and its little clock.  
I blinked.  
I rubbed my eyes.  
I turned the power off.  I looked at the darkness outside.  I decided it looked like three in the morning.  Something must be wrong with the radio, or the battery or something to make the numbers all blurry like that.  
Klang.  Klang.  Klang.  
I reached up and flipped the switch to keep the light from coming on when I opened the door.  I pulled the key from the ignition.  I unlocked the door and pulled back on the handle...
And felt the cold air bite into me like some hungry feral dog.  Reality could go screw itself.  I tried to pull the door back closed.  But I'd have to slam it hard...
Klang.  Klang.  
And I didn't yet want to attract the attention of whoever it was banging out there.  I took another breath and stepped out into darkness.  
The cold you feel at three in the morning is like a giant bully that grabs you by the neck, slaps you around and rubs your nose in the fact that if you REALLY had any choice in the matter you'd be someplace safe and quiet and warm and INSIDE.  It makes you pay just because it can.
I reached back inside and grabbed my army jacket.  I pushed the passenger door until it was sort of closed.  
I stood there and examined the car that hadn't been parked there when I'd fallen asleep.  
Klang.  Klang-klang.  Klang.  
It Chevy Citation.  I had almost bought a Citation.  Glad I hadn't.  It was dark blue, like my Chevette.  I approached it from the rear.  
There was a bundle in the back seat.  I counted three heads and a jumble arms and legs poking out from under a blanket.  Evidence of a grisly crime or a collection of young kids, about three at a guess, snuggled together like kittens from the same litter.  
I tip-toed to the far side of the car.  A guy was kneeling before the open driver's side door.  A tire was on its side before him.  He was pushing down on the tire with all his weight, using both hands, like he was giving it CPR.  Then he reached to the side, lifted a tire-iron into view, and brought it down.
Klang.  Klang.  Klang.  
OK.  The tire was probably flat from the way it flexed when he pushed down on it.  I could have gone back to my car at this point.  Instead...  
Startled, the guy raised the tire-iron, turning it from from tool into potential weapon.  I opened my hands to show him I had no such weapon myself.  
"Hey, there."  He nodded back.  
"Having trouble?"  
"Tire's flat.  Turned out the spare was flat, too."  He nodded his head toward me.  I looked down.  The left rear tire was pancaked.  
"Oh."  I pointed out my Chevette.  "My car broke down."  It felt like I was trying to one-up him in a game of automobile problems.  "I was sleeping in it when I heard you."  
"Ah..."  He lifted his head back in a big nod.  "I didn't see you when I pulled up."  
"I was sleeping."  Gestured with my hands to show a seat being made flat.  "I had the seat down."  
"Ah..."  He lowered the tire-iron to his waist.  He waited. 
"I, uh...  Was traveling across the country..."  I didn't tell him the whole story.  Just the highlights to show him that I was like him and he was like me.  
"That's pretty tough," he agreed at the end.  The tire-iron was still in his hand, but now it was hanging by his side.  "We were on our way back home, in Hays, when I caught a nail on the freeway."  
"That's too, bad."  It was my turn to commiserate.  "On your way someplace for the holiday?"  
"On our way back, actually.  Spent the last week at her mother's.  Kids go back to school next week."  He gestured toward his sleeping children in the back seat.  "Found out the spare was flat when I pulled it out.  Came here, but they were closed."  
"Yeah," I said, confirming the obvious.  
"Yeah," he replied, confirming my confirmation that the station was obviously closed.  "I've got a patch kit in the trunk, but I can't seem to get the tire off the wheel."  
"Ah..."  I borrowed that from him.  It was remarkable how well it fit.  I hadn't really thought much about why he was whacking on his wheel with a tire-iron, at HE:HEE in the morning.  One's curiosity only extends to the very obvious at that hour.  
From some impulse I couldn't name, I closed the distance between us and extended my hand.  I stopped when I was even with the rear passenger door of his Citation.  
"My name's Erick."  
"Mine's Derrick."  He switched the tire-iron to his left hand and reached over the tire to take my hand.  He had a strong grip.  Gritty feeling, like old oil.  "That's Susan in there.  Elizabeth is in her arms."  The wife leaned to her side to give me a wave.  "Charles, Richard and Kathleen are in the back."  
"You're not doing that right, you know."  He looked a lot like me.  Same height.  Curly hair.  A bit heavier through the middle.  My age.  I could feel that by shaking hands and exchanging names I had taken on a role.  Being an actor at the time, I could tell that curtain had gone up and I had made my entrance.  
"Huh."  He crossed his arms, tire-iron stuck under his left arm pit.  His "huh" meant, "Yeah, I know that, but I can't yet admit I have no idea as to what I need to do to get my tire fixed."  
"Yeah..."  I said, which meant, "I know you knew that, but I won't point it out to you in front of your wife and kids."
I walked toward the closed door of the garage.  "Here..."  I pointed at one of the windows in the door.  "They should have one...  There!  Come look."
Derrick joined me by the garage door.  I pointed at a machine through the window.  It was one of those air-powered devices they used to pull tires off of their rims.  
"You have to do it the same way.  Push down on the tire, then pry it up over the rim."  I gestured down with both hands.
"Yeah, yeah..."  He was nodding his head.  "Too bad we can't just use that one."  
"Yeah, too bad.  But..."  I pointed back at his tire on the ground.  "Together we can do something similar..."
We used his tire-iron in place of the hook on the machine.  He forced it under the tire's edge.  I used a screw driver to pull it along the wheel's circumference.  Once the tire-iron nearly whacked me in the side of the head when the tire popped back.  With a lot of pushing and pulling, though, the tire finally popped off.  
"Got it!"  He used the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow.  "I can take it from here, I think."  
"Good."  I was sweating inside my jacket.  "When you fill it up with air, it should pop right back."  
"Yeah, it should."  He made a tire shape with his two hands.  "Pop right back."  
"Yup.  Pop right back."  I made a quick tire shaped gesture of my, though I didn't hold it as long.  It was his tire, after all.  
"Yep."  He met my eyes and nodded.  I nodded back.  He nodded again, then said, "You said something was wrong with your car...?"  
We walked over to my Chevette.  We stood together facing its hood.  
"Nearly bought a Chevette," he said to himself.  "Wish I had."  He crossed his arms over his chest. 
"It...  Was spitting up oil."  I displayed my helplessness with a shrug.  "Might have thrown a rod."
"Yeah.  Might have."  He extended one of his hands toward me.  "If your lucky, it might have just blown a gasket or something."  
"IF I'm lucky."  
"Yeah...  If you're lucky."  
We gave each other a tight-lipped nod at that point.  We could hear each other's unspoken certainty that it would turn out to be the worst possible prospect.  
"What are you gonna do?"  Derrick added a shrug at the end.  
"Don't know."  I returned his shrug.  "Can't afford to fix it.  Can't just leave it sitting here."  
"Well, hey...  I can help you with that." It turned out he owned a auto junk yard.  He offered to come back once the holiday was over and haul my fatally wounded car back to his junk yard.  
I wrote his contact information in my three-ring notebook. I tore out a page and gave him my parents' address and phone number.   
We shook hands.  He had to get his tire fixed and get his family home.  I wished him luck.  He did the same for me.  He stepped over the heavy guard rail and walked back to his car.  
I looked up at the night sky.  Even through the glare of the security light I could see it was filled with stars.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful.  
"You see?"  I said to the universe at large.  "That's how you do it."  I waited to see if the universe got my point, that it should send someone to help me, even if it was only a little bit.  
It was then I noticed the stars were arrayed in a strange sort of constellation.  Like a giant face giving me a smug, knowing smile.  
I caught on.  Hadn't my car just been taken of?  Wasn't that one less worry I'd have tomorrow? 
"Screw you," I said to the universe.  I got back into my car, shucked off my jacket and pulled my sleeping bag over me and went back to sleep.


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