Clyde was sure he was dead. Who survived a storm of this magnitude? In a car…sitting in the middle of a highway… He closed his eyes. If he was going to be blown to kingdom come, he didn’t want to see it happen.
“Why’d we stop?” Dan, Clyde’s neighbor and sometimes home-improvement partner, roused himself from sleep, rubbing his eyes and stretching like a kid after a long nap.
Clyde pointed ahead. “There’s a barricade…some road problem, and it looks like the storm of the century is heading this way. Someone is trying to get people to turn around.
Dan rolled down the window and craned his neck out, swiveling right and left.
A long line of cars snaked ahead and behind into the dense gloom.
“We’re not going anywhere in a hurry.”
Clyde felt his heart drop to his boots. “If only.”
Dan unstrapped his shoulder harness and pulled the door lever.
Clyde’s heart did a one-eighty and jumped to his throat. “Hey, where the H are you going?”
Dan waved ahead. “Look, it’s just a young guy. Some patrol officer is trying to steer everyone back.” He chuckled. “It’s like Fred Rogers facing down a pack of irritated hyenas.”
“Yeah. Well, it’s what he’s paid to do.”
A frown creased Dan’s forehead. He leaned in and clamped his gaze on Clyde. “So you’d rather sit here and wait for the storm toss us into never-never land?”
A baby squalled in the distance. Clyde dearly sympathized.
“Besides, you know Jennie would be irate as a pancake flipper with no spatula if you got killed in a spring storm. She has you pegged for a long-liver or a go-out-in-a-blaze-of-glory kind of guy.”
Clyde felt a hot flush work over his face. “Ayah. I guess.” He really would hate to disappoint his wife. Though she’d get along without him all right. The kids were all grown. The house was pretty much paid for, and there was a good life insurance policy, but she’d reeeeally hate to be left with— “He got carried away.” —in his obituary.
The two strolled down the road, passing twenty-three cars. Clyde kept his face forward, avoiding eye contact. Dan, on the other hand, waved and grinned, apparently practicing for the role of the neighborhood ice cream man. He ought to have a little bell.
It was all too clear that sweat-stained the officer’s armpits as he repeatedly lifted his arms in a futile effort to direct irate drivers to maneuver their vehicles to the side so some kind of turning zone could be arranged.
Clyde measured the growing storm with his eyes. He wondered if a sincere act of Contrition would work for his Confession or if he was stuck with the full weight of the last three months I-don’t-have-time-to-count-‘em-now-sins.
Dan chewed his lip, swiveled his head forward and back, and then clapped his hands. He jumped up on the hood of the patrol car, waved, and shouted.
Clyde wanted to grab the officer’s arm for support. Considering the look on the young man’s face, the feeling must’ve been mutual.
“Hey! Hi, ya’ll!”
Dizziness ensued. Eyes can’t really roll around like on those cartoon characters—can they? Clyde peered askance at the officer. Darn. Guess they can.
The officer tried to recover command of the situation. “Excuse me. I’m—”
Dan smiled down. A benevolent benediction if ever there was one. “Yes, Sir! You’re right, Officer. If everyone would steer their cars to the far right side, onto the shoulder here, (Lots of hand motions for those without brains.) there’d be enough for a turn lane.”
Dan jumped down, directed the lead car to follow his example, and quickly assisted the driver to face the car in the right direction. The officer, his eyes steadied, his confidence returned, worked alongside. Together they maneuvered down the line, beckoning with rotating hand motions, calling, cajoling, and even teasing, until in a matter of moments a flow of traffic started away from the impending storm.
Once salvation was at hand, the masses knew what to do. And they did it. As fast as their wheels could carry them.
The patrol officer waved with a grateful grin as Clyde maneuvered his car away. The storm still appeared menacing, but there was a decent chance they’d make it home before it struck.
Another patrol car zipped by on its way to assist the lone officer. Clyde shook his head. “There’s a reason I’m not a cop.”
Dan nudged him. “Or a doctor.” He closed his eyes and leaned back.
A flush reheated Clyde’s face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dan opened one eye.
Clyde slowed for the turnoff. Only five miles to go. Raindrops sprinkled the windshield. He smacked the wiper switch and grunted his disapproval of raindrops and cryptic comments.
Dan sat up. He glanced out the window as slashing drops obscured the fields and woods. “You’re not a leader, Clyde. You don’t want to be. You’re happy for someone else to step up.”
“That’s not true!” Clyde’s face burned with righteous indignation. “I wrote to the county commissioner about our sewer problem. I stood up at the school board meeting and told off principal what’s-his-face that one time. I even re-tweeted—”
Dan lifted his hand. “I didn’t say that you haven’t complained.”
Furious drops pelted the windshield. Clyde’s grip tightened, and his jaw clenched. He slowed the car to a crawl as his heart pounded in tune with the storm.
Lights glimmered in the distance; the faint outline of a farmhouse shimmered through the rain-drenched window. Dan’s wife, Gloria, would be worried, but she’d pretend she wasn’t. She’d laugh off her fears and welcome her husband from the front porch with beckoning arms. He’d sweep her into a bear hug, swing her around, and they’d go inside to dance or make love.
Clyde halted the car, undoubtedly splashing mud up the side in the process. “You want to explain that?”
Dan shook his head. “Not really. But honestly, Clyde. Come on. You live inside a fear-filled box. You bang on it by complaining. But when something needs doing, you wait for someone else to step in.”
“So, I’m not a big know-it-all.”
“Look, buddy. I’m not trying to be cruel. But, truth is…well.”
Stomach-churning anger swirled inside Clyde. “Damn it. I never expected this from you, Dan. I thought you had my back. I thought—” In a rush of fury, he jabbed a shaking finger at the passenger door. “Just get out. You can walk the rest of the way home. I’ve got to get back to Jennie. At least she really cares about me.”
Dan placed his hand on the door lever and stopped. “I had your back…and your front…today. I always do. But soon that won’t be true. I’ve got cancer, man. Chances are… But that doesn’t matter. Fact is; death comes for us all.” He swung his head like an exhausted bull and stared at Clyde through weary eyes. “You got to decide if you’re going to keep complaining and following…or if you’re going to start solving.” He shrugged. “It’s up to you.”
Clyde stared as the wavering form of his friend climbed the steep porch steps. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he could see Gloria’s shape as she stepped down to meet him. Yep. They embraced.
Slowly Clyde maneuvered the car around and started toward home. One mile up the road. The rain lightened, but his vision remained blurred.
This time, he’d keep his eyes open.
Novels by A. K. Frailey
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF
OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
HeartBeats—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd0z
It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz