It started with a sort of grinding thump. The hood of the car dipped as it took what felt like a little hop. A little hiccup. After a second or two of wide-eyed silence and smooth running the car lurched, sputtered, then began wobbling. Simon pulled left on the steering wheel as the car slid right. His normally agile little sweety of a vehicle felt like it was riding on a waterbed. The sound emanating from beneath was like that of some asinine cartoon horse proudly gallumping through a swamp.
They just needed a few things. A baguette, some fresh garlic & herbs, a package of linguine. A quiet dinner before the gig is what had been planned. The visions flashing before his eyes were now quite different as he snatched glances over his shoulder at the traffic. He stabbed his finger at the emergency blinker while wildly gyrating the steering wheel back and forth in an attempt to keep the car moving in some semblance of a straight line. As he crossed the line into the next lane he neither felt nor heard the usual thump of the Botz Dots. Glancing over his shoulder again he became even more agitated as he could see little through the fog. That was when the shrieking and streaks of orange light began. Snapping his head forward to see a bright sunny day the realization passed through his belly that what he saw was not fog but smoke. The car suddenly lept as if it had hit a class four rapid on a white water bed, if such a thing were possible. With a sharp yank to the left on the wheel and a full force stomp on the brake Simon glided to a gentle stop in the emergency breakdown lane. Everything was suddenly silent except the repetitive thonk of his emergency blinkers.
His wife, Janna, did not answer the phone.
K-Mart carried tires don’t they?? Well, anyway that’s where Simon was headed. It was only a few blocks away. He glanced down again at the tire and rim on the dolly he was pushing. Glad he had already loaded that dolly on top of his sound equipment for the gig tonight. “How the heck can a tire get like that!” he exclaimed. It looked worse than a pretzel. More like a mobius strip stretched sideways around the rim. Ragged strips of tread flailed in the breeze and dipped their tips as if taking a bow with each divot he hit in the road.
Never more appreciation for a mechanic had Simon ever felt than he did for the man behind the K-Mart Car Care Center counter. With a wide warm smile he came round the end of the counter. Lifted away a tread flap. Mumbled off some letters and numbers. Then canted his head up towards Simon smiling with bright blue eyes. “Yup. We got these. And they happen to be on special this week. $49.64 plus mounting and balancing fer $14.32 and we’ll have yer on your way in ten minutes.”
Twenty minutes later having made it only halfway across the parking lot Simon spied a shopping cart. Keeping a round object balanced and stationary on a wheeled flat object traveling over a rough surface seemed herculean. In fact, Simon doubted even Hercules himself could have accomplished the feat. He pitched dolly and tire into the shopping cart and headed on his merry way.
Now it’s a mite difficult to describe just how that particular offramp is configured. So, please imagine with me for a moment. Along side the freeway is a hedge that keeps most cars out of the lake when they experience a too severe deviation. The off ramp dips down about ten feet then climbs sharply up a hill with a graceful curve. It was just some disagreeable providence that a cop happened to be at the top of that off ramp as Simon approached. The curb didn’t have the usual cut in it for wheelchairs, so Simon lifted a foot to place it on the shopping cart to facilitate a smooth descent off the sidewalk. Just about that time a very nearby chain-link fence decide to unleash its malice. Its ends jutted out onto the sidewalk having been mashed that way by a driver who found that uphill curve none too graceful. Like a spiny finger a single wire clawed through the knee of Simon’s trousers and bit into the flesh of his leg. With a yelp, a hop, and thrust of arms Simon managed to (not in any particular order) make one-legged shorts of his trousers, send the shopping cart in a nose down trajectory towards the front of the cop’s gleaming car which launched, when the cart impacted, the tire in a ballistic arc aimed squarely at the light bar athwart the top of that black and white. It was a terrific series of sounds. Particularly that crunching whump of the tire on top the car.
But oh no, it didn’t stop there. That tire bound up like a wild bird caged for a decade suddenly set free. Simon caught sight of it as it leaped from between two cars waiting behind the cop. He let out after it with nary a thought for the cop. The tire seemed to sense that its freedom was to be short lived. Anyone who had been about would have given sworn testimony that they could clearly see the tire lean its shoulders down that hill to gain greater momentum. It cut a perfect chord across the arc of that curved ramp. Seemed to bundle itself up just before reaching the curb. Then let fly using that curb like a spring board. Up, up, up it seemed to stretch out. Yet, the steel rim longed for the earth bringing the whole ensemble crashing through the hedge.
Simon had made dang good time. He reached the breach in the hedge just as the branches were sweeping back. Now, I am sure that if that duck had the opportunity to make Simon’s acquaintance under different circumstances he would not have reacted they way he did. Yet, happily sunning himself one moment and the next flung through the air into the chest and arms of a sprinting Greenlander he was none to happy. Now, one could fault the duck for sitting on that board like it was, but you’d also have to admit even the brightest of ducks would utterly fail to recognize a fulcrum. And yes, them boards should have been made into a bench long before, but none of that much mattered to the squalling duck and the startled Greenlander.
Janna, having gotten Simon’s message, arrived about that time. As did the cop who was now purple faced in anger. Both pulled up short for never has such sounds been heard from a duck. His weight being just so, and his impact just off center of Simon’s chest sent the two of them spinning into the ice plant ground cover. Neither having time to either greet or assess the other. Each only knew that something wildly flailed about their heads and chest.
Fortunately, everyone and everything was restored. The insurance claim hung for months on the lunchroom bulletin board granting adjusters their much needed chuckles. K-Mart had a new cart with the latest technical advancements. The cop had, hands down, the weirdest and funniest traffic stop story ever told at the corner diner. Simon & Janna?? Well, they each knew they had met, fallen in love with and married a marvel of a human being. Which led to them singing with the utmost sweetness that night despite all their attempts to dissuade. At the close of each song a rouse of applause with none the wiser of the tale of the Duck and the Greenlander.