May 06, 2007

A Grand Day Out

By Susan B. Bentley © 2007

The day hadn't quite gone according to plan. We'd reached the great magnificence of the Grand Canyon at midday but, with the sun filling in all the shadows, no dark against light, it just looked like a big, blank hole in the ground. We'd walked around for a while, had an overpriced lunch surrounded by screaming babies and countless fat moms, sweltered in the mid-July heat. By the time we were driving back, we were one big mismatched family vacation bundle of hell. Mark and Martin were playing around in the back - with my near constant shouts of "will you two just shut the fuck up" falling on deaf ears. Andy wasn't any help - he just stared ahead, hands gripped tightly on the wheel, driving through the pitch black with his beams on high, hardly having to lower them, there was so little traffic.

This was supposed to be our honeymoon but Mark and Martin had caught up with us at our motel in Flagstaff, grabbing me at the breakfast counter with cries of "holy shit, what are you doing here" and "oh my god, you should've seen this stripper, man, we're totally gonna hook up when I hit New York." Jesus. The pair of them had run round Vegas like Hunter and his lawyer, strung out on mushrooms, searching for hookers and only sobering up for the time it took for Elvis to pronounce us man and wife, wahah. Now, I had them in the back of the jeep acting like two-year olds who'd been fed too much sugar, which they had.

"What's his problem?"

Andy squinted at the rear-view mirror. I turned in my seat and so did the terrible twosome. Two bright lights punched the darkness behind us, fast approaching. White beams into the back of the jeep.

"The hell?" Andy was losing his already thinned out patience, "I can't go any faster."

The road was single lane and gently winding, with a solid centerline and nowhere to pull over.

"Well, he can't overtake so he's going to have to wait." His fingers turned a shade paler on the steering wheel.

Mark started cackling but Martin shoved him, "shut up, it's the Hitcher, man, or Duel! Andy, dude, be very careful, you'll end up new wife-less. Suse, prepare yourself, yeh? You're gonna get ripped apart!"

Both Andy and I turned around then, "Martin, shut the fuck up!"

He sat back and went quiet, we all kept silent, listening to the revs of the car gunning right behind us. I was now seriously scared. How far were we from Flagstaff? I hadn't seen any of those emergency phones on the side of the road in ages, what the fuck were we going to do?

I only realised we'd all been holding our breath when the car shot past us at the first break in the line, revving off at well over a hundred, lights fading into the distance. The cackling recommenced now that the B-movie dragster had vanished.

Ten minutes or so passed, listening to Mark and Martin discuss the best way to jump off the Grand Canyon. Torchlight appeared up ahead, waving slowly in the middle of the road. Andy slowed down and then stopped, rolling down his window to talk to the guy with the torch. It was pretty obvious what had happened. On the other side of the road sat this German guy's car with a huge dent on the bonnet and his family sitting in the car, wife and children looking wide-eyed and pale. The bleeding carcass of a moose lay next to the car, dark patches of blood over the centerline. As Andy talked to the guy about our lack of cell phone and how we'd call the police as soon as we hit town, the rest of us were busy gawping at my side of the road. Down a little embankment sat the Duel guy's car, spun round to face us, completely wrecked, the front bashed in, windscreen pushed out and shattered on the ground, headlights broken, the interior dark. I didn't want to ask about the driver, I couldn't see him anywhere though I heard the German guy tell Andy that everyone was okay. Where the hell was he if he was so okay?

We left the accident behind us with promises of calling the cops and take cares. As the German family disappeared from the rear-view mirror, Martin was the first to say it, in unusually hushed tones, "ghost car, man, ghost car."

"Ten more minutes and that would've been us," Mark looked equally in awe of the drama we'd just confronted and, yeah, probably narrowly escaped.

I didn't tell them to shut the fuck up this time, my hands were shaking too much, I just let them prattle on about gored up bodies and killer truckers, all the way back to Flagstaff.

Susan B. Bentley is currently working on a novel that has to be finished by her 35th birthday or all hell'll break loose. Having previously lived in Berkeley and London, she now lives by the sea in Brighton, UK, but dreams of St. Kitts on a daily basis.

No comments: