Locked Out

I passed my hand over my eyes and sighed when Bree entered the room.

“Why is Mom crying?” she asked.

“She’s laughing,” Charley smiled as Mom let out a loud snort, her face buried in a large wool blanket. She momentarily peeped out – her eyes red and wet – and looking at me, she then burst into another long giggle.

“Why? What happened?”

“I accidentally locked my keys in the car,” I said, my eyes fixated on the floor, the ceiling, that plant

“ . . . while the car was still running,” Charley added. Mom sniggered.

“He had a thought,” Shannon said unwinding a metal hanger with a pair of pliers. More muffled sniggering diffused through the blankets on the couch.

“Look,” I sighed. “The car was running when I parked outside. I was gathering up all my stuff. You know, my iPod, my books, my notebook and the pen which was slipping off . . . I was trying to map out this story idea that had just come to me when . . . I guess I must’ve hit the lock without noticing. When I closed the door, I noticed this humming sound . . .”


“You know Mom, it’s not all that funny,” I said.

“That was Bree,” Charley said. My small sister lay doubled over on the couch, laughing in her mother’s lap.

“ ‘H . . .h-humming sound’ . . .” she blurted.

“Are you ready?” I asked Shannon.

Shannon had fashioned a wire hook from the wire hanger and together with Charley we walked outside.

“So what’s your success rate?” I asked eyeing his ersatz lock pick with some trepidation. “I can’t find the spare key so if this doesn’t work, we’ll have to wait for the one Dad has stored up the shop.”

“Well it worked for Ryan’s Yukon,” Shan said. “That time when he got locked out down at school.”

“Yeah,” Charley nodded. “It was lucky that none of the campus police questioned us then.”

We reached the car. For good measure, the boys checked all the doors. Concluding that I was indeed an idiot, Shan examined the rubber insulation between the window and the door.

“Hey, you can hear the humming.”

“Shut up,” I muttered as Shan stuffed the wire frame down the window. “This won’t hurt the car, right?”

“Um . . .” Shan said with a glance to Charley. “I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t be here . . . just in case.”

“No, if this works, I want to know what you did. It could be useful. You know, if it ever happens again.”

“You know what else might be useful,” Charley added. “Not leaving your keys in your car and then locking the door.”

Reminding myself to kick Charley in the shin later, we watched Shan fish blindly for the door lock with his hook. This continued for some time, as the wind picked up rattling the trees and windows. I shivered. At least the engine is warm, I thought. Beside me Shannon cursed. He had pulled the hook from the window; the constant pulling and pushing had uncoiled the wire.

“Let me try,” Charley said grabbing the hook after Shan’s rigorous butter-churning action had sent the wire flying in our faces.

“Last time on the Yukon, it was really tough to pull. You have to really yank it.”

“Yeah, but how do I know that it’s the right thing to yank?”

“Just yank everything it gets caught on . . . “

My stomach churned with every yank, resounding a heavy thunk and chlunk from inside the door.  Absently I wondered if I should count it as a victory if the door suddenly falls to the ground.

“Is it suppose to do that?” I asked after a particularly loud KA-CLUNK.

“Uh, I don’t know. The door’s not unlocking so I’d go with a probable ‘No.’ Maybe Ford wised up over the years,” Shan offered helpfully.

Eventually we gave up and relinquished our efforts to obtaining a spare key from Dad’s office.

“I swear Murphey you are our absent-minded professor,” Mom smiled after we entered crestfallen.

“I am not absent-minded,” I objected.

“You’re not?!” Mom laughed wiping away more tears.

“No, just . . . distracted that’s all.” I don’t think she heard me through the giggles and guffaws so I just sighed.

“It was a pretty good story too. I would write it down if I can remember where I put my notebook. Mom, Bree, do you know . . . ? Ah, forget it.”

I strode from the room to search for a piece of paper and a pencil, until remembering I had left my DS on a few hours ago, I ran downstairs. My Chrono Trigger game left me spellbound for another hour, before I remembered that I had forgotten something yet again.

Salad Segregation

. . . like optical illusions and car commercials.

. . . like optical illusions and car commercials.

It was all a very odd day to begin with. The strange thing is that oddity flows more from the details not the larger issues. Wars shock but they don’t surprise us. Yet if you discover the lady standing next to you had worn her blouse on backward or worn two left shoes, then your eyes might blink and stare like an optical  illusion which you can’t quite figure or a car commercial.

The morning had began quite blustery. The kind of weather that brings storms and fells trees, that sends trash cans rolling into traffic like sage in old Westerns, the kind of wind that uproots homes and small children, catapulting them to far lands atop old wizened women. I removed my coat and soaked in the Zephyrs like sunshine.

Up the road I passed a man donning the green-copper robes of Lady Liberty, trying hard to stay upright. The bearded monument had traded in his tablet for a large cardboard arrow, inscribed with ‘Tax Service,’ which he would twirl every now and then for the benefit of his mobile highway audience. Yet with every twirl the arrow caught the wind, pulling the robed mascot like a large kite, his long beard tangled among his thorny crown.

Further on, plastic ads for SAT classes and law firms once staked deep into the earth before the winter thaw, wobbled and teetered in the breeze, hanging onto its terrestrial station by metal threads. Nearby road signs bowed and bent by the winds, warn any falling aircraft to yield and stop before colliding with the ground.

"I hate segregation of any kind"

"I hate segregation of any kind"

For some reason the day started out well until it came time to checkout. The lady behind me in line quickly positioned the plastic divider between her lettuce and frozen orange juice and my milk jugs and a small vial of cumin without even glancing up from her cart. I never appreciated segregation on any level even among fellow produce; thus her actions irked me some. Had my wares been more abundant (today was a rare occasion) I would have understood. Typically we aim for art, piling our boxes and bags in strange orientations in order to recreate something by Rodin or the Empire State Building. We cast a spell to keep it all stable . . . until our backs are turned: apples rolling off boxes of Fruity Pebbles into another shopper’s mountain of cheese and hemorrhoid crème. Yet my small troop of spices and low fat milk posed no threat of invasion, no cause for rowdy mixers with another man’s fruit and salsa dip. “Good fences make good strangers,” she might lecture if I considered protesting.

Walking outside bags in hand, clouds drift silently across the sky like German zeppelins, ready to bomb the planet with ice and snow. The setting sun blew sparks on their hydrogen-filled sacs; I nearly walked into a yellow Beetle waiting for the explosion. Near the horizon, swarms of fleeing birds hop from tree to tree as if feeding off skeletal fingers, reaching for the sky in prayer or supplication.

I got in my car. Surprisingly the lady had parked her Yukon beside me. While I edged backwards, she slipped in and opened her door, blocking my mirror while she buckled and checked fumbled with her keys. I waited. Once the door closed, I sped off. Enough distance makes good fences too and when cars fail to properly segregate can lead to major health risks and damaged groceries.