A Story About No Fuel
I did not want to get off my heating pad, put on a bra, or go out at all and announced my intentions Saturday morning when Mr. Glendower said he had to take both cars in for servicing. It had to be Saturday because his car care coupon was due to expire. He told me not to worry that he had it all planned. Since the Toyota and Honda dealers are right next to each other on Auto Center Drive/Lane/Street (there is one of these areas in every city and town) he would drop his Honda off first, then have the Honda courtesy driver bring him home, then pick up the Toyota and drop it off. By then the Honda should be ready and he would drive it home and have the Toyota courtesy service pick him up and take him to Toyota where he would get my car and bring it home. The Toyota needed gas Friday afternoon but instead of me stopping and getting it he offered to get it Saturday so he would not have to transfer money into my account while he was at work. If only I had a quid for every time a well thought out plan has been foiled.
It was not too long after he left with the Honda that he came back for the Toyota. The plan actually looked like it was working out. A few hours later, he called to tell me about a beautiful highway he had discovered. I asked if the Honda was ready and he said yeah that it was what he was driving, he had been grocery shopping. It was getting late. I asked if he had forgotten the Toyota. He did forget. By the time he called the courtesy driver it was too late, being Saturday the service department was closed for the day. A message was left for him saying he could retrieve the car from the sales staff.
I threw a long sweater over my pajamas and met him at the mailbox. By then it was dark. You know how it is on weekend nights at auto centers. Even though tall bright lights illuminate the new cars hardly any people are out looking at new cars. When we turned into the dealer’s parking lot there was a gaggle of salesmen in silk ties and starched desperation congregated near the only empty parking spaces. The nervous energy generated by making ends meet foisted from their pores. Fortunately, the sales gaggle moved around to the front when we pulled into a side parking space. When Mr. Glendower got out, he locked us in as he always does. To pass the time I was reading a little insert that came with the bank statement from the day’s post. There was a “Test Your Money Management Savvy” quiz. It seemed interesting enough mostly because I was getting the answers right. The child was in the backseat fretting over some music in the distance. It sounded like a high school marching band at a football game or maybe a mariachi at an outdoor event. The music was faint, definite but not distinct. It was driving the child crazy; she wanted to know exactly where the music was coming from. To hear better, she tried to roll down the electric window but we were locked in, Mr. Glendower had taken the keys. Determined to hear better she opened her door. That’s when the car alarm went off. Afraid that she did something wrong she quickly shut the door. There was no way for me the turn off the alarm. It was blaring, and blaring, and blaring. The child was groaning for her father to come on. I assumed he would hear it and turn it off. Apparently not. The alarm just went on blaring as we sat. Out of the corner of my eyes I could see how one by one sales staff made their way to see what car was blaring. Avoiding eye contact I continued to read the Test Your Money Management Savvy” Quiz, but I could not get pass number 6. “At most, what percentage of your gross income should cover monthly mortgage payments, including property taxes and insurance? a) 15 percent of gross income, b)18 percent of gross income, c) 28 percent of gross income. Even when I guessed the answer, I was unable to move on, the words to the question kept coming back to my eyes. I read the same question over and over. Lying face down in the back seat the child moaned for her father to hurry. She struggled to reconcile the faith she had in her father to save her at all times with the blatant reality that we were left twisting in the wind. I called his cell phone but it rang in the driver’s seat. With no bra on, pajamas, and flip-flops I could not risk barging into the dealership. So we sat there with the alarm screaming, me pretending like I don’t hear it and she burying herself as deep as possible in the backseat. Suddenly everything went quiet. Expressing relief, the child bolted up and shrieked, “Thank you daddy!” Soon after he drove up in the Toyota. He signals for me to get in the Toyota.
“What took you so long to turn off the alarm?”
“What do you mean? The damn alarm that was blaring for five minutes?”
“I didn’t hear it, must’ve run out on its own.”
“Why didn’t you take your cell phone with you?”
“What is your problem?”
He goes on to tell me that we need to hurry because the fuel light came on earlier in the day when he first dropped the car off. So now, I am stuck in a car with a fuel light glaring in the dark. The child opens the Honda door to get out and join me but quickly I tell her to stay with him because I might run out of fuel. “Oh stop, we will be right behind you.” Before I could say anything else, he started hollering, “Hurry Up to the Sonoco, You are going to run out of gas!” For about three seconds I was frozen in my tracks. I could not believe this bastard who just left us sitting in a blaring car just alluded to Sonoco. Oh no he didn’t. He knows damn well that is a forbidden allusion. The audacity. How dare he bring up his baby mama, that woman who he slept with the night I was in the hospital having our baby, that woman who tirelessly sent me letters expressing her love for my husband on Sonoco letterhead, where she worked as a receptionist. How dare that mutherfucker act as if I don’t feel the jab of the word Sonoco. What the fuck is he playing at? Where? I asked him. “SONOCO, SONOCO, You are going to run out of gas.” His pleading concern brought me back. Oh, this is not that husband, this is this husband, this is the husband who overprotects, overfeeds, this is the loyal one, this is the one who is too busy for lover’s drama. I dropped into the driver’s seat already laughing at my ridiculousness. I was so giddy that I burned rubber a little when I left the parking lot.
By the time I made it to the first intersection I was fully aware of which husband I was dealing with. So much so that when I saw a Shell station instead of a Sonoco, I kept driving. Because this husband does not make mistakes, or at least he does not own up to mistakes. I kept driving, driving over the highway into the dark and deserted farm roads not caring if I ran out of gas or not. About three minutes later my cell phone ranged. To his “Where are you?” I laughed. “I’m looking for the Sonoco” I said. “You know I meant Shell, I meant Shell.” “I will be right there, I was looking for the Sonoco. You know how you are always right. I didn’t want to stop at Shell and be wrong.” He hung up on me. I had him and he knew it. I felt power. I knew that he knew that I knew he was wrong. Not only wrong but he hollered at me too, SONOCO! So what it was a insignificant detail, he was wrong! When I made it back over the highway, I saw them sitting in the Shell parking lot. I beeped my horn three times. If I had one of those musical horns, I would have beeped it, perhaps a tune similar to a bugle signifying the start of a traditional English foxhunt. He was so annoyed. I opened the car door to pump the gas but he beat me to it, told me to stay in the car. The little one joined me but not before hugging me first. She sensed something but it was all too confusing, —alarms, hollering, horns, now banter. I pointed to the Shell sign and asked her to read it for me. She said “Shell.” Tell your daddy what that sign says, I don’t think he heard you. “Just get in the car, I got groceries in the trunk” he said. I’ve could have argued what did groceries in his trunk have to do with anything, especially since it was 52 degrees, but I decided to let it go.