64 - A Short Story - And He Wondered

September 25, 2020

He wondered.

The car stopped working with a lot of white steam billowing out from under the hood. He pulled over to the side of the road and parked it in the gravel. He sat there for a moment without moving, then he turned off the engine and slowly got out of the car. He stood outside the car and looked at it, then he looked up the road.

And he wondered.

He looked at the car again, walked to the front, reached into the chrome grill, found the lever and pulled on it to release the hood. It popped up so he reached under it and pulled on the next little lever and raised the hood up so it stood on its own springs. The steam poured out from the front of the engine. He stepped back from the car and looked at it.

And he wondered.

He looked at the car. He slowly walked along the side of the car looking at it, then around the back, then back up the other side. He was back in front of the car looking at the steam pouring from it.

And he wondered.

He turned, looked up the road in the direction the car was pointing. The road was straight as an arrow as far as his eyes could see. And they could see quite well, actually, and not just because he had good vision, but because the scene in front of him was flat. As in flat as a pancake. Flat as a table top. Right out to the horizon. But it appeared much further than the 3 miles to the horizon. It appeared to be, well, he had no idea, it was too far out to that point where the world eventually disappeared for his mind to even grasp. It appeared to be a long way to where that arrow-straight pancake-flat road disappeared.

And he wondered.

He looked at the engine again, the steam still pouring out of it. He walked around the car and stood at the back and looked in the direction from which he apparently had driven. It too was of such a distance that he couldn't quite grasp how far it might have been. He knew the horizon was only 3 miles or so as seen on a perfectly flat surface. But this, this distance he was looking at, had to be hundreds of miles. But it appeared to be a completely flat land surface as far as he could see.

And he wondered.

He slowly walked around to the front of the car again and looked at the road as it disappeared and he thought he saw something. Just a tiny speck of dark that didn't match the surroundings. He watched it for a minute, no change, then another minute, no change, and another minute, and a slight change. This went on for quite some time.

And he wondered.

His left hand went up to raise his hat, an off-white palm-leaf cowboy hat, off his head. His right arm went up to wipe his brows on his shirt sleeve. But all he accomplished was wiping the sweat from his sleeveless arm onto his already sweaty forehead. A short-sleaved shirt?

And he wondered.

He continued watching the speck in the destance and it very slowly, like at the speed of a snail slowly, made its way along the ribbon of road. It was definitely heading in his direction but how long it would take for it to arrive he had no idea. He waited. He watched,

And he wondered.

He turned and looked at the car. Steam still rising, but a little less than before. He walked to the passenger side, opened the door, looked inside, found no bottles of water. He opened the back passenger side door and looked inside, no bottles of water, again. He stood up and looked up the road, the speck was making progress definitely in his direction, definitely very slowly. He walked to the trunk, pressed the button to open it, it was locked. He straightened up and looked at the trunk lid, the car, the distance, the speck.

And he wondered.

He walked around the driver's side of the car, opened the passenger door and looked inside - nothing. He walked to the drivers seat and reached for the keys in the ignition on the opposite of the steering column - no keys.

No keys?

And he wondered.

He could hear a sound, a faint and somewhat ugly sound, but a sound of something in the distance. He straighened up, looked up the arrow-straight road and saw something coming his way. It wasn't a truck. It wasn't a car. The sound couldn't have been either of those types of vehicles. He watched it as it slowly came into view - it was an ancient John Deer tractor being driven by an ancient man.

The Ancient pulled up alongside the stricken car, now with only a puff of steam coming from the radiator, and looked at the man.

The man shouted so he could be heard over the noise of the ancient tractor, "Hey! Can you help me?"

The Ancient didn't hear the man. Probably because he was partly, or mostly, deaf, and that was probably because of the nouse of the ancient tractor he seemed to be quite attached to.

The man yelled at the Ancient, "Can you turn off that noisy rattling bucket of rust? I need your help!"

The Ancient didn't hear a word that was yelled at him. He simply turned his gaze forward, reached to a lever somewhere under or at the bottom of the dash board, pulled the lever, and continued to drive as slow as a slug on down the road.

The man walked along side the ancient tractor because it was so slow and he again yelled at the Ancient driving it, "Hey! Hey! Old man! Please! I need your help!" But the Ancient just continued on his way as if the man didn't exist. The man stopped walking alongside the tractor and returned to the car.

And he wondered.

He returned to the car, to the front of the car. Then he took two steps back, away from it. Then another step away, the four more steps away, five, six, and soon he was a good 12 steps away from the car. He looked at the car, dark blue with chrome. Lots of chrome. It was probably built in the early or mid '60's thought the man. It appeared to be all original, all as it should have been when it was new, just a bit dusty.

He walked back to the trunk and tried to open it again, but it was locked. He walked back to the drivers seat, sat down on it, and searched for the keys. They were nowhere to be found. He lowered the visor, ran his hand under the seat, between the seat cushion and the seat back, inside the glove box, on top of the dash board - no key, or keys, anywhere.

And he wondered.

A minute later he walked back to the front of the car and gave the radiator cap a quick touch. It was cool enough to remove so he did. He peered into the radiator and it was vacant of any coolant or water. He looked for a resevoir bottle but there wasn't one. This old car wouldn't have one of those, he remembered. He wanted to look in the trunk. He looked all around the car and checked his pockets but couldn't find any keys anywhere.

And he wondered.

He stopped, turned around, and looked at that big bright orange-yellow ball in the sky that was both giving him life and trying to kill him at the same time. He reached up to raise his hat and raised his other arm to wipe his brow and remembered, no sleeves.

And he wondered.

Where are my sleeves? What happened to my sleeves? Why are they not attached to my shirt? Who could have removed them? How could they have been removed without me knowing? When could they have disappeared?

He started to panic. He yelled at nobody because nobody was around to yell at, "Where are my sleeves?!"

He paused for a moment, then yelled again, "Why don't I have sleeves?!"

His heart started to speed up, his blood pressure started to increase, "Why don't I have sleeves??" he shouted at the top of his lungs. There was no response. There were no people, no animals, no sounds of any kind. Only that dastardly hot orange-yellow ball in the afternoon sky trying to kill him yet also giving him life at the same time.

He started to cry, "Where are my sleeves? I need my sleeves! My forehead is sweating so badly! Sleeves! Sleeves! Sleeves!" he cried into the deafening silence. It didn't respond.

His heart was racing, his lungs were pumping the air in and out as fast as they could and it wasn't fast enough! His veins and arteries were being pushed to their limits and he was feeling tingly all up and down his legs and arms. His blood pressure was almost sky high! "WHERE ARE MY SLEEVES?!?" he yelled at the top of his lungs. His heart couldn't handle it any more, his lungs had reached beyond their capacity, and he collapsed on the ground in front of the car. His last thought was, "Where are my sleeves?"

And he woke up.