by Harry Groom

The Gardiners, along with Roger Anderson and Dorothy Vaux, had gotten hopelessly lost on their way to the party and swore that on the way home they’d use the GPS like everyone else in the twenty-first century. “And take note,” Anne Gardiner had added, “If only one of you men had admitted that you didn’t know where we were going we wouldn’t be in this fix. We’re going to be almost an hour late for God’s sake. It’s mortifying.”

Roger Anderson pulled himself forward to the gap between the front seats. “Sorry. I thought I could do it from memory. We used to come here a lot.”

“Did you hear that Jim?” Anne said to her husband. “A lame apology, but an apology nonetheless.”
Roger said, “Anne, I was talking about when Helen was still—“

“Let’s just drop it everybody,” Dorothy Vaux said. “For Helen’s sake. Besides, here we are. Better late than never.”

“Who are you, Dorothy?” Anne asked. “Mary Poppins?”

Heavy rain mixed with thunder and lightning greet the partygoers as they hurry to their car. None had brought an umbrella or a raincoat and all are soaked to the skin. “Jesus, this night’s going from bad to worse,” Anne says. “What more could go wrong?”

Jim asks if everybody’s buckled up.

Roger struggles to loosen the wet knot on his tie and says, “Boy, how I love the smell of a new car. What is this, Jimbo? A Chevy?”

“Nope, a Kia hybrid.”

“You went Jap?” Roger says.

“Korean, actually,” Jim says.

Anne says that Jim’s going to have a hard time getting parts if The Donald pisses off the Little Rocket man much more.

“Naughty, naughty,” Roger says. “I thought we’d called a truce on politics.”

“That’s not exactly political,” Dorothy says. “Besides, it was funny. Really funny.”

“F.Y.I.,” Jim says, “they’re made in Georgia.” He turns to look at his old friend in the back seat .

“Google maps all set?”

“All fired up,” Roger says. “We’ll be home at 11:19.”

Proceed to the route. In six hundred feet turn right onto Shepherds Lane.

Jim rests a hand on Anne’s thigh and squeezes it gently. “Driving in this rain is a bitch.”

“If you’d only listen to me and get your cataracts fixed—”

“Anne’s right, Jimbo,” Roger says. “It’s been a game changer for me.”

In one point seven miles take a slight left onto Blake Boulevard.

“Actually,” Dorothy says, “it’s the only operation that makes you better than you were before.” She giggles. “It even made my ex a better dresser.”

“Another country heard from,” Anne says.

“Okay, everybody, thanks for sharing,” Jim says. “I’m trying to concentrate right now.”

They ride in silence while Jim thinks how much he dreads driving at night and always having to be the designated driver. It’s one hell of a price to pay for being sober. And driving in this downpour and reacting to signs that he’s not familiar with ties his stomach in knots. And he used to be such a good driver, but it seems that ever since he turned seventy-five his self-confidence has been shot to hell; that he’s struggled to get so many things right. He sighs. Maybe Anne’s right; maybe he is becoming a shell of his former self.

Anne interrupts his thoughts. “Whoa Jim, pay attention. You’re way over to the right.”

“I’m fine,” Jim says.

“Well you’re not sitting where I am and you’re making me nervous.”

In a half a mile turn right onto Route 326 south.

“I think south’s the first exit,” Roger says.

“What’s the arrival time now?” Anne asks. “I’ve got to pee.”

“Twenty-one after,” Roger says. “Okay, three twenty-six coming up.”

Jim puts on his turn signal and slows the car as he exits Blake Boulevard.

“Jesus, no,” Anne screams. “You want 326 south, not north.”

“But Roger said it was the first exit,” Jim says. “And the township commissioner should know.”

“I said I thought it was, Jimbo. You’ve got to do what the Maps lady says, not me.”

Dorothy giggles. “My ex used to call her Our Lady of the Dashboard.”

In six tenths of a mile make a U-turn on route 73.

“Okay everybody, okay,” Jim says. “We’ve only wasted four or five minutes.”

“That’s an eternity for me,” Anne says.

“Sorry, I thought Roger said—”

Turn left onto Blake Boulevard. In half a mile turn right onto 326 south.

“See, Jimbo. It’s so simple if you do what she says,” Roger says.

Jim says that’s the story of his life.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Jim, stop feeling sorry for yourself and step on it,” Anne says.

Once on 326 south they pass under a lighted sign warning of deer crossings.

“All good,” Roger says. “Home in twelve minutes.”

The rain falls more heavily. Up ahead a car has pulled to the side of the road, its hazards blinking. Jim sets his wipers at full speed when someone—or everyone—yells, “Jim!” and there is a loud crunching sound and his car veers to the left.

“Oh, my God,” Anne says.

“What the hell was that?” Jim asks.

“A deer,” Roger says. “They’re a real issue—”

“It wasn’t a deer,” Dorothy says. “It was a man. He was waving—”

“I’ve got to stop,” Jim says.

“In this weather?” Anne says. “No way. Besides, some Good Samaritan is sure to stop for him.”

Roger says that he’s with Anne; and besides it wasn’t Jimbo’s fault; and what’s more, he can’t afford to get involved with something like this.

“But what if he’s badly injured?” Dorothy says. “What if he’s—?”

“Please, Dorothy, stay out of this,” Anne says.

In a half-mile turn right onto Crestwood Lane. The destination is on the left.

“Drive, Jim,” Anne says. “Please, just drive.”

Jim thinks that Anne is right and for a moment takes his foot from the accelerator.

About the Author:

Harry Groome

Harry Groome’s short stories, poems and articles have appearedin dozens of magazines and anthologies and have won numerous awards including a nomination for a Pushcart Prize. Harry is the author of three novels: Wing Walking, Thirty Below and The Best of Families as well as the Stieg Larsson parody The Girl Who Fished with a Worm. Visit Harry at his website