Excuse

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: April 25, 2016

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Submitted: April 25, 2016

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I have a dinner date with Charlotte at Jack's Bistro; 8:00 sharp.  The last two dates I have had with her were utter disasters, but through the graciousness of her heart she has given me one last chance to get my act together.  That's why I a am spraying the finishing touches on my hair and donning my trumpet tie now; at 5:00.  I plan to strap on my coat, feed the hamster his fill, and leave my abode within the quarter of the hour.  That should allow me plenty of time.  I hope.

Five minutes ahead of schedule, I entered my scatter-tooled garage and locked the back door of my mortgaged house with a Garfield dangling key chain.  Charlotte is a flight attendant on American Airlines, frequently making round trips from the relatively pure, clean air of San Diego to the smoggy, God knows how poisonous air of L.A.  Coming home from a Thanksgiving reunion fiasco with my irascible relatives in San Diego, I met her on one of these frequent flier trips.  As she stumbled down the aisle to check to see if my seat belt was fastened properly, I knew she was for me.  What mesmerizing blond hair ad languid blue eyes!  And oh how her smile lifted me thousands of feet off the ground!

I opened a rusty toolbox and replaced a wrench and bolt in the appropriate slots.  Sorry, back to Charlotte.  I must admit that from the start our relationship did not get off on the right foot, or should I say, the right toe.  After tenderly caressing my shirt to check the seat belt alignment, she took a wrong step and crunched my toe with the heel of her pump.  As the flight progressed, however, I learned a lot of invaluable information about her life.  Through two beverage spills, an elbow blow to the head, and one severely damaged toe, I realized just how sweet and sensitive Charlotte was.  I gave her my phone number after the flight landed.

By the handle I grasped a coarse-haired broom and swept some indiscernible debris under my work bench.  Oops, there I go again!  A week after that fateful flight, Charlotte called me to set up a dinner date at Jack's Bistro, a nice cozy place to enjoy a palatable selection of cuisine by candlelight.  We agreed to meet there that Thursday at 8:00.  Now, Jack's Bistro is just a short drive away from my house, without traffic of course.  Not taking this possible setback into consideration, I left my garage at 7:40 and drove on my merry way.  At the corner of Lightning Avenue was when trouble struck.  An ungrateful VMW bug happened to stall in the middle of the street up a ways, and traffic congested for three mils.  I arrived at Jack's Bistro a half hour late.

I gripped a flyswatter and smacked some ugly looking, four legged insect venturing over my layout designs.  I just can't contain myself!  So anyway, I sure got a smack of my own medicine when I showed up late at Jack's Bistro that night.  I told Charlotte my excuse of why I was late, and even apologized for good measure, but it was hardly adequate.  Having a neurotic obsession with punctuality,  Charlotte chided me nonstop about how promptness makes the world go around.  She lectured me on the intricacies of appointments and schedules, and how by not keeping up with them I spoil the flow of time.  I vainly expressed my opinion that I did not see how a person could spoil the flow of time by not adhering to appointments and schedules; the last time I looked my Garfield and friends wristwatch ticked on without a glitch in flow.  But Charlotte continued to poke away at my carefree sense of time, and by the end of dinner I was reduced to the smallest increment of a nanosecond.

I can understand why Charlotte might be overly attentive to time schedules.  As a flight attendant, it is crucial she board flights on time.  And now, after many years of careful attention to time, there is ingrained in her a precise clock mechanism that moves her in a steady tempo, never allowing her to miss a beat.  So, the second time Charlotte and I arranged a dinner date at Jack's Bistro at 8:00, I left my garage a whole hour early.  I was sure this would be enough time to travel a meager distance of five miles.  Wrong!  Construction transformed the streets into a war zone; red flags blowing, workers digging with picks, huge trucks barricading every pathway of road.  It took forever for my Honda Accord to snail-crawl five clogged up miles.  I was late again, but only by fifteen minutes.

That didn't matter to Charlotte.  My excuse just wasn't good enough.  She said I should have checked the traffic repots on the radio, and planned accordingly.  Drawing no advantage in arguing, I just let her vent off steam.  The date was a total bust, to say the least.

This is my last chance to prove to the girl of my dreams that I can be punctual.  Otherwise, I'll lose her for sure.

As I neared my car, a shiny copper penny shimmered underneath the left rear tire.  Although not superstitious at heart, I saw myself bending down for closer inspection.  Sliding it out carefully, I placed the penny in my one clean palm.  I stood up and stared at the valueless slice of metal in awe.  Wow, a lucky charm right underneath the tire of my car!  Not wanting to waste another minute, I gave the coin a high flip in the air and, as if my well of new mined luck would serve me well, clicked my heels and skipped inside my Honda.

T-minus two hours and 45 minutes before date extermination.  I opened the garage door with a Garfield-stickered remote and watched with fiery eyes as the barrier creased upward into the ceiling.  I know it sounds cliche, but I am a man on a mission.  There is no way on earth I will be stopped this time.  Not with my lucky charm with me, anyway.

I drove the car out of my garage and onto the adjoining street.  A million disasters went racing through my mind.  What if I get a flat tire?  What if the engine flakes out?  What if I become a horrible crash victim?  What if.........?

But none of those imagined disasters befell me, even though more and more disasters, however implausible, bombarded my thoughts.  I came hurtling at the first stoplight like a comet possessed.  This is it, I thought.  If I make it through this light without stopping, then I'm home clear.  If not, then I've got a long night ahead of me.

As it happened, the light stayed green and almost seemed to radiate a friendly smile upon me as I passed uninhibited.  The rest of the five mile trip flowed just as easily, not missing even missing one light.  It was as if all the signals were part of a benevolent plan to unite me with my dearest love Charlotte.  Besides the kindly help of the lights, there was practically no traffic anywhere, absolutely no construction work being done, and not one accident in sight of miles.

I thought, this is too easy.  Pretty soon something has to come across my path and obstruct me.  But nothing as such came across my path, and as I neared to within two blocks of Jack's bistro, I thought how idiotic and paranoid of me to leave a whole three hours early from my house to putter a distance a distance of five miles.  What in the dickens will I do to kill all that annoying time I have left for myself?  Thinking of dining and dazzling the lovely Charlotte under sensuous fire of golden candlelight and taking her smooth, creamy hands into mine and...........

The light just up ahead changed to yellow.  I had two options at this point.  One, I could speed up and take the light head on in order to preserve the streak of consecutive lights made.  Or two, I could calmly apply the brake and bask in the glory of my achievement.  I opted for the latter, and so the comet hurtled to a complete stop for the first time.

I stretched my hands outright and breathed with much ease.  Jack's Bistro was only one block ahead.  What could possibly impede my progress now?

The light glowed red for an unusual amount of time.  It seemed to be mocking at me as the few cars that were on the road took their turn in sequence.  Was it my imagination, or was this light purposely skipping my turn?

Another round and still a red light.  I've had enough of this.  As soon as there's a clearing, I'm going through.

On the right side of me was "Bob's Baby Burst", a store bursting with baby supplies of every possible dimension.  A pregnant lady and her dutiful husband came waddling out of the store with bags of baby junk hand in hand.  At an instant the pregnant lady doubled over and dropped both of her bags on the sidewalk.  The husband quickly supported his wife and it was plain the first stage of labor had set in.  The husband began twisting his head this way and that, as if desiring to locate a ride of some sort.

I didn't like how this scene was progressing, so I set on plowing on ahead of the signal as soon as a slight clearing developed.  But then, out of nowhere, a surge of cars blocked the intersection for just enough time to allow the husband and his laboring wife to waddle to the passenger window of my car.  The husband knocked frantically on the glass, its dead thumping noise regretfully reaching my ears.

The thumping noise gnawed at my civic duty, so I leaned over and rolled down the window.  The husband perched his head inside, smelling of nauseously sweet baby powder.  "My wife's going into labor."  he pleaded.  "Our ride won't be back for another hour at least."  He was swallowing hard now.  "If you could just take us to the local hospital, we'd be very appreciative."

I waved my hand beckoningly, almost slapping my cheek in astonishment.  The husband and his wife waddled into the back seat with all their baby gunk blocking my rear view.  Well, this isn't too bad, I reasoned.  The local hospital is only 20 miles out of the way.  At the most this would take an hour to complete and I had a surplus of time to play with yet.  It would definitely make good dinner conversation with Charlotte.  I could see it in tomorrows' headlines, "Man makes extra special delivery to hospital".

"All right, don't panic."  I calmed.  "I'll get you there as fast as you can change a diaper."

My rear view mirror told me the man wasn't paying much attention to me.  He occupied tending to his wife.  "Now, you know what our doctor told us to do.  Breath in..........breath out........breath in........breath out.........that's it, keep going honey.........breath in...."

The light up ahead, after mending some loose connections, finally turned green.  I increased my speed up to 35 and kept my eye out for the freeway entrance.  "Is this your first?"

"Breath out..........huh? - Oh, why, indeed it is."  The father to be took a peek out his window.  "You know how to get there, don't you?"

"Sure.  Take 31 straight in to Mackany Street.  Drive down to Shepherd Avenue and take a left.  The hospital is three lights down, if I remember well enough.  It's been awhile since my last checkup."

The future father curtly replied.  "You remember well enough."  And continued tending  his wife.  "C'mon now, keep it up.  Breath in.....breath out......"

A sixth sense somewhere informed me I wasn't going to get too far with this fanatical husband, so I sealed my lips shut.  I was on 31 now, regulating my speed at 70.  The everlasting squeals of pain from the lady and solicitous promptings from the man was not the greatest music to my ears, so I switched on the nearest radio station.  That's more like it; a little Rolling Stones to soothe the soul.

It was a quarter to 6:00 and I was stopped one light before the local hospital.  Like the last time I was stopped before Jack's Bistro, the light seemed to be skipping my turn on purpose.  What is this sick twisted scheme the signals are plotting  against me?  I didn't dare answer that question.

The husband behind me sensed the plotting too, and said with hysteria.  "Go through already.  This is an emergency for crying out loud!"

The wife responded with a window-cracking cry of her own, immediately drawing the man back to her attention.  "Don't worry, sugar.  Everything's dandy.  Keep up that breathing for me.  Breath in..... breath out...."

From my estimation, traffic was even lighter this side of town.  Now, I don't pretend to understand every bit of craziness in this contorted world of ours, but out of the dark-blue sky came another rush of automobiles like I've never seen before.  The cars kept pouring through like an open canal.  I mean, there was absolutely no chance I was going to get by until the light changed green.

I drummed my fingernails on the wheel fretfully.  More accidentally than intentionally, I looked out across the sidewalk on my immediate left.

In the weakening rays of sunlight stood a short 5'4 pipsqueak male leaning against a newspaper stand.  He wore deep blue plastic sunglasses with pull up shades, a weighty trench coat of an unidentifiable color, and a spiffy new brand of red spiral-striped trousers that has infixed its way into the teenager's mode of clothing.  Twined around his bushy bangs was a round-rimmed straw hat that hung over to his eyebrows.

I didn't know what to think of the fashion-misfit standing with the sports section spread out.  Who does this guy think he is?  Is he some country farmer with that out-of-date straw hat tied on his head?  How about a Blues-Brother want to be with that tired out pair of sunglasses?  Or perhaps a middle-aged, pathetic attempt to fit in with the younger generation with those trendy pants?

The longer I analyzed the peculiar man standing with the paper the ore weary my eyes grew.  And then I swore I saw a ..........No, couldn't be.  Must be my delusional eyes telling me to mind my business.  The man made a jerky head motion and intercepted by disbelieving eyes.  Yes, there it was.  Underneath the newspaper he was holding a ..........and he was walking straight for me!

The next few seconds were hazy with increasing cloudiness.  The man darted to the passenger side of the Honda with a silencer pistol clenched in both hands.  I saw him shouting but didn't grasp the words.  The light ahead remained red but the torrent of cars crossing ceased.  If I wanted to, I could plow on ahead of the signal and leave the crazed man in my exhaust.  But one more look told me this guy was beyond crazed and more in the lines of maniacal.  His hands were shaking and his eyes were bugging out.  I wasn't feeling risk taking at this juncture of my excursion, especially with a pregnant lady and a husband in my care.  So, I leaned over and unlocked the passenger side door.

The carjacker jumped in and pointed his gun at my earlobe.  The fanatical husband behind me just now caught on to the intrusion, and halted his promptings in mid-prompt.  "Breath in...........Oh my sweet Jesus!  Don't shoot, don't shoot.  We've got a pregnant woman in the house."  The lady screamed on, more out of pain than out of fear.

The pipsqueak male cracked a warm smile, as if he were Jolly Saint?  This is after all an emergency, and I have a lot of cash to give out."

Ray turned suddenly from jolly to agitated.  He whipped around at the couple and gave them a point blank look at the barrel of the silencer.  He raised his voice and said in a non-joking manner, "I don't have time for this.  You'd better shut your trap without so much of a peep out of you, or else you'll get close and personal with this."  Ray twirled the silencer like an old-fashioned gunslinger.  "And as for your pretty lady, try to keep her as quiet as possible.  Let's make this ride a pleasant one, O.K.?"  Ray held his gaze on the couple for that extra second and then focused on me with the silencer back on my earlobe.  "Well jeez, get moving already.  And turn off the blasted radio station while you're at it."

I put the pedal to the metal and off went the Honda, carrying inside it the rare combination of driver, pregnant lady, husband, and carjacker.  I started doing some mental math in my head.  Hmmm.  It's now 5:55.  The airport is 50 miles away and, depending on what rout is taken and how fast I am required to drive, it could take 50 minutes or longer to arrive there.  Then, the return back to the hospital to drop off the couple will take another 50 minutes.  And then the home stretch all the way back to Jack's Bistro will eclipse 20 more minutes, leaving me five minutes of pocket change to park my car and promptly seat myself before the lovely Charlotte at 8:00 sharp.  I know the stakes are high, that is why my wristwatch is exactly in sync with POPCORN.

Past the local hospital we went, only to the mild complaint of the husband and a diminished squeal out of the pregnant lady.  We went through four straight signals, all of them green, and then the carjacker took charge.  "Get on this freeway coming up, and drive as fast as you can without bumping cars off the road or blowing out the engine."

I did as told, and on the account of sparse traffic, cranked the speed to 95.  In no time at all, within two exit signs to be exact, it became eerily hushed.  Not even the pregnant lady uttered a squeak of labor pain in the back seat.  Maybe the fright and shock of this episode has numbed any pain she might have felt.

I drove on relentlessly for many minutes, counting down one by one to my detonation time of 8:00.  Probably because of the rising tension, any remaining air inside the car got stuffier and hotter.  I considered sliding on the air conditioning, but then declined because overheating the engine would be too risky.  It was becoming more unbearable by the second.  I glanced back and saw the pregnant lady fanning herself with a puffy hand and the husband slumped off the side with closed eyes.  I thought I'd give everyone more breathing room by rolling down my window a shade, but Ray caught on like a tick.  "Oh no you don't.  Just roll that sucker back all the way up.  No funny stuff, joker."  and then he let out a cackling laugh.

I obliged, and once again we were sealed air tight.  The situation continued like this for miles: the gun pointed at my earlobe, the tension and air temperature popping off the thermometer, the pregnant lady and husband quiet and feeling ill, and me driving at 95mph fretting if I would ever get back to Jack Bistro's in time to dazzle the lovely Charlotte under a candlelight dinner with her creamy hands in mine, gazing into her sapphire eyes with her long hair falling off her incredibly soft skin and.......

Something broke the string of silence.  The sound was soft and unrecognizable at first, but grew until any idiot could tell it was a police siren.  There was nothing unordinary about this siren to Ray, however.  He twitched his head around and looked through the back window with dismay written all over his face.  "Holy smoking cow."  he almost swore.  "They found me.  How is that possible?"  He turned to me and asked again plaintively.  "How is that possible?"

I countered the question with a question.  "Would you like a change of course perhaps?"

Ray took the suggestion warmly.  "Why, that's a great idea cabby.  Next time I'll definitely hire you for the job.  Now, off the freeway at the next exit.  I know a roundabout way of getting to the airport.  I'm sure we can lose these trailers that way."

The one siren grew into multiple sirens, and when the Honda sped onto the freeway exit, five police cars were trailing behind in hot pursuit.  The exit ramp dipped down to an eventual red light.  Compulsively I stepped on the brake, not knowing that Ray was shaking his finger.  "Go on through.  It's open."  I went through the red light, and the police cars invoked the law to keep trailing.  We went down a long, straight main road for five stop lights, all of them green.  At the next light, Ray spitted on my earlobe, "Turn left right here!"

I thrusted the wheel and the Honda screeched and shimmied in the now murky dark night.  We turned on a residential street, just on the fringe of a major housing project called "Highland Point".  The street we were on was very long, stretching invisible in the night all the way around the project.  Ray tapped me on the shoulder with the tip of his gun and said, "O.K., listen.  I want you to go down two more streets and turn right.  Then go two more streets down and turn left.  Then repeat the process as many times as it takes to lose these trailers.  Got it?"

I nodded with gritted teeth.  "Got it."

"Don't worry, we won't wind up in a cul-de-sac or anything.  This section is like a big maze, but all interconnected like a crossword puzzle.  I should know, I live here after all."

"Is that so?"  I said with short breath.  "Perhaps we could stop by at your house for a drink of coffee and appetizers."

Ray liked that one.  He slapped a knee and bawled,  "You're outrageous, joker.  Your attitude under the circumstances blows my mind."

I took a look back at my fellow passengers.  "You better have your seat belts strapped on fast back there.  We're going to make some sharp turns so grab onto a door handle or something."

Two streets came and went, and then I turned right like the mastermind said.  The pregnant lady, who was as silent as a mouse the last twenty miles or so, decided it was time to start the labor pains again, and yelled on a very high note as we all veered a tight right turn.

The police were not thrown off track, and as expected, another round of screeching tires fired off.  Another two streets came and went with the same result, first my car screeching and then five more screeching.  This process was repeated several times, a perpetually dizzying zigzag through the heart of "Highland Point".

After each screeching turn I looked back to check on our gain or loss, but the cluster of headlights always remained the same size.  I braced an oncoming turn.  The pregnant lady saw it coming and yelled, contributing to my head pain.  Again another sharp turn, also contributing to head pain as well as nausea.  Just how large is this housing project anyway?  We can't keep this up for too much longer.

I was right in my thinking.  At the next left turn we arrived all the way at the other fringe of the housing project, and we continued once again down a long, straight road invisible in the light less night.

I settled on 75mph, about as fast as I was willing to push my poor dying Honda.  The police cars were much more willing to go faster, and were gaining feet by the second.  Ray, my backseat driver, said plainly, "Go faster."

I prayed and sped up, the Honda on its last legs.  I regained some ground, but the police confiscated it right back.  Ray, the cool customer, lipped me some encouragement.  "The airport is at the end of this stretch of road five miles ahead.  If we can just hold them off a little longer, we can lose them at the airport and I'll be home free."

"Must be some trip you have planned."  I joked.

"You don't know the third of it.  But I'll tell you what, I'll sure miss you, joker.  Sure you don't want to hop on board the plane with me to Tahiti?  It'll be some kind of ride, even better than this!"

This guy was a trip!  We'll never make it to the airport.  I was going as fast as my Honda could and the police are too strong.  They'll overtake us in less than a mile at this rate and we have, what did he say, five miles left to go?  "Sounds tempting Ray, but you go on by yourself and have a good time."

Ray was whining.  "Are you positive?  I'd really love to have you along."

This was getting aggravating and silly.  "No, really Ray.  I think it's for the best if you go along without me."

Ray pouted his lip.  "Ah, well shucks then."

"Sorry Ray.  Really I am........"

"What on God's Earth is that?"  the pregnant lady yelled between contractions.

The husband, part delirious, leaned on his wife.  "Where, honey?"

"Up in the sky.  The flashing lights, like a flying saucer."

Ray looked over at the couple.  "What are you two yakking about?  I thought I told you two to shut up."

The husband perked up for the first time since the carjacking.  "Something is swooping down at us from the sky."  He pointed,  "Over there.  The flashing lights."

"Excuse me?"  Ray pushed my head forward to get a shot of the sighting.  "Well I'll be a mother's uncle.  The sun of a gun is right on top of us!  Faster, go faster I say!"

Yeah dummy, like that will help, I thought.  Don't you think there's the smallest chance that a superior spacecraft coming from another world can outrun a measly car, if in a million years that is what you see?  Jeesh!

Things got officially horrifying when a blast of something bright hit the road yards up, melting the pavement away into a chasm of a pothole.  I dodged the hole and recentered on the road.  As if I wasn't convinced enough, I swayed my eyes and took in the UFO.  It was indeed very impressive, and very big.  As more blasts took aim at us and the five police cars, I thought what dinner conversation this would make with Charlotte, the most wild and preposterous of any truthful excuse ever told!  That is if I don't make it to her in time.  The events of it all were racing in me.  A man who picks up a husband and his pregnant wife off the sidewalk gets carjacked by a maniac, and as he drives the whole party to any airport he gets chased by five police cars and fired at by a big flying saucer!  How would it all resolve?

It resolved leaving me with forty seconds to seat myself before the lovely Charlotte.  I couldn't quite believe I was going to make it after everything I went through trying to drive a meager five miles from my house to Jack's Bistro.  But it was me who was going to have the last laugh this time.  Fate through everything it had in my face and I overcame, just as fate will unite me and Charlotte in sweet bliss.

I parked the Honda in the very last space in the parking lot beside Jack's Bistro.  I got out of the car and, well, why not? I have a few seconds leftover to explain how this trip came to an end.  Well, the spaceship kept blasting away, looking for a fight.  One of the blasts struck the leading police car, making it spin in circles.  The other four police cars crashed into the leading police car, concocting a nice crash pile of torn metal.  The UFO, happy with winning the fight, retreated into the night sky and disappeared.  Soon afterwards I pulled up to the airport.  Ray beckoned me to come with him once more and I politely declined, sending Ray off to the getaway land of Tahiti..  After seeing Ray off, I zoomed back to the hospital in 45 minutes.  The pregnant lady was deeper in labor than ever and the couple departed with the husband holding and prompting his wife.  The final stop retraced me back here, to the very front entrance of Jack's Bistro with twenty seconds to walk over to Charlotte's table.  It was a tiring haul, but I am about to enter a new phase of love and companionship.

I pushed on the doorhandle of Jack's Bistro and sure as beans it didn't budge.  I applied more pressure as I felt the pressure of more seconds ticking from my wristwatch.  Still the door was stuck.  I plastered my eyes on the glass and there she was, a fat woman blocking the entranceway.  My knocking gave way to pounding.  15 seconds left.  I pulled my voice out of a suction pump and screamed, "Move out of the way, fatty.  Let me in.  This is an emergency!"  The woman moved slowly out of the doorway, more seconds elapsing.  I burst inside and ran to the lounge area, ten seconds left.  I bumped a waiter and dashed to the table where me and Charlotte ate here the last two dinners and, of course she wasn't there, it would just make it too easy.  Five seconds left.  The only place left was a small area around back.  I sprinted the last leg of this crazy race with my all, not caring if I should faint before I finish.  And then I saw her at the last table set for two, her eyes strictly adhering to her watch which was, I should imagine, in precise synchronization with mine.  I leaned my head forward into my side of the booth, trying to edge out that extra hundredth of a second that runners often do.  And then I was in, beating the clock I was sure of it.  Oh, Charlotte at last we meet on time, at last we may proceed in enduring love.

Charlotte's face didn't as much as twitch as she squared me cold in the eyes.  I started to doubt myself, feeling the emptiness of my self-worth.  Charlotte began tapping the face of her golden watch and gave her nose a wrinkle.  My insides were shriveling as I read the signs of anger.  And any hope that I was the fool to cling to was ripped out of me when she clashed a red hot fist on the sleek tablecloth and hissed with biting teeth, "You better have one good excuse!"

 

 

 

 

 


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