Magic Lake Picnic
The gas gauge was broken so Essie drove it first to the am/pm for gas. She checked the water and oil. It was low about a quart. She bought a quart and put it in.
“Hey, that’s cool a woman who knows her way around a car,” Maddie said looking at her with new respect.
“I’m just afraid eet eez not gonna start tomorrow. We otta drive a leetle jus’ to charge eet up an’ get a feel for eet.”
“OK, Let’s go up to the lake and have a picnic dinner,” said Maddie rubbing her hands “I am so glad you were scared las’ night. I usually got nothin’ to do on Sundays.”
“Then you gotta do your homework, OK?” Essie said in her best business voice.
”Alright, Mom,” Maddie said rolling her eyes.
“Ees there a place where you can get a book in this town.”
“Not on Sunday. But, the store’s got magazines. Their open until 8.”
“Ok lets go get a magazine for me for tonight. I gotta have somethin’ to read. I hate de TV, I gotta tell ya.”
“Sunday night? But you got cable at the motel dontcha?”
“yeah, but it really sucks,” Essie put her hand over her mouth, “forget I said that.”
“You are only fifteen, I shouldn’t teach you bad ways.”
“Shoot, Debbie swears like two sailors and a whore. I got better mannerzan her anyday. An’, she’s my Mom. My Dad all he ever did was talk about sex and drinking, an’ I don’t do none of that, so I ain’t learnin’ by example, that’s for sure.”
Essie shook her head and turned the key while saying a small prayer under her breath. It groaned and turned over a little more smoothly this time.
“See you got the magic touch with cars, Essie!” Maddie shouted over the hammering of the engine.
“Yes an we gonna need every beet of eet, Iyam thinkin’.”
They went to Maddie’s. Essie stayed out in the car with the motor running while Maddie ran in and grabbed the food. Debbie and Matt were gone so there were no questions. Maddie wrote a quick note to Debbie saying she would be back around 8 for homework and dashed out locking the door behind her.
“I got our stuff and coupla soda’s and beer for you,” Maddie said.
“You shouldn’t take things for me. Won’t your Mom think your drinking eet.”
“No, you kiddin’ the way she and Matt put em away they don’t keep track.”
They drove up the highway about 2 miles and turned on to a gravel road that wound through golden grass. The sun was edging toward the horizon turning the clouds pink. The lake was a couple of rattling miles up the gravel road. By the time they arrived, it was pink in the glow of sun and more like a big pond than a real lake. There were dragonflies and mosquitoes and swallows skimmed across the water for bugs.
They found a spot under large oak tree where the grass was shorter and the roots of the tree were like chairs. The hum and buzz of the bugs and flutter and splash of birds and whisper hiss of grass and reeds played for them a song. They sat and ate in silence listening as the sun fell into the clouds and set them on fire.
“Thees ees perfect like magic.” Essie whispered awestruck.
“Sure is. Its like a dream and we can fly.” Maddie leapt up and ran flapping her arms and making long graceful leaps through the field toward the lake. Essie’s laugh choked off in a gasp as Maddie disappeared like she had fallen into a hole. Essie got up and ran her heart thumping. Maddie stood up beside her.
“Gotcha!” she yelled, and ran wildly away.
Essie ran shrieking after her, mad at first but then laughing hysterically, collapsing in the dry grass with a crackle hiss. Maddie came back and looked down at her.
”Essie did we ever check the headlights on that bugger.”
Essie’s heart jumped. “Sheet!” she yelled, jumping and running to the car. Sure enough no headlights.
Random followed the directions up into the hills east of the small town contained on the little point of land, up a winding barely paved road of not quite two lanes, and finally, up a gravel drive to a two story “A” frame summer house with a glass front facing the ocean. They all staggered out sleepily. Karen went up to the door, which opened before she reached it. Two thin arms reached out to embrace her. Random, who felt shaky and dazed from the trance of driving, it seemed as though they had drifted into a heavenly dimension of golden light and angels. The glow of the house mixed with slanting light of the sun that had sunk below the rumpled ceiling of clouds.
“Come in, come in! Thank you so much for getting my little Karen here safely. “ The old woman in the doorway was still clinging to Karen, who looked beat and sad.
“Grammy, Daddy’s dead. I came to tell you. I couldn’t stay. I’m so sorry.”
“Oh, honey, don’t you worry. I know. I called your Aunt Martha and she went up to his house found it unlocked. She made some calls and found out.”
Random felt like an intruder and went to the car to get the food and some things for the night.
“What are we gonna do now, Man?” Steve asked as Random came back toward the car.
“We’re gonna spend the night and go back around by Diablo tomorrow. I know a little hidden beach down the coast a bit. Maybe we could hang there a while.”
“The Man’s got a plan. Always gotta plan.”
Random laughed out loud and slapped Steve’s shoulder.
Driving in the Dark
“We gotta go now! Get the stuff Maddie!”
Essie cursed as she tried to start the car, but only flooded it and had to let it sit a few minutes. She tried again, forcing herself to be calm. It started, and Essie looked skyward and sighed a thank you to some vague higher power. By the time they were rolling back down the dusty gravel road it was dusk and all the colors had left the world.
“Sonovabeetch, I shoulda’ known not to bring dees piece a sheet out here.” Essie shouted as she raced over the bumpy road like a maniac. They made it to the highway in ten minutes and there was not much light left she was afraid to go too slow because someone might come up behind going too fast. Essie clutched the wheel with grim determination whispering alternate curses and prayers. They made it into to town without encountering another vehicle. Essie parked the car at the motel and finally breathed. Maddie had been silent the whole way, big eyed and closed lips. When Essie parked the car she flew out and around and slammed into Essie as she got out of drivers’ side with a big hug.
“You are awesome, bitch!” she roared and laughed.
“You really gotta to go home now, and I need some rest.” Essie said, looking drained and small. “Iyam glad you brought that beer I’m gonna need eet.”
Maddie smiled and nodded.
“I knew that would come in handy,”
Maddie stood smiling as she watched Essie get the picnic stuff out of the back.
“Good Night! Go and do your homework, before sometheen’ else strange happens.”
Maddie kissed her on the cheek and skipped away. She turned with a look of exaggerated seriousness and waggled her finger at Essie.
“And if you think I’m not goin’ with you tomorrow you are a crazy lady.”
“I weel pick you up at the bus,” Essie said too tired to argue.
“Two-thirty at the store!” Maddie said with finality. “Goonight, Essie. You are one cool chick. I am so psyched about tomorrow.”
Maddie turned and waved behind her as she did her happy dance across the parking lot. Essie could only shake her head as she watched Maddie out into the still forming darkness. She would drink the beer climb into bed and let sleep take care of the rest of the night.