A woman goes on a road trip to fulfill childhood dreams - for Rhythms and Writing Contest.
|Marta clenched her fists and tramped across the dusty parking lot toward Fallen Angels Bar. Nobody from out of town would know this shack was a bar because the sign blew away in a storm three years ago. Why bother with a replacement when every boy over the age of fourteen in Angel Fire, New Mexico knew this was the best place for cheap beer and women who dressed like strippers? She stormed through the door and wrinkled her nose at the stench of cigarette smoke.
Ted, her long-time fiancé, stood beside a pool table, one hand on his cue, the other on the hips of a teenager wearing a Daisy Duke top and a miniskirt. Marta felt distinctly overdressed in her diner waitress’s uniform. The petite teenager boasted rosebud lips, long blonde hair, and a tight tummy. She resembled Marta at seventeen before she put on a little weight and cut her hair short.
Ted spotted her and blinked. “Marta…?” His hand slid off the girl.
Marta grabbed a glass from a table and threw the beer in his face. “Douche!”
He ran his fingers through his copper-colored hair. “I…?”
She poked his muscular chest. “I’ve given you ten years. Every goddam day since our high school homecoming dance. I should have brought home a puppy instead. At least a dog would be faithful.”
Ted flashed his trademark panty-scorching smirk. “Babe, it’s not what it looks like. I can explain—”
Her punch crumpled his too-perfect nose, ending the conversation.
Two weeks later, Marta meandered between the used cars at Honest Bob’s Autos on the outskirts of town. She ran her hand across the warm hood of a Mustang convertible.
The plump, balding salesman—Honest Bob himself—hopped along beside her. “You obviously have great taste, ma’am.”
“It sure is purdy, but I need something practical.” She glanced at the ten-thousand-dollar price ticket. “And affordable.”
Bob’s smile slipped for a second then came back on full beam. “May I enquire about your plans and budget?”
“I’m taking a road trip to gain some perspective, and I have five-thousand dollars I scraped together for a wedding that ain’t gonna happen.”
He rubbed his hands. “I have several reliable cars in the five-thousand-dollar bracket—”
“Woah there, Bob. I have to set aside some dough for motel rooms and gas. Take that number and halve it.”
His lips curled into a grin. “I have just the vehicle.” He led Marta to a yard filled with vehicles in various states of disrepair.
“I need something that runs.”
“You won't be disappointed, ma’am.”
“Why do men always say that?”
He sauntered over to a blocky shape and pulled off a tarpaulin to reveal a bright-pink campervan.
“This here is a classic 1975 VW Type 2. It runs fine, sleeps two, and I can let it go for five-thousand bucks.”
“But, it’s pink.”
“Think about the savings on motel rooms.”
“It’s very pink.”
“It offers better gas mileage than a Mustang.”
Bob led her aside. “Let me be honest.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You’re a used-car salesman.”
“All right, let me be slightly less dishonest.” He waved at the campervan. “It’s a classic vehicle restored by its last owner. I expected it to sell for ten grand, but everyone reacts like you.”
She examined the van. “It really goes?”
“Like a dream.”
“Three thousand.” If she didn't need to pay for motel rooms, so she only needed to budget for gas.
“Done.” She shook his sweaty hand then wiped her palm on her jeans.
Next Sunday afternoon, Sue stamped her foot on Marta's driveway and pouted. “How can you do this to me, Smarty Pants?” With her long brunette hair and short summer dress, she'd changed little since high school.
Marta hugged her oldest friend. “Honey, I can’t stay around Angel Fire one minute longer.”
“What will I do?”
“You’ve still got Steve and the kids.”
“Things won’t be the same.” Sue followed Marta into the campervan and glanced around. “It’s kinda dinky but cool.”
“I know, right.”
“Shame about the—”
“Don’t say it.”
“The stars on the ceiling are nice, though. Very flower power.”
Sue perched on the edge of one of the two matching pink beds. “So, what's the plan?”
“Remember how we used to drool over Edward and Jacob at the movies.”
Sue giggled. “You were so, ‘Go, Team Edward! Vampires rock,’ and I was all, ‘But look at Jacob’s six-pack. Werewolves rule.’ But what’s that got to do with this campervan?”
Marta produced a dog-eared copy of Twilight. “I’m going to follow in Bella’s footsteps. A road trip to Phoenix and from there to Forks. After that, I’ll check out Olympic National Park.”
“Smarty, that’s kinda dorky.”
“Don’t diss me. I’m living my teenage dreams.”
Sue reached over and patted Marta’s stomach. “You ain’t a teen now. No more fries and shakes for you.”
“As if I have anyone to look good for.”
“Smarty, you’re adorable. Maybe you’ll meet someone on the road.”
Marta snorted. “I’ve had enough of men, thank you very much.”
One late morning a month after leaving Angelfire, Marta found herself driving along a dirt track somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, nothing but trees as far as she could see in every direction. Why did the road no longer resemble a road? Ah. She pulled into a clearing with a burnt patch in the center surrounded by rocks. Yeah, this wasn't the Hilton. So far, this whole RV camping adventure had proved a bust. The Home of the Swans in Forks wasn’t too bad, but perhaps the great outdoors wasn’t for her. She felt lonely traveling on her own.
Despite her qualms, she packed her small backpack and grabbed her mobile GPS unit—an essential for anybody with her navigational skills. She glanced through the options and selected a “moderate” eleven-mile hike from the All Trails app. The route would take her alongside a river and past a waterfall. She also packed bear spray. So far, she hadn’t seen any grizzlies, but they were Emmett’s favorite food in the book. Setting off into the trees, she smiled. She might be alone, but the air smelled wonderful. She’d never seen so much green. She soon found the riverbank, and the view was amazing. A kingfisher darted across the sparkling water, and she laughed. Perhaps the wilderness wasn’t all bad.
A whining noise caught her attention. She turned toward the sound then paused. Did she really want to step off the trail to investigate a mysterious noise in the deep, dark forest? She might be driving a VW campervan, but she wasn’t Velma or Daphne. The whine came again, louder. Some poor critter was in agony. She took a deep breath and stepped into the trees. Within seconds, she discovered a huge brown wolf lying on the ground. This wasn’t a cute bundle of fur like the werewolves in Twilight. This monster must weigh over two-hundred pounds. Was it sick?
The wolf’s head slowly rose, and it flashed its puppy dog eyes. Though trembling, she risked stepping closer to see what might be wrong. A beartrap gripped one of its feet. Seriously, a beartrap! She hesitated. She didn’t want to be bitten because she stopped to help. The wolf whined again, and she sighed. “Okay, Mr. Wolf. But don’t get all snarly on me when this hurts.”
She crouched over the trap. There were springs to either side of jaws activated by a trigger-thing in the middle. Marta attempted to pry open the jaws. That elicited a pained whine but didn’t open the trap. Lifting the trigger fixed nothing. Finally, she pressed down on the springs. That did the trick. The freed wolf jumped up quicker than she imagined possible, and she yelped as it leaped on her. Her squeal was followed by a splutter as a wet tongue wiped across her mouth.
“Yuck! Down, boy.”
Strangely, the wolf obeyed as if it understood. She whipped out her phone and snapped a photo. Her Instagram account would go viral. The wolf proceeded to lick its injured foot. Marta hated the thought she might have saved it from the trap only for the poor critter to starve to death with a lame leg, but there was nothing more she could do. Creeping away, she left the wolf to its wash. She returned to the trail, admiring the river and the waterfall. Occasionally, Marta spied flashes of brown fur between the trees. Although the wolf followed at a distance, it made no threatening moves toward her.
Once back in her campervan, she decided to eat and threw slices of bacon into a pan. Soon the interior filled with a delicious aroma. Then something scratched at the door.
Marta cautiously peered through the window. The wolf sat nearby, its tongue lolling out. It stared at her with puppy dog eyes and whined.
She stepped outside. “Seriously?”
The wolf whined again.
“What? Now you want to share my meal?”
The wolf stood and wagged its tail. Seriously, it wagged its tail.
“Jeez, you’re as demanding as a man.”
The bacon had burned while she was distracted, anyway. She pulled a dish out of the cupboard and poured in the contents of the pan. Outside, she warned the wolf, “It’s hot. You might want to wait a while.” She rolled her eyes at herself. “Yeah, as if you understood that.”
She fried more bacon then sat on her doorstep to enjoy the view while she ate. Looking over at the wolf, she discovered it hadn’t yet eaten. It watched her a moment, wagged its tail once more, then began eating, keeping her company.
When they finished, she reclaimed her bowl and climbed back into the campervan. A thud behind her caused her to turn. She hadn’t thought to close the door, and the wolf was inside. Her heart pounded. She carefully placed the bowl beside the sink and backed away. The wolf snorted, turned around three times on the spot, then promptly fell asleep in the middle of the floor.
Marta didn’t know what to do. They said let sleeping dogs lie, and she suspected that counted doubly so for wolves. After watching its chest rise and fall for two minutes, she relaxed. It clearly didn’t mean any harm, though she decided not to close the door in case it awoke and felt trapped. Outside, the sun headed toward the horizon, but she didn’t expect to sleep. Instead, she grabbed her copy of Twilight and claimed the driver’s seat.
Bright sunbeams forced Marta awake. For some reason, she’d fallen asleep in the driver’s seat. A distinctive doggy smell demanded her attention. She sat bolt upright. “Oh, fuck!” Slowly, she turned to see if she still had company. She blinked. “Wha…?”
A gigantic guy who looked to be in his thirties was curled up near the open door. He looked of Native American descent, with hair as black as midnight and olive-toned skin. He blinked his eyes, rose, and stretched. The fact he was naked didn’t phase him. He wasn’t pretty. He was actually somewhat ugly but with kind eyes and a rugged face that a girl could get used to. Besides, she’d never seen a body with guns like that outside of the movies.
“Erm…h-hello?” The word “werewolf” ran on a continuous loop inside her head.
He nodded. “Good morning. I’m Greatfoot.”
She glanced at his feet. They certainly were. In fact, the whole package looked pretty good. Sue was right all along. Marta should have cheered for Team Jacob. “I-I’m Marta.”
“Pleased to meet you, M-Marta.” He cricked his neck and glanced around. “You like pink?”
“It’s growing on me.”
“And you like animals.”
“Huh?” Could she be any more articulate?
“Well, once you feed strays, you’re stuck with 'em.”
She bit her lip. “What if I wanted to adopt a puppy?” Her cheeks blazed. She couldn’t believe she’d said that.
He smiled. “I’d say you camped in the right place.”
WORD COUNT: 2005