Starting Over

Last weekend early morning I got a call from my buddy Felix, he needed help moving another buddy. I gave him a quick lesson. His friend needed help. But he, Felix, wanted help. Needs may get taken care for free, but a want would envoke a cost, and a laugh, both at his expense. We agreed on he buying me a big breakfast next week.

I hopped in the truck and headed out. My GPS said the apartment complex was forty-five minutes away.

I’d been driving about two seconds when I noticed it. A bug on the windshield. I was just about to give it the windshield wiper and spray when Felix phoned up.

“Do you want a donut or coffee or anything? I want to pick them up something hot.”

“No, I’m fine,” I said, reaching for a bottle of water I’d thrown into a small cooler. I’d broughtten three bottles, in case I’d needed them. One definitely for the ride back. And one, for right now.

I was traveling at a bit of a clip now, on a rural road about a mile from the Highway 9 onramp. Highway 9 would then take about half my drive time. Then Highway 16A to finish up. I looked at the bug again.

Damn, I think it was two of them. Yeah, one on top of the other. Gross. I opted not to smear my window with their guts and just let the wind do its work. I sped up and wind! Do your thing! I could see the force was disturbing their antennas and whatnot. Good. Move it along.

Cars up ahead, I had to slow way down. And so, I could see the bugs relaxed.

Felix called again. He wanted to give me a head’s up that we might be rushed today, the moving van was only rented till late morning. The couple would have to hurry. What dopes, I thought. Don’t limit your time on a move day. Cut a swath of time. Oh well. That meant I could be loose outta there by lunch. Maybe.

I’d reached Highway 9 now. Light traffic, that was good. I sped up. I wasn’t going to kill myself though; their lack of emergency was not going to constitute my emergency. I should have that printed up on my next round of business cards!

I would have to clean it up of course. Something like, YOU’RE LACK OF EMERGENCY DOES NOT CONSTITUTE MY EMERGENCY or something like that.

My eyes were fixed on the bugs. The highway wasn’t knocking them off. I moved to the speed lane. Got it going to about eightly.

The wind was bothering them! Good! Get lost! They shuddered with the force. How they’re sticking on?

Cars slowing ahead. I switched lanes, barely cutting my speed. Try hanging on to this.

Man. How exactly are they managing to stay gripped?

Why do cars in the high speed lane always seem the first to slow down? That’s the lane to move at. There ain’t no exits. Dopes. Making it dangerous for everyone else. Zig-zagging around you and what all.

Why do dopes who have rented a moving truck not plan right? And how does Felix find these fools? Who’s the real dope in this situation? Me.

Felix if you were on the phone right now I’d offer you two breakfasts to pretend you’d never called.

Okay, clear lane. Eighty-five MPH.

Ha, ha, you disgusting idiots. Never felt this kind of sting before, have you? Nuh-uh!

Felix on the phone again. “Rick, a question, do you happen to have any singles, or fives on you?”

“I have some, sure. For the drive thru you mean?”

“No, I want to have some money to tip the driver.”

“Oh, sure, I have four singles and two fives.”

“Okay, I’m all out. Very good. That should be enough. You about halfway?”

“Why are we tipping a driver?”

“Yeah, the couple’s in a bad way. They had to drop the two movers from the agreement, there’s only a driver. That’s why we have a time crunch. Truck’s gotta get back.”

I was incredulous. “No movers?”

“No, that’s us,” Felix said. Then: “Rick, look. They’re starting over. Patty’s friend’s mom has a sister who’s an admin on a chat board who knows this gal whose brother and wife are moving up here. And I got volunteered. Okay, I’m just pulling in now. I’ll get started with the husband. We have a lot to unload. GPS will take you into the complex and you’ll see the truck. On the right.”

“Wait! Where are they coming from?”

“Alabama. Okay Rick I gotta go!”

I was angry. Angry at Felix, for laying this on me with no preparation or anything. This was going to take hours. All day. I didn’t care about the couple of bucks. He had to have putten more thought into it.

Alabama to Connecticut was a long way to go. Who does that? Who doesn’t plan the move right? How again did Felix find these people?

Ugh.

Alabama to Connecticut was a long way to come. Actually that was a better way to phrase it. I took another swig of water. Oh, damn it. That had to have been a tough ride. What did I know?

What did I know. A man and a woman, were coming a thousand miles or whatever. Not a lot of money, obviously. Not a lot of planning. Felix somehow, got involved. Supposably he had some knowledge or connection to them through his wife. It was to be foreseen exactly how he got volunteered. He probably found out a few minutes before calling me this morning. And I had to have left my ringer on!

I suddenly felt very, very stupid.

I was complaining about my Saturday being ruined, helping a guy move. I thought it was a couch or something. But a couple and their stuff? I wasn’t sure about, I mean, what were we walking into?

Still being stupid! What were these people walking into? That was the thing.

Right, Rick?

They were the ones who should be all up in knots. I turned the radio on, to find a song. I found nothing.

Up in knots, I’m sure. Riding into Parwich County without much on their side. Felix, the good guy, always a good guy, was probably the only helper around. Their friend. Not really their friend. A set of hands. Getting on it right now. Making sure it got done.

Felix is a helping kinda guy. I know that.

What had he’d said? He wanted to pick them up something hot? Hot, as in breakfast? As in, they’d not of eaten so far today? How would he know that? Maybe he didn’t need to have it spelled out for him.

But a thick head like me? Did.

What a damn jerk I was. Those people needed some breaks, starting over.

Ooo, sheese! A truck nearly side-swiped me! I had to change a lane, without seeing if it’s clear!

The swerve force was so strong my water bottle jumped the console holder and hit the passenger floor. Cap’s on it, that’s okay. And the bugs–the bugs! They were hanging on for dear life.

I couldn’t believe what I blurted out aloud: “You’re gonna be all right.”

Rick, you damn fool. What had you’d said.

“Hang on. Halfway there. More than.”

I clenched the steering wheel, staring at them two. They’d been hanging on for thirty minutes. Woo, it was sure funny for me, wasn’t it. Watching them struggle. Oh man. I cut my speed and got over to the slow lane. It was an exit lane, so I had to watch out for that.

Okay, that was better. They relaxed a bit. I could tell from how they adjusted their knee-thingies. Was he getting tired? The bottom one?

What was this like? The top one must be getting tired too.

Rick, you idiot. You are going to tell exactly no one what the hell you’re doing. You are never going to recount this to anybody. You’re going to drive and it’s just like any other freaking time you been driving. Don’t look at them. They’re damn bugs. You don’t care. You got that? Good boy.

They have wings, they will fly away, they will be fine.

They will find their way without any help from you.

I went to grab another water, no, changed my mind, I could hold off, I was okay. Even if I did pack them in ice. Maybe reach the roly-poly one? On the floor? Nope, bad idea. I could wait.

You are the ugliest bugs, you know that. Ever see yourselves from the bottom? I don’t think so. I don’t recommend it. But you can sure hang on. So just please, keep at it. Almost there.

Then I got an idea. It’s true, as much as I wanted to I couldn’t stop, we needed to get to the move. I was going fifty, as slow as possible really. My idea was, the bugs are treating this like a wind storm. And this storm will pass. An hour, you’ve hung on to gales for an hour, haven’t you?

(Watch for Starting Over, the conclusion, coming in April).

Two on the windshield for a harrowing ride, and starting over.

About Ara Hagopian's The LITERATE Show

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed drawing beautiful shapes and writing complementary stories. The imagery tends to focus on our place in the world—whomever or whatever we may be. I am influenced by Twentieth Century history—I read vintage magazines, books and letters. Inspiration comes from visualizing human achievement and personal interaction—derived from people, places and things which may be obscure, but never insignificant. My pen-and-ink THE MAGNIFICENT RECOVERY was selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for their 2008 summer art auction.
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