Artist: Olivia Steele
by Christopher Bell
“I still don’t know what to do with that spare room.” Elaine let her fingers edge in and out of the window. “I mean, it can’t just be for all that shit we don’t wanna deal with.”
“I thought that’s why we got the two bedroom.” Tim drove faster than usual in the left lane.
His stomach had fluctuated from one cardboard box to the next, settling into a nervous calm by the time they’d finished moving. Neither one had quite grasped the space, their individual essentials filling various corners, uncertain of how they’d blend.
“It’s just nice to have,” Elaine said. “In case either one of us has a project.”
“I’m open to suggestions,” Tim slowed at a red light behind a black Ford truck.
“You think we should collaborate on something?” she smiled.
“Yeah, sure, I’d be down. Do you wanna start a band, or a blog?”
“We could podcast, but then you need a snappy pun of a name to go with your theme.”
“What could our theme be?” Tim eased into the gas pedal, the truck slowly puttering through the light.
“No idea,” Elaine replied. “I hate listening to some of those couples, though.”
“And you’re afraid we’ll eventually turn into them if we start one?” Tim suggested.
“Not necessarily at first, but maybe after few, when it becomes an obligation, and then there’s a night where one of us doesn’t wanna do it, and pretty soon it’s a problem.”
“Even though we’re just talking hypothetically right now, right?”
“Sure, of course,” Elaine spoke too quickly. “Either way, we need a theme first.”
Tim wasn’t sure how to respond, his brain searching for puns while the truck’s speed fluctuated in the left lane, a dark green minivan coasting next to him in the right.
“Man, I hate this fucking shit.”
“Are we really in any kind of hurry?” Elaine asked. “The Plum will still be there, chicken wings and all.”
“I’m hungry enough to be a dick right now,” Tim sped up just enough to jump ahead of the minivan, a foot from the black truck’s bumper. “Am I good to get over?”
“Are you fucking serious right now?” Elaine asked, turning to check the blind spot a moment later. “You’re good. Go.”
“Alright,” Tim cautiously drifted into the right lane, speeding up immediately after. With a hesitant elegance, he raised a middle finger and coasted past the black truck before returning to the left lane.
“Such a gentlemen, aren’t we?” his girlfriend sighed.
“That guy looked like an asshole.” Tim had only caught a peripheral glimpse of his fellow driver’s expression; the same bald head and rising anguish soon catching up to him.
“And now he looks pretty pissed,” Elaine observed the other driver, waving his hands out the window pointing to side of the road.
“What the fuck?” Tim said.
“I think he wants you to pull over.”
They both checked again, uncertain of how to handle such a crazed individual. Tim sped up, before ultimately succumbing and drifting back into the right lane. They then watched out the driver’s window as he returned to their side, shouts muffled in the wind.
This display continued for the next half mile, before Tim pulled into The Plum Inn parking lot. The black truck didn’t hesitate, changing lanes, then kicking up a cloud of dirt, not bothering to signal as he filed into a spot right in front.
“It’ll be fine,” Elaine said. “C’mon, let’s get this over with.” She hopped out of the car, her boyfriend two steps behind as they got a concrete look at their pursuer. In his late 30’s, the sun reflected testosterone in two veiny arms and an ungroomed soul patch.
“What’s the problem?” she asked.
The man ignored her words, stepping in front of Tim, only to stop at a reasonably-uncomfortable distance.
“Listen here mother fucker! I’m an off-duty police officer, and what you did right there was illegal. Now I’ve got the right mind to drag your ass back to the station and write you up.”
“Sorry,” Tim said, faint-hearted. “We’re just in a bit of a hurry.”
“Well that ain’t no fucking excuse, you little shit. I work goddamn hard every day to uphold the law, and little fuckers like you just drive me up the wall.”
“Look we’re real sorry,” Elaine declared. “It’s been a long day for us.” She met the man’s gaze, instantly uncomfortable by his subsequent expression.
“You better watch your ass, that’s all I can say. This shit won’t fly next time.”
“I understand, sir,” Tim said.
“Well alright then.”
They watched the officer return to his vehicle and skid off down the road. Although Tim and Elaine tried to smile immediately afterwards, both could tell the other was forcing it. Their waitress was soon strutting around in jean shorts, anxious for a tip while each struggled for conversation. Tim vented immediately after they ordered, spitting up all manners of masculine reluctance. He didn’t want to fight, but saw how she might think less of him for recoiling at the inkling of law enforcement. Elaine humored her man’s point of view, but reconsidered how she’d use the spare room should they fail to conjure a proper theme. There was still time to make something concrete despite the service.
Christopher S. Bell has been releasing literary work since 2008. His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones and Fine Wives. Christopher’s work has recently been published in Drunken Monkeys, Hobart, Porridge Magazine, New Pop Lit, Queen’s Mob Teahouse, and Entropy among others.