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American Contemporary

“Thanks for the lift, Robin.  It saved me some trouble”

“This is weird-you haven’t taken any time off since I’ve known you.  And you’re really going to buy this car? ”

“Already bought, now I’m driving it off the lot.  Look, take care of things for me.  I know you’ll be great.  Don’t call me-just do what you think is best.  Time to fly.”

He waved as the younger man drove off, then walked into Larsen BMW, scratched his name on the line and turned his new 740i into traffic.  Fifteen minutes later he stepped through the door of his apartment and called for his best friend.  “Boggle!!  Come on boy!!!”  The flop-eared beagle came promptly, but didn’t run.  That would have been out of character.  Greetings were exchanged then the packing began.

He filled his briefcase with everything he needed, including the papers for his newest treasure.  Next he packed everything for his buddy.  When it was all ready to go he loaded the car and glanced back one more time. “Looks good.”

Three miles outside of town he stopped at Flint’s Fine Tobacco.  He spoke with the silver haired man behind the counter, asking for recommendations.  He came back to the car with a few things and they were on their way. Boggle the Beagle sat happily in the leather co-pilot’s seat, bobbing his beagle head to Freddie Hubbard and his quintet.  The man kept focused on the road ahead but grinned as his soul dived and rose with each phrase. Three hours later, the poor dog had endured one too  many Coltrane solos and barked for a rest.  They sat at a picnic stop along old US 35 and ate and drank.  The late morning sun refreshed them both.  The man pulled a card out of his briefcase and made a brief call, nodding his head at the responses he got.  Arrangements made, and back on the road.

Through the mountain tunnels of the turnpike, the jazz was replaced with Southern driving music, he thought about the times before and the many things done and seen.  A rueful smile crossed his face when he turned to Boggle for sympathy only to find that his friend had gone to sleep.  “I guess that means that Molly Hatchet isn’t loud enough.  Oh hell, let a sleeping dog lie.”  He laughed at his own joke and turned his eyes back to the road.

The dognap was deep and peaceful, so the driver pressed his advantage and put several hundred miles on the new engine before it was time to stop again.  Some high grade buffalo jerky appeared from the doggy bag and Boggle refreshed himself gratefully.  They improvised a game of fetch in the grassy picnic area and then back on the road.  They crossed into Virginia when he decided it was time for his treat.  He was glad the guy at Flint’s reminded him that the new car would not likely have a lighter; the kitchen match made a satisfying scratch as he lit up the Cohiba.  The road was familiar, but he pulled over anyway.  He thought his first cigar deserved his full attention.  It shocked his throat at first, but soon the aroma consoled him and he drew slowly until it was nearly gone.  Boggle the beagle was bothered by the smoke, so they stepped off the shoulder into the grass for a little exercise.  He looked across the median at the wildflowers that coursed along the winding highway.  Red and yellow and orange and blue.   Blue-Kind of Blue-Miles Davis-Miles to go.  Back to the car-back on the road.

The sky was graying when they pulled into the coastal town that was their destination.  He deployed bowls of food and water for his best friend when they unpacked at the motel several blocks from the beach.  He showered, and dressed, then said, “Listen boy, I’m going out for awhile now.  I’ll put the TV on for you-see, Ice Road Truckers, your favorite.  Be good and I will see you soon!!”  He checked the address on the card and figured he would make it with a few minutes to spare.

She was waiting for him as arranged.  A hand on each shoulder and a kiss on the cheek was all the greeting they needed.  Drinks and dinner came; they chatted softly, laughing now and then.  He rebooted old stories and she answered with the replies he both expected and enjoyed.  Other guests came and went, but they stayed on.  When the savvy old bartender at last blinked the lights, he sighed and asked if she was all right to drive.  She blinked, not having expected to hear that.  “But, don’t you want to-?”

His eyes gleamed as he replied, “No, this was much, much better.”  He pulled the envelope from his jacket and handed it to her.  “I had a lovely evening.  Thank you Angela.”  Their farewell was identical to their greeting.

Back at the room, he sat at the desk and  wrote on the scratch pad provided.  Boggle watched the TV, but snuggled deeper into the quilt knowing his friend was back.  He muted the TV and continued writing to the sound of Trane’s Equinox.  He wanted a nap afterward, but it suddenly felt like it was the wrong time.  “Come on Boggle beagle-just a small trip this time.”  They drove down until he found the entrance to the beach and he turned off the lights and eased the BMN down the deserted stretch.  He parked facing the waves, and brought his dog near.  Back to the music, the last thing he heard was Herbie-Maiden Voyage.

“Ok Sarge-what’s up?”

The young patrol officer looked up-”We found it about thirty minutes ago-still running.  Can’t wake the guy or the dog-thought we’d better call you.”

Detective Michael Steen snorted.  “How they hell did nobody notice he was here until now-don’t you patrol through here every two hours?”  He got no answer.  “Hey Andy, hurry up and pop this thing!!”  Detective Andy Rosewood was already on it.  He reached over and felt for a pulse.  “Nah Mike, he’s gone.  Shit.”  Boggle the beagle woke just then and looked at his best friend, then began to whimper.  Steen barked at the sergeant, “Somebody get this dog out of the way, but not far away-he might have evidence.”

Andy switched off the motor.  “Temp tags on the vehicle-this thing is shiny new. “  He asked the patrol officer, who had the dog on a leash, to call it in.  Steen looked in the back seat and saw the briefcase.  He went for his pocket knife to spring it, but Andy stopped him.  “Don’t bother-look!”

The folded piece of scratch paper stuck out of Wyatt’s shirt pocket.  Steen read the barely legible scrawl out loud

List-forgot the bucket

Drive a luxury car-check

Smoke a Cuban cigar-double check

Spend the night with a beautiful stranger-Close but no cigar ha ha!

End my life where and how I chose-check

To whom it may concern-you will find all the particulars in the briefcase.  The code is 1314.  Please call my cousin Jenny at 919-867-5309.  Yeah-really!  She lives in Lumberton-she will take care of my buddy Boggle.  Burton and Ayers here in town has been contracted for the arrangements.  Malignant melanoma mastered me at last.  Time to fly.

Wyatt Ehrmann

Steen chuckled in relief-”Well, thank God it ain’t a murder, anyway.”  Andy,  you and the uniform go ahead.”  He took the leash and looked quietly at the dog.  Then he saw it before he felt or heard it.  The sand began to darken as the sky, haltingly at first, then more urgently, began to empty on the car, the cops, and the canine.  “Let’s go find Cousin Jenny, boy, come on!”

September 24, 2021 15:01

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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