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My neck and shoulders tensed as I navigated the icy road. The snow pelted my windshield. The wipers were ineffective, and my view was limited to the twenty feet illuminated by my headlights.

“Slow down,” my wife urged, “If the car skids, we could go over the cliff.”

“That’s just what I need,” I said, “more pressure. I’m going fifteen miles an hour. Any slower and we could walk there.”

“I’d rather walk than die.”

I sped up to thirty-five to show her who was in control. The car fishtailed, and my wife screamed. I applied the brakes, which made it worse. Steer into the fishtail, my brain said.

“Let me out,” she yelled, “Let me out.” My wife was ghostly white. “Why do you always have to be so damn stubborn?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “But your nagging isn’t helping. I’ll slow down, but I need you to let me do the driving.”

She didn’t say another word for the next ten minutes, which was unnerving in itself. “Turn on the radio,” I said, “The silence is making it worse.”

My wife angrily punched through a couple of radio stations. “You tell me to shut up. Now you want noise. Make up your mind.” Static filled the car’s interior. “I can’t find a station. Do you want me to sing a few oldies for you?”

“Turn it off; the static is worse than your cold shoulder, and no, I don’t want you to sing.” We were quiet for another minute before I spoke again. “Look, I never told you to shut up. I wouldn’t do that. It’s just that I’m nervous driving in the snow, and right now, we’re in a downright blizzard. I wish I could pull over somewhere, but as you said, there’s nothing out there but a thousand-foot drop.”

“Maybe we should stop and put on chains?”

“We don’t have any chains. These are snow tires. They’re supposed to grip the road.”

“Then why did we fishtail back there,” she asked.

“I don’t know. Can we please change the subject?”

My wife and I had planned this trip months ago. And as much as I dislike driving in the snow, the mountains in Southern California don’t get more than an inch or so. We figured a weekend getaway with some friends sounded like fun. We have known Mike and Robin since high school, and they were going to bring their friends Phil and Rhianna. I know its risky spending a weekend with people we don’t know, but I trust Mike, and he said they would be a fun couple; besides, they helped split the overall cost of the cabin.

“Do you think Mike and the others are still coming?” My wife asked.

“They better be on their way. I’m not handing out any refunds. If they don’t come, it’s on them.”

We found our turn-off and steered our way through unplowed streets.

“The snow is getting deeper,” my wife said.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” The street signs were hard enough to read during the day; they were impossible to read at night in a blizzard. “Shine the flashlight at that sign and tell me what it says.”

My wife pointed her beam through the closed window. “I still can’t read it,” she said.

My wife and I are pretty cordial to each other, and we don’t argue much, but the severe weather had us both on edge. “Of course, you can’t read it,” I said, “You have to roll down the window.”

“I’m not doing that. It’s snowing.”

“Fine then, we’ll just sit here until it stops.”

She rolled down the window and shone her beam right in my face and then at the sign.

“Oh, that’s real mature,” I said.

“I still can’t read the sign. All the light beam does is illuminate the snowflakes.”

“Then you’re going to have to get out and read it.”

“I’m not going to forget this,” she said. She put on her coat and left the warmth of the car. I watched her trudge through ankle-deep snow with her flashlight. She got back in the car and brushed the snow from her coat. “Bear Canyon Road,” she said.

“That’s our street,” I said, “We can’t see the house numbers, so I’m going to need you to get out and walk until you see, one-twenty-five, Bear Canyon Road.”

“You want me to get out and walk through the snow looking for an address?” It was a question, but it sure didn’t sound like one.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll do it. You drive.”

“You might want to put on a jacket,” she said, “It’s freezing out there.”

She got out of the car and jumped into the driver’s seat. I grabbed the flashlight from her hand. I was determined to make my wife feel bad, so I purposely didn’t put on a coat. I wanted to prove to her that she was making a big deal out of nothing.

“Why are you so obstinate?” she said.

“It’s not that cold,” I yelled. My teeth chattered the moment I stepped outside. The snow was falling faster, and the wind was kicking up. My flashlight beam could only reach fifteen feet or so, which meant I had to walk up to every house to see the address. The first number read one-oh-five.

My wife rolled down the passenger side window. “What’s the number?” she yelled.

“One-oh-five.”

“Our address is much farther down the street. Get back in, and I’ll drive us there.”

I don’t know what was going on with me, and I don’t know what I was trying to prove, but I refused to get back in the car. “I’ll walk,” I yelled, “It’s not that cold.” I regretted my decision with my next step. My body shuddered, and I could feel my cheeks freezing up. I looked at the next two, house numbers, one-oh-seven, one-oh-nine. My wife drove ahead of me. She must have counted out the house numbers in her head. She pulled into a driveway a hundred yards ahead of me. I was acting like an idiot, and I knew it. When I finally got to the cabin, she had the lights on, and the fireplace was going. I stood on the front porch shivering in a t-shirt and a light sweater. I had no idea what I was going to say when I got inside. I tried the door, but she had locked it. She had me, and she knew it. I knocked.

“Who is it?” she said.

“Quit screwing around, and let me in,” I yelled.

She opened the door. “Oh, fancy seeing you here,” she said, “I thought you might have died of frostbite.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I don’t know what has me acting this way, but I’d like to start over. Is that okay with you?’

“Yeah,” she said. She reached over and kissed my cheeks. “You’re freezing. Stand by the fireplace, and I’ll make us a cup of coffee.”

“Thanks,” I said. Grateful that she was willing to reboot. I hunkered down in front of the fireplace, hoping to thaw out. “What time do you think the others will get here?” I yelled.

I heard her call from the kitchen. “They were only a half-hour behind us. It shouldn’t be too long. Why don’t you try calling them?”

I dialed Mike’s number and ended up with his voicemail. “Hey, Mike. Just checking to see where you guys are. We’ve got a fire and a pot of coffee going. Call me when you get this.” My wife walked in with two steaming cups of coffee.

“Feeling better?” she asked.

“Yeah. Look, I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting.”

“Water under the bridge,” she said, “Let’s enjoy the weekend.” We sipped our coffee and engaged in normal conversation. After an hour, I started getting nervous.

“I hope they’re okay,” I said, “Let me try them again. I rang Mike’s phone, and then Robin’s, they both went to voicemail.

“It must be the blizzard,” my wife said, “Maybe a cell tower is down.”

“Or they went over a cliff.”

“Nice,” she replied. “Let me look for a deck of cards. Anything to take our minds off the storm.” She looked in a couple of closets and found a shelf with games on it. “Oh, look at this,” she said. She pulled out a Ouija Board. “Let’s ask the board where our friends are.”

“Get something else,” I said, “I don’t believe in that stuff. Besides, you said you wanted to take our minds off the storm.”

“Come on; this will be fun.” She pulled the game off the shelf and placed it on the coffee table. We sat on the floor.

“Now, what do we do?” I asked.

“Place your fingers lightly on the planchette, and I’ll ask the board a question. All you have to do is keep your fingers on it; it’ll move on its own.” I rolled my eyes but didn’t let her see it. “Spirit of the board,” she said, “What is your name?”

The triangle moved to the letter B. “Are you moving it?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “This is how it works. The planchette continued moving until it had spelled out the word Bobo “Bobo,” my wife said.

“Are you kidding me? Our spirit’s name is Bobo. What should we ask him? What ice cream flavor to pick?”

My wife ignored my comment and turned back to the board. “Bobo, please tell us what has happened to our friends?”

The planchette moved to the letter D. Then it moved to the letter E. I took my fingers off the board. “They’re dead,” I said.

“You don’t know that. Why did you stop?”

“Bobo is telling us our friends are dead. What more do I need to hear?” I stood and paced the room. I tried Mike’s phone again. "Pick up, come on, pick up.” Once again, it went to voicemail.

“I thought you didn’t believe in this stuff?

“I was expecting gibberish. I didn’t expect the thing to work.”

“You didn’t let Bobo finish.”

“What else could he be spelling?”

“A lot of words start with the letters DE,” she said.

“Oh yeah, give me two.”

“Well, you’ve got dearly.”

“Yeah, as in, dearly departed. Give me another word.”

“You just said it. Departed is another word.”

“You’re not helping,” I said.

“Would you rather sit around here, with no cell phones, wondering what happened to our friends?”

“I must be losing my mind,” I said, “This isn’t CNN. It’s a ten-dollar board game. Are you seriously going to trust what it tells us?” I could feel the tension building again.

“You were ready to believe they were dead a minute ago. Now, let’s finish what we started.”

I hesitated before placing my fingers back on the planchette. “Alright,” I said, “But I want you to know that I’m doing this under duress.”

“Oh, Bobo,” my wife said, “We are so sorry we interrupted you. Please forgive my husband and tell us where our friends are.”

I gave her a sinister look. Again, the board spelled out the letters D and E. I stared at the A, but the planchette jumped to the letter L. I was confused. When the planchette stopped moving, I realized we had both been holding our breath. My wife and I expelled a cubic foot of air. Bobo had spelled, delayed.




January 10, 2020 19:26

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