Driving Rain

Submitted into Contest #112 in response to: Write about a character driving in the rain.... view prompt

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American Drama Fiction

Ford drove into the night, past one rainstorm and into another. He was driving through the driving rain, he thought. His brain was always coming up with cool stuff like that. He was pretty smart that way. His wife sure didn’t think so, though. She seemed to think he was an idiot, but she just didn’t appreciate his intellect. 

He switched the wipers back on as fat drops started to hit the windshield. Whip-whap, whip-whap, whip-whap. The wipers caught on the off beats like a drunken drummer. They weren’t the best wiper blades; need to get those puppies replaced soon. Ford wondered if he could do it himself. But that meant going to the auto parts store and he’d rather have an appendectomy than have to talk to some guy who knew more than Ford about cars. He wished he could ask his wife to do it. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know squat about cars.

Ford ran a large, tanned hand through his sparse blond hair. He wondered again if he apologized real good if Tania would take him back. Her sister Mattie was filling Tania’s head with all sort of shit about Ford. She’d always had it in for him. Ever since he’d got caught cheating on Tania. But that was years ago and Ford had said he was sorry. He’d said he would never do it again, and he’d mostly stuck to his word.

Ford felt around on the seat next to him for his cigarettes. There was a mass of half eaten chip bags, king size candy bar wrappers, and crumpled receipts. He tipped out a cigarette and lit it. His eyes narrowed in the smoke and he powered down the window. Immediately his arm was wet from the rain coming in. He put the window back up and the car hazed with smoke. He couldn’t win.

It was like with Tania. Hadn’t he been good to her? Or if not good, at least he could have been worse. Those fights weren’t all his fault. She’d given as good as she got. Like when she collected all the fast food wrappers he had left around and then put them all on his pillow. That ended up biting her in the ass though, because the fry wappers left grease stains on his pillowcase. It had been the sheet set they got as a wedding gift from her dead aunt Cheryl. 

The rain eased a bit and Ford rolled down the window. The smoke cloud thinned. The wipers made stuttering squeaks on the glass as the rain slowed and Ford turned them down. The squeaks reminded him of the sounds Tania made when she really cried hard, so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. It had scared him bad when he first heard it. He got used to it though.

One time, Tania found her fake fur coat in the laundry after he’d forgotten what she said about not putting it in the dryer. Its little acrylic fibers had shriveled up and left it looking like an anemic tiger with a frizzy home perm. Tania lost it, said he didn’t care about her at all, squeaky sobs punctuating her words. Why couldn’t he listen to her? But he did listen, he protested. He just forgot. 

The rain picked back up. Whip-whap, whip-whap went the wipers, sounding like an imbalanced fan. The more Ford thought about Tania, the more convinced he became that if he could talk to her again, he might be able to convince her to take him back. He’d wait until he stopped the car to call though. Tania thought talking on the phone while driving was dangerous. She was always worked up about something.

Ford saw his exit up ahead and tapped the cruise control to turn it off. His stomach felt sour and he was starting to get the nervous sweats. He turned right off the exit onto a dark road lined with trees. There were no buildings or cars in sightExactly, j like it had been when he was growing up. Rural northern Michigan was slow to change. 

The rain started to come down harder and Ford swore as the minivan hydroplaned into the opposite lane. He blinked hard and stared at the road, then fumbled around lighting another cigarette. He inhaled too sharply and coughed, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth. He should quit; it was yet another habit Tania complained about.

He couldn’t stop picturing how she had looked last night. Beautiful as always in a green dress with white dots and her hair all done up. She had surprised him with sushi takeout and waited until his mouth was full of eel before telling him the news. She wanted a divorce.

Ford knew that any rational man would not have been surprised, given his behavior through the years, but he was shocked to his core. How could she-- how dare she-- leave him? And that was the worst part. He was the one who had to leave. “Where am I supposed to go?” he asked, though he knew the answer. There wasn’t enough money for a hotel. 

So here he was, driving up north to stay with his mother. She took Tania’s side, of course, but she hadn’t said no when he asked to stay with her. Just until they worked it out, Ford said. His mother hadn’t said anything, but he knew she disapproved of him. It wasn’t his fault, he kept saying. He was going to replace the money as soon as his YouTube woodcrafting channel took off. He needed more time. 

Ford twitched the cigarette butt out the window, his fingers connecting with the rain. He was feeling jittery and fighting the urge to turn around and go back to Tania. Maybe it had all been a mistake and she was at home crying and regretting tossing him out. Maybe he should call her.

She didn’t pick up. Probably cried herself to sleep, he thought. Her voicemail came on. “Tania. Babe,” he said and faltered. “Listen, hun. I’m sorry. I really am. You know me, you know I never meant to hurt you. I know I did though…” he cleared his throat. “I needed a new camera for my channel, but now that I have it the channel should start making money soon.” The van was slipping in the water again, and he paused while he leaned into a skid. “Baby. You know I’ll love you forever. We can work this out.” Ford’s voice pinched at the end as real tears came into his eyes. He hoped she could hear how worked up he was.

Ford hung up. He wondered how much of that her voicemail caught. They used to read voicemail transcriptions to each other and laugh themselves sick over the mistakes it made.

Ford looked down to hang up the phone and when he looked up there was a sleek gray dog in the road. “Shit,” he yelled, and stomped on the brake. There was nothing he could do. He slammed on his brakes, the tires slid, and he plowed directly into the dog. There was thud as the animal went under the tires. 

“Fuck. Shit. Shit,” Ford swore. He came to a stop and jumped out. He saw the dog lying motionless on the road and slowly approached it. He could see that the animal was still breathing. “Hey buddy,” he said

But it wasn’t a dog after all. It was a lean, mangy coyote. Its gaze was fixed on him as he crept closer. Ford tried to assess the animal's injuries. Its hindquarters and back legs looked badly mangled. What was he supposed to do? Put it in his back seat and take it to a vet? This wasn’t even his fault. Maybe he should drive away. And leave the animal to suffer until it finally died, maybe hours from now? He wasn’t that cruel. But what other option did he have?

He knew what he had to do.

Ford got into the minivan and turned around. The road was still deserted. He faced the coyote. The coyote watched him without raising his head and Ford’s stomach flipped. He put the car in drive. He hit the gas hard and tried not to look-- but had to look-- and drove his left tire right over the animal’s head, which he viscerally felt as it crushed beneath the wheels. He backed up over the coyote again and then gunned the engine, speeding away without a backward glance. 

He drove in silence with only the gentle whip-whap of the wipers to accompany his thoughts, until he pulled into the short driveway behind his mother’s sedan. The house and car had both fallen into disrepair since his father’s death a decade ago.

“Hello, Ford,” his mother said stiffly when she opened the door. She had on dingy pink pajamas with little yellow flowers. A cigarette dangled from her fingers and smoke hung in the air behind her. Ford simply nodded.

He went down the hallway to his childhood room and chucked his computer bag and suitcase on the bed. It had been made into a guest room, but his running trophies were still lined up on a side table. He’d been good at something, once upon a time. He’d been something then. Maybe he could be again. Maybe then Tania would take him back.

September 24, 2021 20:47

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2 comments

Boutat Driss
10:19 Oct 18, 2021

well done!

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Stevie B
11:56 Sep 26, 2021

Amy, this was a very well told tale about relationships. The part about the coyote was a nice touch.

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