Gary sat in his 2018 Lincoln Continental and began to type in the address that Chester sent him. He listened to the steady humming the electric engine of the car made; it was a sound that sounded like a cross between the humming of an electric generator and the powerful thumping of a gas-burning engine. The address turned out to be an old diner that was just out of the little Minnesotan town that Gary resided in.
Gary could recall vague and possibly imagined memory of visiting Ramos’ diner. The Diner doubled as a burger and fries joint and a bakery that baked fresh bread, cakes, and pastries. Gary wasn’t sure if this shrouded memory of the diner was real or just some sort of prophetic vision. While Gary felt the vibrations of the idle car through the leather-laced steering wheel, daydreaming, the vision seemed dart away from him like a startled salamander that’d just been discovered crawling up a dank bathroom ceiling.
Abruptly, Gary shook himself out of the daze and grabbed the gear stick until his knuckles turned white, he felt violated. Even as he backed out of his driveway, with his odd vision of the diner slipping through his fingers like water through a strainer, the name Ramos echoed in his head. Eventually, while driving out of his cul-de-sac the echoing ceased, like he was driving away form not only his house but also his invasive vision.
He rolled down the window and let the crisp November wind embrace his face, aerating his nostrils and seemingly, his panicking mind that was bouncing off the walls of his brain. HE was making his way through the small retirement community that he lived in, taking directions from the monotone female voice coming from his phone.
Gary was on his way out of the neighborhood when he heard a blood-curdling scream from Ellie’s house. Ellie was a good friend of Gary’s, the kind who’d bring fresh pies and cakes over because she was, simply put, a great neighbor. Gary saw Ellie as the sweet, innocent, and lovable type.
So he pulled over. He parked at the curb in front of her house. He got out and locked the car and walked across her front yard that was lined with numerous rows of flowers and flowerbeds. He could hear Ellie heavily panting in the backyard, and figured that she had found another creepy crawly or snake of some sort in her flowers. Just as Gary was about to open the white vinyl gate to the backyard, he felt a brief vibration in his pocket.
Gary paused and sighed, digging in his pocket for his phone. Chester had sent him a message.
“Where do you think you’re going??” The ‘you’ was italicized; Gary visualized a shadowed man repeating the sentence and him putting stress on the ‘you’, saying it sourly and hostilely like a wolf letting out a low growl at an approaching threat.
Gary sighed, he was about to plead with a maniac. “Look, I’ll do whatever, just let me check on Ellie, sir.” Replied Gary. He couldn’t believe, as he leaned on the gate door, that he felt so threatened that he was calling the madman ‘sir’. He felt like a cornered mouse, quivering in the shadow of it’s feline enemy. He thought to himself, Lord, if there was one, have mercy on me. Gary held his breath for a response, not quite knowing what to expect.
“Fine, you’ve got ten minutes.” Gary exhaled harshly, the phone vibrated in his hand. Before he could take another step, the phone buzzed once more in his palm. “And I’m counting.” A timer appeared on the screen of his phone that was counting down from ten minutes.
As Gary pushed on the gate, he was knocked over by Ellie suddenly pushing open the gate. “Oh, hello Gary.” Said Ellie genuinely surprised and wide-eyed through her wire-rimmed spectacles that sat loosely on her button nose.
In response, Gary could only groan. His butt hurt.
“Why’re you here?” asked Ellie, leaning down to look at Gary. She was met with another groan.
“Never mind that. Come, come, there’s a green snake.” She said, changing gears quicker than a car in a high-octane drag race. She started back into her backyard and paused. She looked back at Gary on the ground, mortified. “And I think it’s trying to eat my roses!”
Gary got up with a start and followed Ellie into her backyard. Where he found the snake slithering through one of her garden boxes, he picked it up and chopped its head off with a trowel.
“Alrighty. That’s done.” Said Gary with a smile, stabbing the trowel into the dirt.
“Oh, bless your heart Gary. If it weren’t for you, my roses would’ve been toast.” She said with a laugh.
“Yeah, yeah. You know it’s no problem.” Chuckled Gary. He pulled out his phone and checked his timer. Five minutes left.
“ What’s that?” asked Ellie, ever so curious.
“You know, El, I wish I could tell you.” Said Gary with a misleading smile, trying to mask that his life was possibly on the line. But the sweet old woman saw right through him as if he were a ghost. She scratched her head that was topped with hair that remained gleaming platinum blonde even in her old age.
“You,” she approached him, the wind blowing her bright white sundress behind her like the tail on a comet. She poked his chest, her head only barely met his chin. “are lying to me.” She walked back to kneel over her garden box, “Oh well,” she began playfully. “If you get in any trouble, you know my number.” Ellie had always, ever since Gary had met her, had a cute playfulness to her. He figured that she was the epitome of what Marilyn Monroe would be like as an old lady. “So roguish, I love it.” She winked at him.
A little bit flustered, Gary made his way out. He said goodbye and got into his car, two minutes to spare. He rocked back in his seat, man, did he love that woman.ns 126.96.36.199da2