Nov 24 2012

One More Ride: Chapter 3: Anniversary

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Norville drove down Mystery Lane and out onto state highway 10, past the orchards and further out of town, then hung the right on the recently paved Little Texas Road. It wasn’t named after the state, or the cheesy country band, but after one of Theodore Roosevelt’s horses. Fitting.

He pulled off the road alongside the cemetery fence behind a shiny, green Wrangler. He took a deep breath, blew it out, got out, locked and shut the door. Then unlocked the door, retrieved the package from the dash, locked the door again and shut it.

As he made his way among the tombstones he wondered who owned the Jeep, as there appeared to be no-one else in the cemetery. Caretaker? Someone out for a run in the country? He glanced around, trying to solve the mystery when a hooded person jumped out from behind a six foot granite monument.

“OOGA BOOGA BOOGA!” the attacker yelled.

But instead of dropping into a fighting stance, Norville dropped his package, clutched his heart, and stood there swaying. Looking ridiculous. His attacker doubled over giggling. He recognized the voice.

“What’d ya do that for?” he yelled, his voice cracking comically.

“Oh come on, Shaggy. It was funny!” said his attacker, sliding her hood back over her chocolate brown hair.

“I uh, I kinda I go by Norville now, Velma,” he replied, gently.

“Well I kinda go by Professor Dinkley now, Norville, but you’ll always be Shaggy to me. Come on. Let’s walk together.”

Norville couldn’t think of a time in his life since he had met Velma Dinkley 18 years ago that she didn’t make him flustered, at least a little bit. They had been so close to each other, and so close to a real relationship—twice, in fact—but it just never worked out. He walked in kind of a haze, mesmerized by her hair as it bounced with each step, listening to her chatter about… something. What was she talking about? It seemed like no matter much time had passed between them seeing one another that she was able to simply pick up right where they left off. And each time he wasn’t able to speak clearly, just like he was seeing her for the first time. Seeing her freckles, her trademark glasses that veiled her big, brown eyes.

“Shaggy?”

Norville snapped back to reality and realized they were at the grave, and had been for several seconds.He smiled weakly. He set the wrapped packaged of Scooby Snacks down on the ground in front of the stone. Velma slung off her backpack and produced a wrapped package as well and set it beside his. Her gift might have even been a little bigger than his. It was no surprise, really.

It had been 10 years since Scoob had passed away. The vets said he shouldn’t have lived as long as he had—17 years was a ridiculously long lifespan for a dog of that size. Chihuahuas, yes; living 20 years was no big deal for the annoying little Mexican rats. For Great Danes, seven years was considered a good long life. Norville still couldn’t see the justice in that. Scoob had lived as long as he did largely due to Norville’s willingness to spend any amount of money to take care of the closest friend he ever had—and probably ever would have. Besides, he had the money. Replacement hips? Done. Experimental radiation treatment? Done. When Scoob lost all of his fur, Norville shaved his own head. Scoob’s hair eventually came back in, thick as it was before; Norville’s came back in wavy, almost tangly. That was one of the reasons he kept it short now.

When Velma took his hand, Norville was jostled back to reality for the second time. He hoped she didn’t start reminiscing about Scoob. Every time anyone brought up fond memories of him it was like a kick in the heart, and the loss stained every good memory with anguish.

But she just stood there with him in silence. They stood for 20 minutes, each alone together. It began to mist, then to drizzle, but Norville was oblivious to it. Then the rain began in earnest, the cold rain of late October. Norville, his shirt now nearly soaked through, remembered his jacket on the back of the kitchen chair. He shivered visibly, almost the way they had drawn him on the old cartoon.

“Come on, Shaggy. Let’s get you warmed up.”

They headed back to the cars in silence, save for the chattering of Norville’s teeth.

He reached in his pocket to get his keys to unlock the car but found nothing. He looked through the window to see them sitting on the edge of his seat. He must have dropped them when he went back for the Scooby Snacks. Stupid keys.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, I just locked my keys in he car. I’ll just get my spare from under the back fender.”

“The ground is soaked, Shaggy, and so are you. Hop in the Jeep at least until he rain dies down.”

He looked first at her, then at the small lake that appeared to be isolated to the ground under his car. He trudged to the shiny, green Wrangler and climbed inside.

Chapter 4

 

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Nov 20 2012

One More Ride: Chapter 2: Two Tragedies

Chapter One

Norville just stood there in the kitchen, angry. Angry at Fred for his alcoholism, for his philandery, for his temper, for his stupid remarks. But mostly angry at himself. Why had he let stupid Fred stupid get to him? Stupid.

Then he remembered the anniversary. He sat down in his chair to finish his coffee and drown his misery. He could feel one of his glooms coming on. They usually started with something small—burnt toast or a dinged door—then magnified into an uncontrollable black that would take hours or days to shake. They used to be a lot harder to manage. Now he just tried to ride them out and avoid making any major decisions that he would regret while ‘on the gloom.’

He sat drinking his coffee, then the rest of the pot. After he finished the pot he still needed more Dunks, but he had used the rest for their dinner. He picked up Fred’s mug wondering how cold it was. Very.

Nevermind. I’ll just go to bed, he thought. I’ll just go get my phone just in case anyone needs me and then get in bed. Where’s my phone? In the car. Of course. It might as well be on The Titanic. The car is all the way out in the freakin’ garage. He started to just shuffle his way up the stairs to his bedroom. Fine. Whatever. I’ll get the phone. Stupid conscience.

He walked onto the cold concrete of the garage floor and around to the driver’s side. Why had he left the garage door up? He couldn’t remember doing it, though he did do it sometimes. But usually there was some purpose—changing the oil, sweeping the garage out, getting out the gardening tools. But today? The attempt to remember was making his head hurt. He produced his keys and unlocked the car. The door clicker had given out three years ago but he still hadn’t gotten it fixed.

Norville reached his lanky arm in to retrieve the phone. His fingers touched it just enough to knock it loose from the cup holder and it slid under the seat. I should have gone to bed, he thought. Stupid phone.

He climbed into the car, put his key in the ignition and started the car. Why did I do that, he thought. Force of habit I guess. He reached down below the seat to retrieve the phone and as he did so he saw the package on the dash. He closed his eyes, the tightness drained from his shoulders. The anniversary. That’s why he had left the garage door open. He was already in the car. No point going back to bed now.

He checked the phone for messages then put it back in its cup holder, buckled his seat belt, locked the door, pulled out of the garage, and hit the remote garage door closer. Do I have everything, he asked himself. Wallet, phone, keys, package. That seemed like everything, but he couldn’t shake the feeling he was missing something as he pulled down the driveway.

Probably just the gloom. Stupid gloom.

And that’s how Norville Rogers left home in late October without a jacket.

Chapter 3

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