A Car In The Woods: Chapter Three
“I’m sorry, Mom. Deb’s coat and stuff were all over my things,” Timmy whined in the back of the station wagon, twelve years old but sounding like he did when he was seven. Schatzi sprawled over Timmy’s legs, panting while her head was scratched. The family’s German Shepherd was watching out the window, her head resting on Timmy’s shoulder.
Up front, fourteen-year-old Deb yelled back: “Shut up, Dweeb. It’s your fault we missed the bus and Mom has to drive us to school.”
“Debra! Enough. The two of you. The roads are treacherous enough without you two bickering.”
Deb crossed her arms and threw herself back against the seat. She hated her full name, ever since her Bobbsey Twins started stretching her sweaters. “Hey, Bra,” the boys called outgoing from class to class. Since the name game, it lessened a bit, until one teacher or the other called out her full name.
Shaking her head, Patricia kept her eyes on the road. The snow from late yesterday hadn’t been too bad, but it was wet snow and turned to ice by the time morning came. Timmy couldn’t find his boots, then his gloves, while Debra. Deb. She had to remember so there wouldn’t be any more hysterics.
Deb had been taking her time coming downstairs. After the third call, Patricia went upstairs, knocked and opened the door, and froze in the doorway as Deb was finishing putting makeup on. A bit of yelling, tears, enough “but everyone is doing it” claims, confiscation of said makeup, the siege of the makeup removal, the door slam as Patricia went back downstairs, with the worst to come: the first “I HATE YOU!”
The bus had come and gone way before either of them were ready to leave the house.
Patricia had let the Impala warm up before she started to honk the horn. Timmy came out first, Schatzi following, and the two of them jumped into the back of the wagon and settled down. Deb followed, head down, taking her time. Patricia honked the horn one more time, to little effect.
The roads were slow going as it was; Patricia eased the Impala along, making time add up as she slowed around the bend. She heard a bark from the back, then another, with Timmy trying to shush her. Deb just let out a drawn-out sigh.
Schatzi’s barking increased, ricocheting through the wagon’s cabin. Patricia eyed the rear view mirror. Schatzi was standing, muzzle pressed against the rear window. Timmy had scooted over, the attempt to calm her a losing battle.
“Shut that dog up,” yelled Deb, turning around to glare at her brother.
Just before she had a chance to say anything, a large Poplar tree came crashing down on the road, its heavy top hitting the end of the station wagon. The impact sent the Impala spinning, three full revolutions across the iced road surface. It spiraled off the road a distance away from the tree, and then slid down into a shallow ravine. With a hefty “THUNK” the front end became embedded in a huge slushy drift of snow.
The snow saved their lives.
She and Deb had hit their heads, thrown forward when the wagon met snow. Timmy yelled that he was OK. Schatzi whimpered a bit before she started barking again.
Patricia tried to start the car, but nothing happened. Inside, she was cursing, words she had heard from her father and Eddie, her late husband. She’d never said them out loud before until an explosive “Shit!” escaped from her lips. Deb smiled. Timmy’s mouth dropped open just enough. Schatzi tilted her head one way, then the other.
“You got her to stop barking, Mom,” Deb piped up.
Getting out of the vehicle and slamming the door was the only retort she felt safe in giving. Walking to the front, Patricia tried moving some of the snow out of the way with her hands. She barely made a dent. Continuing, Patricia heard two doors open and closed behind her. Deb and Timmy joined in, both on the other side. Looking back, Schatzi was still inside, barking her head off.
They were able to clear away enough snow so the hood could be opened. The front was pushed inwards, bending the radiator. Timmy had been looking under the chassis and found a growing pool of oil.
As he stood, he noticed the hands on the hips posture his mom took when she was very angry. He kept quiet but realized there was something else going on. Deb was just being Deb, so he ignored her. But mom was shaking just a teeny-tiny bit, biting her lips that were pulled inwards. This frightened him just as much as the crash did.
Looking beyond the wreck, Patricia came to a decision.
“We are not going anywhere with the Impala. The sun is warming things up enough so we won’t freeze to death. Yet.” Deb rolled her eyes to the sky. Patricia noticed.
“Deb, you and Timmy stay inside the wagon. It’ll warm up under the sun enough.” She looked at her son who was just on the point of opening his mouth. “Yes, Schatzi stays with you.” Mouth closed again. “You both have your lunches. Please share some with her, but not enough so you don’t get enough. Am I clear?”
They both nodded.
“I’m going to go back to the main road and flag anyone who is out driving. If we are lucky, Dave and his plow truck will come by, looking for snow removal work. Timmy,” she said, “Schatzi will need to be walked. Do NOT go far from Deb and the Impala. Understood?”
He nodded, looking a tad guilty. Of course, he wanted to go exploring with his dog. She hoped he’d listen this time.
“I’ll come back in an hour if no one is on the road. If we have to, we’ll hike it into town.” With that, she zipped up to her neck, wove a woolen scarf that had been left in the car around her face, and pulled the hood of her parka over her head. A quick goodbye and a “listen to your sister” saw her climbing up the ravine, her feet and hands using exposed tree roots for a ladder.
Then it was quiet.
Schatzi had lain down in the back and Timmy joined her. She wasn’t asleep. He noticed she was very alert. Waiting. Some sub-vocal growls wafted out here and there. Timmy joined her, dog cuddling, and closed his eyes.
Deb had come back inside. It was too cold still, sun or no sun. Like her mother, she zipped, tugged, and folded herself into her winter wear. Every five minutes she’d glance at her Timex. Fifteen minutes had passed. She felt like she wanted to scream. Or cry. Or both. Timmy started to snore; Schatzi joined in. Deb smiled and closed her eyes.
The closing of the back door woke her up. Turning around, she could see Timmy through the window. Holding something high, he was laughing as Schatzi jumped up and took something from his hand. “Goofball is feeding him. Good,” she said to herself, yawning. Looking at her Timex, she jumped out of the seat and out of the wagon.
Coming around the back, Timmy lost his laugh when he saw her face. Schatzi went stiff, her tail drooping between her hind legs.
“What’s up, doc?”
“You idiot. We’ve been asleep for almost two hours. Have you seen Mom?”
He shook his head, looking around.
“Take your lunch. I’ll get mine. She should have been back already.”
For once, Timmy didn’t argue with her. He grabbed his lunch box, giving some more food to Schatzi. He’d lost his appetite.
“Come on. Let’s go find her.”
“But,” was all he got out before she started to climb out of the ravine. He followed, taking one last look at the wrecked Impala.
Schatzi found something.
There’s more to this story.
There was a car in the woods.