Saturday, December 22, 2012


I'm glad it wasn't the end of the world, but it is a new day for this blog.

I'm going in a new direction.  I hope you will go with me.

They had spent the day in their usual way, together.  Some things were work. Some things were play.  The kids went with them to walk the dogs and they'd tried to stop at the Red Robin to eat, but the crowds were too big in the streets and, Ryan had said, too unpredictable. 

"Why do people believe this drivel?" Sheila said as they drove their Subaru to the stop light at the Diary Queen. The windshield wipers went in and out of sync with the music on the radio. Ryan thought it was funny how they did that sometimes.

"Not everyone believes it," Ryan said.

"I'm hungry, Mommy.  Can we go through the drive through?" Missy asked.

"Not tonight, hon.  The drive through is closed," Ryan said, fiddling with the wiper frequency to let the rain blur the windshield for a minute. 

"It is not," Josh said.  He was sitting on the driver's side in the back and Ryan had hoped the window was too fogged up for him to see.  The line was wrapped around the building and people were honking.  Josh groaned, knowing that his dad would never wait through all that.  Even he wasn't sure he wanted to wait that long.

"We'll go home and cook up some corn dogs, Missy.  How does that sound?" Ryan said.

"Honey, can't we at least stop at the store for milk and vegetables?" Sheila asked.

"Nope. I've got a bead on this place and it isn't going to get any prettier in the next twenty-four hours."  He clicked the doors locked before the car crept forward to where the homeless man usually stood.  He had handed the man a dollar plenty of times before, but this time, Ryan could see that the man was yelling, shaking his sign, and there were other people standing at the corner, just standing there, despite the constant rain. Ryan had never seen the man yelling before and the crowd of people were totally new.

He just wanted to get his family home.  The light turned green again but the cars only creeped forward.  Where did all these people come from?  The dogs, both golden retrievers, paced in the back.  They'd had a walk, but for some reason, they'd stayed closer than usual and hadn't played with their normal flair.  There hadn't been many people at the dog park, but the ones that had been there weren't chatting the way they usually did.  If Ryan didn't know better, he'd have thought a thunder storm was coming.  He noted that the moon was full.  He didn't know why he'd looked, but he had checked on Starmap Lite and he knew the moon was full behind all of these clouds. 

The light turned red again.  It seemed as though the people on the sidewalks moved closer to the cars when they stopped moving. 

"What the heck are all these people doing out on a night like this?" Sheila said.

"They're hooligans, out to take advantage of all this end-of-the-world stuff." Ryan tried to sound confident, but he was keeping his eyes open. It was only 5:45 at night, but it was winter solstice and it felt much later.  He felt alert, the way he had when he'd gone into the city with his friends to hear live music. He noticed that some of the people on the sidewalk had bottles of wine or beer in their hands.

The light turned green again, but one of the men had leaned into the window of the front car and it wasn't moving.  A couple of people honked their horns. 

Suddenly, a couple of bottles flew out of the crowd and hit the second and third cars on their passenger sides.  A car to their left bolted across the yellow line and drove down the road on the wrong side to the intersection.  Oncoming cars swerved around him like water around a stone.  He reached the light and made a right across them all, honking as he went.  It was a BMW, Ryan noticed, as the car disappeared into the traffic.  At least in that direction, cars were moving a bit.

"Asshole," Ryan muttered.

"I heard that," Missy said. 

"Why don't you sing us a song, Sweetie?" Sheila said.  Ryan gave her the fish-eye when Missy began with 'and Bingo was his name-o,' a song she'd been singing incessantly for the past week.  At least it helped to drown out the sound of the crowd.  Sheila began to sing with her. 

Suddenly, a bottle hit their car and shattered into pieces.  Sheila let out a little scream.  People surged forward and pressed against the car and it rocked a little.  Their damn light was green again, yet not moving and now Ryan wished he'd had the balls to do what Asshole-in-the-BMW had done.  He put the car in reverse, just to be able to move it a little.  That worked with the crowd for a minute, but when he stopped, they went back to pushing.  Someone hit Missy's window with a big mag light and it cracked.

Ryan, helpless to do much else, moved forward in his spot again.  The big mag light popped against the window again and the glass shattered and fell out.  A couple of hands reached in and grabbed at Missy's shoulder.  Sheila got up quickly and tried to grab her little girl out of their reach.  Josh, thinking clearly, reached over and pushed the button to release her seat belt and Sheila, kneeling on the seat with her seat belt still attached grabbed Missy and tried to drag her into the front seat, but the dogs were suddenly in the way, the sweet golden retrievers that almost always followed the instructions to stay in the back of the wagon.  They had transformed into raging beasts and it took a minute before Ryan realized they were protecting Missy.  The hands retreated and Missy quickly crawled into her mom's arms in the front seat. The dogs stood on the seat, their rumps up against Josh, their noses just where the glass should have been.  The low growling wasn't loud, but a small space appeared next to the car.

Ryan's heart was racing.  He was boxed in on three sides with cars and on the fourth with people.  He put the car into reverse yet again and backed up until his bumper gently tapped the car behind him.  Then he turned the wheel as hard right as he could and revved the engine.  The car rocked up over the curb, scraping once one tire cleared, yet still moving deliberately forward. The crowd melted away except for one man in a black jacket.  He hit the grill, fell sideways, and slid down in front of the car. The car lurched up as if Ryan had gone over one end of a speed bump.  People screamed and rushed forward again.  Ryan was driving on the sidewalk now and still moving forward.  The crowd parted for him to pass.  He drove in the grass of the Bank America a bit to go to the right of the light post.  When he went off the curb on the other street, cars made way for him.  He realized, as he drove the car home, that he'd used his turn signal to get back onto the road.  What the hell was that?

Wind and rain coming into the broken window made the ride home distracting and miserable.  No one said a word.  Missy kept her head buried in her mom's shoulder.  Josh looked out of his foggy window, eyes wide.  Sheila looked straight ahead and held Missy in her arms.  And Ryan pressed his lips into a tight line as he drove, carefully again, all the way home. 

By the time he pulled into his driveway, he knew his life was never going to be the same again, even if the world didn't end tonight.

Thank you for listening, jb

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