For Chi Cheng.
I was told to blast Minerva by a friend who knew Minerva and knew to blast Minerva when the drive became too long and the eyelids got too heavy.
The road, rural and upscale, led me nowhere until it would lead somewhere, which was the point of the drive. My finger on the button, no Minerva to blast. A fact I knew I’d accept being that I hadn’t packed Minerva to blast, however, NPR was generous and the heavy lidded journey was going to be filled with horn sections and Astaire.
It was suddenly the 1940s and my Corolla was just an eye in the dark, a smooth vehicle, maneuvered by a sleepy, pissed woman, on her way to pick someone up, far, far away in a rural and upscale wood.
I’d rather be sleeping, the nerve of these people, making me drive so late, so late at night along this road with no lamps, no signs — what next? A hitcher, a flying Dutchman to hit, to haunt me forever, maybe a werewolf to bolt from the shadow, knock my Corolla on to it’s side, force me to creep out the broken windshield so that it can lunge at me, making me a wolf by dawn, a sleeping wolf who would rise during the next full moon, is that it? Is that it, I cocked an eye to the bartender in the passenger seat. God this was a long drive.
“Is that it, Lloyd?” I asked the man who wiped a cocktail glass with a crisp white napkin.
“Are you enjoying the music, madame?”
“Yes, Lloyd, come to think of it, I am.” I knocked back a whiskey straight.
It was comforting to see Lloyd there, so busily tending to his bar duties. A good man that Lloyd.
“Hey Lloyd, click it or ticket, man. This is Florida. Zero tolerance. Seat belt please.”
Lloyd placed a thick bottomed glass on the dash and accommodated me.
“Seatbelt is on, madame.”
Lloyd never smiled.
My pissedness felt like it was going to fade until I realized I was lost, lost and more lost on this sucking void of a country road.
“The nerve, eh, Lloyd? The nerve of these people.”
From the backseat, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was Delbert. Delbert Grady. He said, “You know, madame, I too once knew people of nerve.”
“Is that so, Grady?” I asked, liking the sound of his stuffy British voice against the big band swell.
“Driving on a rural road so late at night is not what proper people make other proper people do.”
I laughed. “I couldn’t agree with you more.”
Lloyd smirked as well, peeking through a glass, searching for waterspots.
“Yeah, well, what can I do, old friend? Not a whole helluva lot.”
The expression on Grady’s face in my rear view mirror was grave. He poked his head up between the two front seats.
“Do you know what I did to the improper people of my experience, madame?”
My curiosity was piqued.
“What did you do, Grady?” Even Lloyd was curious.
Grady cleared his throat.
“I corrected them, madame.”
“You corrected them, Grady?”
“That is exactly what I did, madame. When I had the chance. As soon as I arrived, I corrected them one by one.”
“And how did you correct them, if I may ask?”
Grady handed me a CD.
“Lloyd, can you give me a hand here, I’ve got mine full, as you can see.” I drained the glass.
Grady interrupted. “No madame, Lloyd is busy. This is for you.”
Lloyd looked out the window, listening to Astaire’s voice.
I took the CD.
“I suppose you want me to play this, is that true, Grady?”
“No, I don’t want you to play it. I want you to blast it.”
“And if I blast this, I will correct things, is that it?”
“Yes, madame. All things will be corrected.”
Darker and darker — a no light road. No sign, no hint — was I even in my Corolla anymore? A CD in my hand, two ghosts as passengers…and a command from the backseat driver, “blast it.”
Tinny, tinny plucked metal strings, plowing metal power chords — a voice from heaven, a shriek, a tree, two trees, rock, a canal, silence outside, blasting inside…she was singing, she was singing, she was singing and we crashed, my head — my numb, numb, head, my knees, and I thank you, I thank you for the song you sang