Foggy Days and Mondays
Pete never questioned his good fortune, until now.
The cracked windshield, only inches from his face was bloody and when he felt the heat from his forehead, he knew the blood was his own.
He couldn't remember how he got there and wasn't even sure where he was. The blurred landscape outside the webbed glass could have been Siberia just as easily as it could have been his own backyard.
Pete remembered Sondra. She sat in the front seat of his Dad's Chevy with her knees folded up to her chest and her bare toes curled around the edge of the tan upholstery. They parked in the County Market parking lot where Pete bagged groceries after school. They shared a Milky Way, passing the candy bar between them.
"If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?" Sondra asked.
Pete never considered this. Where else would he go besides right there?
"I don't know. Where would you go?"
"Africa," she said without hesitating.
"Africa? That's pretty big. I'm not sure that is an acceptable answer." He looked over at her while she gazed out the passenger window.
"I want to see zebras and giraffes. And not like the ones at the zoo. I want to see them in their natural habitat."
Pete pictured Sondra tiptoeing through tall brown grass in her bare feet, binoculars dangling around her neck, carefully approaching a herd of grazing zebras.
"That would be cool. I would like to go to Africa too."
"You have to have your own answer to the question. You can't steal mine."
Pete thought of it more as sharing rather than stealing. "How about a mountain? A high one. Maybe Mount Everest."
"Are you sure? Have you given this much thought?"
The windows began to fog up as the night air grew more humid. They wrote messages with their fingers and breathed onto the windows to make them disappear.
What was Sondra doing these days, he wondered. Last he heard she moved to Portland or Seattle or something. She and her mother left town after her father died in a car crash.
"That road's bad at night," people said. "Someone oughta do something about that."
But everyone in town knew the truth. Her father lost his job. Outsourcing, downsizing, something like that. He shut himself off from everyone. And then one foggy night, he never came home.
"Never felt a thing. Happened in an instant," the investigator said. "The speed he was going, never knew what hit him. Or what he hit."
Pete dropped Sondra off at her house after that night in the Chevy. She didn't show up for school that Monday morning. But he never forgot sharing her Africa dream. He always thought of Sondra as exotic. With her dark hair and eyes. And then her Africa dream.
Pete heard the rain pelting the roof. It was getting colder. He couldn't move his hand to turn the knob to adjust the heat. Was he wearing shoes? He couldn't remember. How did that story go? Wasn't Sondra's father killed in an instant? Couldn't feel a thing? How would luck have him here then? Cold, motionless and completely conscious?
If he made it through this, how would he face anyone again? Maybe he could move to Seattle or Portland and find Sondra. That was twenty years ago. Would she even remember him?
Last Monday morning, Pete's boss called him into his office. All he heard was something about reorganization. He wasn't aware of the rest of the conversation. He just knew when he started with the company, it was dumb luck. An old college roommate recommended him and he sailed through the hiring process. Nine years and four promotions later, he thought he had the world by the tail.
Traveling to every part of the world in this global economy replaced the idea of a family for Pete. He even went to Africa, but never once saw a zebra.
No amount of dreaming could get Pete out of his situation now. As the windows began to fog up, he tried to read the writing. But when his eyes focused, the words were gone.
Pete noticed the fog become a red haze. He was sure it was the blood in his eyes.
Then he heard the radio, some late night talk radio, he thought.
"We're going to get you out of there." A figure beyond the fogged window tapped on the glass next to Pete's face.