Brent watched the man slowly rise from his crouched position; rise, and rise, and rise still more. He knew his mouth was hanging open, but he couldn’t stop staring. The man was nothing short of a Colossus. The man chuckled at the sight of Brent’s face and Brent immediately feigned nonchalance. “It’s okay,” the man’s voice carried over the sound of the rain, “I get that a lot.”
Brent cursed within the confines of his own mind before turning back toward the car, thinking to himself about the futility of fighting back should this giant of a man turn out to be an ax murderer or a psychopath of some kind. “Alright, c’mon,” he said, as he paced the wet, sloshy steps back toward his still-running Corolla. He opened the driver-side door as the man gave a tug on the handle opposite him. The door was still locked. For a split second, Brent thought about speeding away, but couldn’t bring himself to do it; something about this man was gravitational. He hit the unlock button, and the man pulled open the door, crouching low. He paused before sliding in and quickly unzipped his poncho, slipped it off and sat down. He rolled the poncho into a neat ball outside the door with a marked expedience. Brent watched as he pulled the passenger door closed and placed the poncho ball into the floorboard at his substantial feet.
“You can move that seat back. There’s a handle underneath.” The man, who had a pleasant, almost joyful, look on his face, reached beneath the seat to find the lever that would free him his dashboard-induced prison. As he silently gave himself more room, Brent took in his frame. He wore a gray, fitted t-shirt, jeans and work boots. His hair was cut short, neat and he seemed recently shaven. He didn’t look like he belonged crouched in a ball, on the side of the road, in the pouring rain. In fact, he looked like he belonged on a football field or in a superhero comic. Brent sat up straighter in his seat out of a subconscious desire to prevent emasculation by association, “I’m Brent.” He stuck out his hand.
“Gabe,” the man took Brent’s hand in his own and dwarfed it; like a small child putting his hand inside a bunch of bananas. Brent noticed the disparity immediately but pretended he didn’t. He put the car into drive and began checking his mirrors.
“I’m headed toward Townsend. It’s the nearest town with a hotel and food. I hope that’s okay with you.”
“Oh, yes. That will be just fine.” Gabe smiled broadly toward Brent. The night sky was beginning to take over and the rain seemed to be letting up just enough to make the drive bearable.
“You’re not from around here, huh?”
“No, definitely not; what gave me away?” His crisp, clear voice radiated joy. The way its cadence and tone carried made Brent somehow happier. He wasn’t sure he liked that, considering that he set out on this little journey to stew in his own anger.
“Well, you have zero accent, and you used the word ‘yes.’”
Gabe chuckled, “I see. I suppose I should say ‘yeah’ and ‘yawl’ if I want to be more inconspicuous.”
Brent found himself smiling at Gabe for no particular reason. When he realized it was happening, he tried to stoke the embers of his waning grudge by focusing on the words his sister had spoken to him before he’d succumbed to his emotions at his parent’s cabin less than two hours earlier. “We’d rather sell this place to someone who knows what they’re doing than to let Mom and Dad’s legacy be run into the ground with an inexperienced toddler like you running it,” her voice echoed in his ears. He rolled the words around in his brain, letting them marinate. He had to stay focused. He needed to be angry, or he’d never be able to go through with his plan.
Tylie Eaves is the CEO and Founder of Vertu Marketing LLC and Vertu Publishing. She is a wife, mother, author, speaker, coach and research analyst who strives to carpe the crap out of every diem.