When Driving in a Lemon

“One posthumous measure of a person’s life is how often you imagine his impossible return to deal with some event he never lived to encounter. You picture his reactions, his advice, his sage commentary and humorous asides. For instance, I think about Mark Twain’s hypothetical take on current events several times a week.” – Paul Di Filippo

It seemed as though, the further we drove along, Norm hit ever pothole imaginable. Every hole that he hit, made the inside of my head feel as though it was finally going to give and cave in. I don’t know how long we have been driving, but I know it has been hours. It was the early afternoon and the sun was still high in the sky. I haven’t properly slept in the past day and the hunger and sleep and pain and nausea and annoyance were really getting to me. I looked over through my squinted eyes at Norm. He was calmly driving along the highway. He was wearing black Ray Ban sunglasses and this was the quietest I have heard him since he had taken me. I looked back over the road.

The flat land of Illinois and Indiana was becoming hillier as we were being swallowed by Michigan. The rhythmic hum of the tires hugging the road, blended with the constant ringing that was in my left ear. My left ear that only hours before had pieces of Matt on it. My left ear that only hours before had a bullet shot right past it. I had blacked out and Norm must have gotten his way, because now we were out of that insipid house. I looked over at him again and he was still calmly watching the road. The hum of the tires and the ringing in my ears were almost too much so I reached over to the radio and flipped it on. I felt his glance through his dark glasses.

“And just what do we think we are doing, Fatty?” he said with that banal insult.

“I need some background noise. It’s too quiet in here.” Apparently I had made a great joke.

“You, you, you. I’ve really grown to love you. You know that, Dan? You always say the funniest things.”

“I don’t know how the things I say are funny to you.”

“Oh, but they are. You just have this serendipitous way about you. You stumble upon things. Like how you stumbled upon us. It’s too quiet in here so you need background noise you say. Yet, merely 12 hours ago you were complaining that we were talking to much, no? A real conundrum for you. A real conundrum. Do you know who else had a conundrum speaking of background noise?” he asked not taking his eyes off the road.

“I don’t have any guesses. Where are we going, by the way?”

“We are going to the lake house. Don’t digress. You are always trying to digress. It’s a real problem of yours, you know. The man who had the conundrum was Beethoven.”

“Of course it was,” I facetiously said.

“Yes. It was. See, Beethoven was a composer.”

“I know,” I interrupted.

“And by the time he as 30, he had started to lose his hearing. Not something that is really that great for a composer, you know? Well, it started to affect the way that he would write his symphonies. I mean, he couldn’t hear some of the notes anymore, the high notes in particular, so he would start writing symphonies that would have lower notes in them. Well, people at the time thought this was bizarre. It was jarring to them. And poor Ludwig would avoid social situations because of his condition that people weren’t readily in the know of his hearing loss. They thought that he was just writing some weird and bizarre symphonies to be an eccentric artist.

“Since he was deaf, he didn’t really understand people when they spoke to him, but they just attributed this to eccentric behavior of an artist. They attributed his composition to that of an eccentric artist. But the irony was, he was just trapped inside of his head and he couldn’t convey that to anyone, lest he be the laughing stock of the symphony world. Even though, in reality, he was becoming just that.

“So, by you needing background noise. Are you trying to hear something that isn’t here or are you hearing something that isn’t here?” he asked. He put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it. He cracked his window enough that he would be able to ash the cigarette which added to the extremely loud white noise. I ignored his psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo. Something that I was learning to do from my time with him.

“Why are we going to the lake house?” I asked him. He held out a cigarette for me. I took it.

“I don’t know really. I haven’t thought about that place in a long time. Not since last night.”

“Are you going to be okay if we go there?” I asked.

“Probably not. Then again, neither one of us will ever be okay again.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “Are you hungry? All that I have eaten in the past day was a greasy burger and some shitty ravioli.” I smiled. He chuckled. I lit my cigarette.

“Next exit I see, we can grab something. I think I have some cash in the back there,” He pointed to the back where the bag from my store was.

“Well…Fuck it. I guess lunch is on Mrs. Rothstein,” I said, blowing out a cloud of smoke. I looked at the cars on the other side of the highway. The high sun reflecting off their windshields. Norm’s mouth was agape at my use of his term and my blatant cursing.

“Fuck it,” he said, smiling.

This was a hypothetical scene that was a blog prompt from my publisher. Blog prompt for the week: If your main characters were taking a weekend road trip together, where would they go – where would they stop – what would they listen to on the way? It was a fun prompt to write and I’m glad I got to extend an interaction between those two just a little bit longer. Maybe they could have been friends, in a different life.

Please to enjoy.


  1. Good stuff, hopefully I’ll have time to read your book soon!


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