Forty Seven: Livin' on Tulsa Time

Alley


I’d always loved driving. To me, there was nothing better to do on a cool summer night than to roll down the windows, open the sunroof, put on some good music, and just drive aimlessly. There was just something about the combination of speed, wind, and a great bass line that lifted my spirits. Driving was a release.

About ten hours into our trip, however, I seriously reconsidered those thoughts. Especially since I was traveling with one very cranky teenage boy.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“We just stopped twenty minutes ago!” I said, exasperated. We wouldn’t get there until Tuesday afternoon if this kept up.

“I didn’t have to go then.”

“Well, you should have gone anyway! We’re never going to get there at this rate.”

“Well, sor-ry,” he said huffily. “Then I guess you’ll excuse me when I piss my pants.”

I growled in frustration. “Well, you’re going to have to wait until the next exit, and I don’t know where that is. Of course, unless you want me to pull over and you can piss on the side of the interstate.”

“No!” he said, horrified.

“Why not? We’ll turn our heads, and it’s not like anyone else will see,” chimed Louise. We both cracked up.

“You bitches,” he muttered. “No, I’ll wait, thank you. Besides, I don’t think you’d be able to keep yourselves from sneaking a peak.”

Louise and I glanced at each other and burst into laughter again. Taylor was evidently insulted by this, as I caught a glare from him in the rearview mirror, and he put on his headphones and ignored us. For that, I was grateful.

We drove on for another thirty minutes or so before we came to a rest area. I got out, stretching my legs.

“Alright, Taylor. Go do your business.” I waved my hand carelessly in the direction of the restrooms. “We’ll be right here.”

He scowled, but quickly sprinted toward the building. Louise and I grinned.

“He’s worse than your four-year-old cousin,” I remarked.

“Yeah. Far worse. At least Andrew knows better than to pester the driver every thirty seconds.”

“You wanna drive for awhile? My eyes are getting a little dry.”

“Sure.” We switched sides.

“You think we’re doing the right thing?” I asked. “I mean, is this going to make anything better? What if we don’t find anything out? Or we get horrible news?”

“What if we get good news?” she pointed out. “I think this was a good idea. He needs to know, for better or for worse.”

“Okay,” I sighed. “I guess you’re right.” I drummed my fingers on the top of the car.

“Did you put it in there?” she asked in a hushed voice after a moment of silence. I smiled softly, not needing to ask what it was. It was my completed birthday present for Taylor. I figured that if worse came to worst, I would go ahead and give it to him a little early.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s in the trunk. Behind the suitcases. I covered it with the blankets.”

She nodded. “So he hasn’t seen it?”

“Nope. And I don’t plan for him to, just yet. So we have to keep him out of the trunk as much as possible.”

“Gotcha.”

I bent over and scratched my leg, which seemed to have suddenly become a recreational park for mosquitoes. I fervently wished that Taylor would hurry up and do his business so we could get moving again. And before I was eaten alive.

“Come on, Taylor,” I muttered, swatting at the offending bugs. “No man should ever take this long in the bathroom.”

“He’s probably fixing his hair.” Louise laughed softly.

“For who? He doesn’t have anyone to impress.”

Louise just shook her head and smiled.

“What?”

“Nevermind. You’ll get it one of these days.”

I rolled my eyes. “I wish you’d stop being so cryptic all the time.” I glanced toward the rest area’s main building. “And look, here comes Mr. Hottie Pants* now.”

Taylor sauntered over to the car, fiddling with his belt on the way. “Alright, let’s go,” he said cheerfully.

“About time,” I said.

“Bite me.”

“Thanks, but I don’t eat pork.”

He rolled his eyes. “That just made no sense whatsoever.”

“Shut up and get in the car.”

We piled in, Louise driving. Back onto the interstate, which had to be the most boring stretch of land in the entire country. It gave me a great appreciation for the rolling hills and bluegrass back home.

“How do people live out here? There’s absolutely nothing. At least back home you’ll see a horse or two grazing around by the interstate.”

“Maybe these people don’t like horses,” Louise said.

“How can you not like horses?”

“They can be pretty scary.”

“No they’re not!” I scoffed. “Well, maybe some stallions, you know, but that’s why you turn them into geldings.” I grinned, waiting for the one male in the car to protest. None came, and I turned in my seat to look back at Taylor. He still had those damn headphones on.

“Taylor,” I said sharply. His eyes were closed, he didn’t hear me.

I grabbed Louise’s drink from the cupholder and began digging ice out of it. “What are you doing?” she demanded.

“You’ll see.” I gathered a handful of ice, got on my knees and turned around. I slowly leaned over, being careful not to disturb him in any way so he wouldn’t open his eyes. Then in one swift movement, I grabbed the collar of his shirt and threw the ice into it.

The scream that followed could barely be described as human. It’s a good thing Louise wasn’t a jumpy sort of girl, or we probably would have run off the road. I shrunk back into the seat, watching Taylor steam.

“Why did you do that?! What’s wrong with you?”

I offered him what I hoped was an sad face. “Well, you’ve not been talking, you’ve been ignoring us. Plus, I was bored.”

“Whatever,” he mumbled, fishing small chips of ice from under his shirt. “You’re psychotic.”

“Well, if you’re going to be a spoilsport about it, then just put those headphones back on.”

“Gladly.”

I sighed and turned back around. Baby.

“When’s our next stop?” I asked Louise.

“I dunno… I was going to ask you.”

“Well, I vote we stop at about six and eat somewhere. Then there will just be five hours left.” I groaned. “Only five hours.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

We continued on our trek. Taylor continued to brood, and I continued to be bored out of my mind. I listened to my own discman for part of the time, but even that lost its appeal after awhile. I couldn’t read, because all the jostling from the car combined with unmoving print gave me a massive headache. I was relieved when Louise pointed out a prospective stopping point around six o’clock.

I turned around in the seat as Louise pulled into a Sonic drive-in. We had figured that eating in the car would be easier than going inside somwhere. “Taylor,” I said, poking him in the knee. “Hey.”

“What now?”

“What do you want to eat?”

“I don’t care.”

I pointed to the sign just outside of the car. “Well, I don’t care, either. Just pick something randomly from the menu!”

He sighed, as if this was some great task. “I don’t know, one of those chicken basket things. And a Coke.”

I turned to Louise. “I’ll have the brown bag special. And a Vanilla Coke.” I grinned. “Mmmm…. Vanilla…”

“That stuff is gross. It tastes like cake icing,” said Taylor. “Too sweet.”

“Too sweet?” I said. “Just like me, eh?”

He barked a short laugh. “Yeah. Exactly.”

Louise pushed the button outside of our window and ordered the food. Five minutes later, it arrived, and I scarfed mine down. I finished at least a good ten minutes ahead of both Louise and Taylor.

“Jesus, child, were you hungry?” Louise asked.

“I guess I was,” I admitted. “I didn’t realize it until I started eating.” I watched her eat. “So, you want me to drive again?”

“Nah, I can handle it. Just five more hours, after all.”

“Five?” We both looked back at Taylor, who looked more than a little chagrined. “Please tell me you didn’t say five!”

“She did,” I said cheerfully. “Five more fun-filled hours in an enclosed space with us.”

He groaned, finishing off his chicken. “Great. Well, let’s get going. The sooner we get there, the better.”

“For once I think he’s right,” I said to Louise. “Are you ready?”

“Yep. Here, go throw this stuff away.” She handed me a Sonic bag with our trash in it. I got out of the car and tossed into a nearby Dumpster. When I got back to the car, I opened the back door and poked my head in.

“You want to sit up front?” I asked Taylor.

“No, why?”

“Because I want to lie down.”

“Well, I don’t like sitting up front because my knees are all jammed up in the dash.”

“Then scoot the seat back!”

“I’d rather just sit in the back.”

“But I want to get in the back!”

We probably would have continued that productive argument for quite a while if Louise hadn’t wisely intervened.

“Both of you just get back there. There’s enough room.”

“But--”

“No ‘Buts’. Just do it. And I don’t want to hear a peep out of you until our next stop.” Louise grinned at our sour faces.

“Fine. Taylor, scoot over.”

Cursing under his breath, Taylor slid in behind the passenger seat, discman in hand. I retrieved one of the blankets from the trunk and got in beside him. As Louise maneuvered us back onto the interstate, I attempted to maneuver into a halfway comfortable position.

“I don’t have enough room,” I mumbled, squishing my body in the small space between Taylor and the door. I butted his leg with the top of my head. “Scoot over!”

“I can’t scoot over anymore or I’ll be out on the road.”

“Dammit.

“Here.” I watched as Taylor grabbed the bottom of his thick sweatshirt and began to yank it over his head to reveal a very wrinkled white T-shirt.

“Taking off your shirt is going to make me feel better? You are vain.”

“Nooooo,” he said condescendingly. “And if you’d listen to me, your majesty, I might explain.”

“Go on.”

He folded the sweatshirt over several times and placed in it his lap. He gently patted it. “Lay here.”

I studied him for a moment, debating whether or not this was part of some dirty trick he had up his sleeve. Surprisingly, his eyes seemed honest, and I silently crawled over and put my head in his lap and pulled the blanket across me. He chuckled and rested one large hand on my back.

“Sorry for being so difficult. You’re doing a lot for me here and I haven’t shown my appreciation enough.”

“S’OK,” I mumbled, blushing hotly. I was glad he couldn’t see my face. I immediately felt guilty for complaining about him earlier. I mean, he was the one with something at stake here. He had a right to be stressed.

“Get some rest,” Taylor said. God, he was hard to figure out. One minute he was a brat, the next a complete angel. I turned and watched as he put his headphones back on. I adjusted slightly in the seat, nestling my head into his sweatshirt and curling my legs up. I lay awake for awhile before I managed to fall asleep.

I awoke later to a rousing rendition of Kate by Ben Folds Five, performed by the duo of Taylor and Louise.

When all words fail, she speaks, her mix tape’s a masterpiece…

“Ugh,” I grunted, squirming around until I was sitting up.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty.” Louise grinned at me in the rearview mirror.

“Uh-huh,” I mumbled. I rubbed my fist furiously against my eyes. Taylor was staring wide-eyed out the window, still singing along. Either something was terribly fascinating out there, or he was comatose.

I wanna be… Kate…. Kate….

“What time is it?”

“Almost midnight.”

“Midnight? You mean I slept for the whole five hours!?!?”

“Yep.”

“So…. where the hell are we?” I asked, squinting out the windows into the night. Tall businesses, restaurants, and shops surrounded us. A thick line of traffic was lined on either side. The lights were almost blinding.

“We need to re-set the clocks,” Louise said.

“Why? Are we….?”

“Because, my dear…. we are officially in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”