When we last left our heroine, the woman not the drug, she had just survived a skidding stop on the sardine can of death at the Itty Bitty City International Airport and Bowling Alley. She deplaned just in time to see the mayor/dogcatcher/janitor/air traffic controller bowl a 7-10 split. Naked. She climbed down the ladder from the plane then climbed back up another ladder into the jet way. She walked down the long corridor until she at last entered into the open expanse of the airport terminal and bowling alley. She squinted through the smoke filled haze and saw the Rental Car Kiosk. Hurrying over to the counter she removed her reservation from her bag. She uncrumpled the paper and looked to make sure it was the right rental company. She looked around and realized she was at the only rental counter. It stood empty. She searched frantically for an employee but there was no one. She waited and watched then she saw the light start to flash and the bells start to sound. This looked like it could be a good sign. Perhaps the luggage was being unloaded or at the very least it was arriving. She scanned the crowd all whooping and hollering and realized it was neither, just someone bowling a strike.
She waited what seemed to be a very long time. The sun had started moving low in the sky and the crowd had started to clear from lanes 9 and 10. “Ma’am has someone tended to you yet?” came a voice from behind the bar. Gladys turned to see a young man setting a couple of Lone Star beer’s on the counter and another man exchanging a five for the drinks. “Um, no. I rented a car and I’m trying to locate the rental agent.” The man looked at Gladys and shook his head “Lurlene done left over an hour ago. She said you might be comin in. She left you the keys on the counter. Just sign the paperwork where she put them yeller marks and leave them in her box.” Gladys looked on the counter and saw a set of car keys attached to a large piece of metal. “These keys?” He looked over the counter and said “yeup.” Gladys read the contract, signed the highlighted areas and agreed that if she didn’t bring the vehicle back full it would cost her $240.00 per gallon. She grabbed the keys then went to stand in front of the baggage claim. She stood with the other seven people from her flight when finally she heard what sounded like chicken screeching. Then the little rolling door opened and bags started flying through it complete with feathers flying and clothes scattering. It closed as quickly as it opened and all that was left were a few scattered chicken crates, a couple of boxes buzzing marked BEES and Gladys’ suitcase half opened with clothes scattered across the floor. She rushed over and gathered up her underwear and night gowns stuffing them back into the hole in the zipper.
She wiped the sweat and embarrassment from her brow and lugged her belongings out to through the door marked “rental cars/ tractor repair”. There in the lot sat four cars. She looked at the large metal key fob and saw a # 3 welded into it. She walked to the stall marked 3 and there one of the smallest cars she had ever seen. She walked up the lot and did not see any other cars that looked like rental cars. There was a 1967 Dodge Dart with “Go Beavers” bumper sticker and a rusted 1975 Ford F150 with “Sissy” and “Bubba” miniature license plates in the back window. She stood looking around confirming that this was indeed the rental lot. Confused and a little disheartened she walked back into the terminal/bowling alley and went to the only person she knew to go to. “Excuse me” she half whispered. The bartender was busy watching the Naked Bowling League and didn’t hear her so she spoke a little louder “EXCUSE ME.” He turned and looked at Gladys “you know bowling naked makes you re-think your whole technique and stance. What can I do for you? Wanna beer?” Gladys tried not to look at the naked people on the lanes and concentrate instead on her dilemma. “I went out that door over there and tried to find my rental car. It looked like just a parking lot for the employees. My key says #3 but there is a Yugo in that slot.” The bartender smiled and said “oh you got the good-un. Yeah that’s a real pip there. Now what’s the problem?” Gladys swallowed hard and said “THAT’S my Mid-sized rental car?” The bartender smiled and said “yeup. If you had of ordered the luxury you’d of gotten Bert’s, Gawd rest his soul, Dart and the SUV is old Cletus’ truck. Now what seems to be the problem?” Gladys sighed looked at her 4” stiletto heels, adjusted her big bag on her shoulder and said “well I need something bigger. How do I up-grade?” The bartender took a napkin and wrote a phone number on it. “This here is Lurlene’s home phone number. Call her tomorrow morning after 9 in the morning and she can help you.” Gladys cried “but I can’t wait until tomorrow. I have to drive to my destination tonight. Can’t you up-grade my car?” The bartender shook his head and said “nope, your gonna have to get a hold of Lorene.” Gladys thanked the man and dejectedly drug her bags back out to her awaiting Yugo.
Gladys loaded her bags into the back seat and got situated into the driver’s seat. She realized she was unable to see over the steering wheel. The seat had no springs and was sitting really low. She retrieved one of her bags from the back and placed it on the seat. She crawled on top and then adjusted her mirror. She turned the key and waited for the engine to turn over. Several attempts later it caught hold and sputtered to life. She eased the little car out of the parking spaced and slowly putted out onto the main highway. She had driven this area before but always in her own vehicle. She thought she knew in which direction to head but it was getting dark and had been an event filled day. She got to the flashing light of Highway 2679 and loop 161. She tried to remember which way she was supposed to turn. She knew if she went one direction it would take her to a major highway the other would take her into downtown Little Bitty City. Not wanting to go into Little Bitty City but instead head toward the countryside she turned right. She drove along trying to recognize landmarks or find direction signs. She drove along until finally she realized she was entering Little Bitty City. She took a deep breath and turned onto a side street. It had been a long time since she had been to Little Bitty City and it was much worse for wear. There seemed to be an awful lot of abandoned businesses and the neiborhoods no longer looked like cozy cottages but rundown slums. She turned again and this time headed in the correct direction. She drove and drove until finally she reached the main highway.
She saw a glowing sign in the distance, one that looked familiar. She drew closer and realized it was the local burger joint. She had not eaten since early that morning and what’s more had run out of water several hours back so she steered the little tin can of a car into the drive thru lane. She drove up to the speaker to order. Miracle of miracles the voice that came on the speaker was neither garbled or mangled; it was in fact very clear. “Welcome to Burger Joint what can I get for you?” Gladys looked over the menu board and said “I would like a Junior burger without the bun and a large iced tea.” There was a pause then the voice came back on the line and said “You want the Junior burger and no bun? Do you want mustard?” Gladys spoke slowly and clearly “yes, I want the junior burger with no bun and no mustard. Just the patty with some lettuce wrapped around it.” There again came a long pause and then the microphone clicked and the faceless voice said “you only want a bun?” Gladys again took a deep breath and slowly repeated her order “I want a junior burger with NO bun. No mustard. Just a patty wrapped in lettuce.” This time another voice came on the speaker “you want a hamburger patty only?” Gladys relieved that they finally understood smiled and said “YES! And an iced tea, unsweet.” There was a brief pause and then the click “do you want that patty cooked?” Gladys blew out all of her air and said “YES I WANT IT COOKED!” The mic clicked and said “pull forward please.” Gladys pulled up to the window and waited. The window opened and a fresh faced boy handed her a bag and a cup and said “we don’t know what to charge you. We ain’t never had nobody order no bun afore. So that’ll be two and a quarter.” Gladys handed the boy her money and drove out of the parking lot afraid to look into the bag. She pulled under a street lamp just before the entrance ramp to the highway and took a sip of her iced tea. It took her a minute to figure out what was wrong with her tea. They had misunderstood her UN-sweet for EXTRA-sweet. It was like drinking tea syrup. She started looking in the little car for a cup holder only non-was to be found. She gave up the search and stuck the ice cold cup between her knees and fished the hopefully lettuce wrapped burger from the bag. There in all of its perfection was a hunk of red meat cooked crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside wrapped in a big sheet of ice berg lettuce. They had even thought to cut the brick of meat in half. She devoured the beef and greens and forgetting the sweetness of the drink took a long pull from her straw.
Now it was time to hit the road.