She was running and running trying to get away from the monster with the big blue eyes. It was whirring and buzzing, clicking, clacking and rushing after her. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her; but just like in the movies she fell. She fell running in the four inch stiletto heels that she had put on with her pajamas. She rubbed her ankle and tried to get back up but it was too late. The monster with the big blue eyes was hovering over her breathing in her face. The monster’s breath smelled familiar, sweet and milky, like Cheerios. Gladys twitched then opened her eyes realizing she had been dreaming. Only it wasn’t totally a dream. Her subconscious had picked up items from reality and inserted them into her dream. There breathing in her face inches from her nostrils stood a little girl with hair sticking straight up and remnants of breakfast on her face. Gladys blinked and looked around the room trying to get her bearings. Oh that’s right, she thought, I am at the B & B and this must be Pearl’s little girl. She sat up and looked at the toddler and stretched. The little girl just continued to stare at Gladys. “Well, hello there” Gladys ventured “what’s your name?” The tot blinked her eyes, screwed up her face and let out a wail. Gladys jumped up in the bed “I’m sorry. What did I say? Oh, please don’t cry!” Gladys pleaded with the child. Just then there was a knock on the door “Nancy? Are you in there? Nancy?” Pearl inquired through the closed door. “She’s here!” Gladys responded and got up to open the door. The door was locked from the inside. Gladys looked at the child then at the door and wondered out loud “how did she get in? I locked that door last night.” She heard Pearl through the door “she does that sometimes.”
Gladys opened the door and the little girl wandered out into the hallway. Pearl grabbed the child then turned to Gladys “I’m so sorry. I don’t know how she gets in rooms like that. She just does. She can get out of them too. I swear if I didn’t know where she came from I would think she was related to Houdini. How did you sleep hon?”
Gladys blinked trying to take it all in and acclimate herself to her surroundings “alright I guess. What time is it?” Pearl turned her wrist over checked her watch and said “it’s a quarter to four. I kind of slept in this morning. I’ll have breakfast out in a bit.” Gladys tried to smile but did the math in her head. She was still on west coast time; this was east coast time, which meant it was one o’clock in the morning! Oh sweet Jesus, I need sleep. She shut the door and crawled back into the bed and listened to the whir and whoosh of the computer. Finally realizing she would not sleep she crawled into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
Freshly coiffed and made up Gladys made her way to the small dining area just off the parlor. She noticed there was a young man sitting in one of the chairs; slack jawed watching the big screened television as if it were going to reveal the mysteries of the world instead of the local farm report. Gladys grunted out a good morning and the man grunted one in return. There on the table sat some cantaloupe, watermelon and some biscuits. She could hear Pearl banging around in the kitchen talking to the little girl “Put that bowl over there. No, put it there. No come back here with that bowl.” Then Gladys heard a door slam and Pearl yelling “Nancy get back HERE! You bring back my bowl of gravy!” Gladys pushed the door open and stuck her head in “is there something I can help you with?” she asked the harried looking Pearl. “No, Nancy just ran out into the back yard with the bowl of gravy I made to go with the biscuits. I’m afraid I’ll have to make some more” Pearl answered sadly. “No, no please don’t make any on my account. I am just fine with the melon” Gladys insisted.
Pearl shook her head and said “no, I HAVE to make more gravy. Bud won’t eat nuthin but biscuits and gravy for breakfast. He won’t touch a melon, or a fruit, or for that matter anything that is green. He pretty much will only eat bread, meat and taters.”
Gladys felt sorry for Pearl but more so for Bud. His cholesterol must be sky high. Pearl pulled out the big black frying pan and spooned some fat into it and told Gladys “You go on out and get yourself some coffee. I do this every morning.” Gladys complied and found a mug some cream and filled it to the brim. She walked over and sat in one of the chairs facing the gigantic television and tried to concentrate on what the man with the overalls on was talking about. She tried not to imagine the gigantic boulders of plaque building up in the man in the next chairs arteries. She thought the announcer said something about farm futures and rising cost of hog feed, although he could have also said hog feet. Then she felt eyes on her again she turned quickly and saw the little girl once again within inches of her face staring at her. She smiled and said to the child “my name is Gladys, what’s yours.” The little girl blinked her big blue eyes and said “nu-uh. Your name is Annie. I’m Nancy.” Gladys smiled and said “no, my name is Gladys. So your name is Nancy. Like the book Fancy Nancy?” The little girl shook her head no and said “your name is Annie. I’m Fancy Nancy.” Then she giggled and ran out the front door. Gladys looked at the man sitting in the chair in order to compliment him on his child. The man still staring at the television seemed to be oblivious of the exchange. “Your daughter is so cute. She seems like a live wire” Gladys commented. The man said “Yeah, um-uh” and continued to stare at the television.
Gladys got up and looked out the window. The sun was starting to rise and the colors outside were pinks and greens. She saw the little girl sitting in the gravel drive eating gravy with her fingers. She saw the sad little car sitting a lopsided on the drive. She wondered if it was too early to call the U-Drive-Em to see about trading out the car. She looked at her watch and decided that five thirty in the morning was probably too early to call Lurlene.
Gladys went back to the little haunted bedroom and retrieved her book, made her way to the porch and sat and read. It was hot and humid and Gladys wasn’t used to the climate plus she hadn’t slept well the next thing she knew she awoke with her hair plastered to her forehead, drool oozing out of the corner of her mouth and her fingernails painted pink, purple and green. She sat up with a start and looked around when she heard “hold still Annie. I gots to get your yittle piggy.” She looked down and saw Nancy with a neon pink Sharpee coloring on her toe. “Oh thank you Nancy but I just had a pedicure. I don’t think your coloring inside the lines or in this case the toe nail. What kind of marker is that” Gladys inquired of the little tot. Nancy looked up giggled and said “all done.” Gladys looked at her toes painted a rainbow of colors, not her toenails but her toes. She sighed and thought “oh well at least I’ll be unique” and went back to reading her book.
She looked at her watch and realized it was close to ten and that Lurlene the car rental lady should be by the phone. She grabbed her Crackberry and dialed the number but nothing happened. She moved to the front yard and still nothing happened. She walked to the end of the drive and still no service. Gladys took a deep breath because that is what the cardiologist told her to do and retrieved the keys to the little car. She got in and drove up the lane, still no service. She drove up the farm to market road, still no service. She drove on until she could see the major highway and finally she had service.
“Good morning” said the cheery voice “U-Drive-Um. This is Lurlene how can I hep you?” Gladys rushed through her problems with the little car, “It stalled at the gas station and I had to get a nice lady to help me start it, then it died when I turned right. Well not every time I turn right just most of the time. It dies like 9 times out of 10.” There was a pause and Lurlene responded “well then don’t turn right. I mean just take lefts. It worked for Dale Earnhart. Well up until he crashed.” Gladys sat there a moment and said “regardless I need to exchange the car for something in a little better shape.” Lurlene chuckled and said “oh yeah? Alright bring it in and I’ll give you a different car.” Gladys explained she would be there that afternoon because the trek back to the Itty Bitty City International Airport and Bowling alley was 45 miles away and in the Yugo it would take her most of the day. Lurlene told her that was fine and would be looking for her.
Gladys back tracked to Dreary Lane Bed and Breakfast and freshened up, grabbed a bottle of water and a granola bar from her suitcase and headed towards IBC. She drove and drove pushing the little Yugo to its limit of 45 miles per hour. She hugged the right shoulder of the highway and held on with both hands when the eighteen wheelers blew past her threatening to either suck her under their wheels or blow her off the road. She exited to the right and had to crawl to a stop and restart the car, the drove white knuckled until she finally saw the sign indicating the bowling alley parking was to the right and the airport rental car return was to the right. She chugged into the lot and looked around not expecting more praying there would be a newer, larger vehicle waiting. She gathered her belongings from the little car and entered through the roll up door into the terminal/bowling alley and up to the rental kiosk. Most of the lanes were empty other than some older ladies rolling the ball at the far end. She looked around and saw no one in the kiosk. She looked at the bar in the center of the area and it too stood empty. “Hello! Anybody home?” Gladys called out. She called out several more times and received no answer. Finally one of the ladies from lane one came down and looked around “Lurlene must be parkin the 2:10 from Springfield. She’ll be right back. Just have a seat at the bar. Unless you’re a cracker jack bowler. Then why don’t you come down here and show Maude how to bowl. That woman ain’t never thrown more than a 80. Old fool won’t listen to no one.” Gladys smiled and thanked the woman and explained that Maude’s score was miles above what she could do.
Finally a woman with some head phones and a flashlight in her hand came around the corner. “Well, hey there! I hope you haven’t been waitin too long” she said as she entered the bar and removed her head gear. “I have come to trade out cars with Lurlene?” Gladys half stated and half begged. The woman pointed toward the rental kiosk with the orange coned appendix and said “I’m Lurlene let’s go on over to my office.” She went behind the counter and said “hon, I don’t have a thing I can trade you out for. I just rented out the last vee-hicle I had. Although I have a Ford Areostar Mini-Van I can upgrade you to for $60.00 more a day. Whatcha say?” Gladys stood with her mouth agape and the little voice telling her “breath, just breath” but she was ignoring it. She heard her pulse beating in her ears and felt the heaviness of her anger. “You said you had a car. I drove all the way over here to get a car that doesn’t DIE when I turn right or left or go in circles. Why did you tell me to come if you didn’t have a car to exchange out with me” Gladys spit out through clinched teeth. Lurlene took a step away from the rage that was exuding through every pour of the little woman. She coughed and said “well, hon, I had a car for you, but then the 12:05 landed and I sold right out. Now I couldn’t turn down a cash money payin customer, could I?” Gladys leaned across the counter and said “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK I’M PAYING WITH? SEA SHELLS? NOW GET ME A DAMNED CAR THAT DOESN’T DIE!” Lurlene shuffled through some papers and picked up the phone and made a call. She whispered into the phone and ended with “I don’t care just git over here.” Gladys stood glaring at the woman wishing she had lasers in her eyeballs to burn a hole through Lurlene’s head. She was getting dizzy and remembered she had not taken a breath. She exhaled the breath she had been holding and inhaled fresh oxygen and tried to revive her system. She said her calming words over and over in her mind hoping this would bring her blood pressure down.
A young man came bounding up to the kiosk and said “Maw, we ain’t got no more cars. I got two of em coming in the morning though.” Lurlene gave the boy the keys to the Yugo and said “This lady here says that the Yug dies when she turns right would you go see if you can do something bout that?” Then she turned to Gladys and said “we ain’t got nuthin to give you right now. I’ll reimburse you your gas if you come back in the morning. I will keep a car in the lot.” Gladys smiled trying to remain calm and said “I want an upgrade. I want my fuel reimbursed and I want a car that does not die. One that was made in this century.” Lurlene wrote up the paperwork and handed it to Gladys who signed and initialed. The boy came back in and handed the keys back to Gladys. “I’m sorry ma’am but it didn’t die on me at all. Are you steppin on the gas when you turn? Cause she is a little touch and you have to give her some gas when you turn or go up a hill. Just massage it a bit. You know put your foot down then let it up and just keep repeating that.” Gladys grabbed the keys thanked the boy and went back to the little car. She started the motor and chugged out of the parking lot. She would have laid rubber but the little car just didn’t have it in her.
Gladys drove back towards Dreary Lane, the little car lurching forward then rocking back as she massaged the throttle. She kept telling herself to breath in and out. She rolled down the window a little further trying to get the most benefit from the two window down and 55 mile per hour air conditioning system. Well she thought as Scarlett O'Hara would say "tomorrow is another day."