Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sentinals



Fran & Gary ...continued


A short work of fiction in 4 parts.

Chapter - 1, Pelicans


Chapter - 2, Pirates


Chapter - 3, Sentinals


Chapter - 4, Cubes



Gary kept his eye on the temperature gauge. It kept inching upward toward the redline and it made him nervous. He had been sitting in line for what seemed like an hour. His Corvette sat at idle in the 105 degree heat as he waited for traffic to inch forward.

This was the unbearable part of returning home. First the wait at the border, then the secondary check by INS several miles into the country, and now this. He had no idea what the delay was, but it had lasted over 30 minutes and he was getting frustrated.

The line of cars in front of him snaked over the hill a half mile away and disappeared. He had no idea how long the line was or how long before his car would start to melt in the desert heat.

As the line of cars slowly crept forward, one car length at a time, he noticed a turnout by the side of the road. It was a rest area with some covered picnic tables. Gary turned his car into the rest area and shut off the engine. "Better to wait here and save some gas than to just sit waiting in traffic." he thought.

The blast of desert heat overwhelmed him as he left the air conditioned cockpit of his mid-life crisis toy. "Dry heat my ass!" he muttered to himself as he walked over to the covered picnic tables Gary sat down and contemplated the barren scenery around him.

This was where reality started to set in. No more cold beer and warm ocean. He was smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. This was the road back to real life. The trek was seldom pleasant. All around him, tall saguaros stood guard at the entrance to the American dream. Gary pulled out his cell phone to see if he was back in range of the network. "Might as well face the music." he said to himself. He pushed the series of buttons that logged him back into the electronic grid that ruled his world.

“You have 5 new messages and 12 old messages. You are at the main menu. Press….”, Gary cut the automated phone voice off by pushing the #1 button.

“First Message, Sent Friday at 5:32pm......Gary, this is June. I was wondering if we could get together sometime this weekend, maybe have dinner. I want to go over the shared portfolio to see if we want to keep it joint or cash out and cut the final ties. I am going out this evening, but will be…..” Gary hit the save button and sent his ex-wife’s message to voice mail.

Next Message, Sent Friday at 6:41pm……”Yo, Gary! It’s Ralph. Hey, I need a favor. I think I deleted the Excel file that contained the revised annual report with the new numbers from Wednesday. Can you resend the workbook to me before Monday so I can have it ready for the…..” once again, Gary hit the save button. He sort of wondered if the world actually stopped functioning when he wasn’t around. Did everyone just stand around and ask where Gary was until he returned?

Next Message, Sent Friday at 7:05pm…….”Yo Gary! Ralph. Where are you man? I need to get the presentation updated before the boss shows up and…..” click, Gary simply deleted Ralph’s follow up message. He had been riding his coat tails ever since he started the damn job.

Next Message, Sent Saturday at 4:30pm……”Hi Gary. This is Brenda. We met at Rick and Fran’s house warming last month. You had mentioned that if we could find a good wine bar that served a decent Pinot Noir we should check it out. Well I just found a new place that might fit the bill and was wondering if you were available this evening. Its been a long week and I could use the diversion and some good company. If you are interested, give me a call before 6pm. Hope to hear from you! Bye.” Gary smiled for a moment. He remembered what Brenda looked like. She was pretty easy on the eyes and they had flirted quite a bit at the party. To bad he had missed the call. He would have to call her back and see if there were still some possibilities there.

Next Message, Sent Sunday at 11:35am…….Gary, its Fran. Look, I know this past weekend wasn’t any easier on you than it was on me. I…...I wanted to say I’m sorry for being such a bitch. This wasn’t your fault….and…..and I sort of feel that I may have been a bit insensitive. My insides are jumbled up right now, in more ways than one (she laughed) and I have had a lot on my mind……”

There was a long pause and Gary wondered if he had lost the connection. “I just wanted to tell you……”

As Gary listened, the wail of a siren and a revving engine raced past the rest area as a police squad car roared up the side of the road past the stopped traffic. Gary couldn’t hear what Fran was saying even though he pushed the cell phone close to his hear.

“……I don’t know if we can work this out. I suppose we should think about things. Things like this change a relationship. I hope it doesn’t change ours. You mean a lot to me and sure there are times when I have my doubts. But Gary, there are times when I think I would be lost without you...........”

There wasn’t any goodbye, just a pause and the sound of the connection ending. The dust from the squad car drifted over the picnic tables and Gary hit the repeat button combination on the cell phone. He listened to the message once more to hear it uninterrupted.

Gary listened intently and could hear a slight quivering in Fran’s voice. She was usually always calm and collected and rarely got emotional. But this was a different Fran than the one he had known for the past six months.

After the long pause, he listened…….”I just wanted to tell you that I love you……..” she said.

Gary closed the cell phone and brushed the sweat from his forehead. “Damn”, he thought out loud.