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Revenge Adjacent Part III

 Part III


Previously in Bedtime Story #217: “Revenge Adjacent”


After having her car stolen by a revenge-seeking woman named Delilah, Etna Green, a normal woman who had come to the park on the 4th of July seeking only a nice afternoon spent with herself, decided that she would not allow herself to be treated as an anonymous bystander, that she would instead assert her status as a woman to be reckoned with, that she would chase after Delilah and reclaim her car. However, her efforts to borrow the car of a shirtless man proved fruitless when she could not offer him the shirt he required in exchange for his keys. Deciding to instead enlist the help of her friend Mary, an adventurous sort learned in the ways of vehicular maneuvers, Etna borrowed a phone, managed to remember Mary’s phone number, called her, and asked her to come pick her up at the park, which Mary readily agreed to do with no questions asked. Also, the truck driven by the red-faced man Delilah was chasing was black and had a vanity plate reading: “N-O-R-V-N-G-E.” When we left off last time, Mary had just raced her car into the parking lot, squealed to a halt at the curb where Etna stood waiting, thrown open the passenger’s side door, and said, “Get in” in a tone eager yet restrained…


               Etna jumped into Mary’s car, closed the door, and they were off. She turned to look out the back window and saw the shirtless man staring after her, his sad torso looking for all the world as if it would never be clad.

               “Where are we going?” asked Mary. She sped the car through the streets of Multioak with a deftness that could only be the product of experience, of practice.

               “I don’t know,” said Etna. She realized she had not fastened her seatbelt and did so. “We’re looking for my car. A woman took it from me, and I’m going to get it back.”

               “You don’t know which way she went?” asked Mary. It seemed like every intersection she darted through was watched over by the baleful yellow eye of a traffic light that turned red as they passed beneath.

               “I don’t,” said Etna. “But she’s chasing a truck. A black truck with a vanity plate that reads ‘N-O-R-V-N-G-E.’ So we can keep an eye out for the truck, too. If we find the truck, we’ll eventually find my car.”

               “‘N-O-R-V-N-G-E?’” asked Mary. “What does that mean? ‘NO REVENGE?’”

               Etna gave her friend a quick rundown of what she knew of Delilah and her relationship to the red-faced man. “But I don’t know how much of it is true,” she said. “The man who told me about it was desperate for a shirt to wear and didn’t seem to have any clue as to how to get one on, or get one at all.”

               “The vanity plate seems to indicate a man who would have cause to be against revenge, though,” said Mary. “Wouldn’t you agree? Maybe he’s so against revenge because he knows that someone – maybe this Delilah person – has good reason to seek revenge on him.” She accompanied this insightful commentary with a spectacular display of fast, precise driving.

               “You make an interesting point,” said Etna. “So the shirtless man’s story must be true regardless of his inability to wear a shirt. But I don’t really care about Delilah and her revenge beyond what it means for me and my car and me getting my car back.”

               “Really?” asked Mary. “No interest at all? In a man cheating another man on a business deal, that man committing suicide, and the dead man’s widow then passionately seeking revenge on the man who ruined her husband’s life and ushered him into the grave? I mean, if nothing else, Delilah sounds pretty cool. She sounds like a woman to reckon with.”

               “We’ll see about that,” said Etna.             

               “What do you mean?” asked Mary, passing a delivery truck on the shoulder, swerving back across three lanes as she laid on the horn.

               “I mean that I’m a woman to reckon with too,” said Etna. “And Delilah’s going to learn that as soon as we find her.”

               “What are you going to do to her?” asked Mary.

               “Confront her,” said Etna. “Make her give my car back.”

               “Didn’t she easily overpower you last time?” asked Mary.

               “But I wasn’t ready for her,” said Etna. “She took me by surprise. This time I’ll be taking her by surprise. She’ll never expect me to reappear. She thought I was just going to fade into the background to never be heard from again. How wrong she was! Do you realize how surprised she’s going to be, Mary? When she realizes how completely she misjudged me?”

               “We’re near the edge of town,” said Mary. “Should I turn around? Or should we go out into the country?” The houses and businesses whizzing by the windows were separating, green gaps growing between them. Ahead, there would soon be forests and fields of thigh-high corn surpassing folkloric standards for the day that it was, Independence Day.

               “Keep going,” said Etna. She had never relied on her instinct like this before, but what else did she have?

               The unpainted county roads were rougher than those inside the city limits, but far less congested, and Mary was able to push her car to greater speeds, veering around pokey farmers and Dalcette residents taking the scenic route home from lunch excursions to Multioak, sipping from to-go cups and observing, as Etna had, the corn height relative to the date, that being July 4th. Sometimes, Etna would say something like “take the next left” or “let’s take the next right” or “keep going.” Mary executed these instructions with confidence, feathering the brakes, cranking the wheel, mashing the gas, straddling potholes that would have ended them, even sparing the life of a mid-road turtle.

               But Etna wondered if they were racing toward her payoff or away from it. Were they kicking up all this dust in the margins? Was all this engine-revving even distinctly audible to anyone else, or was it just part of the ambience, part of the room tone of life, drowned out by the score? What were the odds that Delilah’s final showdown with the red-faced man would occur out here in the boonies with no one to witness the righteousness of her rage, the cruel weight of her retribution?

               “There!” shouted Mary. “Did you see it?”

               “Yes,” said Etna. “I think so! What was it?”

               “Black tire marks leading off the road into a swathe of knocked-down corn,” said Mary. “And the black cab of a truck poking up above the stalks!”

               “Exactly,” said Etna. Even though she hadn’t actually seen it, her instinct had guided them to the spot where Mary could see it, so it was only fitting that she share the credit. “Turn around!” cried Etna.

               Mary stamped on the brakes and jerked the wheel to the left to perform a 180-degree spin, but something went wrong, the tires would not find purchase. Neither woman shouted as the car skidded sideways off the road and into the corn. Mary attempted to undo the error by yanking the wheel in the opposite direction and punching the accelerator, but she overcorrected and sent them barreling deeper into the corn. And then, suddenly, the corn was gone and the car had arrived at the edge of a cliff neither woman had known was there, that neither woman had ever even heard of, the kind of cliff neither would have guessed existed anywhere in the Multioak area, much less within a field such a short distance from the road. But there was no time for reflection as the car barreled over the cliff’s edge and sailed into empty space, the rocky bottom of the gorge rushing toward them, filling the windshield as they braced their arms against the dashboard and braced their spirits for inescapable death.