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Revenge Adjacent Part IV

 Part IV


Previously in Bedtime Story #217: “Revenge Adjacent”


On a hot July 4th – also known as Independence Day – a woman named Etna Green went to the park and had a pleasant afternoon. But little did she know that as she prepared to leave the park, her 4th of July would take a decidedly unpleasant turn. Just as she was about to depart in her car, a wild-haired woman approached Etna’s vehicle, demanded to use it for personal reasons, saying absolutely nothing beyond, “I need your car,” and when Etna refused, the woman forcibly removed her and absconded with the vehicle. A nearby man told Etna that the woman’s name was Delilah and that she was using her car to chase after a red-faced man in a truck who had caused Delilah’s husband’s suicide, although nothing Delilah had said to Etna supported this claim. Still, Etna had seen a red-faced man run past and drive away in a black truck with a distinctive anti-revenge vanity plate, so she believed the story, at least in part. The man who told Etna these details wore a shirt that had been surgically attached to his body decades before. In fact, doctors said that if he were to ever be separated from his shirt, the man would lose his life, so intertwined were the functions of the man’s body with his physical connection to the shirt. Anyway, Etna decided that she would take the matter of retrieving her car into her own hands because she didn’t want to be forced to recognize herself as a chump, so she borrowed a phone and called her friend Mary, a good driver, to come pick her up at the park so they could search for Etna’s car together. Their search took them out onto the county roads surrounding Multioak where they eventually spotted the red-faced man’s truck in a field among the corn. But when Mary attempted to turn her car around so that Etna could investigate the truck, she lost control and the car hurtled toward a deadly cliff! When we left off last time, the car was just about to go over the cliff, an outcome that would surely lead to the deaths of both Etna and Mary!


               Gritting her teeth, Mary pressed the brake pedal to the floor of the car with both feet. “Hold on!” she cried.

               “I am!” cried Etna.

               The car shuddered to a stop at the last moment, its front tires a mere foot from the edge of the cliff.

               “Whew!” said Mary. “That was a close one.”

               “I’ll say,” said Etna.

               “You’ll say what?” asked Mary.

               “I meant that I agree that it was a close one,” said Etna.

               The women shared a laugh as Mary backed the car out of the corn field and back onto the road with minimal difficulty. Her skills as a driver extended to backing out of corn fields, apparently. Etna reflected on how handy that was.

               Mary drove back along the road until they came to the place where the red-faced man had apparently lost control and careened into the field. There, she pulled onto the shoulder and stopped.

               “You can stay here if you want,” said Etna as she got out of the car. “I know driving is more your thing, and this part isn’t about driving.”

               “OK,” said Mary. “I’ll leave the engine running in case we need to make a quick getaway.”

               Etna followed the truck-wide trail of flattened corn stalks into the field, tiny flies sipping at the beads of sweat appearing on her forehead. When she got to the truck, she noted the vanity plate: N-O-R-V-N-G-E. This was definitely the red-faced man’s truck. Etna made her way around to the driver’s side door, which was ajar. The cab of the truck was empty. The red-faced man was gone. On foot, probably, or perhaps he’d called a friend to pick him up like Etna had. Or maybe the confrontation between the red-faced man and Delilah was already over. Maybe Delilah had forced him off of the road, dragged him out of his car, knocked him unconscious, loaded him into the trunk of Etna’s car, and whisked him away to a location where she could torture and kill him at her leisure.

               Back at Mary’s car, Etna tapped on her friend’s window and asked if she could borrow her phone.

               “Who are you going to call?” asked Mary, handing the phone through the window with no fuss. She had turned the radio on while Etna was investigating the truck. It was playing the kind of song that Etna knew she would initially dislike, then grow to love once everyone else had gotten sick of it, thereby making her taste seem passé.

               “I’m calling myself,” said Etna. She walked around behind the car and heard the whirr of Mary’s window closing. She found her own number under the contacts in Mary’s phone and selected it, holding the phone to her ear and listening to the distant ringing. She wasn’t sure if Delilah would answer another woman’s phone or not, but she hadn’t seemed to have any compunctions about taking another woman’s car, so it certainly seemed possible.

               The phone was one ring from sending Etna to her own voicemail when Delilah picked up. “Who is this?”

               “This is the woman whose car you stole,” said Etna. “And whose phone you stole, too.”

               “I didn’t mean to steal the phone,” said Delilah. “It was just in here.”

               “I found him,” said Etna. “I know where he is. I can give you directions.”

               “Found who?” asked Delilah.

               “The red-faced man,” said Etna. “The one in the suit. With the black truck. With the vanity plate that almost spells out the message ‘NO REVENGE.’ The one who caused your husband’s suicide. The one who you want revenge on.” Etna held her breath, hoping the woman didn’t already have him, hoping she wouldn’t burst out laughing at Etna’s attempt to crawl back into her field of vision when everything was already wrapped up.

               “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Delilah.

               “A man at the park who was surgically attached to his shirt told me all about it,” said Etna. “He cheated your husband on a business deal and then your husband committed suicide so you set out to take your revenge on him.”

               “A man at the park who was surgically attached to his shirt cheated my husband on a business deal?” asked Delilah.

               “No!” said Etna. “The red-faced man in the suit cheated your husband!”

               “This is all news to me,” said Delilah. “I think someone’s been telling you lies. Probably this man who’s surgically attached to his shirt. I wouldn’t trust a man surgically attached to his shirt.”

               “This is what you would say,” said Etna. “If you already had him. If you ran him off the road and put him in your trunk.”

               “Which would mean that you haven’t found him,” said Delilah. “Which would mean this call is just an attempt to lure me to a secluded location so you can try to get your car back.”

               Etna sighed and leaned against the back of Mary’s car, looking up at the powerlines running from pole to pole along the edge of the field, carrying the possibility of refrigeration and vacuum cleaning and television and crummy electric lawn mowers to the good people of the country. “So why did you take my car?” asked Etna. “I thought you said you were chasing that red-faced man. I thought you said he was getting away.”

               “No,” said Delilah. “I never said that. I told you that I needed your car and that was all. Think back and you’ll recall that I’m correct.”

               “So why do you need it?” asked Etna.

               “My daughter started a gang,” said Delilah. “And she said I could only join the gang if I proved myself by stealing a car and then using it to run over some cones in a construction zone on the highway. So I’m on my way to pick her up now so she can witness me running over the cones in your car. Then, hopefully, I’ll be in the gang. At the lowest rank, of course.”

               “How old is your daughter?” asked Etna.

               “Almost thirteen,” said Delilah.

               A long silence passed between the two women.

               “That’s pathetic,” Etna finally said.

               “Don’t judge me,” said Delilah.

               “But no one would want to pay attention to you,” said Etna. “No one would want to see what you’re up to. Except to gawk at you, maybe, or to feel better about themselves. But no one would be interested. Maybe just morbid curiosity. But that’s it. You’re certainly not a woman to be reckoned with.”

               Only after Delilah hung up on her did Etna realize her name probably wasn’t “Delilah.”

               “Where are we going?” asked Mary when Etna got back into the car.

               “The cops,” said Etna. “I need to report that my car’s been stolen.”