Saturday, November 12, 2011


Six weeks ago I entered NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Contest.  I didn't win!   But I am not fazed; I've entered several contests over the years and I am grateful for the challenge and incentive to write.  I once entered an edited version of this blog post in a Real Simple magazine essay contest, and I was a finalist in this blog entry contest

The premise of NPR's seventh contest of this nature was to write a fictional narrative of less than 600 words featuring one character coming to town and one leaving.  My story is not autobiographical, but inspired by a time a friend left me his car at the airport.


The car was right where she said it would be, on the fourth floor of the parking garage, midway down the third row from the elevator. My heart skipped with surprise and satisfaction that our wacky plan worked. Now, for the key. She’d duct-taped it inside the right rear wheel well (“Say that 10 times fast,” she texted with a smiley face).

She’d written directions from the airport to my hotel and folded them over the top of the steering wheel (“In case you’re as GPS- and iPhone-deprived as I am”). Back in the day, she’d refused to use the microwave.

She was the first thing I thought of when I read the wedding invitation. I hadn’t been back in years—five, to be exact, since things ended badly, with both of us ready and not in our own ways. I’d moved away. Meanwhile, she remained in our college town, working as a post-doc in a lab at the university. That much I could tell from Facebook, where we were friends but not correspondents.

Still, I could call her, I thought, for coffee. I didn’t not want to. So after I booked my flight I found myself leaving her a message in a cheery, nervous voice: “Hi! How are you? My old roommate is getting married…remember her boyfriend of forever? They’re finally getting hitched, and I will be in town…anyway, I thought maybe we could get coffee, or something…call me if you want.”

She called back within the hour: happy to hear from me, disappointed that she, too, would be at a wedding that weekend, out of town. When we established that our respective flights left no overlap time, she thought of something. “Wait! If your flight arrives after I leave, and you take off before I return, I could leave you my car at the airport…” Before I could protest, she continued, “You would save me finding a ride or taking a cab, and I would save you a rental car…I mean, unless you’re traveling with someone?” “No…” I replied, adding, “And you?” before I could think better of it. “Nope…This is perfect! Parking will hardly cost anything because our flights are close. I’ll just text you the car’s location after I park and you do the same!”

Over the next eight weeks we conversed regularly over Facebook, mainly idle chitchat about my running and her biking and inquiries about our families, and then confirmations that our plan was still a go. Now here I was, in the driver’s seat of her familiar car, turning the key and hearing the CD of a favorite chanteuse in her player. I peered around for evidence she’d changed irrevocably. She still drank Starbucks soy lattes; she still stored bike jerseys in her car.

The wedding events were a blur of reunions and hugs and how-have-you-beens, of helping bride and bridesmaids with hair and having reasonably interesting conversations with other solo guests once or twice removed from the bridal party.

She texted on Saturday to ask how the car and I were doing. “Still running!” I replied, and “Giving myself a dollar for every time someone asks if I am seeing someone.”

“Weddings,” she texted back. “So awkward.”

On Sunday I left the post-wedding brunch early to have her car detailed. At the gas station I popped open the fuel tank door to find a note taped inside: “Thanks for reaching out.”

As I put on my shoes at the end of the security area I realized that if I accidentally missed my flight, I could probably meet her at her gate.

1 comment:

kris said...

OMG did you meet her?!