I'm Not Afraid of Storms, For I'm Learning to Sail My Ship

Brian's Story

Thursday Morning
Norfolk, Virginia

In the midnight hour she cried more, more, more
With a Rebel Yell, she cried more, more, more

Navy Lieutenant Brian Belden sang along with Billy Idol as he drove down the exit ramp from I-264 and followed the signs directing him to the General McArthur Shopping Mall. He was on his way to steal a few minutes with his current female companion and, after working a shift at the Portsmouth Medical Center, he’d be on the road headed for a reunion with family and friends in his hometown of Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson. He was looking forward to his first road trip for pleasure in several years.

Fortunately he’d been given good directions to the Harry and David retail outlet. While he had lived in nearby Portsmouth for almost four years, three years as a Pediatric Resident and the past several months as a full-time member of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, he had never ventured into downtown Norfolk except to take the freeway on his way to the beach or towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and points north.

The Portsmouth Naval Medical Center where he was stationed was almost directly across the Elizabeth River from the Mall, but he had to take a circuitous route through downtown Portsmouth to I-264, cross the river via the Downtown Tunnel and Berkley Bridge, and then cut through downtown Norfolk to the mall. Only for his mother would he have made such a trip. Of course, the opportunity to enjoy even a short trip in his new-to-him BMW 650i and its Premium Sound System (comprised of 12 loudspeakers and a digital amplifier, DIRAC signal processing and model-specific equalizing) certainly gave him reason to make the detour on his way to work.

Being honest with himself, he had to admit that the cute brunette he’d met a few weeks ago might also be a reason he was making this rushed trip before starting his shift. His mother loved Harry and David products and the young, unmarried doctor had neither the time nor inclination to shop. He frequently ordered their gift baskets online and had them shipped to her for holidays. He recently met a woman who worked at their outlet in the mall and, deciding to hand deliver a gift, he was making his first visit to the store.

Brian had always been a sucker for dimples and the brunette had deep, wide ones. And her dimples were the least of her physical assets. He grinned broadly as he remembered how he’d spilled his drink the first time he saw her at a pool party in nearby Sandbridge. Every pair of male and most of the female eyes had followed her as she walked across the patio and introduced herself to him, leaving him fumbling for words as she helped him sop up the spilt beer from his shirt.

Had she not had those dimples he probably never would have noticed anything other than the way she had filled that yellow bikini top or how the floral print sarong draped over her hips. But the dimples had drawn his attention to her smile, and he’d soon realized she had a quick wit and sharp intellect in addition to the spectacular body. After a few hours at the party, followed by dinner at a waterfront restaurant, Brian had learned that she was a graduate student at Old Dominion University who worked part time at the Harry and David store, and liked Navy Officers almost as much as he liked dimples…and bikinis.

His schedule at the Medical Center and adjacent clinic left him very little time to enjoy her dimples or any of her assets, but he was happy to take advantage of her offer to put together a gift for his mother, as well as to see her again. It had taken very little coaxing on her part to convince him to take advantage of her employee discount to order a Tower of Treats Super Grand Deluxe instead of his usual meager gift basket. Brian would never admit that he’d also been anxious to impress the brunette with his newfound “wealth” as a Board Certified Pediatrician and Navy Lieutenant instead of trying to live off the part-time Reserve Officer pay he had earned during his residency.

He maneuvered the sleek BMW through the traffic and into the south parking deck of the mall and began looking for Center Court, thinking about the exciting weekend ahead. This would be the first time he’d been home in almost a year and the first time he’d been home at the same time as his sister, both brothers and all his childhood friends in several years. He and his friends had taken great care to ensure everyone would be there and that every detail was perfect; or perfectly perfect as his sister and her friends would say.

Thirteen years earlier that month, while he was still in high school, he had formed a club with his brother Mart, sister Trixie, and their neighbors, Honey Wheeler and Jim Frayne. Their membership expanded during the following school year to include two other neighbors, Diana Lynch and Dan Mangan. As the seven friends had pursued their educations and different careers, they saw less and less of each other. The demands of medical school, then juggling a residency in pediatrics with his obligations in the Navy Reserve, and, most recently, serving in the Navy Medical Corps, had left him with very little free time over the past eight years. He’d gone home a few times, and family and friends had visited him in Portsmouth, but he couldn’t remember the last time they all had been together.

In addition to celebrating the thirteenth anniversary of the creation of the Bob-Whites, he was going home to celebrate his brother Bobby’s having declared as a biology/pre-med major at Columbia. Bobby’s following in his footsteps, not only by attending his alma mater, but also choosing the same profession, had filled him with indescribable pride. Wanting to offer more than just a handshake or pat on the back, Brian had pulled all of his old medical textbooks out of storage and packed them into the car. He knew that most of the books would be out of date, but he hoped he might be able to save Bobby a little of the exorbitant cost of medical texts.

When he was getting the boxes of books out of his storage unit, he noticed a large box marked “Lucy” in the distinctive handwriting of one of his medical school roommates. Brian had no idea how the box made its way to his storage unit. The last time he’d seen “Lucy” she was sitting in the corner of their shabby apartment with a companion they called “Desi.” He had chuckled, recalling the fun they’d had with Lucy and Desi. Knowing he had no use for the contents of the box, he decided to take that for Bobby too. It was the perfect gift for a pre-med student.

Fortunately, the store was close to the entrance into the enclosed mall, because, after too short a visit with the brunette in the storeroom, Brian found that the Tower of Treats Super Grand Deluxe he had ordered wasn’t just one box; it wasn’t two, but a whole stack of boxes. He had to borrow a hand dolly to carry the various shaped and sized boxes as well as the Table Rock Ham Buffet Gift Basket and several bottles of wine that the brunette convinced him to buy, from the store to his car. Buying the additional food so his mother wouldn’t have to cook all weekend had seemed a wonderful idea until Brian realized that there wasn’t room for the large basket and over a dozen boxes with hand-tied bows in a BMW 650i Coupe that was already full of clothing, several boxes of textbooks and mementos from his med-school days.

After several attempts at fitting everything in his car, Brian realized he had to choose between leaving something in the parking garage or tying some of his cargo onto the top of the car. He pulled out the box marked “Lucy”, knowing the cardboard might not survive the trip, but a little wind or even rain wouldn’t hurt the contents.

Stacking everything on the deck around the car, he dug out the black garbage bags and rope he always kept in the wheel well, wrapped and then hefted the large box onto the roof. After it was confident it was secured with the rope, he repacked the trunk and back seat of the car. Moving the “Lucy” box had freed just enough room for the all of the other packages inside.

Rushing to return the hand truck, Brian promised the brunette he would call over the weekend and jogged back out to the car with just enough time to get to the Medical Center to start his last shift before four days’ leave. Judas Priest blasted from the sound system as he headed out of the parking garage.

I’m heading out to the highway
I got nothing to lose at all
Gonna do it my way
Take a chance before I fall

“Belden! Where the hell have you been?” Brian stepped out of the elevator and turned to see Phil Stout, another new member of the Pediatric medical staff trotting towards him. “Commander Burns has been looking for you all morning. He’s reamed out at least three Yeomen who have been trying to track you down. They all said they left messages on your home phone and your cell.”

“Messages?” Brian reached into the pocket where he usually kept his cell phone. “Dammit!” The pocket was empty. He followed the other young doctor up the hall. “Hopefully it’s in the car. I sure hope it didn’t fall out in the parking deck. I’ve had one hell of a morning. I rushed out early so I could go by my storage unit and then over to the McArthur Mall to pick something. The store closes before the end of my shift and I was hoping to leave for New York straight from…”

“You’re not going home or anywhere else this weekend. All leave’s been cancelled indefinitely. That’s why they were trying to call you in. A monster storm, possibly a Category 4 hurricane, is headed straight for the Tidewater area. The entire fleet’s headed out to sea and all other personnel have been ordered…Haven’t you seen the news?”

Brian didn’t bother to turn on either the radio or television while he dressed that morning and he’d been singing along with Billy Idol in the car. “Dammit. The Commander is going to have my ah, head. How could I lose my cell phone?”

And how was he going to tell his friends that he wouldn’t be at their reunion?

And what the hell was he going to do with all that food in his car?

So I keep on workin
Like a workin man do
I keep on workin
It’s the only thing to do

“Up and at ‘em Lieutenant!”

“Huh? Mmm?” Brian rolled over and looked at his watch. “Eff off, Stout. I just hit the sack…” He had been worked for twenty hours straight, most of that time with a two-pound preemie and his near-hysterical young father. Less than two hours earlier, the baby was finally stabilized and he’d collapsed onto a bunk in the doctor’s lounge.

“Dot’s turned to the northeast.”

“Dot?” Brian rubbed his eyes. “Who’s Dot?”

“Hurricane Dot. Looks like we’ve been spared her wrath. You might still get some of your leave if you play your cards right.”

“You think so?” Brian groaned as he rolled out of the bunk. “Commander Burns was pretty p-o’ed when I came in.”

“I said you might. I don’t think he’s aware that you’ve been in here sleeping,” Stout glanced at his watch. “For the past two hours. We have more than enough to cover this weekend, so if I were you I’d get out there and look like I’m deserving of the rest of my leave.”

Brian almost tripped as he pulled up his khaki pants. “I’m on it.”

He hummed as he brushed his teeth and ran a comb through his thick wavy hair.

I'm going up the country
Babe, don't you wanna go?
I'm going up the country
Babe, don't you wanna go?

It took almost an hour for Brian to track down Commander Burns and convince him that there were more than enough Pediatricians on duty; that this was his first ninety-six hour leave since he went on active duty; that he had less than three-quarters of that leave left; and that his car was packed full of food from Harry and David’s that was probably spoiled by now.

He didn’t mention what he feared what his sister might do to him after she drove all the way from California for a reunion that he would miss. Mart and their friends would be disappointed, but Trixie would be ballistic.

Brian was shocked when the normally stern officer smiled. “How many pounds of food did you say is in your car?”

“I’m not sure, Sir. Thirty, forty maybe, Sir? I originally ordered the Tower of Treats, but when I went to pick it up this morning…” Brian glanced at his watch. “I guess it was yesterday morning… I got a little carried away and…I upgraded to the Treats Gift Super Grand Deluxe. And I got a gift basket. And wine. I can’t believe I bought all that stuff, Sir.”

“Did that knockout brunette wait on you?” Commander Burns leaned back in his chair.

Brian tried not to grin. “She’s been…ah…waiting on me for a couple of weeks, sir. I met her at Anderson's engagement party in Sandbridge back in June.”

“I noticed her. Damn. Every man there noticed her in that yellow bikini. I hope you got more from her than thirty pounds of rotting fruit and melting candy, Lieutenant!”

Brian smiled broadly. “Her fruit is very fresh, Sir.”

Commander Burns roared with laughter. “Damn, Belden. Get out of here and take the rest of your leave. I’ve been trying to get her number for over a year.”

Brian backed out of the office, turned and winked at the Yeoman who obviously had heard every word between the two doctors.

Brian debated cleaning up before setting out, but not wanting to waste any more time than necessary, he quickly changed into a t-shirt and pair of shorts he found in his locker, slipped on an ancient pair of flip flop sandals, called his mother to let her know he’d be home after all, checked with the doctors covering his patients, and signed out. Less than thirty minutes later Brian was sitting in his car, stroking the leather seats amorously as he realized he’d be spending the next seven hours in the luxury of the BMW, feeding his passion for good music, especially blues rock. He couldn’t wait to see his friends’ faces when he pulled into the Crabapple Farm driveway in this baby. His brother didn’t even own a car.

He did take a few minutes to search the car for his missing cell phone. Unable to find it, he decided that it might be nice to spend a few hours enjoying his extensive music collection uninterrupted. Without the phone and its music apps, he’d have to rely on his extensive CD collection, but it’s all he’d had in the Civic. He was certain he’d find it when he unpacked the car later that evening. Deciding he was in the mood for some good boogying blues, he slid Boogie with Canned Heat into the dashboard CD player as he drove out through the medical center’s main gate and onto Effingham Street.

Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re drawn

Brian had replaced Canned Heat with the Doors when he took the exit onto Northampton Boulevard. He knew the Virginia Beach cops would be out in full-force on a summer weekend and he had difficulty keeping the powerful engine below the speed limit. He had known when he bought the BMW that it was totally impractical, but he got a terrific deal from a Navy pilot who was being shipped overseas who had no desire to take it with him or store it. Only four years old, it had almost no miles, was in mint condition, and, after turning the key and hearing the roar of the 4.8-liter V-8, 360 pound-feet of torque engine; testing its purported zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds on I-264, and reclining back in the cream leather bucket seat, Brian was almost begging the aviator to sell it to him. Brian had been hard-working, serious and responsible for the first twenty-nine years of his life and he rationalized that he was past due for a little self-indulgence. He might be eating beans and Ramen noodles in order to meet the payments, but that had sustained him for the past eight years and he’d survive for a few more.

Focusing on the speed limit and enjoying the spectacular audio system, he failed to notice any of the signs along the side of the highway flashing Level Four Advisory. He was pleasantly surprised when there were almost no cars at the toll booth.

Thankful that he had an EZPass, he headed for the far left lane, only to find a young woman in the booth, waving for him to stop.

“I’m sorry Sir, but you will have to turn around,” she apologized as Brian rolled down his window.

Brian looked her, not sure he’d heard correctly. “But those other vehicles are...” He pointed to the cars heading towards the bridge.

“There’s a Level Four Advisory, sir. Didn’t you see the signs?”

“Signs? What signs? And what is a Level Four?”

“Sir, could you please turn down the radio?”

Brian turned down the volume and apologized to the toll taker. “I’m sorry. But why can’t I cross? I thought the storm had turned away from the coast.”

“There are still dangerous winds and surf, sir. The bridge is open, but…” She pointed to the top of his car. “Exterior cargo is restricted. I can’t let you cross with that package on top of your car. You can turn around at the cross-over.”

Brian tapped his forefinger on the steering wheel while contemplating his options. Normal traffic leaving the beaches and people escaping the Washington rea made the Interstates in the region one long parking lot in both directions on Friday afternoons. Add people leaving the beaches because of Hurricane Dot and he’d waste his entire weekend sitting in the car.

“What if I take it off?”

“You can’t…we have no place for you to store it.”

“No. What if I put it inside my car?”

The young woman looked at the already packed car and shrugged. “Pull over to the side.” She pointed to the right shoulder by the Authority offices. “If you can get that in, then you can cross, but…”

“Thanks.” Brian cut across five lanes to the wide shoulder and put on his flashing lights before turning off the engine. He might have to do some dismantling and repacking to get everything inside the car, but it would be a lot quicker and easier than fighting I-95 on a weekend.

Fighting the steady strong wind with periodic gusts that almost knocked him over, he managed to cut the ropes holding the box onto the top of his car without much difficulty. He dodged cars as he chased one of the black garbage bags protecting the cardboard box when it ripped off and flew across the lanes of traffic exiting the toll booth. He muttered thanks to his father for insisting that he and his brothers always carry a pocket knife as he cut through the tape that sealed the cardboard box and began working on the thin wires that held the 206 pieces inside together.

Once he decided the parts were small enough, he opened the trunk of the car and began stuffing them into the gaps between parcels. He stuffed more between the packages crammed into the back seat of the coupe. After some rearranging, he managed to get everything into the car except for the box itself and the one last part that he wanted to keep intact. He cut up the carton and managed, with great effort, to fit those pieces into the car as well.

It took the better part of an hour, but Brian finally slid in behind the wheel, placed the last part on the passenger seat with his medical bag, and started up the car.


Elvis was asking if he’d be lonesome tonight as he pulled away. With just a little bit of luck, he thought, he’d be at home surrounded by his family and friends in time for dinner.

Are you lonesome tonight?
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart?

The strong winds, persistent salt water spray, and powerful waves that broke over the bridge in low areas and across the man-made islands made the twenty-three mile crossing of the bay slow and treacherous. Brian understood why he had to remove the large package from the top of his car. Traffic sped up inside the first tunnel and he was surprised when the line of cars slowed to a crawl and then came to a complete stop near the entrance to the second tunnel.

“What the hell?” He had expected he would be able to gain speed once inside the tunnel and away from the strong wind. He put the gear into neutral and began tapping the steering wheel.

After a few minutes, the cars ahead began moving. Brian followed them into the tunnel. After moving a few hundred yards, he came to a complete stop. Just as he was thinking of getting out of his car to see what was going on, the cars began moving again.

Inching along, Brian finally came upon a Virginia State Trooper directing the traffic around two smashed cars that were blocking the right lane. While other drivers were pulling around and speeding away to make up for their lost time, as a doctor, Brian had to stop to help if there might be injuries. He pulled around the two wrecked cars and police cruiser, put on his flashing lights for the second time that day, turned off the motor, and grabbed his medical bag.

“You’ll have to move on, sir,” the trooper advised as Brian walked up.

“I’m a doctor. Is there anything I can do?”

“No injuries, fortunately. You need to move your vehicle, sir.” The trooper continued to direct traffic.

Brian turned and headed back towards his car.

“Brian? Brian?”

He stopped and turned towards a familiar voice coming from the directions of the cruiser.

What was her name? Margie? Maggie? Milly? Mindy? Yes! Mindy!

“Mindy! Is this your car? Are you okay?” Mindy had been one of Brian’s female companions before the brunette. They’d only seen each other three times, but it was two too many. She had dimples and other assets, too; but definitely not the wit and intellect of the brunette.

“Oh, Brian, I’m so glad to see you!” Her high heels clicked on the cement as she ran over and hugged him. “I…this old woman…she hit her brakes and I…Look at what she did to my Miata!”

Brian groaned as he looked over and realized one of the damaged cars was a red Miata. He’d ridden in it once with Mindy and swore it would be the last time he’d fold his six-foot plus frame into one. Not only was it minuscule, with Mindy driving it was a death trap.

“Are you okay? You’re lucky you’re not…” Brian pulled away and looked to see if she had any injuries.

“I told you to move your car, sir!” the trooper called without diverting his eyes from the other cars.

“I…can I give you a lift?” Brian hesitated, wondering how she’d fit into the crammed BMW.

“I…I…” Mindy looked back at the trooper. “I think I need to wait here.” She sucked her right forefinger as she thought for a few moments, and then looked up at him with large pleading eyes. “I really would like you to stay with me and I’m going to need a ride once the tow truck gets here. Do you think you can wait? Maybe give me a lift?”

Brian looked at the wrecked cars, the trooper, his packed BMW and then at Mindy. “I’m going to have to move the car. I could make a call for you. I’m sure your cell doesn’t work in the tunnel. Can I call someone?”

Mindy continued to suck on her finger. “Are you sure you have to go?”

“Let me call someone.”

“Okay.” Mindy sighed as she dug in her purse and pulled out a zebra patterned I-phone. “Can you call Lindy for me? You remember Lindy.”

“Lindy?” Brian almost cursed. Lindy was her sister. He had met both of her sisters, Lindy and Cindy, who had made no secret the sisters had shared other boyfriends and would share him if he desired. He feared that if he called Lindy, he’d never get her off of the phone. Now that he was no longer dating Mindy, who knew what she might try.

“She’s waiting for me in Ocean City. I don’t want her to worry. And I may need her to pick me up…unless you…What are you doing this weekend, Brian? The condo we rented is…”

“Actually, I’m on my way home.”

“Home? At your parents’ place in New Jersey?”

“New York.”

“I’m not going to tell you to move that car again!” the trooper called over to him.

Mindy quickly gave Brian her sister’s number and he hurried back to his car. It wasn’t until he was out of the tunnel that he remembered he didn’t have his cell phone and he’d have to find a pay phone in order to make the call.

He had stopped at three gas stations and was almost all the way to Exemore when he found an operational pay phone.

He dug in his pocket and found two dimes and three pennies. He started to go into the gas station and realized it was closed.

Fortunately, he was able to make a collect call and Lindy accepted charges.

Unfortunately,as soon as he was connected and thanked her, she began joking that she would find some way for him to repay her. “I know things didn’t work out between you and Mindy, but I’m older, more mature and far more experienced, Brian.”

“Mindy’s the reason I called,” he interrupted.

“We’ve rented a condo in Ocean City. And it’s supposed to rain the entire weekend. Why don’t you join us? We have a hot tub,” she practically growled.

After several attempts, Brian was finally able to explain the reason for his call and hang up, trying to remember how he’d ever been involved with someone like Mindy.

He glanced at the dashboard clock as he pulled back onto the highway. It had been almost three hours since he left the medical center and he was still in Virginia. Surely nothing more could interfere with his simple wish to enjoy a few days with friends and family.

He slipped in a Sammy Hagar CD and sang along.

Go on and write me up for 125
Post my face, wanted dead or alive
Take my license and all that jive
I can’t drive 55

Brian had almost entirely forgotten about his encounter with Mindy and excruciatingly painful phone conversation with Lindy by the time he crossed the state line into Maryland. There was almost no traffic on the four-lane divided highway and he was cruising along just above the speed limit when a red Porsche 911 pulled beside him. Glancing over to admire the flashy car, he saw the blonde driver was waving at him. He smiled and waved back.

She smiled broadly, pointed ahead and kicked the gas. Brian would have loved to see just how his Beemer would perform compared to the Porsche, but he also knew that this straight, flat open area of highway could be crawling with speed traps. He watched the Porsche pull away.

A little over a mile farther he came upon the blonde, who had pulled into an abandoned gas station to wait. She waved when he passed and pulled out behind him. After following him a short distance, she once again pulled up beside him and waved before accelerating. There was no mistaking her desire to race.

Brian was sorely tempted to accept the challenge. He had paid a lot of money for a high-performance vehicle that spent more time in a parking garage than on any road. He’d only tested it on the open road once since buying it.

He shook his head no. He’d had enough of sexy blondes in red sports cars for one day. He needed to get to Sleepyside with no additional distractions.

But the blonde was persistent, waving and pointing.

He shook his head and she took off, and then, again, waited for him to catch up. She waved as he came up behind the Porsche.

“What the hell! Let’s see what this baby can do!” he said to himself as he pulled into the left lane and hit the accelerator. The race was on.

Focusing on a solid game of tag and chase that lasted several miles, Brian barely noticed the local Sheriff’s department cruiser sitting behind a clump of shrubs along the side of the road. A few moments later, hearing the siren and glancing into the rearview mirror to see blue flashing lights behind him, Brian stabbed the brakes and looked down to see the speedometer needle pointing to 120.

“Oh, shit!” He hit the brake pedal again and looked for a place to pull over. The blonde was in front of him, of course, and kept going, but Brian knew it was better to face his fate head on.

Brian pulled onto the shoulder and waited, shutting the engine off when the officer asked on the loudspeaker that he do so. He rolled down the window and watched as the deputy ran his tags and got out of the cruiser.

After approaching the BMW and asking to see his license and registration in a low monotone, the officer jumped back, pulled his gun and ordered Brian out of the car.

Confused, Brian continued to reach toward the glove compartment where the registration and other papers were stored.

“Keep your hands where I can see them! Reach outside of the car and open the door!”

Brian knew he had earned at least a stern lecture and a hefty fine for charges of reckless driving, but he was totally baffled by the deputy’s reaction. “I’m getting my…”

“Out of the car!”

Brian managed to open the door from the outside and was immediately pulled from the car and thrown onto the ground. Before he realized what was going on, he was on his knees with his hands cuffed behind his back.

The officer lifted him up and hauled him back towards the BMW. “What the hell is that?”

He pointed to the passenger seat.

“Lucy.” Brian groaned.

Forty minutes later, he was sitting on his cuffed hands in the back of the cruiser watching several deputies and a Maryland State Trooper removing the contents of his car and placing the packages along the side of the road. Wrapping paper and bows disintegrated in the strong wind while pieces of Lucy were being arranged on the hood of one of the patrol cars.

Brian had tried to explain that the human skull sitting on the seat of his car was fake; that one of his medical school buddies got it from an orthopedic parts vendor and that he was taking it to his pre-med student brother in New York. The deputy sheriff had refused to listen, locking him in the back of his cruiser while he waited for a second, then a third, and then a fourth car to arrive. Seeing other pieces of the skeleton packed among the gaily wrapped boxes in the back seat, the law enforcement officers had agreed there was justification to search the car without a warrant and began pulling everything out.

The car was completely emptied when a plain white sedan pulled onto the shoulder in front of the other cars.

Brian watched as a tall, heavy-set man wearing a charcoal grey suit got out of the car, questioned the officers and then examined the “evidence” lined up on the hood of one of the police cruisers. From where he sat, Brian couldn’t hear much of the conversation, but he did make out the word, “plastic” several times. After some obviously heated discussion and a lot of arm waving, the first officer retrieved Brian from the cruiser and led him over to the others.

“How did you say you got this?” The grey-suited man pointed to the poly-urethane skull and bones.

“I’m a doctor. Back when I was in Med School…” After much explanation, the officers left Brian with a ticket for 94 in a 55 mile per hour zone, and a pile of fake bones, wrapped boxes, luggage, food and text books scattered along the side of the highway.

It took another half hour to fit everything back into his car before Brian pulled onto the roadway, hungry and exhausted, but thankful he wasn’t sitting in the Worchester County, Maryland jail, waiting for someone to prove that Lucy was plastic.

Tried to amend my carnivorous habits
Made it nearly seventy days
Losin’ weight without speed, eating sunflower seeds
Drinkin’carrot juice and soaking up rays

Brian’s stomach was growling loudly as he neared Salisbury. Realizing it had been hours since he last ate, he tried to remember if the diner he liked was before he got onto the bypass or after. It wasn’t unusual for Brian to travel all night when he made a trip from Portsmouth to New York and he’d found that, in addition to being open twenty-four hours a day, Pete’s Diner offered a bottomless cup of always-fresh coffee and the best fried chicken he’d ever had outside of Sleepyside. Day or night, he always tried to stop there. Brian ran and worked out regularly and, other than the occasional beer, usually watched his diet. But he rationalized that the purpose of a vacation was to have fun and he could atone for any excesses when he returned to his normal routine.

He also wanted to fill up his gas tank before leaving Maryland and there were several gas stations near the diner.

Just north of Salisbury, Brian feared he’d missed Pete’s when he spotted the large neon sign for the diner as well as a Wawa directly across the road. At least one thing was working in his favor today.

It was past the lunch hour and too early for dinner, but the parking lot of the diner was almost full when Brian pulled in. It was like that every time he stopped, but service was always prompt, the coffee fresh, and there was never a wait if you were willing to sit at the counter. He was salivating at the idea of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.

“Can I get you some coffee, Hon?” A thin, middle-aged waitress set a green plastic mug onto the counter and began pouring from a glass carafe without waiting for Brian to respond. “You look pretty ragged, Hon. What could be bothering someone so tall, dark and handsome?

“You have no idea.” Brian grabbed the mug and took a long swallow. The hot liquid burned as it went down, but he didn’t care. “Keep it coming.” He drank again.

Brian had emptied the mug twice when the waitress stepped up with her note pad and filled it again. “You’re lookin’ much better already. A little rest and a lot of caffeine. ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile you could miss it.’” She smiled warmly when Brian thanked her.

“Now what can I get you? You look like you need some meat and potatoes to go with that coffee.”

Brian laughed. “I’ll have the fried chicken special, with my potatoes mashed and smothered in gravy”

“See, I called it, didn’t I?” The waitress topped off his coffee and winked before moving on to the next customer.

Brian sipped coffee as he waited for his order, trying desperately to find some humor in all of his mishaps over the past two days. All he’d wanted was four days with his friends, but it seemed like all the stars were aligned to ensure he didn’t make it home.

He inhaled deeply when the waitress set a plate piled high with chicken front of him, followed by a large bowl of mashed potatoes covered with gravy, a second bowl of coleslaw and small basket of warm rolls. “Smells wonderful,” he said as he picked up a fork.

She set a stack of paper napkins beside his plate. “It’s okay to use your hands, too.”

Brian selected a plump wing from the plate and took a bite.

“Are you really going to eat that?”

Brian finished chewing, swallowed and turned to the young woman beside him. “What?” He wiped his mouth with one of the napkins.

“That chicken. How can you eat it?” She pointed to his plate. “They buy their chicken from a local distributer. Do you know what it’s like in those chicken houses?”

Brian shook his head as he picked up the wing and took a second bite.

“It’s disgusting. Chickens packed in with no natural light or ventilation, and they’re stuffed with chemicals and hormones until they’re fat enough to cram into open trucks and taken to be slaughtered. And the processing plants are even worse! I used to work at the one up the road. The entire building is refrigerated and the workers stand in six inches of cold bloody water for hours at a time. You drop something, pick it up, wipe it off and send it on down the line. That’s what you’re eating, you know? The local processor has a complete monopoly; you can’t buy any other brand around here.”

Brian placed the wing back on the plate. “It’s…there are health standards and inspections and…and…It’s cooked.”

“Who knows what germs and bacteria…what’s it called you can get from poultry? Simon disease?”

Brian looked down longingly at his plate. “Salmonella. Salmonella Enteritidis.”

“I can tell you…spend a single day working in one of those chicken houses or the processing plant and you’d never eat chicken again. Or turkey!”

Brian picked at his mashed potatoes as the young woman rambled on and on, describing the conditions of the poultry houses and local processing plant in graphic detail.

“And have you ever gotten behind one of those trucks headed to the slaughter house? Bloody feathers and guts flying everywhere. I’ve had to stop and clean my windshield it was so bad. Half the chickens die before they get to the plant.”

Brian downed his coffee and tossed a bill onto the counter. For some reason he’d lost his appetite.

I don’t want a pickle
Just wanna’ ride my motorcycle
And I don’t want a tickle
Just wanna’ ride my motorcycle

Brian turned up the music volume and adjusted the focus on the dashboard rearview camera as he began backing out of the parking space.

Crunch. Scraaaaape. Bang!

“Now what?” he got out of the car and ran to the rear. “Oh, shiiiiiiit,” he cursed when he saw the large Harley Davidson lying on its side next to his car. There was a long scratch in the beautiful “Deep Sea Blue Metallic” paint on the rear passenger side of the car. He checked the rear bumper and bent over to examine the underside.

“What the hell did you do to my bike?” A half dozen large scruffy men wearing denim vests that exposed tattoo-covered arms came running out of the diner. The biggest and meanest looking one came over and picked up the Harley. “That’s my bike! What the eff did you do?” He lifted the motorcycle upright and inspected it for damage.

Brian stuttered and stammered as he stared at the man’s bulging arm muscles. “I…I didn’t see it…I…I…Blind spot.” He recognized the swastika tattoo, but wondered about the significance of the ARGO and NUNYA tattoos.

Brian looked from one to another of the men as they circled around. Each had similar tattoos as well as ominous patches on his vest. “You’re gonna’ pay for da damages,” one of them said. “Slug don’t want no one messin’ with his bike.”

“It…I have …packages…back seat…I…hard…to see.” He pointed to his BMW and then turned to the big guy named Slug. “Is your bike okay?”

Slug ran his massive hands over the motorcycle before straddling it and starting it up. It roared loudly. After he revved the motor several times, he seemed to be satisfied and turned it off.

“I dunno’. There are some scratches, man. You’re lucky I know of a good body shop, but it’ll cost…” He looked around at his friends and they all nodded agreement.

Brian swallowed painfully, wondering if he had enough cash to get out of there alive. “It was an accident.” He pointed back to his car. “I can…”

“What’s that?” Slug pointed to the rear bumper of the car.

What?” Brian looked to where he was pointing. The only damage he’s seen on the car was on the side. The large man might be asking about the vanity plate, NAVY DOC.

“The sticker. Parking. You work at Portsmouth Navy Medical Center?”

“Yes. I…I’m…” Brian hesitated, knowing that the admission would probably cost him several hundred dollars. “I’m a doctor there; a pediatrician.”

“No shit.” Slug shook his head in disbelief. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m on my way home. To New York. To visit my family.”

Slug nodded his understanding. “You got a big family?”

Brian nodded. “Mother, father, two brothers, a sister.”

“All I got is a daughter. And my mother.”

Brian felt his heart pounding as he waited to see what Slug and his friends might do.

“So you’re a Pediatrician. You treat kids? Babies?”

“Yes; mostly babies.”

Slug pulled on his scraggly beard before continuing. “I served in the Marines.” He paused dramatically. “I got this bitch knocked up and married her when I was stationed down in Norfolk. That bitch didn’t take care of herself and the baby came early. A Navy Doc saved my little girl’s life. A Navy Pediatrician like you.

“The bitch took off and my mother ended up raising the girl. She’s somethin’ else. Pretty. Smart. High school valedictorian. Full scholarship to college. ” He laughed. “Yeah! Smart as…” He looked at Brian. “I bet you’re smart, too, aren’t you Doc?”

“I...I guess.”

“Saved any babies? Any preemies like her?”

“I…I…” Brian smiled at the thought. “I guess I have. My specialty is neonatal medicine.”

Slug examined the Harley some more. “I supposed the scratches can be rubbed out.” He smiled at Brian, revealing several gold-capped teeth. “You need to be more careful, Doc. You got a nice scratch on the Beemer. That’s too nice a car to be scratched up.”

“It’s been a… real shitty day. I wasn’t paying attention. I will now!”

“You shouldn’t cuss, either, Doc.” The other men laughed.

“Say, how much did you pay for it, Doc?”

“The car? Too much.”

Slug tossed his head back and laughed heartily. “I bet you did. Get the hell outta’ here, Doc.”

Brian got back into his car and watched as Slug and his friends climbed onto their motorcycles and headed out of the parking lot. He didn’t recognize the logo on the back of their vests, but the name of the gang and other words were familiar. He couldn’t believe that in the middle of what just might be the worst day of his life, he’d had such luck.

Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him drink his wine

Brian wondered if there was anything else that could possibly go wrong on this trip. He started up the car and backed the rest of the way out of the parking space carefully; very carefully.

Brian hadn’t gone more than a few miles when it began to rain. Obviously Hurricane Dot had not moved far enough away from the coast and he had found western edge.

This was the first time he’d had to test how the car handled on wet roads. . This was also the first time he’d used the windshield wipers. He would have been pleased had the wipers not been totally worthless in this weather. The blades definitely needed replacing. He slowed down and tried to see past the front hood of the car.

The light rain became a downpour. It was obvious he couldn’t continue like this, but where was he going to find windshield wiper blades in the middle of Podunk, Maryland?

“Or Delaware?” He mumbled as he drove past the large blue sign welcoming him to Delaware, Small Wonder, The State, Home of Tax-Free Shopping.

Well at least he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the wipers.

If he found some.

“Miracle of miracles.” He said aloud when he saw the sign for a Jerry’s Auto Parts. He pulled into the parking lot.

A young woman in a Sixties-era Volkswagen Beetle was pulling out and he motioned for her to stop. He rolled down his window and rain blew in.

“Sorry, we’re closed.”

“Do you carry wiper blades?”

She looked blankly at him. “I dunno. We’re closed.”

“This is an emergency. Could you open back up and…”

“We’re closed. But the Jerry, the owner, lives in back. He’ll probably open up for you if you take him…he likes scotch. You’ll need a bottle for him to reopen.” Brian watched as she rolled up her window and drove off.

Scotch? Where was he going to find scotch? He glanced at the clock on the dash. Did all stores in rural Delaware close at 5:00 on a Friday? He turned around and headed back up the highway, cars flying past him as he tried to see.

He’d gone less than a mile when he saw a large sign advertising Blackie’s Package Store. Hoping this was a sign that his luck was turning around, he slowed and turned into the lot.

“I need a pint of scotch.” The sales clerk glared at Brian while he tried to shake the water from his hair and clothes. He was completely soaked by running a few feet from the car into the store.

“What brand?”

Brian was a beer drinker. He occasionally enjoyed a fruity drink at the beach He had no clue what brand of scotch to buy. “It’s for Jerry…the owner of the auto parts store up the road. Do you know what he likes?”

The man came out from behind the counter and led Brian up the aisle. “He should like this.” He pulled a pint bottle off the shelf.

Brian gulped when he saw the price. He felt certain the clerk had chosen the most expensive brand in the store. He pulled a few bills out of his wallet and handed it over, thinking this Jerry guy had better have the wipers he needs. He took the brown paper bag holding the bottle and headed for the door.

“Make sure he gives you what you need before he drinks it!” the man called out as Brian ran into the pouring rain.

Brian drove back to the auto parts store, parked and headed through the rain to a tiny camper trailer parked in the rear. He banged on the door and a guy opened it wearing nothing but dingy grey Jockey shorts. He was skeletal, with long oily hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked like he just woke up.

Brian held up the brown paper sack, and asked, “Got time to sell me some windshield wiper blades?”

The man smiled a toothless grin as he reached for the scotch. “Shure. Gotta rig or a car?”

“A car.”

“Gimme a sec tah git my pants.”

Twenty minutes later, after choking down a shot of scotch with Jerry, Brian was back on the road with brand new wiper blades, shivering and trying to dry off by the heater blowing full blast, and singing along to George Thorogood.

I’m here to tell you honey
That I’m bad to the bone
Bad to the bone

Brian made it through Bridgeville without any delays. Once he had traveled home from Portsmouth on the same weekend as the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Competition and got stuck sharing the road with 20,000 fans and contestants. He’d learned the hard way to always check for holidays and special events before driving up the Ocean Highway. It could be significantly quicker and less stressful than I-95, but occasionally…

As he neared Dover, Brian was hoping that only the first half of the drive would be a bust. It was past the evening rush hour and, once he got to Dover, the rest of the trip was on limited access toll roads and he should make good time with little distractions.

Seeing the signs for the toll road ahead, Brian realized he had never stopped for gas. He pulled into a small independent gas station where he filled his gas tank, dried off the best he could in the restroom, and bought a large cup of very strong, stale coffee.

Heading up the ramp onto freeway, he glanced at the dashboard clock. It was getting dark and he had three hours left to get home; more if the rain didn’t subside. He may have missed dinner, but he’d get home well before everyone went to bed.

He accelerated and merged onto the travel lane.


He floored the accelerator.


The car was slowing instead of speeding up.


Brian coasted onto the shoulder.


He put on his flashers for the third time that day, turned off the ignition and rested his head on the steering wheel, unable to believe that this was real.

Brian liked to tinker with cars. Since he’d bought his first jalopy at age sixteen, he had owned a succession of clunkers that needed constant tinkering. His fascination with cars was the main reason he’d purchased the BMW. But he was a tinkerer and the BMW was a sophisticated machine that required a qualified mechanic. So, here he was, sitting on the side of the highway in the midst of a tropical storm, his tools buried under ten tons of fruit, candy, books and bones, wondering if a tinkerer could get it running.

Cursing, he pulled the release, got out of the car and popped the hood.

Everything looked fine. He jiggled a few wires, got back into the car and started it up.


Leaving it running, he got out and looked at the engine again.

“Dammit! Dammit to hell!” Realizing the problem, Brian kicked a tire a few times, almost breaking his big toe. He hopped around on the other foot cursing before slamming down the hood. “There was water in the gas I just bought! Why the hell didn’t I fill up in Maryland like I planned?” He limped up and down the side of the road using every curse word he knew. And he’d learned quite a few working around Navy and Marine officers the past few years.

Completely soaked again, Brian got back in the car and turned off the engine. He knew BMW had Telecommunication Assistance Service, but he had no idea how to use it. Still cursing, he pulled the owner’s manual out of the glove compartment and flipped through to see if it explained how the hell to use the so-called Heads Up Display System. His outburst was interrupted when a panel van pulled up behind him. All he could make out through the rain was that the driver was a large, bearded man.

“Great! That’s probably someone who’ll rob me!”

Goin down, party time
My friends are gonna’ be there too
I’m on the highway to hell

Brian watched as the man got out of the van and walked up to his car. His hair was pulled back into a pony tail and the denim had been changed for a long-sleeved dress shirt and neatly pressed slacks, but there was no mistaking the muscled arms and swagger. Brian didn’t know whether to be relieved or lock the doors.

“Hey Doc. Got trouble with your Beemer?”

“Slug.” Brian decided to take his chances and get out. “I think I got some bad gas. And I went off and left my cell phone, so I’ve been sitting here and…”

“I’m not much of a mechanic, but start her up.” Slug waited while Brian started the car. Instead of the beautiful deep roar Brian loved, he got the same;


“Yep. Sounds like you’ve got water in the tank. How’d that happen? She sounded real sweet at the diner.”

Brian turned off the car and got out. Stub listened intently as he explained getting gas at the Speedy Stop right before entering the freeway.

Nodding sympathetically, Slug went back to his van and sat inside, talking on a cell phone. Brian stood and watched, oblivious to the rain.

Stub motioned for him to get in the van. “I called a friend.” Slug announced after he crawled in. “He’ll be here in just a few minutes with a tow truck. Wrench is a wizard with cars and he has thing for Beemers.” He looked at Brian and smiling knowingly. “No need to worry. He’ll take good care of you. But we may have to talk to that SOB who sold the bad gas to you. That can really mess up an engine.”

“I can’t say for sure that’s what happened…that it was the gas.”

“And I thought you said you were smart, Doc! I know the owner of the Speedy Stop and he’s done this kind of thing before.”

“Where…where is your friend going to take my car?”

Stub laughed and patted Brian on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Doc. I’d trust Wrench with my life. In fact, I have!” He laughed heartily at his joke. “He’s got a garage in Dover and I’ll make sure he takes good care of your Beemer.” Slug paused. “Or do you want it towed to Wilmington? That’s the closest dealer.”

Brain hoped the last time he’d see his car might not be behind a tow truck driven wizard with cars named Wrench. But the dealer was certain to be closed until Monday. Before he could answer, a tow truck pulled onto the shoulder in front of the car and van and a man almost as big and burly as Slug got out and walked back to the van.

“Stub,” he greeted his friend and looked over at Brian. “That your Beemer?”

“I think I got water in the tank. I just filled up and…”

“Keys.” He held out a beefy hand.

Brian tried to calm himself as he handed them over and Wrench started up the car. He and Slug got out of the van.


“Yep. It’s water in the gas. That SOB at the Speedy Stop has done this before. We’ll have to drain the tank.”

“How…how much? How long?” Brian could barely speak. “I need to be in Portsmouth on Monday.” Forget about Sleepyside.

“I can have it ready for you on Sunday. But it’ll be weekend fees.” He looked for confirmation from Slug. “I can take it to the dealer but they won’t even look at it until Monday.

“I’m supposed to be in New York. And I need to be in Portsmouth on Monday.”

“I dunno about New York, but I can drain the tank and have your Beemer ready for you sometime on Sunday.” Wrench held up the keys.

Brian shrugged. “Okay. Do you think you could get me to a rental car place?”

“I told you, Doc, Wrench will take care of the Beemer. Where in New York are you headed?” Slug stepped in.

“ Westchester County. Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson. They’re expecting me. My parents, my brothers, sister…If I can rent a car…”

“You don’t need a rental, Doc. I’m headed to Poughkeepsie. I think we can make a little detour to Sleepyside.” He pointed to the panel van. “And there’s plenty of room for all that stuff in your car. I can bring you back on Sunday.”

“I can’t…That’s asking too much. If you can just get me to a rental place.”

“People don’t refuse Slug,” Wrench warned as he started attaching chains to the BMW. “You might hurt his feelings.” He smiled at Brian.

“It’s on my way, Doc…well maybe a little detour. But you’ve already said you’ve had a shitty day. You don’t want it to be any shittier. And, I never did thank that doctor who saved my little girl. This is payback.”

Brian stared at him in disbelief.

“Get in the van and we’ll follow Wrench to his shop. You can dry off and we’ll move your stuff inside his garage. I’ll have you in your mother’s house in three hours.”

Brian climbed in and looked back at the boxes containing a large flat-screen television, dorm-room refrigerator, lab-top computer and several other electronics boxes.

“I’m taking that to Poughkeepsie.” Slug explained. “You can see there’s plenty of room for your shit, too.”

Brian glanced at Slug and then back at the boxes, wondering who might be the recipient of all the expensive electronics.

Slug followed the tow truck to the next exit and through Dover to an older, blighted area. They finally turned into a narrow alley, drove past several obviously abandoned buildings with broken windows, and stopped in front of a large white block building. They waited while Wrench opened two bay doors and backed the BMW into one. Slug backed the van into the other.

“The head’s over there, Doc. You got some dry clothes?” He pointed to the office.

“In the car.”

Slug climbed into the back of the van and dug through a duffel bag. “These might be a little big, but they’re dry.” He handed Brian a pair of well-worn jeans and a black t-shirt with bright orange flames and yellow lettering that said, “Biker to the Bone”.

“I can’t...This is…”

“Payback, Doc. You’re dripping all over my van. Once we get your car unloaded, I want to hit the road.”

Brian took the clothes and headed over to the office.

When he returned, Slug had changed into another dress shirt and khaki slacks and he and Wrench were carrying packages from the BMW and placing them in the back of the van.

Wrench reached into the front seat of the car and took out Lucy’s skull. He glanced at Slug and placed it in a box with other bones.

“That’s from when I was in med school,” Brian tried to explain. When neither of the other men showed any reaction, he continued. “I almost got arrested in Worcester County for that.” He took a box and carried it over to the van. “I got pulled over for speeding and the deputy saw the skull on the passenger seat and…” He had their attention now.

“The next thing I knew I was on the ground with my hands cuffed behind my back. Local deputies and troopers came from everywhere and searched the car.”

“Did they have cause?” Slug picked up a femur and rubbed his hand over it. “To search your car?”

“I suppose they thought so. About the time they pulled everything out, a man in a suit shows up, reams them out and they let me go.”

“That was probably the coroner. He’d know it was plastic, and it’s not illegal to have a plastic skeleton.” Slug put the femur back into the box. “Why’d he pull you over?”

“I was…there was this really hot Porsche. I was trying to keep up with her and…”

“Red Porsche 911?” Slug started laughing. “Long blonde hair?”

“Suzie.” He looked at Wrench who nodded agreement.

“Sizzling Suzie. She’s always prowling a stretch of highway just north of the Virginia line, looking for someone to race.”

Brian groaned. “That’s her. It’s the first chance I’ve had to see what the car will do, so I…but I went through radar and…well the deputy got a little excited.”

“That’s it.” Wrench placed the box of bones in the back of the van and shut the doors. “So what’d they get you for?”

Slug handed Brian his medical bag.

“Ninety-four in a 55 zone.”

“That’s all?”

“I was focused on the road. I hit the brakes when I saw the cop and then glanced at the speedometer. It said 120.” Brian couldn’t help but smile smugly. “I’m not sure what I topped out at.”

“Not bad.” Wrench did not appear impressed. He handed Brian a clipboard. “Gimme some numbers in case I need to call you.”

The board held a plain legal pad and not the usual work order that he expected. Brian wrote down the number for Crabapple Farm and his cell before remembering, again, that he didn’t have his cell phone, so he crossed it out. “I went off without my cell phone. But you can leave a message at this number.” He handed Wrench the clipboard. “I can’t thank you enough.”

“Don’t thank me.” He nodded towards Slug. “I ain’t doin’ this for free.”

“Let’s get on the road.” Slug climbed in behind the wheel. “Program that GPS for your home address and watch that radar detector. You might be okay with that speeding ticket you got today, but I don’t pay fines,” he said after Brian had climbed into the passenger seat. “You’re in charge of navigation and I’m in charge of music. I hope you like Norah Jones.

Broken windows and empty hallways
A pale moon in the sky streaked with gray
Human kindness is overflowing
And I think it’s going to rain today

“It’s a little farther, on the left.” Brian pointed towards the Crabapple Farm driveway. “I still can’t thank you enough.”

Thanks to the radar detector and good instincts, Slug had made what was supposed to be a three-hour trip in a little more than two and a half.

“I was glad for the company.”

“Well you didn’t have to bring all my stuff, and you could have dropped me somewhere.”

“It was gifts for your mother…and brother.” He glanced over at Brian. “And it’s been a while since I carried a skeleton around.”

They both laughed.

“I enjoyed the ride, too.” Brian said sincerely. “After the day I had…I want you to tell your daughter to call my mother, anytime. Moms is always saying that her house has stretchy walls. That first semester of college can be tough. She might need to get away for a home-cooked meal, or…”

“I’m hoping all this stuff I’m taking up will make her dorm room more homey. I’ll be sure she has your mother’s phone number though. It’ll be good to know there’s someone close by I can trust.

“And it’s okay to give your little brother Angel’s phone number. I’m not too happy about her messing with boys, but if he’s anything like you. Imagine…another doctor.” Slug shook his head in disbelief. “Your parents must be proud.”

“They are. My parents…I’m very lucky.”

“Yeah. My mom did okay, but she had to work two jobs…it was different being a single mom back then.” Slug paused. “And I didn’t help much. Always in trouble. Smokin’ dope and drinking. Ended up in juvie and the judge gave me the choice of jail or the Marines.”

Slug slowed down to turn into the driveway. “I was already riding with the club. After the stint in the Corps, with a baby to support…no diploma or GED. They’ve been good to me.” He pulled up behind Brian’s mother’s car. “I know how it looks to you…”

Brian sat silently for a few moments. “I have to admit, that I was…” He looked over at Slug. “You scared the shit out of me outside the diner.”

He waited for Slug to laugh, but when he didn’t, he continued. “It didn’t take me long to realize that…anyone who raised a girl like Angel, high school Valedictorian, scholarship to Vassar. And all you’ve done for me…this was one of the worst days of my life until you came along.

“Thank you.” Brian offered his hand.

Slug hesitated and then took his hand without saying a word.

“It’s almost midnight.” Slug pointed to the dashboard clock that flashed 11:47. Only thirteen minutes left of Friday the 13th. Your luck will surely be better tomorrow.”

“That’s right! It is…No wonder…

Friday the 13th and on U.S. 13! I should have known!

“Let’s go in so you can meet my family.” They both climbed out of the van. “By the way, how do I introduce you? Is Slug your real name?”

“Henry. Henry Travers.” Slug followed him into the house.


Author’s Notes

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13. The superstition also is related to a specific fear of Friday the 13th called paraskevidekatriaphobia or friggatriskaidekaphobia. The origins of the superstition are unclear. Jixadekaphobia is…well… this story.

Harry and David is known for its mail order, direct marketing of fresh fruit, especially through its "Fruit-of-the-Month Club”. In addition to the original mail-order business, they operate retail outlets in twenty-six states, including Virginia.

The BMW 650i is a luxury coupe manufactured by Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). While not as high performing as the Porsche 911, it offers a popular combination of confident performance, unique style and competitive electronics. New, a 650i would cost $80,000 and up. A four-year old model would cost approximately half that amount.

U.S. Route 13(US 13) is a north–south U.S. Highway established in 1926 that runs for 517 miles along the Atlantic coast from Fayetteville, North Carolina to the northeastern suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the main thoroughfare for the Delmarva Peninsula and carrys the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The entire route on the Delmarva Peninsula is fully dualized with four lanes and it is a popular bypass of the urbanizes areas of the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a 23-mile link carrying US Route 13 across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, connecting the Delmarva Peninsula with Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. The system remains one of only ten bridge-tunnel systems in the world. Occasionally the Bridge-Tunnel experiences strong winds that will result in restriction of traffic flow. These restrictions are classified as Levels 1-5, with Level 5 resulting in closure to all traffic. A Level 4 Advisory restricts use to carswithout exterior cargo, pick-up trucks without cargo, mini-vans, and SUVs.

The Miata is a lightweight two-seater roadster, introduced in 1989, and still manufactured by Mazda in Hiroshima, Japan.

The Porsche 911 is the flagship of the current lineup of the Porsche automotive company. In the 1999 international poll for the award of the Car of the Twentieth Century, the Porsche 911 came fifth.

Wawa is a chain of convenience stores and gas stations with over 570 locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. It is the largest convenience store chain and third largest retailer in the Greater Philadelphia area. Gasoline may or may not be more expensive in Delaware than the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but it fit this story line.

The waitress’s advice to Brian is quoted from the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), produced by Paramount Pictures, and is used to qualify for the Jixemitri Totally Rad Circle Writing Event 4.

The (original) Volkswagen Beetle was an economy car produced 1938-2003. The air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-wheel drive compact is the longest-running, most manufactured car in the world. Beetles were sold in the United States from 1949-1977. A less popular “New Beetle” has been manufactured since 1996.

Punkin’ Chunkin is the sport of hurling or 'chucking' a pumpkin by mechanical means for distance. The devices used include slingshots, catapults, centrifugals, trebuchet, and pneumatic cannons. The World Championship Punkin Chunkin (WCPC) is held the first weekend after Halloween in Sussex County, Delaware. First organized in 1986, about 75 teams compete each year, drawing 20,000 spectators and grossing more than $100,000 in ticket sales. More than 70% of that money is donated to a variety of community organizations.

GPS (Geographic Positioning System) is a satellite navigation system that provides location and time information anywhere on Earth. Developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, its capabilities are critical for national defense, but are available to anyone with a GPS receiver.

Vassar College is a private, highly-selective, co-educational liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York. The first of the “Seven Sisters” (all-female sister schools to the Ivy League); it has been co-educational since 1969.

Wrench and Their Friends: The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada have designated four North American"Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs"; the Hells Angels, the Pagans, the Outlaws and the Bandidos.

Pagans Motorcycle Club was formed in 1959, in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The Pagans headquarters currently is in Delaware County, PA. They have approximately 350-400 members in 44 chapters located along the east coast of the United States. Members wear blue denim vests called cuts or cutoffs with club patches, known as colors, on the front and back. Swastikas and tattoos reading "ARGO" (Ar Go ‘Eff’ Yourself) and "NUNYA" (Nun' Ya ‘Effin’ Business) are common.

According to sources on the internet, members join these clubs for a variety of reasons. Bonds with other motorcyclists are strengthened by the subscription to non-conventional norms and the rejection of mainstream society; they can be mechanisms of power and bring legitimate and illegitimate job opportunities and financial prospects. Additionally, members feel a sense of control while intimidating less powerful, defenseless citizens. Generally, the values of this subculture lie in the value of brotherhood, the interest in motorcycling and respect for mechanical skills. Many members have families, are gainfully employed, and have much to lose despite their risk-taking.

Blues rock is a hybrid musical genre developed in the 1960s that combines elements of blues music, extended boogie jams and a heavy, riff-oriented sound and feel with the loud electric guitar-driven sound of rock and roll. On his drive, Brian enjoys a variety of well-know blues rock standards cited below.

Rebel Yell© 1983 by Billy Idol is the first song on an album of the same name. Rebel Yell® also is a brand of Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey that is reputed to be the inspiration for the song title.

Heading Out to the Highway©1981 by Judas Priest. It was first released on Point of Entry, the seventh album from the British heavy metal band.

Workin©1999 by Lynard Skynard.This is the opening track from Edge of Forever, Lynyrd Skynyrd 's ninth studio album and should not be confused with Workin for the MCA © 1974 that appeared on their second album, Second Helping.

Going Up the Country©1928 as Bull-Doze Blues by Henry Thomas. The Canned Heat incarnation is considered the unofficial theme song of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival.

Riders on the Storm © 1971 by the Doors, is reputed to be their last recorded song as lead singer Jim Morrison’s last recording to be released. The single was released before Morrison’s death in 1971, entering the Hot 100 list on July 3, 1971, the day Morrison died.

Are You Lonesome Tonight?music by Lou Handman, lyrics by Roy Turk © 1927, and was most notably revived by Elvis Presley in 1960. Elvis Presley is, well, Elvis Presley.

I Can’t Drive 55 © 1984 by Sammy Hagar, was the lead single and first track on his eighth studio album VOA. As the result of a very successful music video, it became a concert staple that continued throughout Sammy's tours as a member of Van Halen.

Cheeseburger in Paradise© 1978 by Jimmy Buffet, is one of Buffett's best-known songs. He licensed the name to OSI Restaurant Partners who operate Buffett-themed restaurants in 17 states. Cheeseburger in Paradise also is a menu item at Buffett-owned Margaritaville Cafes.

Motorcycle Song (The Significance of the Pickle) 1© 1968 by Arlo Guthrie. Like his late father, Woody Guthrie, Arlo is best known for singing songs of protest against social injustice. The live version of this rather humorous song was performed at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival and continues to be a hit with live audiences.

Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog) ©1970 by Hoyt Axton, and made famous by the American rock band Three Dog Night. Some of the words are nonsensical. When Axton performed the song to the band they initially rejected it as a "kid's song" or "silly song". After its release, it topped all the main singles charts in North America, was certified gold and has since been covered by multiple artists.

On the Road Again ©1980 by Willie Nelson was his ninth number one hit and won that year’s Grammy for Best County Song.

Bad to the Bone © George Thorogood, an American blues rock vocalist/guitarist from Wilmington, Delaware best known for his original Bad to the Bone as well as blues standards such as Move it on Over, One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, and Who do You Love? He and the Delaware Destroyers have released sixteen studio albums.

I Think It’s Going to Rain Today ©1968 by Randy Newman. There have been many covers of this song, but the 2005 version by Norah Jones may be the most haunting.

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