Eric could think of nothing except the well being of his cat, which he couldn't fit in his duffel bag, as the wheels of his 2009 Chevy sedan threw gravel as he sped out of the driveway before his wife could hit him with a bullet.
He opened the windows to let some fresh almost-spring air in as he started to breathe again. He’d escaped. He’d made it. He wondered about his cat…
He passed some semis on the turnoff to the highway, the light dusting of snow on Vermont evergreens in the fading sunlight seeming peaceful, almost dead.
Like he had almost been.
The bloody sun set as he drove on the highway, turning on the heater in the car eventually, then found himself needing to pee… and eat. All he had was his credit card and driver’s license, so he sighed, thinkingg he would pull into a truck stop somwhere. Where was he? New York, now?
In the middle of New York state on the Interstate he pulled off into a dark truck stop with a warm looking diner.
He got out of the car and locked the doors, shaking and in shock, and his boots crunched ice as he entered the diner.
A bunch of middle-aged truckers with coats that smelled of gasoline turned to look at him, including one with patches of various festivals and a huge brown head of hair and huge brown beard. No hat, this one.
The trucker smiled. “Hi, I’m Bear. At least they call me Bear…. Ha ha. Ehem. Sit down, you look like an iced cat in from the cold.”
Eric started sobbing then, thinking of his cat.
Bear got up and pulled a fresh country patterned hankkerchief out of his pocket, wiping Eric’s tears. “What’s wrong, little buddy?”
“My wife….. Bullets…. Cat….” Eric stammered out.
“Oh my god,” Bear gasped. “I get it now. You just escaped somewhere horrible. Tania, waitress, Tania!!” Eric called and a young slip of a girl emerged with a fresh plate of hot eggs and pancakes. “Tania give my food to this young man.”
Tania nodded wordlessly, narrowing her eyes in evaluation of the situation as Bear sat Eric down and Eric started to eat, a mug full of coffee by his side.
Tania went back to the kitchen as Bear attempted to soothe Eric. Eventually, fed and feeling warm and safe, Eric stopped crying and coughed, looking up at the taller Bear.
“I am going to my family in California,” Eric said to Bear. “Thank you, but I have a place to be…. And stay. Don’t worry, dude, okay?”
Bear nodded. “Do you need a ride?”
Eric shook his head. “Nope. I have one.”
At that, a huge bang sounded from the parking lot.
Everyone ran outside and Eric shook in the cold again. Someone had blown out his tires. His wife? No? His wife? Oh no….
“Is my wife here?!” Eric screamed.
Bear enveloped Eric in a bear hug, no pun intended. “No, I don’t see anyone. Well, now you have a ride. See that truck?” Bear motioned too a huge sleeper semi which said “Bear’s Traveling Junk Hauling” on the side. “That’s mine. We can sleep in there and go to California tomorrow.”