Free Reads

Here’s the third installment of my short story Test Drive. Hope you enjoy it.  

******** TEST DRIVE ********

Margo stood and ran her hands down the thighs of her wool pants. She readjusted the collar of her cashmere sweater, trying not to bring Rob’s attention back to her chest. Pulling the leather jacket off its hook, she morphed her features into her salesperson mask, shrugged her arms into the coat sleeves, and headed into the chilled sunlight.

“Good morning, my name’s Margo McCaffrey,” she said as she extended her hand to the potential client.

“Good morning lass. John. John Anderson.” The old man averted his eyes as he spoke. The hand that caught hers was firm and calloused, incongruous to the white hair sticking out at odd angles from under the tweed fedora. His hunched back didn’t appear crooked with age, but arched at a graceful angle. The cane he held in his left hand wasn’t supporting any of his substantial weight. 

“I’d like to take something out for a test drive,” he said, craning his neck to inspect the inventory. “It’s a surprise for the missus. Our fortieth anniversary. I want something sporty, not an old fuddy car.” His voice was strong, like his hands.

Margo laughed. “A two seater?” she asked in jest. But when John’s head shot up, the intensity of his gaze caught her by surprise. 

“No, two seats won’t be enough.” He toyed with his graying goatee, pulling at his bottom lip and distorting the words. 

“Excuse me Mr. Anderson? I didn’t hear you.” Margo shifted her weight between her feet. The nervous tick of his jaw and the constant motion of his hands put her on edge. 

“That blue one, that’s good.” John pointed with his cane, then used it to limp over to a midnight blue, four door Sebring with a spoiler. “This is the one.”

“That’s a stick shift, are you sure you wouldn’t want an automatic?” Margo hated to make assumptions about his disability, but he did appear to use the cane when he walked.

“Drove a stick all my life, no sense changing now.” He checked his watch. “Color’s perfect, can I try it out?”

“Sure, let me get the keys and the plate, and we’ll go.”

“Could I just drive it over to the house and pick up the missus?” The edge in his voice brought her up short. 

“Ahh, it would be just sort of more romantic,” he said almost apologetically. John’s cowboy boot scuffed the tar as he smiled hopefully. 

“Mr. Anderson, it’s fine if we pick up your wife, but it’s County Mall Motors’ policy to have a salesperson with you on the test drive.” Margo lied. They lived in a small town. She rarely went on test drives with potential buyers. “Let me just get the keys and some plates.”

As she ran inside to collect the necessary items, Margo wondered why she’d said it. It wasn’t policy. It wasn’t even their normal procedure. They often let people take cars out–sometimes overnight. What was it about this guy?

“Rob, back in a few, I’m taking the old guy out in the Sebring. He won’t buy, but it’ll give him a thrill.” She spoke to him before she realized he was on the phone. Margo pulled the keys off the rack on the wall in the manager’s office. As she reached for the magnetic “dealer” plate, she caught sight of John out the side window. He was facing the Sebring, talking animatedly on a cellphone. Kneading a knot out of his low back, he arched his spine, the useless cane hanging from the crook of his elbow. His lips moved rapidly as he spit words into the phone. Checking his watch, he yelled and slammed his fist on the car roof before snapping the phone shut and shoving it back into the pocket of his baggy suit jacket and resuming the arched stance.

Every instinct screamed at her not to be alone with this guy. Margo shot a look at Rob who was laughing with the person on the phone. On the other hand, she really didn’t want to put up with any crap from him if she turned this customer away. Not much of a choice.

Swallowing her discomfort, Margo forced her mouth into a plastic smile and headed out for a test drive. 

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

This is the second installment of my short story “Test Drive”. It’s a story unfolding. Feel free to comment and let me know what you’d like to see happen. I hope you enjoy it:

*************** Test Drive **************

Margo no longer lived with her father. He had moved on with the widow Boulier two years earlier and had set up housekeeping in a warmer climate. He’d left her in charge of the family house. It just seemed easier to stay in the familiar than to dredge up her lost future and try something new. Dylan lived with her now. She still wasn’t sure how that had happened.

Last summer he’d worked construction on the new addition at the dealership. She’d gotten caught up in his eyes, his arms–and his bed. He’d wrapped his dreams around her. It felt right when he gave up his apartment to move to the house.

Then six months ago he’d thrown out his back–so he said. Now he was waiting for his disability to come through. Meanwhile, he’d taken to hanging out with a bunch of guys, wasting his days with a cooler full of beer in the woods or at the lake. He was going soft around the middle, and each day she was finding it harder to remember what she had found so appealing in his lazy approach to life.

She was frustrated by her situation. Even though she never complained, it irked her that no one in her family acknowledged her sacrifice. Everyone was proud of baby-sister and for some reason, approved of Dylan.

Margo abandoned the musings of her life for the gas pedal when the tractor impeding her progress finally turned into the field. The boy on the back gave her another thumb up as she revved the engine and shot around the potato harvester. The farmer, by not fault of his, had ruined the best part of the drive, and she arrived at work late and pissed. No one noticed.

“Morning Margo.”

She smiled, negligently waving and greeting the receptionist and service guys. Armed with a mug of black sludge that passed for a caffeine fix, she made her way to her desk. Margo settled in to finish plans for the “post-Labor-Day-Veteran’s- Celebration-Thanksgiving-holiday-car extravaganza”. To Margo, it was the “dump the old inventory at top dollar, but make it feel good” sale. She hadn’t sold a car for a couple of weeks, but her commissions had been good over the summer, so she wasn’t feeling any financial pressure–yet.

Immersed in her work for nearly an hour, Margo jumped at the sound of her name.

“Hey Margo.” Rob yelled. One of her sales guys sauntered into the room. “There’s an old guy in the lot looking at cars, why don’t you take him, give him a little thrill.” He whistled through his teeth, nodding his head and leering at her cleavage. He laughed. Rob was definitely a true pig of the chauvinistic species.

Margo knew she overdressed for northern Maine. Her shopping trips to Boston, New York and Quebec were fodder for callous ribbings. For her, they were the only thread she still held to the reality of the outside world.

She only traveled three or four times a year, usually to hook up with high school girlfriends. For a weekend she could live vicariously through them.

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008

This week, I’m going to start something new. I keep talking about the writing process. How it works for me, how fluid it is. So starting this week, I offer 500 words (give or take) of a short story I’m titling Test Drive.

I invite you to share your opinions with me. How do you see the characters? What would you like to see happen? This is going to be our story.

So far we have only two characters: Margo and her father. My ideas are flowing, but I’d love to hear yours.

Test Drive

Leaves scattered aimlessly as Margo’s convertible sped recklessly down the back road. This was her time and her favorite part of the day. The place where she was liberated from the uncertainty at home and not yet engulfed in the conflicts at work. Margo shifted, anticipating the tight curves just over the knoll.

But careening around corners wasn’t in the cards today. “Damn!” she yelled over Tobi Keith pounding through the stereo speakers. “Great way to ruin a good drive.” Slamming her fist on the steering wheel and her foot on the brake, the car slowed. Her mood dropped with the gears. “Doesn’t this just suck?”

The behemoth in front of her crawled along at an old woman’s pace. “A real County traffic jam.” Margo muttered to herself as she closed in on the potato harvester moving between fields. Man, she hated this time of year, not as much as winter or spring, but this definitely sucked. The kids on the back leaned sleepily against the piece of equipment. One boy raised his head at the sound of her squealing tires. He slapped his friend on the back and pointed to the yellow sports car, giving the thumbs up sign to Margo. She couldn’t help but smile.

Funny how she thought of them as kids, even though they were only four or five years younger. Margo remembered her years on the harvester. Bundled up against the cold, she and her friends shared hopes of brighter futures. She was going to leave this God-forsaken, end-of-the-earth hell-hole for true culture, worldly adventures and intelligent dialogue. Joining the Peace Corps after high school she could do all of that, plus save the world. When her mother died the summer after graduation, she’d buried her dreams with the casket.

The youngest of three, she was left to pick up the pieces of her father’s shattered heart. There were days she could barely coax him out of bed. The burdens of his sorrow nearly drown her. While her friends spread their wings at college, she sought refuge at a local car dealership as a receptionist. She was hired at the interview. It was only part-time, thirty-five hours a week, no benefits. Margo didn’t need the money. Her mother had been saving for her college education, and Margo had planned to use it until she could support herself, but with her frugal nature, she’d left most of it in the bank.

That had been four years ago. Now, she was head of sales and going nowhere fast. Margo had hit the proverbial glass ceiling. Not because the dealership didn’t promote woman, but because only the manager and owner held higher positions. In a Maine town as small as Provence, they weren’t going anywhere, so, neither was she.

Copyright Kara Dunn 2008