My brother said I should meet him where the cars crashed. I drove down the highway and rounded the bend when everything became dark. I seemed to be driving down a hill but couldn’t see the road. That was unusual, but I had seen something like it before.
Years earlier, my college roomie and I went to Philadelphia to see a Phillies baseball game. On the way back, where the Schuylkill Expressway meets the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it was around 11 p.m. All the street lights were on, and yet neither my roomie who was driving or I could see the white lines on the road. Neither of us had been drinking, but from inside the car the road was blank. We opened our doors and looked down to finally see the lines. My guess was that the street lights were dim but just bright enough to cancel out the reflection of the lines. My roomie and I agreed that people would think we were stupid — or worse. Whatever the cause, it was strange.
Driving to where the cars crashed reminded me of that. Partway down the hill to the right was a red stop sign angled to stop cars entering from a side street I couldn’t see. The sign itself was surrounded in a ball of light that came from no particular place. This was where the cars crashed, and I didn’t want to be the next one. I stepped on the brakes, which didn’t really slow down the car. I kept on the pressure and finally got slow enough.
At a carnival
Then I was in the light. It was a carnival atmosphere. The place attracted quite a few people milling around for the crashes, which you could hear at the intersection over the hill. The ground for the concession stands was well worn with just dirt and dust that hung in the bright, warm sunshine. The road was dirt, too, with a little line of tow trucks. They were like the line of taxis you see at airports waiting for passengers, but the taxis are just parked with the engines off. Where the cars crash, the tow trucks kept their engines idling and lights flashing. There was another crash, and the first truck in line headed to the intersection. Soon, there was another crash, and the next truck drove off.
I never actually saw the cars crash. I never saw my brother.
Later, I was in town to meet my friend Bob and his wife for lunch. My plate was filled with a mound of something several inches high. This would take a while, but I could finish it. I had only made a small dent in the pile and saw 15 minutes has passed. This would take a while, but I could do it.
Then I was standing in the middle of a quadrangle on a campus. My shirt was rolled up and I rolled it back down. This was bad. I must have blacked out and wandered off from the restaurant. I knew what this had to be: early onset Alzheimer’s. This would mess up everything. I had to tell my doctor, but I knew as soon as I did it would foul up the job I had just gotten. I couldn’t take the job and would have to take treatments that we couldn’t afford. Yet, I had to tell my doctor I had Alzheimer’s. I couldn’t hide it.
I needed to call Bob to let him know where I was so he wouldn’t worry. He must be wondering what happened to me. I reached in my pants pocket for my cellphone, but the first thing I pulled out was a 6-inch thumb drive. It had long lines of lighted lettering, but I didn’t try to read it. I don’t know why I had such a thing, and I had never seen anything like it. I reached deeper into my right pocket and finally felt my cellphone and pulled it out. I needed to call Bob, but the phone app wouldn’t do anything when I pressed it. I kept pressing. Nothing.
I walked to the restaurant and hoped Bob wouldn’t be panicked after I wondered off. When I got there, everything was quiet. I looked in the window and saw the table where we had sat, but it was empty. I wanted to call someone, but my phone wouldn’t work.
I kept messing with my phone, but it wouldn’t look good if I stood around working on it. I got on a bus. It had been years since I rode one, but I would only be on for a stop or two until I fixed my phone.
I kept pushing the app button and back button, but nothing happened. Then when I pushed the back button harder, the screen started rapidly scrolling through photos, some of which I thought I took before I had a cellphone.
I asked a guy if he could fix my phone, but he said he didn’t fix red phones. That confused me. I looked really hard at my phone and didn’t see any shade of red. It was black, maybe a greenish tint, but not red.
Pressing buttons some more, my phone started playing movies or videos. That really bothered me because I didn’t want to get those around me irritated with the noise, but no one seemed to notice.
Then I saw a kid sitting behind me. He was about 10 or 12 years old. His blond hair fell evenly down all sides and was cut straight at the bottom below his ears. His bangs were cut straight about midway down his forehead. He had big eyes that looked at nothing in particular.
“You’re a kid,” I said to him. “You’re a genius! Fix my phone.” He said he didn’t know how. Good grief! I found the only kid in the world who didn’t know how to fix a cellphone.
I pushed the Off button to make the phone stop. That didn’t work. I decided to remove the battery. I opened the back and pulled out the small, flat, almost square battery that was attached by a green cord several inches long. I pulled the cord free of the battery, and the phone finally stopped.
I put the battery back in the phone and turned it back on. Suddenly it started to play a Batman movie and pretty loud. Batman was in a small helicopter with a cockpit full of birds. The guy sitting next to me asked why Batman was flying with all those birds. Exasperated, I said, “I don’t know! He’s a bat! Maybe he likes being around birds!”
Two guys came over — a taller older one, the other younger and shorter. The taller guy said, “We can fix your phone. We can make it the subject of our lecture tonight.”
I gave them my phone, and they left. Now I had to stay on the bus. If I left, those guys wouldn’t know where to find me and give me back my phone. So, I rode on, watching to see if I recognized any place. I thought I recognized an intersection with tall buildings and narrow streets. I asked if this was Reading. I was told no. Where were we. They didn’t know.
Then we were in the countryside. Bright red and yellow flowers were in neat squares along the road, and the grass was green. It looked nice, but I didn’t recognize the area.
After a bit, we were on a more familiar suburban street. I was pretty sure it was Shillington. I asked if this was Shillington. No, it wasn’t. Where were we? No one knew. So, I was on a bus where everyone knew where we weren’t, no one knew where we were, and no one knew where we were going. Great.
I looked in the back of the bus and saw the rear was more like the lounge section of a club. Guys were sitting at tables or leaning on the gold bar that separated their section from the front. Most of them were checking their cellphones.
The back wall was wood, more like dark brown lumber. The right side of the bus was lumber as well, with no windows. To the back rear in the left seemed to be a door for a changing room where people went in and out. I wondered how that worked because a side room would collide with cars on the road.
The lumber wall continued to the front of the bus. The windshield was lumber, and the driver only had a small rectangular opening to look ahead.
You could tell it was getting dark outside, and the driver said something that sounded like it was the end of the line. Everyone had to get off the bus, but we weren’t at a terminal. Not even in a town.
Everyone got off and walked away. The bus was gone, and I stood in an orchard almost in the dark. Then the two guys came back. The shorter guy said, “It took us two shots!” but my phone was fixed. They were headed to their lecture in Lancaster. “You’re going on Route 222?” I asked. They said yes. Well, I couldn’t get a ride because I needed to go west on the 422. They left, and I was alone. I needed to call someone to get me.
I held my phone in my hand, and it looked a bit different. Its screen was clear, and its inside was brown and scalloped with a ridge in the middle. It reminded me of the topographical maps of the Atlantic Ocean if it was drained of water.
I tried to turn on the phone, and nothing happened. It started to drizzle. I had no umbrella, and I had to keep my phone dry or it would ruin its warranty. The drops got bigger on the phone, and it wouldn’t work. I shook my head in frustration.
And I woke up in bed at home.
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