Take the Second Left on Your Right
–– Sir Walter Scott
On numerous occasions she had made clear her displeasure with his over-the-top behavior, but it only intensified his ire, resulting in a nasty shouting match and a prolonged period of icy silence when all was said and done. The experience was all too familiar, and Carla had finally reached the end of her tether.
“No more! I can’t take you going ballistic like this. It’s scary. You really have some anger issues.”
“Only when I have to deal with idiot drivers and the medieval streets in this frigging city,” protested Emil.
“Get over it. You’ve been like this since we got married. You’ll have a heart attack. You should see yourself. Your face is contorted and veins pop out of your temples. You look psycho. Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” replied Carla disgustedly.
His meltdown was always followed by a period of remorse and self-loathing.
“No kidding. I’m so tired of it. You say this after every explosion, and then it happens again and again,” Carla said.
Emil had little to offer in his defense. He had to agree, that in his driving behavior, he was a jerk––there was no getting around it. As usual, he sunk into a dark funk over his indefensible behavior. No further words were exchanged until his hangdog expression would diffuse his wife’s displeasure.
“I think you have to remind yourself about how crazy you become when you’re in traffic or lost. Maybe you should get one of those GPS things,” Carla offered.
“I don’t know,” replied Emil grimly.
“My brother loves his.”
“Your brother is a gadget freak. He buys anything new.”
“GPS devices are hardly new. Many drivers use them. You really need to get one, so you don’t stroke out.”
“I’ll think about it,” muttered Emil.
“Get one. I can’t put up with this any longer. If you don’t, I’m not riding with you into town any more.”
“I’ll see,” replied Emil, as he parked the car next to the restaurant where they had a reservation.
“What do you know, we’re ten minutes early after all your freaking out about being late,” observed Carla sarcastically.
Embarrassed, Emil attempted to redirect his wife’s justifiable harangue, but he failed and they shared few words over dinner. The ride home was no more animated.
Shit, this frost will last for a while. I better look for a used GPS on eBay, thought Emil. If he could get one cheap, he would buy it to get back in the good graces of his wife. The idea of actually using it, however, did not really interest him.
* * *
Emil finally did go online to find a previously owned GPS. For $50 he purchased a “like new” Tom-Tom. But true to form, it remained in its package until Carla pressed him to put it in his vehicle.
“For heaven’s sake, try it out. You might actually like it,” grumbled Carla, while her husband held it gingerly like a dirty diaper. “We can use it on our trip.”
It was just two days before they were to travel to upstate New York to pick up a Golden Retriever puppy from a breeder as a replacement for their longtime beloved dog that had died a few weeks earlier. The day before they were set to go Carla twisted her knee and could barely walk, so it was left to Emil to fetch their new pet.
“Make sure you use the GPS. By the time you get back, you’ll be an expert with it,” said Carla, applying an ice pack to her injury.
Emil had read up on the device and actually found himself somewhat intrigued by it.
“It is a pretty neat thing,” admitted Emil, to his wife’s considerable satisfaction.
“Well, listen to you, Mr. Luddite,” she responded with an approving smile.
“I’ll see if it really knows the way,” said Emil, readying himself for what he estimated to be a four to five hour drive.
“Be careful,” said Carla, lying on the couch with her afflicted leg elevated, as Emil blew her a kiss.
“You be careful, too. Watch that knee. I’ll be back tonight with the puppy,” answered Emil.
He had programmed the GPS according to the manual, but forgot to turn it on until he was on Route 95.
Take a right onto the Mass Pike ahead two-thirds of a mile, instructed a pleasant female voice from the dashboard-mounted instrument.
“Will do, sweetie,” replied Emil. “Hope you know where we’re going. You chicks aren’t famous for your sense of direction. Maybe you got a guy there to help you?” he asked, half-jokingly––allowing a second to pass before answering his own question. “No? Well, I guess I’m at your mercy, so lead the way.”
* * *
The voice on the GPS had sounded familiar to Emil from the moment he heard it, and halfway to his destination, he realized why. It possessed the vocal qualities––or more succinctly the lack of any distinctive voice qualities––of a college girlfriend he had jilted long ago. After five months of what had become a tempestuous relationship with her, Emil had met the woman that would become his future wife. When he informed his girlfriend that he was ending their rocky union, she threw a tantrum and tossed a wine glass at him. It had narrowly missed his face. Yet her outbursts didn’t end there. Three days later she accosted him at the student union trying to heave a cup of hot coffee at him. Fortunately she dropped the steaming brew before she could launch it at him.
For two months she stalked him, but only once had she made actual contact with him. It was to ask if they could hook up again for one last date. “Just a farewell fuck,” was how she had put it. Emil explained that he was now in a committed relationship, and she responded by telling him that it would never be over between them ––that someday he would be hers again. After that he spotted her a couple of more times––once spying on him from behind a tree and another time walking across the snow covered campus in his direction. He had retreated into a dorm to avoid her.
A year passed and then he heard that she had dropped out of school. He was relieved by the news, but wondered if he had been the cause of her departure. As time passed, however, she finally faded from his thoughts. Until now, that is.
Turn right at exit 41, directed the GPS.
“Hey, Sabrina . . . Sabby. Long time no hear . . . fortunately. How’ve you been all the years?”
Continue for eighteen miles . . ..
“Ever find happiness? I mean, find someone who could put up with you. You were pretty daft, so if you did, he probably dumped you, too.”
Emil continued talking to the GPS. It entertained him and made the time pass quickly. It was also nice to vent at an approximation of someone who had briefly made his life a misery.
“Think you were the type that would find some poor unsuspecting jerk to marry you and get you pregnant. Then you’d murder your family while they slept.”
Take the second left on your right, advised the Sabrina-like voice on the GPS.
“Huh?” muttered Emil, confused.
Take the second left after the next right.
“Oh, that makes more sense. Guess I heard you wrong,” said Emil.
He followed the directions but was perplexed when the second left turned out to be a dead end. He reset the GPS, and it instructed him to drive north to Route 31 west.
“I’m losing my patience with you, but we’ve been there before . . . haven’t we, Sabby?” remarked Emil, as he drove out of the cul de sac.
* * *
As Emil cruised along Route 3 toward Gouveneur and the puppy that awaited him, he was caught up in the beauty of the Adirondack Mountains that surrounded him. It was a place he had spent part of a summer with his parents as a child, and he was glad to return. The GPS voice broke his reverie.
Take Route 56 north one mile.
“Right oh, Sabby. Your wish is my command,” replied Emil.
When the time came to change roads Emil was surprised to find himself on a single lane black top without a centerline.
“Hope you’re right about this, old gal,” said Emil, as he sped down the desolate strip of asphalt edged on both sides by encroaching woods.
Half an hour later Emil became concerned by the total absence of any human presence.
Take the next left at McComber Road, directed the GPS.
In less than a mile, he reached the turn, which consisted of little more than a gravel path just wide enough for a car.
“Whoa, Sabby. This can’t be right. Where the hell you taking me?”
Emil pulled over and fished a map from the glove compartment.
“No offense, but I’m going to check a more reliable source . . . Mr. Rand McNally,” said Emil, unfolding the New England road guide. “There’s Route 56... Crap, the damn map only shows a piece of it,” grumbled Emil. “Should have brought along a New York State atlas.”
Continue ahead for three miles to Route . . ..
Several moments of silence followed.
“Yeah? To Route what?” blurted Emil, his frustration mounting.
No answer came, and when he tried to reset the GPS, its function was unresponsive.
Great! No GPS and no map. I’m screwed, thought Emil, who then decided to drive on hoping he would reach the unidentified route.
He drove well past the three miles the GPS had indicated before he considered turning around. The road was so narrow and the brush so thick on either side that he could find no place to attempt a round about. He had no choice but to follow the road wherever it led, and Emil began to wonder if it led anywhere.
“Take the second left on your right,” instructed the Sabby-like voice of the digital navigator.
“Not that shit again, you crazy bitch!” snapped Emil, tightening his grip on the steering wheel.
Then the road divided.
Take the second left on your right, repeated the GPS.
“What the...? Okay, I’ll stay right and look for a second left,” he muttered, desperately.
Sure enough there appeared a second road to the left, and it was only a few yards beyond the first turn. By now the sun had set forcing Emil to follow the beams of his headlights.
Continue ahead, instructed the GPS over and over as Emil’s apprehension grew exponentially.
Again, he considered turning back, but there was no doing so. The road was even narrower than the one he left a few miles back. Tree limbs reached from the sides and scrabbled against his car. Emil feared the road would eventually constrict like a clogged artery making it impossible to move forward.
Back up. Get the hell out of here, he thought, but when he put the car in reverse, he found he had no back up lights.
“Jesus,” he whined. “This can’t be happening.”
Continue ahead, directed the GPS, and Emil hit the off switch.
“You douchebag!” he bellowed.
Continue ahead...continue ahead, repeated the GPS, despite having its power cut.
Get out and walk back to the main road, Emil told himself.
To his horror, he found the doors of his car held tightly closed by the impenetrable wall of trees.
“No,” he whimpered, and pressed the accelerator.
“The car would not move in reverse, so he jammed it into drive and it lurched forward. For another twenty minutes Emil drove in the only direction he could while the GPS urged him on.
“What the hell is going on?” repeated Emil, on the verge of sobbing.
His dread was compounded when the gas gauge warning light came on.
“I’m trapped! I’m fucking trapped!” he howled. He then spotted a light in the distance. “Oh, thank God!”
He pressed the gas pedal as far as it would go not caring that it caused the tree limbs to bump against his car. He could not have cared less if the car was damaged beyond repair as long as he could get out of his untenable situation. All he wanted was to reach civilization and end his nightmare.
As he approached the lighted structure, the GPS declared that he had reached his destination. Before him in a small clearing was a pristine dwelling adorned in flower boxes. It reminded Emil of the cottage in Hansel and Gretel.
Is this the kennel? Emil wondered. He stopped the car and surveyed the area. There were no fences or signs of a dog run. The perfectly groomed landscape suggested it was an unlikely place for dogs to be raised and trained. It did not resemble any kennel he had seen.
You have reached the end of the road, declared the GPS.
“The end of the road is right,” Emil mumbled, deciding to inquire within about his location and get directions.
I’ll never go back that way, he promised himself...never.
He climbed the steps of the porch that led to the front door and rang the bell. In the distance he heard the chimes sound the first few notes of Bach’s “Abide With Me.” The door slowly opened, and before him stood the last person he ever wanted to see again.
“I knew you’d find your way back to me,” said Sabrina, her arms outstretched in greeting.
Only she could hear Emil’s anguished cry...and that pleased her.