Roadblock

Roadblock

A Chapter by Stephanotis
"

Eleanor starts college and makes a friend.

"

                   It’s ten o’ clock in the morning, and the road is packed with college students and their parents on the way to campus.  About twenty yards the campus entrance, the traffic has stopped along the two-lane highway.  I park my car behind a minivan and open my windows and sunroof.  I’ve only been on the road for half an hour, but I can see the tan on my left arm, which has been resting on the driver’s side window.  The air is thick, and my limbs feel heavy.

                  To pass the time, I flip through the jobs listing catalogue again, but I don’t find anything new.  What I need is a waitressing job, but those are only available for the Silver and Gold Class.  Time Capsule magazine won’t want to hire me now that Frank White has started an investigation, even though I haven’t seen his intern following me for several days.  If I can make a contact in the upstate black market, it might be worth asking for a job.  I spent five years working for The Hangman, so I know the business models and protocol.  If it weren’t for the possibility that Frank White is tracking my car, I would drive back down to Karabatsos’ hideout and ask him for his upstate contacts.

                  The radio announcer interrupts the morning music sequence.  Governor Slater’s team of investigators has found the men responsible for the Charleston bombing…

                  I set down the jobs listing catalogue.

                  …The leader of the radical terrorist group has been identified as Christian Booker, a thirty-three year old Orangeburg resident employed in the nuclear weapons facility.  He confessed to getting jobs for the terrorists at the facility in preparation for the attack.  Christian Booker is safely behind bars and will be executed in November.

                  The announcer finishes, and the morning music sequence resumes.  I toss my jobs catalogue on the floor and lean my seat back, looking up through the sunroof with my hands folded on my stomach.  I hear a dog barking several cars behind me.  Ahead, the traffic shows no sign of movement.

                  I hear a thud in the trunk, and the car bounces.  I sit up from my reclining position just as a strange person tumbles through my sunroof, headfirst into the passenger’s seat. 

                  “Hey!” I shout, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

                  He’s a chubby guy, my age, with sandy blonde hair sticking up in the front.  He picks up a pair of black, horn-rimmed glasses from the floor and puts them back on his face.  “I’m not here, okay?” he says.

                  “Get out of my car!” I shout. 

                  “Quiet,” he says.  “The cops’ll hear you.”

                  “Damn it, if you bring the cops to my car, I’m gonna kill you…”

                  “Just act natural.  I’ve tried this before.”

                  “Who the hell do you think you are?”

                  “Schwartz,” he says.

                  “What?”

                  “Schwartz.  That’s my name.  What’s yours?”

                  I look in the side view mirror and see a pair of policemen with a search dog.  They’re walking between the lanes in our direction.

                  “Just shut up, okay?” I say. 

                  The policemen stop by the car behind me, talking to the driver through the window.

                  “You owe me,” I whisper.

                  “Yeah,” Schwartz says, “I know, dude.”

                  “Did they see you?”

                  “A little bit, maybe.”

                  I glare him down.  “They saw you?”

                  “Uh, yes.”

                  “Get out of my car!”

                  “Too late.”

                  I lean back and grasp the steering wheel with my sweaty hands.  The officers come and stand by my window.  One is a dog handler, grasping the leash to a struggling German Shepherd.  The other is a cop with a nightstick.  The cop leans down and peers inside my car.  “Aha,” he says.

                  “That’s him?” the dog handler says.

                  “I need ya’ll to step out of the car.”

                  I slowly open the door and step out, my hands raised in peace.  The dog handler goes around to the passenger side of the car, pulling the leash tight to keep the German Shepherd from jumping away.  The cop with the nightstick gets out his handcuffs, but before he can put them on my wrists, the dog handler shouts, “Hey!  You get out of there, now!”

                  Schwartz does not get out of the car.  He has jumped into the driver’s seat and locked the doors.  The windows and sunroof begin to close.

                  “I’ll take care of it!” the cop says, dropping the handcuffs he was about to put on me.  “You watch the girl!”  He takes out his nightstick and tries to strike Schwartz, but he can’t reach through the closing window.  The dog handler draws his gun and points it at my head.

                  “Whoa!” I shout.  “Hey, I didn’t do anything!”

                  “Yeah, I’ve heard that before!”  He walks around to driver’s side of the car, holding on tight to the German Shepherd’s leash.  The dog is wrestling to get free, snarling and baring its teeth.

                  “Listen, I don’t even know this guy!  He broke into my car not two minutes ago, I don’t know why, and he wouldn’t leave!  Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

                  The cop with the nightstick has just bashed my windshield in.  Schwartz has covered his eyes with his forearm.  He puts my car in reverse, nearly hitting the car behind him, making the driver honk his horn.  The cop swings his nightstick into one of the back windows of my car, shattering the glass but leaving it intact.  The car rumbles over the grassy median, the cop chasing after it with his weapon.

                  If Schwartz manages to escape, I’ll be interrogated for hours, maybe days.  It will be a dead end investigation, and I’ll be executed in the end.  If Schwartz does not escape, the police will search my car and find the gun in the glove compartment.  I am Bronze and do not have the right to bear arms.  They will execute me for that.

                  Schwartz is doing a three-point turn in the median, the cop chasing after him, putting a few dents in the car’s body with that nightstick.  I see a piece of windshield on the ground, about the size and shape of a guitar pick.  The dog handler still has his gun pointed at me, but he’s watching my car with a sideways look.  I dive for the small piece of glass, and the dog jumps at me.  The dog handler reels it back in, but not before I feel the dog’s hot, pungent breath in my face.

                  “You get away or I’ll shoot!” the dog handler shouts.

                  Crouched on my knees, I take the piece of glass and swipe it across my left wrist.  Thick, dark blood seeps out, dripping down my forearm and onto the ground.  I switch the piece of glass to my other hand, but my injured limb is too weak to make a deep cut in the other.  The dog handler kicks me in the ribcage and I tumble over sideways.  The bloody piece of glass flies out of my hand.

                  “No more of that, you hear?” he shouts, pointing the gun at me again.

                  I am on my back on the asphalt with my hands raised in defense.  Blood has made a trail down to my elbow.  I look to the median and see Schwartz drive my car over the slope into the next lane, kicking up dirt with the back wheels.

                  From the other direction, a sports car’s tires screech against the asphalt and the driver honks the horn, but Schwartz does not get out of the way in time.  My old car cannot get up to speed as quickly as most vehicles on the road.  The sports car collides with my miserable vehicle, sending it sliding back into the median.

                  The cop with the nightstick gives the sports car driver a thumb’s-up and waves him on.  After a moment of hesitation, the sports car continues on its way, unscathed.

                  My car, however, is now a twisted mass of gray and black metal with half the windows missing.  Schwartz stumbles out of the driver’s side door, shaking his head.  The cop pulls him up by the arm and drags him toward the empty space in the road where my car sat not five minutes ago.

                  Schwartz trips, unable to walk in a straight line.  “You are under arrest,” the cop says, “For possession of weapons...”

                  “What?” Schwartz says.

                  “Don’t act stupid,” the dog handler says, “We found the hunting gear in the back of your truck.”

                  “But I have a license!”  Schwartz falls to his knees and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket.  He gives the cop his identification and a small paper card.

                  The cop looks at the documentation with wide eyes.  “Oh,” he says, “I’m so sorry Mr. Schwartz.  I didn’t realize you were Gold Class…”

                  “Dude, it happens,” Schwartz says.

                  “It’s just that your truck looks a little…Bronze.”

                  “Yeah, it’s a good ol’ truck.  Got me through a couple of wrecks.”

                  The cop gives the documentation back to Schwartz, who returns it to his wallet.  “Well?” the dog handler says, lowering his gun.  “What do we do?”

                  “As I see it,” the cop says, “No crime has been committed here.  We should get going.”

                  The two of them give Schwartz a nod and start walking away, the dog handler dragging the German Shepherd behind him.  I push myself up to standing position.  “What do you mean no crime has been committed?” I shout.  “Look at my car!”

                  “Sorry,” the cop says over the dog’s barking.  The officers disappear from view. 

                  For the first time since this incident began, I look around at the other cars.  Parents and students stare at me and then quickly look away.

                  On the edge of the road, Schwartz stands up with a hand to his forehead.  “Dude, I’m so dizzy…”

                  I march up to him and slap him across the face with my good hand.  “You a*****e!” I shout, slapping him again.  “You spoiled, Gold b*****d!”

                  He jumps away before I can slap him again.  “Hey, I’m sorry, okay?”

                  “Go to hell!”

                  I walk across the grassy median to my dilapidated car, grasping my wounded wrist with my good hand.  I climb in and try to restart the engine, but nothing happens.  Not even the radio is working.

                  “I’m sorry, okay?” Schwartz says.  He’s sticking his head through the shattered window.  “Hey, I’ll pay for the damages, all right?  Whoa, your wrist…”

                  “Shut up.  Just shut up.”

                  “I’m driving you to the infirmary.  Can I get your luggage out for you?”

                  I say nothing.  The blood boils in my forehead. 

                  He walks around the car to the trunk and tugs on the door.  “Well, crap,” he says, “It doesn’t want to open.”

                  He isn’t looking in my direction, so I take the gun out of my glove compartment and hide it in my belt, under my shirt.  “It’ll open,” I say, climbing out of the car.

                  Schwartz gives it a good kick, and it opens.  He throws my bag of linens over his shoulder, lifts out my rolling suitcase full of clothes, and carries my typewriter case in his free hand.

                  “I’ve also got some textbooks in the back seat,” I say.

                  He sighs, and looks in the back seat.  He stuffs all of my books into my linens bag and starts walking away down the median.  I follow, clutching my wounded wrist.  It’s still dripping blood.  The cars in the campus-bound lane are starting to move along, slowly.

                  “Hey, uh, my hands are full,” Schwartz says, “Do you mind picking up that package?”  He nods to a shiny object in the grass.  I pick it up with my good hand, smearing blood on the aluminum foil wrapping.  The article inside feels like it might be potpourri.  I sniff it.

                  “Damn you!” I shout.  “You weren’t trying to cover up the hunting gear at all!”

                  “Shh…” Schwartz says.

                  “You Goldies, you think you can get away with just about anything!  And the worst thing is, you can!

                  “Yeah, well…”

                  “But you can’t get away with marijuana, can you?  Oh, no!  You might be demoted to Silver!”

                  We come to an old, red Toyota with peeling paint and numerous dents in the body.  Schwartz tosses my luggage into the truck bed and opens the passenger side door for me.  I climb in, shaking a few drops of blood on the interior, on purpose.  Schwartz sits behind the wheel and starts driving. 

                  “You have every right to be angry,” Schwartz says.

                  “Damn right, I do.”

                  “But I’m sorry, okay?  I admit I was wrong.  Can’t you accept my apology?  Please?  I feel pretty bad.”

                  “Not good enough.  ‘Sorry’ does not erase your wrongdoings.  You have to admit exactly what you did wrong and then never do it again.”

                  “Okay, okay!  I’ll never lead the police to you or hijack and wreck your car again.”

                  “No, no, no!  You’re missing the point!  Just think about it, okay?”

                  He stares ahead at the road, silent.  “Couldn’t you just tell me instead of yelling at me?”

                  “What you did wrong was you did not take responsibility for your actions.  Instead, you put an uninvolved person in danger in your attempt to get off scott-free.”

                  “So…”

                  “Start being a man, and I’ll forgive you.”

                  He flips his turn signal on and drives down the off-ramp.

                  “And you can start by paying for all damages on my car,” I say.  “The tow fee, too.  They’re probably towing it right now.”

                  This is the first time I have seen Ramsay University’s campus.  It is the only place I have seen, with the exception of Gold Class neighborhoods, that is not falling apart.  The road is smoothly paved, not spotted with twenty year-old bomb damage.  Above us, trees thick with leaves send pinpricks of sunlight dancing on the ground like a Kaleidoscope.  Just through the brick entrance gates, a fountain shoots rays of water into the air from a manmade pool. 

                  “Pretty, ain’t it?” Schwartz says.

                  “Uh-huh.”

                  “Damn, you’re white as a sheet.  Are you doing all right?”

                  I don’t respond.  He makes a turn on the traffic circle.  There is a song playing by a strange folk rock band.  I’ve never heard it before.

                  “Wait just a second,” I say.

                  Schwartz stomps on the brakes.  “What?” he says, terrified.

                  “This isn’t Greenville One Radio.”

                  “No, it isn’t.”

                  I stare at the sound controls.  “How did you get the radio to stop playing?”

                  No longer alarmed, Schwartz drives on.  “Well, I’m really good with electronics.  I’m going to be a computer science major, actually.  Anyway, long story short, I cut a few wires and hooked up a CD player so I could listen to the Spare Nicks.  Ever heard of them?”

                  “Nope.”

                  “They’re a local band.  The keyboardist is our age.  You probably wouldn’t have heard of them since you’re not from around here.”

                  “Why don’t you think I’m from around here?”

                  “Your accent sounds coastal.”

                  “I don’t have an accent.”

                  “You do when you’re angry.  You don’t right now.”

                  He parks next to a small, brick building and opens the door for me.  He offers me his arm, but I don’t take it.  We walk into the front entrance and into the dim lobby.  Parents and students sit on the leather sofas filling out medical forms.  Schwartz and I walk up to the woman at the reception window.

                  “How can I help you?” she says.

                  “She cut herself,” Schwartz says.

                  “On a broken window,” I say.  “Accidentally.”

                  Schwartz gives me a sideways look.

                  “Go through the door on your left,” the receptionist says, “And a nurse will be right with you.”

                  Schwartz follows me through the door.  “I’m paying your medical bill, all right?”

                  A nurse in blue scrubs points us to a stark examination room.  “Take a seat, and I’ll be in there in a moment,” she says, and disappears down the hall.  She shuts the door, and I rinse my hands in the sink, my wound stinging.  Once I get the excess blood off, I sit in the exam chair, pressing some gauze to my wrist to stop the bleeding.

                  Schwartz sits in one of the plastic chairs against the wall, his eyes darting around nervously.  “So,” he says, “Why’d you cut yourself?”

                  “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

                  He clasps his hands and looks at the floor.  “You don’t have to get angry,” he says, “I was just showing concern.  Geez.”

                  “You wanna know why?” I say.  “You put me in a position where I was bound to be tortured and executed.  I’d rather die by my own hand before they take away my freedom.”

                  “They wouldn’t have killed you.”

                  “I’m Bronze.  We get treated differently.”

                  Schwartz is about to say something, but the nurse comes in with a clipboard.  “Name?” she says.

                  “Eleanor Reed,” I say.

                  She writes something down on her clipboard and puts it aside.  She takes a look at my wrist.  “I’ll stitch that right up for you,” she says.  She drenches a cotton ball in alcohol and dabs my cut with it.

                  I draw in a sharp breath as the pain shoots through my arm.  Schwartz dashes to my side and tries to hold my free hand, but I take it away.  “Don’t touch me,” I say.

                  “Now, these stitches will dissolve after a couple of weeks,” the nurse says.

                  “Well, isn’t that nifty,” I say.

                  She starts to sew my wrist back together.  I clench my teeth.

                  “Could you send the bill to me?  It was sort of my fault,” Schwartz says.

                  “Name?” the nurse says.

                  “Schwartz Schwartz.”

                  She pauses for a moment, and then resumes stitching.  “Is that a real name?”

                  “Yeah, I got teased in grade school.  They’d call me ‘Short Shorts’ ‘cause it just comes out that way sometimes.”

                  The nurse finishes stitching my wrist, and she puts a clear bandage on the cut.  “All done,” she says.

                  I hop down from the exam chair.  I leave the room, but Schwartz stays behind, sorting out the billing information with the nurse.  I walk back out through the lobby and out the door.  Schwartz catches up with me.

                  “So, are we cool now?” he says.

                  “No, I’m still pissed,” I say.  “And stop being overly nice to me.  It isn’t helping.”

                  We get into his truck, and he starts driving to the dormitories.

                  “I’ll carry your stuff up there,” he says.  “Not trying to be overly nice, okay?  It’s just with your wrist, you probably shouldn’t be carrying heavy things.”

                  “Sounds good,” I say.

                  “So, which floor are you on?”

                  “The second.”

                  “Cool.  I’m on the fourth in a single.”  I shoot him a glare.  “Yeah, that’s about as far as we can get from each other,” Schwartz says.  “They cram all the freshmen into one building and everyone else in the apartments on the other side of campus.  There are tons of empty residence halls that are walled off, ‘cause the school used to be a lot bigger.”

                  The parking lot is crowded.  Schwartz pulls his truck into a handicapped space and climbs out, lifting all of my belongings out of the truck bed.  I look through the back window and see hunting rifles in their cases, a box of fishing tackle, some steel traps, and buckets of bait.  A large suitcase holds his other belongings.

                  Schwartz and I enter the large, brick complex and climb the stairs, weaving through students carrying furniture and suitcases.  We come out onto a girls’ hall with twenty dorm rooms.  Pink and purple signs hang by each door, displaying the first names of the girls who live in each room. 

                  “Which one?” Schwartz says.

                  I point to a dorm room with Vanessa’s and my names beside it.  I’m surprised she hasn’t asked for a new roommate after my visit to her house.  The door is unlocked, so we get in without any trouble. 

                  Vanessa has already moved in.  She has put her pink linens on her lofted bed.  Underneath, her laptop computer sits on her desk, plugged into the wall.  Her noxiously pink sofa sits between her bed and mine, pushed up against the air conditioner.  A polished, wooden coffee table stands in front of the sofa, and a flat screen television sits on top of the two dressers, which are pushed together side by side.

                  “Not bad, if you like pink,” Schwartz says.

                  “I don’t.” I take the typewriter case from his hand and put it on my desk.  He sets my textbooks next to my typewriter and puts my bag of linens and my suitcase in my closet.  He isn’t looking, so I take the gun out of the back of my pants and hide it in one of my desk drawers.

                  “I think we should exchange cell numbers,” he says.  “So I can get in touch with you when your car is fixed.”

                  I give him the phone from my pocket, and he gives me his.  We are both typing our numbers into each other’s cell phones when Vanessa comes into the dorm through the suite-style bathroom.

                  “Hey there!” she shouts, pulling me into a quick hug.  “And look!  You found a boy!”

                  “Nice to meet you,” Schwartz says, shaking her hand.  “I’m Schwartz.”

                  “Vanessa,” she says.  “Do you know Eleanor well?”

                  “No, we just met.  And I have to leave.”  He switches our cell phones back.  “The car, you know.”  He waves good-bye and leaves, shutting the door behind him.

                  Vanessa and I stand in the middle of the room.  The silence seems to buzz. 

                  “You moved in already,” I say.

                  “Yeah, my dad convinced the housing office to let me move in a day early.  Do you like it?”

                  “It’s cool.”

                  I take my linens out of my bag and toss them onto my lofted bed.

                  “Hey, look,” Vanessa says, “When I first met you, I had no idea you were Bronze.”

                  “It happens,” I say.

                  “And I was shocked at first, but then I talked to my mom, and now I feel a whole lot better about it.  Bronze Class people aren’t trustworthy�"no offense…”

                  I clear my throat.

                  “But, we Gold Class people have a responsibility, you know?  We’re here to serve as an example of how to live, and we’re supposed to be a good influence for the lower classes.”  She takes my hands in hers.  “So, Eleanor, I think Governor Ramsay would have wanted us to room together.  Can’t you see this is a blessing for you?  Not many Bronze people get this kind of opportunity.”

                  I try to move my mouth, but no words come out.

                  “It’s going to be great, I promise.  What happened to your wrist?” she says, turning my hand over.  “Oh my god…”

                  I pull my hands away.  “Broken window,” I say.  “Someone wrecked my car.”

                  “Oh, ouch!  Is your car all right?”

                  “The other guy is paying for damages, so it’ll be okay.”

                  I climb onto my bed and start putting the linens on the mattress.  Vanessa leaves me be.



© 2010 Stephanotis


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Featured Review

Haha, I can hear their voices in my head, perfectly.
Great character contrasts here, especially between Vanessa and Elanour, which his hilarious as they are switching places. Vanessa seems rather spoilt and indulged and over-protected, while Elanour is spiky and independent and tough. Also, the fact that Vanessa seems completely oblivious as to what is really happening in the world around her.
It also seems like a perfect scene from an American college, like in the films. Except it seems too perfect, too fake, and you can tell there's an underlying feeling of something not being quite right, making the tone edgy, and uncertain, provoking almost a sense of foreboding (and perhaps foreshadowing?) in the reader.
Great humor in this, made me laugh aloud, particularly surrounding Schwartz. The pace is brilliant, the way, when Elanour gets hit, you build it into a frenzy, and the way you've ended it with information connected to the Charleston bombing. Also great characterization of the media, demonizing Christian Booker, a very poignant point there.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I literally laughed out loud at the end, when she said the pixels don't match up. I don't know if you did this intentionally, or if it just happened that way, but if you're familiar with web culture, that is one of the longest standing jokes ever. I expected her to jump up and yell out "SHOPPED!"
I liked this chapter, you did a great job with setting the tone for the school and the people Eleanor meets. Their plan does seem doomed from the start, what with all of the residential personnel knowing their true identities. I'm interested to see how that plays out.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


You have such a wonderful way of impersonating a character by dialogue! I must admit that the story took a different approach than I had hoped, so far. After the first chapter I was more eager to know more about the terrorist faction than of her inheritance, but you still keep me on toes and I suspect that there will be more of them later on :) I think that a sign of good narrative technique is when the writer doesn't give away everything at once and keeps the reader on his or her toes, and you sure do this! Even though I want to know more, and more! :)

Love Schwarz and his fuzzy appearance and again, you've portrayed him masterfully through dialogue. Telling us that he's a pretty laid back guy, smart and well oriented no doubt when he's not too high. You've told us that he's spontaneous and that he's a computer wiz who will no doubt play a larger part later on. :)
Vanessa with her high pitched voice
As Emily Elizabeth put it in her review, "I can hear their voices in my head, perfectly." so can I, and my hat's off to you.

Although there was one very short sentence that I though was a bit off, with V's father saying;

"If anything happens to Vanessa," he whispers in my ear, "I swear I'll kill you."

That was a bit too strong I think. Maybe he could have said "If anything happens to Vanessa." and then trailed off or was interrupted.
Apart from that, perfekt!


This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Haha, I can hear their voices in my head, perfectly.
Great character contrasts here, especially between Vanessa and Elanour, which his hilarious as they are switching places. Vanessa seems rather spoilt and indulged and over-protected, while Elanour is spiky and independent and tough. Also, the fact that Vanessa seems completely oblivious as to what is really happening in the world around her.
It also seems like a perfect scene from an American college, like in the films. Except it seems too perfect, too fake, and you can tell there's an underlying feeling of something not being quite right, making the tone edgy, and uncertain, provoking almost a sense of foreboding (and perhaps foreshadowing?) in the reader.
Great humor in this, made me laugh aloud, particularly surrounding Schwartz. The pace is brilliant, the way, when Elanour gets hit, you build it into a frenzy, and the way you've ended it with information connected to the Charleston bombing. Also great characterization of the media, demonizing Christian Booker, a very poignant point there.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Added on July 15, 2009
Last Updated on July 29, 2010
Tags: Weed, Pot, Marijuana, Dog, Crash, Police
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Stephanotis
Stephanotis

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IWriting is my drug. My book, Helter Skelter, is posted here. This story is my answer to the question, "What if America wasn't America?", applying my research about niche society in East Germany, ru.. more..

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