The following was written in response to a RemembeRED writing prompt asking for a piece about a memory of a smell or sound.
I was glad to be done with my shift at the drive-in. It was too hot for carrying out meals to people in cars parked on sizzling pavement. I hurried home and changed into shorts and a little cotton top, threw on my flip flops and jumped back in my car.
My boyfriend had gone fishing with his friends earlier in the day. No one answered the phone at his house so I assumed they must still be out at Trexler’s Pond. I headed North out of town singing to the radio, windows rolled down trying to work up a breeze.
I turned into the field at Trexler’s farm, driving slowly across the dirt roadway that led to the gate that separated one high dirt trail from the rest of the pond. I was in no hurry so I turned the car off and walked to the top of a crest. Looking down towards the pond I didn’t see the guys so I went to open the gate planning to move on to the far side of the pond. I had been at the pond so many times, first fishing with my dad and brother-in-law and more recently hanging out with friends.
I absolutely loved this pond. It was about the most peaceful place I had known just far enough out in the country to offer seclusion. The only sound was the occasional call of a meadowlark. That call had come to represent peace and relaxation to me. It must have been too hot for even the meadowlark on this day. The sun was beating down and the air was very still- a rare thing for Western Kansas.
I used both hands to maneuver the latch on the gate. It required some negotiation but I managed. I turned towards my car and ran smack into a man who had been standing far too close behind me. Where had he come from? Hadn’t I just been thinking how quiet this place was? Yet, here he was and he had arrived in a car which was parked directly behind mine, blocking it.
Knowing that I must not panic, I began talking as though it were perfectly natural for him to be here, for him to approach me so stealthily and to be standing so close that I could smell him in the heat. As I talked, I wracked my memory. He looked vaguely familiar, but I did not know him. I moved slowly towards my car walking backwards so that I would not lose sight of him for even a second. It hit me then-the drive in. He had been in several times. I had heard talk of drugs and problems with the law.
As I moved, he moved with me never uttering a sound, never responding to a direct question. Even if I got to the car how could I get in while keeping him out, let alone get it started, turned around and past his vehicle. It was then that the back of my thigh hit the front corner of the car. Time for action. I half turned and desperately attempted to run to my door.
He was on me instantly, pinning me to the hood of my car. His face hovered inches from mine, and our eyes locked. I am sure when he looked into my eyes he saw terror; when I looked in his I saw darkness. There was a blackness in those eyes, thickly opaque. There was no way to look deeply into them; it was as though he stopped at the surface. I remember thinking that what I was seeing was pure evil, and in that instant my thinking shifted. The planning and scheming ceased and I began to pray. I prayed not to feel pain. I prayed for the people I love. I prayed for my soul; I prayed for his.
Suddenly, there it was, the call of the meadowlark clear and pure. It startled me. It broke the silence, and distracted me momentarily. I must have looked towards the sound because I remember turning back and finding that this man was backing away from me. Still wordless, he walked back to his car staggering slightly. I watched as he got in and drove away.
I don’t know how long I stood frozen in place before I slowly got into my car. I turned the key in the engine and began to cry.
written in April 2011