The Chair Not Taken

After all these years, he’s nothing to me but an empty seat.” –Spider-Man 2

**********

Audrey looked up from her plate.  She glanced at the chair at the other end of the table, knowing full well that she wouldn’t like what she saw.  Sure enough, the chair sat unattended.

Back in her high school days Audrey had been quite the stage performer.  Her roles were the envy of all in the drama department.  It didn’t matter if she was cast as the librarian in The Music Man or if she used her uncanny grasp of Shakespeare to wow the crowd with her portrayal of Juliet.  The shows that featured her as a lead were sure to sell out.  But to this day, Audrey still remembered the night when her mom had forgotten the play and worked late.  Audrey had had hundreds of lines to recite, there were dozens of other actors around her, and the spotlights shone on her with blinding ferocity the entire time.  Yet all she had seen was that one empty seat staring back at her.  It fought to command her attention throughout the show.

Audrey knew that her husband had reasons for being away, just as her mother had.  Theirs was a happy enough existence when they were around each other.  However, as with all things, there was a catch.

Darren was an excellent salesman.  He knew the ins and outs of each product he was asked about.  Unbelievably, he wouldn’t try to sell an item if he didn’t think the customer needed it.  At first this caused some strife with his bosses when they found out.  The accolades and praise-filled letters about Darren that flooded their mailboxes soon changed their mind.

Darren was sent out to all four corners of the world and returned successfully each time.   He was such an expert at having a genuine approach and being entirely likable that his employer had him visit different markets and coach the other salesman.  That meant easy times around the Bruckner house, but only in the financial sense.  Audrey tried to be supportive, but she wanted her husband in the dining room chair, not sitting in some cramped airplane seat.

Pic from WP Clip Art

She looked across to the blue chair.  Audrey had never really like the furniture piece in the first place.  It had been Darren’s call to buy it.  He thought it seemed tremendously comfy and rather unique.  Audrey could only nod along, especially to the latter part of his reasoning.  She told herself that if it made him so happy, she could live with an ugly chair.

Now she sat and mulled over how great that piece would look if only Darren were sitting in it.  Four days had passed since she had last seen her husband.  Even then, he had only been home for two days to do his laundry after an eight-day trip.

The desolate chair spoke of the history it shared with its on-again/off-again resident.  There was the nacho cheese stain on the right armrest.  The back of the chair had a thin layer of fabric that was starting to fray from the many times her husband had turned and brushed the back against the table’s edge.  Audrey wanted the chair to feel complete so that she could say the same.  The longer the chair went unused, the harder it was to sleep at night.

What if Darren doesn’t really need me?  What if he’s staying away because it’s so much easier to be on the road than be home?  Concerns refused to leave Audrey’s head.  She had heard her friends complain before about not being able to have time with their spouses, but she never considered that it was more than just a sob story.  She had never thought to listen to their laments and log them away as precautionary tales.  Now all she pondered were plausible signs that she worried she’d missed the first time around.

Suddenly, a light shone on the blue seat.  A white beam came through the living room window and lit up the chair before moving sideways along the wall and disappearing.  Audrey turned at the familiar sound.  She recognized the path that the headlights had taken and she knew the putter of that car engine.

Before she could react, the door burst open and Darren appeared in the doorway.  His normally chubby features were heightened by a grin that showed all of his teeth, even the molars with gold crowns on them.  The king of the castle hid his richly decorated pearly whites as he ran to his wife and kissed her on the head.

“Hey, guess what?”

“You’re… you’re home early”, Audrey managed to stutter.

“Yep.  The conference was cancelled.  I put forth a proposal and my bosses loved it.  Video-conferencing.”

“What?”

“Yeah, they’ll save thousands of dollars shipping me around.  I might even be able to do it from home.”

“What about your sales calls?”

“Oh, I told them I wanted to stick with our local clients.  Sort of, reinforce our commitment to those folks.  They bought it”, Darren said as he leaned over and put his head on her shoulder.  “But the truth is, I just couldn’t stay away any longer.”

Audrey beamed.  She tried to keep her excitement tucked away quietly, but knew that she was failing miserably.  “Maybe you just wanted a piece of this chocolate cake.”

“Well, that certainly is one more incentive to come home”, he said as he sat across from her.

Seeing her husband sitting at home, where he belonged, Audrey felt a peace she hadn’t known in far too long.  Without her having to say anything, Darren had made it all better.  There was hope for the happy couple once again.  The chair suited Darren well.  Audrey could almost see the seat cushion’s corners bend up in a contented smile.

A Single Gesture

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Single Gesture

The Impartial Friend: Death, the only immortal who treats us all alike, whose pity and whose peace and whose refuge are for all–the soiled and the pure, the rich and the poor, the loved and the unloved.” -Mark Twain

Early in the morning, as the moon floated overhead and had its personal space intruded upon by loose clusters of wispy clouds, Scott saw his bus approach.  Every once in a while, Scott would burst out of his home, scurry to fit his keys to the lock, and then run for the door.  More often than not, this resulted in Scott arriving for the bus five minutes early, so he had recently adopted a different policy.  He would take his time and hope that the bus was not going to be too early.

The usual boarding routine was observed.  Scott stood back and let the somber man enter first.  Always carrying an overstuffed backpack, the somber man also carried a temperament that was determined to overcompensate for the compact man’s lack of height.  Scott had decided long ago that if getting a seat first was that important to the serious commuter, he could go ahead and have first rights.  Scott only wanted a quiet spot with a reasonable amount of elbow room.

Entering the bus, Scott greeted the usual driver with his standard greeting of, “Morning”.  She replied in kind as she reached for the long handle and pulled the double doors of her bus shut.  Scott put his loose and ratty backpack on his lap and did his best to encourage his sleepy frame to sit up straight.  The bench seats were built at a stern angle, but Scott’s back often answered the call of the slouch.  For the first few miles at least, Scott tried to adopt something resembling correct posture.  If nothing else he felt he should be in top form when he passed that one intersection.

Scott wanted to close his eyes and begin his quiet time of thinking things out and mentally preparing his day.  Yet he knew that the park and ride stop was still to come; followed closely by that certain intersection.  Scott’s peace would have been short lived anyway, for the park and ride group were numerous, and therefore a bit disruptive to the environment of stillness that often accompanied the moving vehicle.

Seven people mumbled greetings to the bus driver and swiped their cards or crammed their grimy bills into the pay-box.  The woman once again reached for her hefty door handle.  She gave one last look across the dimly lit parking lot.  She had been on the route for a while and knew what to expect.  Sure enough, as if responding to her greatest fear, a large woman came huffing and bustling towards the vehicle.  Her clothes and her bags leapt and jostled about as she did her best to arrive before the bus’s departure.  She almost fell as she threw herself in the door and tried to climb up the two steps.  The handrails congratulated each other on an excellent job helping out this Jane Doe in her time of need.  The driver greeted the woman with a simple, “Good morning”.  The large woman, still gasping, expressed her thanks for the professional person’s patience.

Watching the woman stomp down the aisle, Scott noted the presence of her items.  Everyone on the bus seemed to have their own way of packing for the day.  Some folks carried two, if not three carriers with them every day.  Scott did his best to keep his load light; sometimes transporting nothing more than what would fit in his pockets.  Middle-aged workers had swapped out simple satchels for backpacks with wheels.  Scott made mental judgments on those items based on his mood.  There were days when he shook his head in sadness, and others where he only wondered what had happened to the world so that backpacks needed to have their own wheels.  And of course, there were the phone addicts.  A large portion of the commuters didn’t put down their phone the entire trip.  Very rarely was there a phone call this early in the morning.  If there was, the rider could be assured that several heads would glare in that person’s direction.  Many times the phones were used to check e-mails or websites before work, but before sunup it tended to be the music-listening option that was most popular.  Scott had never been one for phones.  He figured if he was allowed to let his brain relax while he went to work, he would take the opportunity.  There was enough overstimulation in his life already.  He preferred to relax.  That calm time would have to wait a moment though, for they were passing the intersection.

Scott looked at a certain spot on the road, put his fingers to his forehead, saluted, and then very quietly said, “God speed, darlin’.  God speed.”  The bus wouldn’t stop unless the light demanded it, which was rare.  Scott watched the spot at the intersection pass by his window, and then he closed his eyes and went about his day.

There were people that wondered what Scott was doing.  They questioned his gesture and they felt uneasy at his waving when there was no one visible outside.  One or two folks slid to a seat further away.  Scott largely ignored them.  He had his reasons and that was enough for him.

Several years ago, the quiet bus stop had been a hubbub of noise and activity.  The city in all its wisdom had decided to spend a year and a half redoing the roads.  The lanes became a little wider, and the trees and grass that had been growing quite well had been ripped out and replaced with new grass and new trees.  Scott didn’t really see the point to it all, but he had long ago accepted the wisdom of the phrase, “And it came to pass”.  He let the construction companies toil away, using his tax dollars for a project that someone had thought was necessary.  Scott assumed that life would return to normal.  Except for one person, that hadn’t been true.

It had been a typical weekday.  A non-descript worker, someone Scott had never met, rode the early afternoon bus.  She probably liked getting home a little before the rest of her family.  The woman might have enjoyed avoiding rush hour traffic and having a bit of “me” time to run errands or straighten up her household.  Scott would never know.

What Scott was certain of were the events of that Tuesday afternoon.  Shortly after the bus had pulled away from that intersection, the woman had crossed.  She answered the summons of the white-light man who benignly assured her that all was well.  The woman stepped into the street and walked through the intersection.  Scant seconds after she had entered, a truck joined her.  The several-ton construction truck had turned right on a red light, which would have been entirely legal had there not been a small group of pedestrians in his way.

The collision occurred the only way it could.  The truck and all its mass came crashing into the people.  A short time later several victims would be admitted to the hospital, but one person would never be fully discharged.  There would be no front door to her house, no sliding doors at a hospital for her to limp across; the last doors that the woman would ever walk through were those double doors on the bus.

Scott felt that someone should remember such things.  There was a memorial stone on the side of the road after all.  The city had realized the tragedy of the event once upon a time, even if they had forgotten about it now.  Certainly the woman’s family hadn’t forgotten.  Scott felt that he could use the reminder to himself.  When he was driving, it served as constant prodding to always follow the rules, especially where traffic lights were concerned.  For the times when he was a pedestrian or a bus rider, Scott tried to remember that one never knows what comes next.

People could stare, people could whisper, but Scott didn’t listen.  He closed his eyes as the intersection faded away into the distance.  He had paid his daily tribute, and he didn’t need the approval of other people to tell him it was the right thing to do.  He simply knew that it was.  With that, as it did each morning, life went on as best as it could.

A Decidely Uncommon Commute

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Decidedly Uncommon Commute

It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.” -Theodore Roosevelt on camping in Yosemite National Park

There are things that I do not understand.  Key among them is how the folks on my bus can pass on a free pick-me-up.  People will pay something like twenty dollars to go to the top of the Space Needle.  But put them on a bus and they completely zone out on what they could see for free.

All is quiet.  The last few days of sporadic rain have been swept away.  The sky is filled with the morning hues of light blue and only the perimeters of the sky are touched with clouds.  Like the morning fog that is beginning to fade away, the clouds will soon be a thing of yesterday.  There is a touch of pink in the sky, but the morning doesn’t brag.  The scenery remains confident that those who are looking will appreciate the day without any fanfare or dramatic touches.

Then one comes to Lake Washington.  As the bus drives across a skinny metal and concrete construct, nature shows us how it’s done.  On the right, my fellow commuters and I are granted a brief glimpse of the Olympic Mountains.  Always covered in snow, always majestic; it is a nice “hello” as we make our way downtown.  Then it happens.

It gets me every time.  We drive over a clear blue lake.  The city and the universities do their best to clutter up the skyline; they can only succeed so much.  There is not stopping the Cascade Mountains.  They fill the left side of the freeway.  For a solid fifteen seconds, there is no escaping them.  One hopes for a quick view of the larger mountains on the edge.  Rainier is the diva of the show.  It knows how great it looks and only appears in its full splendor when conditions are perfect.

Even without its headliner, the Cascade Range is jaw-dropping.  It rises and falls with peaks and valleys that any roller coaster would be envious of.  It looks down kindly on Lake Washington beneath it.  Every morning that I am on this first bus of the day, I take in the mountains and hear them calling to me.  I tell them I can’t skip work, I’m “needed” in civilization.

That is usually about the time that I look around at the people riding this bus with me.  They should be enjoying this view; they aren’t.  They sit there staring at their phones.  Whatever has been posted on their e-mail’s newsgroup is more important.  They just have to read that one more page in their fashion magazine.  Spread out before them is a view more spectacular than anything they will see for the rest of the day, let alone in any magazine.  They would pay for a print of this backdrop.  Yet in real life, they ignore it.

I like to think that this story will change.  I dare to hope that all the characters in this story undergo a dramatic shift in their attitudes and wake up to all this wonder around them.  It is only ten-fifteen seconds; surely they have that much time.  For now, the story is still being written and the supporting characters confound me.  Of course, maybe the thing that they don’t understand is how I can possibly ignore my phone for an entire bus ride.

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Proceeding Logically

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Proceeding Logically

Logic is a poor guide compared with custom.” –Winston Churchill

Ray was frustrated with the world.  As a logic professor, he hoped that the world would take notice of what was happening around them and move forward with wisdom.  More and more, he found that was not the case.  Yesterday had been a perfect example of what frustrated him about the world.

ImageHe had boarded a downtown bus to get to his school.  The bus, equipped with bright yellow letters just above the front windows, clearly displayed for all to see, “Downtown”.  Of course, it was the first person in the line of fourteen people that was confused.  “Does this bus go downtown?”  Ray had rolled his eyes at the inquiry but decided that he should settle upon his morning routine.  As the bus began to pull away from the stop, a woman started approaching the bus… from the other side of the street. 

This woman, lumbering and determined, plowed her way across two lanes of traffic going west, then she had continued through the turn lane without pause.  As the bus driver was about to pull forward, the woman walked through eastbound lanes and right up to the driver’s window.  The driver poked her head out the window and tried to ask the woman what she was doing.  The woman, undeterred by petty obstacles like a sixteen-ton bus, walked in front of the bus, onto the sidewalk, and continued with her mission.  Ray snorted out his nostril and turned to his crossword puzzle.  At least in this trivial black and white grid he could find order and clarity of thought.

The rest of the commute had been more or less reasonable.  Granted, there were the cars that dove across two lanes of traffic to pass one single car.  There were the drivers that forced their way into the busiest lane only to pull out just before it exited.  And naturally, there was the line of cars that wouldn’t let the bus into a lane even though the flashing lights were adorned with the sign, “Yield to bus”.  These drivers were something Ray was used to.  In some instances they had displayed a lack of logic, but many of them were simply rude.

Then the bus had pulled off the freeway and arrived downtown.  Ray folded up his paper, checked his watch, and prepared for something resembling normalcy to begin.  Of course, that was when he had seen them.

The bus had the right of way.  Green lights indicated that this massive vehicle speeding down the road with plenty of momentum to do some damage was clearly in the right.  There was no logical reason to believe that one was entitled to walk in front of the bus.  Still, there they had been, clear as day; a couple walked against the light, right in front of the bus.  To make matters worse, they were pushing a stroller. 

The driver did not want vehicular manslaughter on his record and so had slammed on the brakes.  Fifty or so bus riders braced themselves, some more successfully than others, as the force of the bus launched them forward in their seats.  Forty-eight people grumbled and panicked, cursed and glared at the foolish pedestrian couple.  (Ray noticed that the only two not upset by the whole incident were a young male and a young female.  Ray had previously seen the two shyly glance at each other every now and then, and the commuters seemed rather pleased that the sudden stop had sent her careening backwards into him.)  The pedestrians, assuming that all was well, didn’t give the bus a second thought as they pushed their stroller up onto the curb.

Those events would have been enough for Ray, but on the way home, there had been another incident which had only added to his frustration.  He had been walking to the bus stop after a long day of trying to instruct students.  One of them had actually asked, “Professor, can the after occur before the before, or does before always happen before the after?”  Ray had made a mental note to buy more aspirin.  He wanted to go home and watch an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, where he knew the fool would always get their comeuppance in the end.  Then the town car had come down the street towards him.

The vehicle would not have normally been a concern for Ray.  He, as logic dictated he should be, was on the sidewalk; the car was on the road.  However the road was a one-way and the town car was decidedly not going that one way.  Rush hour was approaching and Ray could see two columns of cars barreling straight towards the town car.  The town car stopped right beneath an overpass.  It backed up and Ray had heard its bumper collide with the concrete pillar.  Then it had pulled forward, only to back up again. 

At that point, the car had been perpendicular not only to the road, but to the dozens of cars that were coming.  The car pulled forward and the line of cars slowed to a stop.  Astonishingly, not a single driver honked.  Ray had chosen to believe that the town car driver knew how stupid he had been, that the drivers had known how stupid he was, and that no one needed to further accentuate the point with blaring noises.  After more maneuvering, the town car was eventually freed and it sped down the road, the “do not enter” sign going by in his rear view mirror.

Ray looked in his own mirror at home and hoped that today would be better.  He wanted people to pay attention.  He wanted folks to proceed in a manner that would produce positive results.  Truth be told, he wanted to quit his job at the local college and work at an online university so he would never have to face the real world again.  However, as Ray put a green glob on his toothbrush, he knew the world would never act in a way that would always get things right.  There would always be some moron that messed the whole thing up.  Those were the notions that were going through Ray’s mind as he started to brush his teeth.  Seconds later, he spat out what had been in his mouth as he realized what he had done. 

A truly intelligent person would never have put shaving cream on their toothbrush, he thought to himself, mortified.

Traffic that Drags-on

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Dragon Driving

“There’d better be a seven-car accident or so help me…”  Alan didn’t finish his threat.  He sat behind the steering wheel of his mini-van and thought of the daycare that charged an extra twenty dollars per kid for every fifteen minutes he was late.  He stopped himself from adding up the bill, knowing it would only anger him more.  He tapped his fingers rapidly on the steering wheel and heard his wedding ring resonate against the imitation wood material.  Right then he heard the Capture Copters fly overhead and he knew what the cause of the delay was.

“Mother flappin’ dragons”, Alan cursed.

He remembered back to simpler times.  Once there was a cool, confident Alan.  That Alan did not have to shave his head every week to hide the fact he was going bald.  The Alan of years past worked out and was an excellent climber, not the guy who still had to pay off this eight-seat gas-gulping glutton.  It was true that the man from ten years ago didn’t have the lovely wife he had now.  Leslie was always kind enough to rub his back just right when he needed, (which he certainly would tonight) but ten years ago he also didn’t have to worry about the scaly predators ruining his evening commute.  He gripped the steering wheel with his thin fingers and yearned for simpler times.

The scientists were to blame.  If those flappin’ eggheads had left the volcanoes alone, none of these creatures would be plaguing society.  Alan understood the need for tapping into geothermal energy.  He even thought that those cool cyber-enhanced suits that the nerds put on to survive the extreme heat were pretty slick.  He could have used one of those to change diapers back when Amy, a.k.a., the unending pooper, was younger.  But why couldn’t they have tapped into the other side of the volcano?  Why did they have to go into that chamber and find those perfectly preserved eggs in the sealed off cave?  Stupid avalanche maintaining a stupid incubator for stupid dragon eggs, Alan thought.

Trying to bring extinct mythical creatures back to life never seemed like a good idea to Alan.  He thought it was a bad idea then and his declining gas tank and the stop and go traffic only confirmed it.  However the public at large had disagreed with him.  Crowds like to cheer for the underdog and there is no greater underdog than a species that had been extinct for thousands of years.  When scientists in different countries took the DNA and either hatched or grew their own animals, the general public was fascinated.  Soon, every major country had an established area for the dragons.  London had the most famous preserve, well known for its foggy and eerie setting and location near fresh ocean water.  Alan had heard from friends in Los Angeles that the dragons seemed to breed extremely fast there.  He didn’t know any details, but had heard something about the smog in the air providing cover and warmth.

For all the fascination that the scaly creatures invoked, Alan was shocked at how little they talked about the downsides of the humongous pests.  First off, the dragons never actually stayed in their flappin’ preserves.   At first, the hippies and the pet-huggers had tried to create open-air zoos.  They thought dragons wouldn’t leave the next.  Morons, Alan thought as a car whizzed by him at twelve miles an hour.  No, the dragons had quickly disproven that notion when they escaped quickly and frequently from the London Zoo of Mythical Creatures, the San Diego Dragon Dome, and the Australian Great Outback and Giant Creatures Exploratorium.  All three had tried to let the dragons fly free and all three spent month recapturing the dragons after almost all their creatures escaped.

Alan had honestly believed that the craze would have died down after that.  He figured that having several small towns entirely torched and thousands of people killed by hungry reptiles or the napalm-like flame would have diminished people’s affinity for them.  He was wrong.  If anything, people became more intrigued.  The dragons became even a bigger part of global culture.  After The Terrible Escape, a new word that had previously been harmless had universally been accepted as a swear word.  Now, every day, Alan heard how, “Fred is so scorched” or “The dentist says I have seven cavities.  Scorch me.”

And of course, like all ill-behaved things that are famous; the dragons got their own television show. The first, and still the most popular, DragonWorld had acquired ratings like no one had ever seen before.  The first season was watched by ninety percent of the viewing public.  It’s spin-off, complete with people who suffered accidental attacks and behind the scene footage, Scorched, was the show that everyone shared clips from.  The censors had tried to block the name from appearing in public, but since it had been a perfectly legitimate word for thousands of years their attempts were jeered and mocked.

A car behind Alan honked in annoyance.  Alan waved him off without looking.  He turned on the radio and listened to the news.  It was exactly as he had expected; a dragon had escaped its enclosure.  Dirigibles; slow moving balloons with floating labs attached beneath them, were kept in constant patrol around dragon enclosures.  The blimps had a special light-weight multi-weave Nomex fabric that was resistant to the dragons’ flames and most of their clawed attacks.  There was still the report every now and then of a blimp going down, but it seemed that as long as the dirigibles didn’t challenge the dragons, they were left alone.

The Capture Copters were a different matter altogether.  Even Alan was impressed by them.  The CCs were fast; amazingly fast.  When a dragon was on the loose, CCs flew straight towards them.  Early attempts to use vertical take-off jets had failed miserably because they simply couldn’t match the dragon’s maneuverability.  Helicopters seemed like a better fit, but they were too slow.  Until they created the CCs.  Using sound-cancelling waves, the machines flew almost silently.  They also had very low emissions, meaning the dragons couldn’t actually detect them unless they saw the CCs.

These frightfully fast choppers were loaded with equipment.  There were metallic nets with weights and hooks fired out of high-powered cannons, there were sedative darts thick enough to pierce through a block of concrete (twice the approximate thickness of a dragon’s scales), and of course, fire-suppressing foam that adhered to any surface and extinguished most flames in seconds.  These tools worked great; assuming the dragons didn’t veer off unexpectedly, which they did quite often.  There were rumors of more powerful weapons on the CCs, but officials had chalked it all up to urban myth.  Alan laughed at the press releases.  He had heard plenty of stories of powerful missile-like devices and massive bullets being fired from the CCs.  He knew that even something as popular as dragons had to have something secretive about them.

To Alan, dragons were just one more hazard in life.  Open air pools were quickly abandoned due to their attraction for escaped dragons looking for an easy meal.  If a dragon was high enough in the air, their scales were shed and sent to the ground at terminal velocity, threatening those below.  The perching on suspension bridge supports, the diving attempts to pluck food trucks from highways; and that was all ignoring the fact that the monsters spewed fire.  Alan simply didn’t get it.  He liked life back when he knew he wouldn’t go to a baseball game and find a dragon trying to eat the players of both teams.  (Professional baseball just wasn’t the same after that summer.  The dragon ate the season’s MVP; why couldn’t it have gobbled the other team’s guy?)

With a lot pffft, Alan saw a net shoot through the air and hit the dragon on the left wing.  It was hardly a bull’s eye, but the dragon starting falling to the ground.  The arc of the creature took it over the highway and then towards the lake.  Right before the dragon hit the water, darkness hit Alan’s windshield along with a loud liquid sound.  He quickly yanked his emergency break with one hand while shielding his face with the other.

A few moments later, Alan slowly uncovered his eye and looked to his window.  He was still alive and the window had held, even though it was covered in cracks and green-brown material.  Oh no…, Alan thought as he got out of his car.  No sooner had his feet hit the pavement when the powerfully pungent smell slammed into him.  The dragon had been so terrified by its capture that it had panicked.  That terror had resulted in it leaving Alan the biggest “present” he had ever seen.

“Well, crap”, he said as he surveyed his car.  He looked and saw the drivers around him.  Half of them were horrified and rolling up their windows, the other half were bursting with laughter.  Alan pulled his phone from his pocket and sighed out of resignation.  Hopefully Leslie’s mother could pick up the kids.  Alan wasn’t going anywhere.

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