The four of them piled into Molly and Tom put his seat belt on.
“This is my Molly” explained Tom.
“Ok, I gathered that. So why does it smell like french fries in here.” said Kathy.
“Yeah, that’s because I converted her to run on bio-diesel. I pick up the used cooking oil from Benny’s Hamburgers for free.” said Tom.
“That’s cool! I wish I knew how to do that kind of stuff!” said Kathy.
“It’s not that hard, really. And it’s cheap.” said Tom “Everyone buckle up. Tom liked it that Kathy was impressed with his skills. Maybe she would be more impressed when she saw the device.
All sorts of thoughts were going through his head. What if he could just show them the garage for a few minutes then tell them he needed to go. Then after he dropped Alice and John off, he could mention to Kathy he wanted to talk with her privately?
No, that would be rude. And besides, that would show Kathy he was only interested in getting into her pants. And although that was definitely on his mind, he wanted more than that.
He found himself thinking hard about excuses to get rid of Alice and John when quickly and without warning he heard the voice:
Everything happens for a reason
The voice was starting to become a nuisance. What right did it have to interrupt his thinking? And besides, how could it possibly know what was going to happen in the future? And surely it couldn’t know what was best for him in his love life!
He put Molly in gear and the four of them headed towards the garage. As usual, Tom slowed down in front of the police station downtown and the local cop, Stan waved hello to him. He waved the obligatory hello back and continued towards the city limits.
John and Alice were in the back seat and Kathy was in the passenger seat in front. Alice waited until they were almost out of town and lit up yet another strong smelling doobie.
Tom looked in the rear view mirror and frowned “I would prefer you not smoke in my car.”
“Why? How can you even smell it? It smells so strong of french fries in here, I’m startin’ to get hungry!” said Alice.
“Me too!” said John.
She reluctantly put it out and stuffed the remainder into her pants pocket.
Not only did Tom NOT want to take them along, but now they were stinking up his car with pot. The LAST thing he needed was to get pulled over with pot in the car.
He tried to bury his anger towards the two pot smokers in the back by changing the subject. But it didn’t seem to do much good. He wanted those two freeloaders out of his car now and not later.
He decided maybe a story would help pass the time it took to drive to the garage.
Tom explained how he had learned how to work on cars from his father and the process he went through to convert Molly to run on bio-diesel.
Kathy, Alice, and John listened attentively. To them, it was nothing short of amazing that something like that could be done, much less by someone they knew. There were the usual questions about how much it cost, and how long it took. Tom was patient and explained everything to them as if they were school children learning about the ABC’s for the first time.
They had left the city limits but were still a few miles from the garage. Hardly any cars were on the road and the sky was completely clear. The fields they passed by on the way were lined with tall ripe corn stalks ready to be harvested which made for a surreal ride down the road as they whooshed by.
He had finished explaining the bio-diesel conversion process to them and unexpectedly Kathy asked the dreaded question.
“So how does somebody get from converting old cars to building this secret device you’re building?”
Tom tried to think of something to avoid the inevitable but couldn’t think of anything.
“Oh, it’s something that just came to me.” said Tom.
What a lame excuse! One would think if he was so worried about sharing that information he would have already thought of a better one. But for some unknown reason, He never thought about it when it wasn’t needed.
He was just about to invent a lie for Kathy when he heard the voice:
There are no secrets
He certainly didn’t feel like sharing what was going on in his mind with the three new friends in the car, so he tried to ignore it.
He was running through possible lies in his mind when the voice began repeating over and over, getting louder each time.
There are no secrets
There are no secrets
There are no secrets
It was now so loud, it was all he could hear. The sound in his mind was deafening.
THERE ARE NO SECRETS!
That was it! He could take no more. He slammed on the brakes throwing everyone forward. Alice screamed, John slammed his hands on the back of Kathy’s seat and Kathy’s eyes opened wide in shock.
Tom screamed at the top of his lungs.
He turned the ignition off and John yelled “What the fuck is going on?”
“What happened?” said Alice.
Tom leaned his face on top of his hands that were gripping the steering wheel and ignored everyone in the car who were now waiting for him to explain why he had stopped the car so suddenly.
The four of them sat in stillness for a few seconds - all eyes were on Tom.
Kathy was first to speak reaching over to him, placing her hand on his shoulder, “What’s wrong, Tom?”
“I’m think I’m going crazy.” said Tom.
Alice laughed “Ha! You don’t know what crazy is. I know what crazy is. Try living in the Kate house and I’ll show you crazy. Everybody’s yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs. I live with a bunch of crazies and I know what crazy is. And you’re not crazy. Besides, it’s not like you’re hearing voices in your heard or anything.”
Tom looked up at Alice through the rear view mirror as if she had just spoken blasphemy.
“What?” said Alice.
Tom slowly turned his head towards Kathy almost embarrassed and whispered “Yes, I’m hearing a voice. I don’t have a clue who or what it is, but for whatever reason, it started out telling me how to build this stupid device. And if that’s not weird enough, now it’s saying crazy shit.”
“What kind of crazy shit?” asked Kathy.
“Well, just now it was repeating over and over ‘There are no secrets’” said Tom.
“Well, their aren’t any!” said Alice.
Tom glared at Alice and yelled, “Shut up, Alice! Don’t go New Age on me! This is serious!”
“Well, okay Mr Potato head.” said Alice.
“Why was it saying that?” asked Kathy.
“I have no freakin idea! But I WAS afraid to tell you where I got the idea from. And as soon as I thought about NOT telling you, it started saying that phrase over and over.” said Tom.
“Sounds to me like you need to not hold anything back from us.” said Kathy.
“Yeah? Well that’s easy for you to say!” said Tom.
John was staring out his window off into the distance as if he had no interest in their conversation at all. He had a dreamy look on his face like he was deep in thought.
Alice leaned up towards Tom and whispered in his ear, “It’s ok, I hear voices all the time.”
Tom snapped. He threw up his hands and yelled loudly “BUT YOU’RE A DOPE SMOKING, CRAZY NEW AGE, FUCKING IDIOT!”
The interior of the car turned eerily quiet. No one said anything. Tom knew he shouldn’t have said it as soon as the words flew out of his mouth.
Kathy took a deep breath and leaned her head on the passenger window frame and said nothing. She appeared to be looking out the window as if she were a million miles away.
Tom was worried he had blown it. It looked to him as if Kathy was ready to write him off as crazy. He felt John was embarrassed to be there, and Alice was too stoned to respond.
The four of them sat in the car for a few moments saying nothing. Tom could hear the cicadas calling their mates, but other than that, there was no sound. No one else in the car was moving or making a sound. It was as if time had stopped.
How awful! You only get one chance to make a first impression. And he had really screwed this one up big time.
Tom heard a rustling in the back seat and looked up in the rear view mirror in time to see Alice lean her head back on the seat and close her eyes. She took several deep breaths and after a few seconds appeared to be sleeping.
He looked at Kathy and she appeared to be sleeping also. What was going on?
He reached over and pushed on her shoulder - she didn’t respond. Then he turned around and looked at John who was still staring out the window as if he was deep in thought. Alice appeared to be in some sort of deep meditation.
After a few seconds, Alice opened her eyes and spoke in a soft low voice very much unlike her normal high pitched whiney tone:
“It’s ok, Tom. You can trust us. We are here to help you.”
Tom glanced in the rear view mirror and thought he saw something glowing around Alice’s head. He rubbed his eyes, turned around and looked directly at her, but nothing was there.
“What did you say?” said Tom.
Alice opened her eyes, then looked directly at Tom as if he had startled her and spoke in her normal squeaky high pitched voice “I didn’t say anything.”
“I didn’t hear anything.” said Kathy who was now rummaging around her purse looking for a stick of gum as if nothing strange had happened.
Tom was shocked. It was as if his screaming and acting out had never happened.
Tom said “You didn’t say ‘It’s ok, Tom. You can trust us. We are here to help you’?”
“Nope! But I AM wondering why we stopped on the side of the road.” said Alice.
“Yeah, Tom. Why did we stop here?” said Kathy “Want some gum?”
John blurted out “I’m hungry. Let’s go to Benny’s and get a burger!”
Tom looked over at Kathy, then back at John, and finally through the rear view mirror at Alice. None of them had a clue he had just yelled aloud.
“What the hell just happened?” yelled Tom.
“Oh, I remember! You stopped the car for that deer that ran out in front of us.” said Alice “That was some pretty quick reflexes!”
Tom was flabbergasted. There was no deer! What happened to them?
He threw Molly in gear and spun the tires.
“What? No food?” said John.
“You wanna see this thing or not?” shouted Tom.
“Oh, yeah.” said John “Let’s see it, THEN let’s eat!”
“Sounds good to me!” said Alice.
Kathy was chewing on her gum as if there was no tomorrow - blowing bubbles and popping them. “Yup, let’s see this thing.”