Fiction | Uncategorized

Red’s Excuse

JAMIE HIBDON

JAMIE HIBDON

My friend Red was supposed to meet me the other night at the Auditorium Theatre, but in the end she never showed up, and I had to see Belle and Sebastian by myself. I called her after the opening act, and then again when I left, but she was out of range each time. If it was anybody but Red, I would have been worried. I finally heard from her at about two o’clock in the morning. I thought I was dreaming it, so I let the phone ring through. In the morning I read the text she had sent instead. This is what she had to say for herself.

“I really was on my way. I was taking my bike up the lakefront for a change & got off at 31st. I was waiting at the light there, at the overpass, with the onramps & offramps & such. While I was sitting there I realized one of the roads at that corner isn’t a ramp at all, just a street that comes down from the north and happens to end. I’d never seen it on a map before.

“First it just took me along LSD, and under the Stevenson, and then I realized it was headed into McCormick place. But there wasn’t any way to turn off, so I kept going, down into the dark. There were loading docks & drainpipes & tour buses. There was nobody around at all. It got colder & colder. I followed a sign for taxicabs cause I figured it would bring me out to the front on King Drive. But the road kept getting skinnier & darker. I couldn’t see the pavement but it felt incredibly smooth, like pressed air. At one point I heard train whistles. I kept looking behind me, hoping somebody would be coming to tell me off and turn me around. Finally I was in this giant cavern. Maybe it only looked big because there was shiny water all over the floor and I saw everything twice. But it really was like being inside a hollow mountain.

“In one corner they had piled up a bunch of roadblocks, in the other there was a Coke machine, & in the other, a single Archer night bus, the one that goes all the way to the airport. I got closer and saw it was a hunk of rust by now, covered in cobwebs. It must have been there for ages. & this is the weird part—Jesus was in the driver’s seat, sucking on a coffee, looking pretty burnt-out. I pulled up alongside him, real casual, pretending to fix my brakes. I was hoping he’d start the conversation. He gave me a cross look & said, ‘This is just like the start of a joke, right?’ & then he closed the door in my face.”

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