sunrise was still twenty minutes away but on the horizon the sky had turned a muted gold with a pale turquoise above it. the man was vaguely aware of this. sleep, alcohol, and probably a good amount of smoke made it very hard for the man to welcome the new day with any enthusiasm. laying in bed half sleep he could see the colored morning sky and the leafless trees through his bedroom window. for some reason that sight bothered him though his hangover prevented him from putting a finger on exactly why it did.
the bedroom and probably the rest of the house still smelled of last nights dinner. garlic, rosemary, and fried chicken. he yawned. stretched. then rolled over to give his emma a good morning kiss, and if she was awake, to thank her again for last nights wonderful meal. he realized the other half of his bed was empty. cold to the touch as well.
this jolted the man fully awake. he threw off the bed covers and sat up.
no answer. as he fumbled around for his underwear and sandals he wondered where she was.
’emma? emma? hey, you here? emma?’
it was way too early for any sort of shopping adventures even for her. what was going on? where was she? the man was out of bed and semi dressed as he made his way out of the bedroom. he was still calling his wife’s name as he went from room to room. spotting his old pickup through the second bedroom window he knew emma couldn’t be far away.
’emma? emma? come on girl. where are you?’
he was in the kitchen. the smell of last nights dinner was very strong there. dinner dishes and a cast iron frying pan sat dry in the rack beside the sink. his truck was still out back so maybe she had gone up to the country store on the corner. early for that but, well, maybe. he got to the back door and then he heard it. a car parked out on the dirt driveway. the man moved aside the curtain to get a better look outside. he saw the car. it’s motor softly idling and it’s exhaust as thick as smoke in the cold morning air.
that was it. very cold outside. trees with no leaves. it had been late spring yesterday. hadn’t it? warm with meadowlarks singing. emma had made fried chicken for dinner. he grabbed both sides of the backdoor jam to steady himself. looking through the small window he stared at the car. it was a limo. a very pretty blond woman wearing a chauffeurs hat sat behind the wheel. next to her in the front seat sat keith richards of the rolling stones he was wearing a semi sort of smile on his craggy face. he raised both hands in a gesture that could only mean, who else would it be? keith’s smile grew into a huge grin and then the man heard the all to familiar cackling coming from the enclosed limo.
it was happening again. that was for sure. but why? deja vu all over again? the man stepped into the cold winter morning to meet his fate while he and his heart ached for his long dead emma.
as he walked toward the idling limo the passenger side door opened. keith’s cackling laughter had died away. walking around the open door he noticed that the old stone was apparently sleeping. or more likely passed out. he heard the driver speak in a soft voice with a slight german accent.
‘good morning, sir. please, get in. i’m afraid you’ll be alone until keef wakes up.’
sticking his head inside the car he said.
‘hmmm. yeah, at least you said, please. look, um, i just woke up and i’m not really dressed for a road trip. what’s the deal? where are we going? who wants me now? and why?’
he stopped talking when he noticed the pretty blond just staring at him.
‘ah, christ. i haven’t even had my morning coffee yet. it’s cold out here. i’m going back in the house.’
he closed the closed the limo door and turned back toward the kitchen. the chauffeur was saying something but he didn’t care. when he reached the kitchen door he looked back at the idling car. keith richards was still asleep, or passed out, and the driver was still staring at him, but now she was talking to someone on the phone. great, he thought, as he went back inside closing the door. the man was careful to lock it as well. though if it was them again a locked door meant nothing.
he busied himself making coffee and tried very hard not to think about the limo sitting outside on his dirt driveway. eventually whatever was going come out because of it would make itself known. another drug run with the rolling stones guitarist? maybe. though the thing with his dead wife emma was another story.
the house very clearly smelled of rosemary garlic fried chicken. no doubt about it. two sets of dinner dishes and a couple of wine glasses sat in the dish drying rack. when he opened the refrigerator for some milk for his coffee he spotted a plate of leftover fried chicken along with a container of leftover roasted potatoes and carrots. yeah, last night had been real enough. or was it? emma was dead. she died of cancer years ago. maybe it was just the ache and misery of her loss that still haunted him.
‘ah, but, ghosts making fried chicken, roasted potatoes and carrots?’
he’d said that aloud as the phone in the kitchen started to ring. he sipped his coffee and stared at the ringing phone. he wasn’t going to answer it but by the twentieth ring he got up to answer the phone if only to stop it’s incessant ringing.
‘yeah, who is it? no, tell you what, i don’t care. leave me alone.’
he hung up the phone. several seconds later it started ringing again. this time he unplugged the phone from the wall. sipping his coffee he walked back to his bedroom and unplugged that phone as well. silence filled the little home. when he got back to the kitchen he noticed that the limo was gone.