The white-page glow of my Chromebook’s screen dimmed then disappeared as I closed my Chromebook with a click and thank-god-it’s-Friday.
Having just taught for five hours straight, I was famished. I exited the guest bedroom, my makeshift virtual classroom hub, and crossed into the kitchen, whipping the smart refrigerator’s door open to confirm it held nothing appetizing within. Its cool air laughed in my face while I sighed in defeat. I considered Waitr momentarily, but I’d already ordered it twice that week since I’d been too sick to cook. Ordering it a third time bordered on financial negligence.
The refrigerator chimed an eight-note tune, its way of saying—hey, blondie, you’re letting all the cold air out. Chastised, I eased its door closed, wishing no further admonishment.
Snatching my keys off the black-flecked, white countertop, I mosied out the door towards my Buick, jangling the keys in my hand to see if my archnemesis, our cat Suny, was lazing or prowling near. His Evil Highness failed to appear. Darn.
The sunshine did, however, and I unleashed an otherworldly fuck when it initially singed my vampire pallor. I shielded my eyes, forcing myself to gaze half-lidded into the cerulean sky, letting my eyes adjust to the brightness. A small defiance to acclimate to a healthy dose of Vitamin D. I sneezed. Thanks, Helios. I sneezed again.
Once I climbed into the car, I pressed my foot to the brake then my finger to the start button. I rolled the windows down, letting the stifling, stale November heat escape. I hooked my iPhone up to a power cord, engaging CarPlay mode, because who listens to the radio anymore when there’s Amazon Music? After a ferocious debate with myself because I felt like I was cheating on Taylor Swift’s Red album, I settled on The Chicks’ explicit Gaslighter album. I whispered sorry to TayTay, pinky-promised her we Would Be Getting Back Together, and cranked the volume to “How Do You Sleep at Night” to a the-neighbors-will-totally-disapprove level.
Because my respiratory system was otherwise engaged in snot factory mode à la prednisone, I couldn’t sing along, but I bopped my head, despite a lingering headache, as I eased onto the highway.
Burger King’s drive-through didn’t appear super busy, so I pulled in. I reluctantly turned my music down—Natalie, Emily, and Martie’s harmony decrescendoing into the low buzz associated with elevator music.
When it was my turn, the drive-through speaker issued forth a series of clicks and hisses. I assumed a human wasn’t attempting to make contact yet, so I sat patiently awaiting an employee’s request for my Whopper with cheese. More microphone noises filled the air for five minutes.
Fed up, in my sweetest, to appease the french fry gods, voice, I questioned, “Hello?” I waited for a plague of ketchup sent from the heavens to smote me. Death by ketchup asphyxiation, not a terrible way to go, I guessed.
Seconds passed. I broke into a sweat. A glance into my rearview mirror revealed the frustrated faces of lunch-hungry contemporaries also lamenting how fast food is never fast in the South, unless you’re at Chick-fil-A.
The speaker emitted a sound like someone was petting a microphone, and then finally spoke the most welcome phrase in the English language, “May I take your order?”
After a rather unremarkable exchange of credit card and food, the smell of hot cheeseburger and greasy fries wafted on the air conditioner’s current, and I fumbled with the paper bag while trying to turn right out of the parking lot.
The brown bag crinkled while I fished for some fries. They were hot and mushy, not quite crispy enough, but they’d do. I finished them before even turning onto the interstate.
I licked my fingers like a deer at a salt lick, reveling in the brine.
I knew I should wait to eat the burger, but I dug in, blindly.
I disrobed the burger, removing the bun (thank you wheat sensitivity), the lettuce, the onions, while keeping my eyes on the road. I tore off a piece of meat, my fingers immediately clothed in an outfit of ketchup, half-melted American cheese, and mayo, and plopped the certified Angus beef into my mouth.
My next piece had an entire pickle glued to it. I’d eat the pickle, but I knew my IBD would be like a Little Rascal shouting, “I’ve got a pickle! I’ve got a pickle! I’ve got a pickle! Hey! Hey! Hey!” and create utter mayhem for me five hours later.
So, I tried to fling the pickle back into the bag, but I missed.
It landed with a gentle thwack to my right, on the center console’s black, perilous precipice.
A moment of stark horror raced through my mind. I knew I couldn’t immediately conduct an emergency rescue operation on the rogue pickle. I was approaching a roundabout, requiring full concentration and both hands on the wheel. But if I didn’t get to it in time, it would dangle, slip, fall into that unreachable no-man’s-land canyon of inanimate-object-death between my driver’s seat and center console.
I prayed to the Vlasic god this time and hoped that the pickle’s mayo and ketchup shroud would keep him glued to the edge to counteract his slippery juiciness while I looped to the right.
I thought I heard a faint, “Save me. This is no way to go.” I swept my eyes down to check on him. I breathed in relief; he hadn’t moved.
I named him Dill.
I couldn’t let Dill die.
I swooped the steering wheel left.
Another look revealed Dill had slid down the slope, leaving a sluglike white and red trail behind him. Even though he was still reachable, I couldn’t rescue him yet.
By the time I made it safely through the roundabout, the abyss had devoured Dill.
When I reached my driveway, I threw my crossover into park, unbuckled my seatbelt, and flung open the car door. I splayed myself flat across the driver’s side seat, becoming flush with its surface area, garnering grip for the Herculean task of pickle rescue.
“I’m coming, Dill!” I shouted.
I thrust my arm over the driver’s seat ledge, wishing Dill would throw up an arm and meet me halfway. But the crevice trapped my can-palm-a-basketball-man-hand.
I struggled for a minute, escaping unscathed save for a few brush burns.
I heaved a sigh of frustration. I needed a break.
“I’ll be back later, Dill.”
So I left him there. I finished my lunch and my workday.
I picked up Little Thing from school, and when we pulled into the driveway, I explained Dill’s situation. She was unbothered and callous. She withdrew indoors to watch her iPad.
I knew if I didn’t rescue Dill now his corpse would wreak havoc on my olfactory senses for weeks.
I knew what I had to do.
I opened my car door one last time and got on my knees. I pushed the button on the bottom side of my car’s seat. The seat moved back as far as it could go.
I brought my head level to the car’s floor. My eyes shifted over rocks and dust, settling on the dark space between the seat and the console.
And there was Dill. Wedged between a black and gold earring and a tube of pink lipstick. Looking dehydrated and on his last breath.
I grabbed the tube of lipstick and used it as a rope to rescue him.
I cradled him in my arms.
I looked at him as he croaked, “Thank you.”
I screamed and dropped him.
Not because he was talking, but because he’d grown a full head of hair. Long blonde hair that looked vaguely familiar.
I recovered quickly, picking him up off the pavement.
I brought him inside as he breathed his last breath.
Little Thing (Who knew she was so morbid?) asked for a final viewing.
We laid him to rest in the trash can.
May Dill forever rest in peace.