by Todd McKie
“Pull over!” Eileen screamed.
“What’s wrong?’ I asked, dopey from driving in the fog. I slowed down, steered to the side of the highway and stopped. Eileen turned around in her seat, her shoulder pressed into my chest. She’s a big woman.
“You almost ran over something. Maybe you did run over it.”
We’d been driving all night, clear across Massachusetts, out into the middle of New York state, on our way to visit Eileen’s sister and brother-in-law in Buffalo.
“Back up,” said Eileen.
“In this weather? No way. What was it, a dog?”
“It was some kind of box.”
“Eileen, if you want to trot back there and look for some stupid box, be my guest.” She hoisted herself out of the Nissan and walked back along the edge of the road.
I got out of the car, took a piss, zipped up and stared into the fog. From a distance, Eileen hollered, “Wait’ll you see this!”
“What is it?” I shouted. There was no answer, but soon I heard footsteps and heavy breathing and Eileen appeared in the red glow of the brake lights, holding a large, white cardboard box. “Lewis,” she said, “check this out.”
Eileen set the box down and opened it. Nestled inside, a little sloppy, but in pretty good shape, was a white cake decorated with fancy curlicues and rosebuds. In the center, written in pink icing, it said Wayne and Louise. And below that, Forever.
“Mmm,” said Eileen, leaning over, “I’ll bet that’s real butter icing.” She stuck a chubby finger into the box.
“Eileen,” I said, “that’s somebody’s cake!”
“It is butter icing. I knew it.” Eileen had frosting on her cheek. “Let’s have some,” she said.
“It’s two-thirty in the morning.”
“This would go good with a big glass of milk.”
“Eileen, we’re not bringing the cake.”
“You’re just going to leave it here?” she said.
“In case Duane and Louise come back.”
“Wayne. Wayne and Louise.”
I looked back down the highway, then squinted in the other direction. When I glanced at Eileen again she was shoving a giant wad of cake into her mouth. “Oh, for chrissakes,” I said.
“It’s delicious,” she said, her mouth stuffed with cake. “Come on, you know you want some.”
When we pulled into Eileen’s sister’s driveway, it was five-thirty in the morning, too early to go inside and wake them up. Beside me, Eileen was sound asleep, puffing and wheezing. She has sinus problems.
I looked in the back seat. We’d finished off most of that damn cake. There were crumbs all over the place and frosting smeared everywhere. It was just light enough to make out the writing on what was left of the cake. It didn’t say Wayne and Louise anymore, just Forever, smudged and barely legible. I tilted my seat back as far as it would go and closed my eyes.
published 23 September 2016