Note: a writing exercise inspired the following story, which was published several years ago in Emerging Voices. Please be warned that it contains some strong language and violence. You can also read this story on my website.
The snow fell in a wall of white that obscured her view of the road and the darkening sky. “Why didn’t I stay where I was?” she asked herself as she drove at a snail’s pace along the Shirley Basin Road that wound its way from Medicine Bow to Casper, Wyoming.
As the car’s interior grew colder, she fiddled with the heater knob, but nothing happened. Dammit! No heat!”
She pulled to the side of the road, ignoring the sliding noise the tires made. She searched for her gloves, but they weren’t in her coat pockets or her purse. “I must have left them at the convenience store in Medicine Bow.”
After taking several deep breaths and warming her hands in her pockets, she said, “I should go back. There are people in Medicine Bow. There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”
The engine whined, and the tires skidded on the ice under the newly fallen snow. In a frantic effort to free herself, she gunned the engine and rocked the car back and forth. The motor continued to whine as the tires slipped deeper into the drift. After a few more minutes of struggling, she switched off the engine and stuffed her cold hands in her pockets.
The night was silent except for the wind and the sound of snow pelting the car. Shivering, she zipped her winter coat as high as it would go. After tightening the hood around her face, she wriggled her toes inside her boots. With a sigh of resignation, she buried her hands deeper in her coat pockets and settled herself more comfortably.
“It doesn’t matter,” she told herself. What do I have to live for? If God exists, and this is his way of punishing me for running away, so be it.” She closed her eyes and let herself drift, though she knew this was dangerous.
A few minutes later, she opened her eyes with a sense of impending doom. Hearing a car engine behind her, she turned and gasped in horror when she recognized the angry face outside her window. It couldn’t be, she thought. He couldn’t have known where she was going. Since she had no relatives in Wyoming, the chances of him finding her were slim, but there he was, the exhaust from his idling car making an eerie specter in the freezing air.
His knuckles rapped against the pane with several sharp thuds. Her panic rising, she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the button to automatically lock all doors. Her heart sank when he removed the spare key from his pocket and unlocked the driver’s side door. Yanking her out into the freezing cold, he slammed the door and pinned her against it, delivering a hard blow to her cheek.
“How did you find me?” she asked, holding up her hands to protect herself.
“I followed your tracks,” he said, as he struck her a second time. “I found these on the counter at the Super America in Medicine Bow.” He removed her gloves from his pocket and tossed them into the snow.
“You never did have much sense,” he said, as he hit her a third time, “so I figured you’d be stranded out here somewhere.”
When she bent to retrieve the gloves, he delivered a sharp kick to her backside, sending her sprawling in the snow. As anger rose within her, she bent her knee and kicked as hard as she could. Her effort was rewarded when her foot struck something solid, and he yelped in pain.
She jumped to her feet. Putting on her gloves, she glared at him, as he lay writhing in the snow and clutching his crotch. She flung herself on top of him.
With her gloved fists, she pummeled his face. “Now, you’re getting a taste of your own medicine!” she yelled, striking his eyes, nose and mouth.
The blows sounded harsh. “Ma’am, are you okay?” a voice called from somewhere.
She opened her eyes to find herself still sitting behind the wheel of her car. It had stopped snowing, and a bright moon shone overhead. The lights of a snowplow blinked behind her. A man, apparently its driver, was pounding on her window.
Shivering, she opened the door a crack and said, “I’m stuck, and my heat doesn’t work.”
“You don’t have any heat at all?”
“No,” she answered, shaking in earnest.
“How long have you been sitting there?”
“I don’t know,” she answered through chattering teeth.
He pulled the door open and extended his hand. “Come get in my vehicle where it’s warm, and I’ll call a wrecker.”
She stiffened and shrank away from him. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’m here to help you.”
His tone was soft, his words not judgmental or condescending. She looked into his face and saw nothing but concern. “Thank you,” she said, as she allowed him to help her out of her car. With him, she walked away, not looking back, only looking forward.