Inspired by this week’s Story A Day prompt.
Angie’s long shift was finally over. She stretched her legs and poked her bare feet out of the open car window, enjoying the breeze as the cars and trees whipped by. Her mom told her she was crazy to post a flyer at the college looking for someone to share a ride across the country. What if a crazy person responds?
Angie thought that most people would consider her to be the crazy person. She insisted on taking her large German Shepherd, Susie, with her. A retired police dog, she looked scary but was as docile as a lamb. At the moment, Susie was curled up on the back seat, snoozing, seeming to smile in her sleep. After a long life of forced labor, Angie wanted Susie to enjoy her golden years. She had a bag full of homemade snacks for Susie at her feet, and insisted they stop every two hours so Susie could go for a short walk. She worried she’d get claustrophobic stuck in the car all those hours unless they took frequent breaks.
Joe agreed to all of her terms. He was the only person to respond. The only person going the same direction she was. He said finding her flyer was destiny, telling him it was time to finally meet his true love, starshinegal08 aka Mara. They’d been playing StarShine, an online game, for years alongside each other. Their avatars had been on countless adventures together. They’d spent hours chatting late into the night about their lives. But they’d had yet to lay eyes on each other. Not even a picture. Mara thought that would make it more romantic when they saw each other in person.
On the side of the highway, waving frantically, was a girl wearing a dress covered in pink feathers and clear high heeled shoes that increased her diminutive height by at least five inches. Her white blond hair was in what Angie believed was called a bouffant, piled high and unmoving, despite her efforts to flag them down. It was a either a gravity-defying freak of nature or benefiting from an obscene amount of hairspray. Angie noticed Joe was slowing down, that the car was veering to the right.
“What are you doing??!!” Angie sat upright.
Joe shrugged. “She looks like she needs help.”
“She could be deranged!”
“Does she look dangerous?”
“Neither did Ted Bundy…” Angie mumbled under her breath as the car came to a stop. The girl leaned in the open window.
“Thank y’all so much for stoppin’!” She spoke in a Southern drawl. “I was on a cross country bus trip with the Miss Magonlia USA pageant. I’m Miss Georgia Magnolia…” she indicated her pale pink sash “…and well there was some trouble on the bus and I seem to have lost my ride. Could I trouble y’all for a ride to the next town? I hear there’s a bus station.”
“They ditched you?” Joe asked.
The pageant queen lowered her eyes and nodded.
I wonder why, Angie thought, crossing her arms.
“That’s horrible!” Joe was incredulous, clearly unaware of all the ways girls like that employed to torture each other. “Sure we can give you a ride. If you don’t mind sharing the backseat with Susie.”
“Oh, I just adore dogs! I don’t mind at all.” She scurried around the front of the car and hopped in the backseat, while Angie glared at him.
“It’s just for a few miles.” Joe insisted.
Susie sleepily eyed her new seatmate, before closing her eyes and putting her head on her lap.
“Where are my manners! My name’s Lola. Really Magnolia, but everyone calls me Lola. Mama knew when I was in the womb I was gonna be Miss Magnolia USA.”
“Hi Lola. I’m Joe and this is Angie.”
“Nice to meet y’all! Thanks so much again! I don’t know what I would have done if y’all hadn’t come along…”
Lola’s damsel in distress act was growing thin, so Angie popped in her earbuds and turned up the volume, letting Adele lull her to sleep.
She woke again when she felt the car come to a stop, opening her eyes to see a huge hot dog statue in towering in front of her. Home of the Six Foot Hot Dog! The sign above the statue declared.
“Lola was hungry,” Joe offered as explanation when he noticed Angie’s confusion.
Well, we can’t have America’s Sweetheart’s stomach grumbling. Angie stumbled from the car, opening the door to let Susie out as Joe and Lola made their way inside the diner. After walking Susie, Angie went inside to peruse the menu, noticing that the only item that accommodated her vegetarian diet were the french fries. She ordered a large basket of fries with a soda and reluctantly joined Joe and Lola. At least the fries were perfect, hot, crisp and salty. She noticed Joe seemed distressed as she sat.
“…so you’ve never seen this girl, this Mara?” Lola asked, a cruel twist to her voice
Joe shook his head.
“…not even a picture?”
“She thought it was…romantic, I guess…”
Lola screamed with laughter, her hot dog forgotten. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh, but that is just the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. But I mean, I guess that’s the only way some people can meet…”
“..and you.” Lola turned to face Angie. “Driving cross country so your dog can see the ocean for the first time?”
“You told her?!” Angie yelled at Joe.
“She asked where we were headed. I didn’t think you’d mind…”
“I’m sorry, but that is just the most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard. A vacation with your dog. At least Joe has someone to meet at the end of this trip. Allegedly.” Lola brazenly grabbed a french fry from Angie’s basket before hopping up. “I need to go to the ladies’ room and then we can get back on the road. Y’all excuse me.”
Lola sashayed down the aisle to the restrooms, reveling in all the male attention she received along the way.
Joe tried to wipe his wet eyes without Angie noticing. She noticed, but didn’t say anything. He’d been humiliated enough. Instead, she said, “Let’s ditch her!”
“What?” Joe asked, a smile slowly forming across his face.
“You heard me. Let’s go. Come on, hurry!”
She grabbed his hand and they ran back out to the car. Susie was roused from sleep as they screeched out of their parking spot. Lola burst through the front door, screaming some language very unbecoming of a Miss Magnolia USA at the retreating car. Joe and Angie laughed so hard their stomachs hurt.
“Oops,” Joe said a mile down the road, still chuckling.
“What?” Angie asked, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes.
“I think we left her with the bill.”