This story is by nijah jones and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Her wipers dance full speed in the escalating chaos of light snow. Bella, her 94 Turquoise Geo Prizm, named after Bella from Twilight soldiers on by the workings of a miracle, she called to have her towed so many times last month she spoke to the same operator twice. She could feel Bella’s gears and other parts crunch and scrape as she fought back at every turn and jolt. She needed two hands and extra muscle just to steer her into the vacant lot. A nearby deer is learning her theatrics. Before she turns the key, Bella gives a cough and a sputter as if she caught a cold on the way over and ceases before she can adequately shut her off. “Oh, Not again!” Jenna knows nothing about cars, but she has become familiarized with what a car sounds like when in agony. Bella’s cries send the deer fleeing around the corner.
Mom Bella died again I need a ride home!
I’m covering for someone tonight and your brother is stuck at his girlfriend’s your going to have to call a tow or Uber. LOL mom
She and her mother discussed the meaning of LOL, and her mother denies laughing out loud is something to be announced. Like Bella, she couldn’t feel any more left out in the cold. Luckily her inner workings made up for her ailing exterior. She smothers herself in as much heat as worthwhile before her forced departure into the frigid evening wind. Snow begins to assemble atop Bella’s roof and along the asphalt, still light enough to sweep it up. The vapors from her mouth visible and lingering around her head with every expulsion. A puff of air shoves crushed soda cans, fallen leaves, and a poster of the missing girl careening into her, the paper tugging at her leg before being ripped away by another draft.
Ava Richards, HAVE YOU SEEN ME?
The rattle of the entryway bell interjects someone mid-sentence about their encounter with the bear. Jenna’s cheekbones regain momentum from a blast of heat coming from the kitchen, with it a soliciting odor to make anyone abandon their diet at the door. Oregano, tomato sauce, garlic, the sound of crust severing, and the affirming nods of gratified customers. Her entrance turns the heads of Clark, her manager, and two regular patrons, one at the window with arched hands peering through the glass into the thriving storm. “Hey, I didn’t know you were covering for Brenda tonight, kid,” says Clark.
“I didn’t know either!” she persists. Joey rears his head in; dishes crash into one another beneath a liquefied debacle. Clark would joke about Joey’s washing capabilities and how he seemed to get more soap on the floor than any actual dish.
“Hey, you hear about the bear?” he says; one earphone dangles out of his head while his gloves are extended over his forearms, soap suds crawling down them to the floor awaiting her answer.
“No, but this is like the fifth forest creature I saw in two weeks; I swear I almost hit a fox on the way over, strange, right!”
“One of the patrons said she saw it was nosing in the trash by the laundry mat she called animal patrol, took them 45 minutes to pick up, she says.” to see even a beaver on occasion is rare. Since Ava’s disappearance, various animals have shown up all over town.
There has been a state of emergency issued for the storm conjuring outside and a curfew set because of the body they just found mauled to death by something of immense size and strength, but it is not Ava’s corpse. An elbow sends her makeshift tip cup collapsing to the ground. She is hunched over when someone navigates to the register.
“Bless you,” someone says.
When Jenna returns to her upright position, Tommy is there chin pointed to the ceiling, his ice blue gaze drives across her face before he speaks. When his glimpse freezes on her, his lips split to produce a smile. He just returned home two weeks ago Christmas break. She thanks him and asks him his name and order like she hadn’t etched it all over her geometry notebook.
“Tommy,” he says.
“Raw steak?” She repeats the last component of the order. His head recoils back slightly as his hand surfs over his dark hair before he answers to her evident unsettled expression. A chuckle rolls off his moist lips. “It’s for my dog; she loves pizza; what can I say.”
“And the rest of your order?” her head in a slant.
“Yeah, jeez, I sound like a depraved animal; I’m not, I swear, small get-together at my place, on Crest lane right behind the abandoned mines.” She lets out a giggle. The register draw begins to procrastinate profuse silence rides on the aroma of his boxed pizzas.
“You went to Glenwood, right?” She never meets his inspection.
The entrance bell saves her.
It’s her geometry teacher. Tommy pulls himself upright, tightening his muscles as she hands him his order. All she can do is mentally reiterate his address to herself.
“See ya round,” he says with a half-smile, and he’s gone.
“Hey, Mr. G, I got your order, 11.90 with tax.”
“You’re raking in all the dough; I see,” laughing at his joke, she cannot help but to join in.
“Yeah, I can use all I can get. My baby just died on me as soon as I hit the parking lot, and I have no way to get home!” he hands her exact change.
“Want me to take a look under her hood?” he says.
“Could You!” her hands hugging one another. When Mr. G returns and tells her the jump was unsuccessful, he offers a ride. Mr. G is her last resort, so she explains her situation to Clark. She acquires her things. No sign of the bear as he escorts her to the car. Before they turn onto the main road, Bella is clobbered in snow.
“Did you see the bear yet?” she says.
“No, but my neighbor found a raccoon paw in its traps the other day.” He cranks up the heat.
“Is that weird?”
“Yes, in fact, the only time you find a part of your kill in the trap is if it is starving and gnawed its paw off or,”
“Or what?” her brows collide.
“Something ate it,”
“How do you know it didn’t just gnaw its paw off?”
“That’s rare for a raccoon to attempt; it would take that thing days to accomplish, and because the neighbor found large droppings nearby too, and it had small animal bones inside.”
‘Your joking, right?” she jams her hands into her armpits at the thought of what that poor animal must have endured. The rest of the drive is quiet, the wipers in a slow choreography. They pass the abandoned mines, and her insides begin to thaw. The broadcast cuts through the steady tango of the blades. She is announcing that the bear has been found, mutilated by something significant. They are four miles away from her house.
“Are you catching a cold?” he says.
“Allergies, to dogs, you have one?”
His length goes erect in his seat, and they accelerate down the road. The hefty slivers of snow impair his visibility. He shifts the speed of his wipers now in an hostile synchronicity. Something enormous hits the car. Everything happens in fragments, then goes dark, and the ceiling is now the floor. Mr. G is out cold, and she can’t move her wrist without pain. She disengages her constricted body; a polluted stink obstructs her thinking.
Hang on, Mr. G
She checks the glove box. She obtains something unexpected. It’s the same necklace Ava is wearing in the photo plastered around town; some of her hair is bound together with it by twine.
Her brain tries to dismantle this milestone, but her detection sends her head into exercise. Did Mr. G do something to Ava? Was I next? And what do I do now? The car detonates, delivering her into a tree.
Her eyes ajar, the full moon accentuates the barren landscape. Except a shrill howl close by jerks her upright. A grainy figure crawls closer; she cradles her wrist when she sees it on all fours. The snow squashed beneath the weight of it, the beast close enough to see it pushing heat from its snout, its entire frame heaving with every intake of nipping air. Sporting matted dark hair and leering ice-blue eyes still on all fours, its height impressive, she is a vegetable below its crenelating vestige. Every shard of wintry air cauterizes her lungs. It then stretches to its full stature, incisors and thorny talons glimmering in the icy eve, bobbing as it holds itself up, fur swaying in the breeze its diamond gape monitors like it knows her. Tommy? She thinks of her fate.
How unlucky can one get? ACHOO!