Excerpt: Road Trip
Broderick, California: the streets were just a little rougher than he’d expected, the houses just a touch too small, the bushes weren’t quite manicured, and the cars not so flashy. Still, it was the eastern side of California, and for that reason alone, it could not have been a more perfect place for the car to sit.
He’d left the map on the wall of his bedroom and bought himself an eight-by-ten of similar design. With a red Sharpie, he’d carefully marked the pinned spots. It had been the last thing he’d tucked into the breast pocket of his jacket before he’d left the house.
The flight had been paid for, the taxes and transfers pre-arranged, and the money wired to the corresponding parties and ministries. There hadn’t been much left over, but Boyd was pretty confident the eleven hundred dollars in his wallet would cover the drive back to Syracuse. Barring any unforeseen catastrophes—for which he’d removed his credit card from the freezer, unfroze it from the block of ice it sat in, and tucked into his wallet as a precaution—Boyd figured he should be able to manage without bankrupting himself. And if he kept to his plan of leaving early Wednesday, he’d be home by Sunday night and would only use up three holiday days. That would leave the other seven days—from the mere ten that the cheap bastards he worked for granted him in a year—to do what he saw fit with the car around extra-long weekends.
Though it didn’t show on his face, Boyd was excited. While any casual observer might note the frown that tended to furrow into his forehead without Boyd even thinking about it, or the hard set of his jaw that made everybody think he was constantly gritting his teeth, the feeling swarming through his chest was damn close to what he imagined ecstasy to feel like. It was so much more than just a car, or just a road trip… It was that thing he’d been planning for, that one thing, and it was finally happening. It didn’t matter that he still rented a falling-down shack while all his buddies were buying houses. It didn’t matter that he didn’t own his own garage or that he had to scrape by on sixteen bucks an hour. He was getting his car. He was fulfilling a dream.
It was that flurry of emotion that gave Boyd the stamina to ignore the oversized man sitting to his left on the plane who snored most of the way there. It was the same rush that stopped him from losing his mind on the irritating woman to his right who kept bumping his arm with her laptop. He’d even been able to turn a blind eye when the brat in front of him kept popping over the seat to stick out his tongue.
When he arrived at the airport, Boyd waited with a patience even he’d been surprised he could manage for the cab that would take him from the airport in San Francisco out to West Sacramento. He didn’t get irate when they got stuck in traffic on the bridge, even though bridges freaked him the hell out—especially ones that seemed as long as small countries were wide. None of it mattered. None of the tiny issues were going to get in the way of his adventure. He could have charmed demons if he’d needed to.
Nothing in life had ever felt so gratifying as the moment when he finally got to stand beside that sweet little machine and call it his; when he got to hold the keys with the garish, dangling eight-ball and claim them. She was perfect.
Boyd barely said four words to the previous owner. Within ten minutes of arriving, he was sliding over the unmarked vinyl seat and tracing his palms over the leather braiding that covered the steering wheel. He was turning the key and nudging the gas pedal with a tease that the car responded to beautifully. She had an automatic transmission, but he’d already known that was the case and had deemed it something he could live with. Besides, a transmission could be replaced once he got her home and pulled a little money together.
“And that’s all you gotta do, baby,” Boyd told it, patting the seat beside him. “Just make it home.”