Colby Applegate moved from Illinois to Orlando, Florida, to study creative writing at Full Sail University. His hobbies include watching wrestling and playing the drums. He also enjoys writing blogs at colbyscollections.wordpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ColbyJBlaze.
ESCAPING THE STORM
My car was officially out of gas. My clothes were soaked from profusely sweating. My phone went dead a few hours prior. The highways were clogged up with angry, selfish drivers. To make matters worse, the land was engulfing the sky’s giant fireball, which meant my time was even more limited. I should have seen this coming though. This is what I wanted. I desperately wanted a change of scenery. An escape. And now that I’m out here on my own, with no help whatsoever, a monster is coming for us all. Where can I un-sign up for adulthood?
Reality began to set in – hitch hiking was my only option. For a split second, I contemplated whether I feared that or death more. I got up off the ground to gather what I had left from the car. The sweltering heat smacked me in the face as I scrambled to grab all of the loose change or dollar bills I could find. After slamming the door shut and taking a deep breath, I kept my eyes closed while turning to face the crawling traffic. I raised my right arm, with only my thumb pointing to the sky, and opened my eyes. At least that’s what I thought hitch hikers did in movies…
What felt like an eternity was, of course, only five minutes. I evaluated many of the drivers that passed, some of which made eye contact, but showed no pity for this poor kid. I could see a rusty, beat up truck approaching. I had mentally placed that vehicle under the “cars I would like to avoid” category, but alas, the driver was pulling over. The window dropped down to reveal a white-haired man was behind the wheel.
“Going somewhere?” he asked.
“I’d rather not,” I replied with attitude before realizing that was probably a wrong move.
“Oh, well, all right then, kid. Good luck.” The man shifted into drive.
“Wait! I’m sorry. Uh, yeah. I’m trying to get out of here before she takes us out,” I replied while nodding towards the south.
“You’re new to the sunshine state, aren’t ya? I’m Bill, now get in.” He immediately began cranking his window up, assuming I would follow his order.
Before walking around to the passenger’s side, I took one last glance towards the north at the long line of traffic, and then towards the south again, where gray clouds were beginning to appear. I buckled in, and we sat in silence for at least a half hour.
“Got a name, son?” Bill asked
I cleared my throat before muttering, “Sam.”
“Well, Sam, you’re awful quiet.” He paused. “I don’t bite.”
“Why’d you pick me up?” I snapped a little too quickly.
Bill chuckled. “You were on the side of the road with your thumb up. I assumed you weren’t just congratulating everyone for trying to evacuate.”
“Yeah, trying. It’s too late.”
“Hey, I just wanted to help. It’s not like my truck is full or anything.”
I let his words sink in before glancing back to see the bed was empty, with only one backpack bouncing in a corner. While looking back, I couldn’t tell if the clouds were approaching faster, or if the sun had officially sunk. Either way, it was dark and I could barely keep my eyes open. I laid my head back and instantly passed out.
“Son of a--” Bill muttered before letting out a sigh that indicated defeat. We pulled off onto the side of the road. This scene was all too familiar to me just hours ago. Except this time, the pouring rain had arrived.
“What the hell happened?” I asked while trying to get a sense of where we were.
“Just blew a rear tire, lad. Go back to sleep. We’re gonna be here a bit.” Bill exited the truck to begin evaluating how he was going to put the spare tire on in the wet dark. I rubbed my eyes, yawned, and then followed.
“Don’t worry, Sam, I’ll figure it out,” Bill said as I approached.
“I figured I could do something since you were nice enough to rescue me.”
Bill grabbed his backpack and began feeling around frantically. “Damn it!”
“What?” I knew this could not be good.
“I didn’t grab my tools when I left home.” Bill threw his bag back into the bed. He attempted to wipe his face on his soaked shirt and then looked up at me with a grin. “Let’s get back in.”
We hopped into the truck again, which prompted me to ask, “Now what?”
Bill let out a laugh before saying, “This reminds me of the time my grandfather’s old truck broke down in the mountains outside Denver.”
“You’ve been to the mile-high city, huh?” I was suddenly curious.
“Yeah, I was born and raised in Denver. Where are you from?”
“About an hour northwest of there. Boulder.”
Bill glowered and turned his head towards his window. I couldn’t tell if he was saddened by our situation or the conversation. In an attempt to change the subject, I made the remark, “I wish I had stories to share about my granddads.”
“Oh, yeah? What happened to them?”
“My father’s father died when my dad was my age. And apparently my mother’s father, William, left right before I was born. She said he took off in the middle of the night, and only left behind a note saying he needed an escape. I was always told that my eyes looked just like his.”
“Oh. Well, do you ever feel like, you know, you need an escape?” Bill asked.
“Yeah, actually. That’s why I came to Florida.”
Bill turned to me and muttered, “So did I.”
As my ocean blue eyes met his, the wheels in my head clicked. Thunder roared above. Irma, and my own personal storm, was upon us.