Curbside Fiction: The One Way Passenger

(Author’s Note:  This is a prequel of sorts to a series of fictional tales I told way back in 2015 and 2016.  This installment has been trapped in my head for several years, which is a ridiculously long time, so it’s now out for public consumption.  Prior installments are linked below, although this episode could stand alone; this has a distinctly different, and grittier, feel than the others.  – JES)

Lewis Broderick was tired and in terrible pain as he sat on the couch watching television late Saturday night.  He was tired from the physical labor he had exerted that day and in significant pain because of Gene.

Fifteen year-old Lewis had developed the shell of his adult self but had not yet achieved his ultimate physical strength.  This temporary shortcoming had factored into the events that would ultimately transpire this fateful day.

That particular Saturday in June had started like most others.  Gene had abruptly and angrily shook Lewis into consciousness quite early that morning.  Lewis could not determine if Gene had already been drinking or if it was a continuance from last night.

It was Gene who could take credit for spurring Lewis into his lifelong habit of thinking and acting quickly.  Despite being engulfed in that uniquely teenage state of drowsiness, Lewis nearly jumped out of bed to get dressed so he could stay ahead of Gene.

The results of not doing so were quite unpleasant.  Lewis had long ago quickly discovered Gene’s quick temper and lack of self-restraint.

Gene was a callous abomination of a man whose actions regularly matched his bluster.  For weeks Gene had been talking about purchasing a garage door opener for his detached garage.  He had finally done so with the expectation Lewis would install it while he supervised.

Lewis knew the garage door opener would allow Gene to park inside and not have to stumble around in the dark to open an overhead garage door.  Lewis also knew the day’s work wasn’t limited to installation of the garage door opener; Gene was also wanting to run a water line to the garage.

It was nearing 6:15 am.  Lewis knew he needed to get a move-on before Gene got mad…yet again.  After quickly swallowing a piece of peanut-butter covered toast, Lewis grabbed a tile spade from the garage and started digging a trench from the house to the garage.  Thankfully the trench would only be about twenty feet or so.

Lewis had been provided no instruction about depth, so he took his best fifteen year-old’s guess, with the trench being about six inches deep.  He had just finished the trench when Gene appeared, beer in hand.

“What the hell is that?  That’s not a trench.  Don’t you have any sense?  Damn, but a trench needs to be at least eighteen inches deep.  You don’t want your water line to freeze!  What the hell, you stupid dummy!”

Keeping his poker face, Lewis did not say anything to the already inebriated Gene.  He simply started digging the trench deeper.

Lewis spent the next hour being showered with Gene’s wisdom.  Gene wasn’t picky about his topics; he’d lecture Lewis with whatever subject entered his increasingly intoxicated mind.  After editorials about such divergent things as growing watermelons and the new Nixon Administration, Gene finally settled on his official reasoning for the garage door opener.

“Lewis, I gotta tell you…I got me a good one, one that can’t be parked outside.  I’m so glad this garage is almost done.  That new Ford pickup I just bought is the perfect vehicle for me.  That blue is a great color and, best of all, it’s got that 300 big six.  I tell you, boy, there ain’t no engine as stout as a 300.  Easy on fuel and powerful, I don’t know why Ford even bothers to build anything else.  Somebody at Ford needs to wise up and start putting the 300 in LTDs…”

Experience had told Lewis to simply smile and nod.  As he was finishing up the trench, Gene had transitioned to a verbal dissertation on how turbine smooth the 300 was.  Lewis was focused on completion of these two jobs so Gene could take that 300 powered Ford to town and get even more shit-faced, Gene’s Saturday night tradition.

Gene had gone inside the house to grab more to drink when Lewis began laying out copper pipe for the water line.  Gene had purchased this copper about two weeks prior and had staged it inside the garage.  Lewis was nearly done when Gene reappeared.

“Dammit, boy!  Why the hell are you using that copper?  Christ, don’t you know anything?  Why did you use that copper?  Gimme an answer!”

Lewis spoke carefully.

“Gene, this is the water line you bought.  You said this is what was needed.  Remember when you…”

The sting of Gene’s giant hand across Lewis’s face took his breath away.

“Boy, don’t you talk to me that way.  You know I bought PVC and you are using this copper on purpose.  Now go around back and get my PVC.  You better be quick; we ain’t got all day.”

Fighting back his rage, Lewis went around behind the garage to fetch the plastic pipe he didn’t know existed.

When Lewis returned with the new water line, Gene lit into him again.

“Listen, you little smart-ass.  I am in no mood for any of your lip.  You just get some damn water flowing in here and hang that garage door opener.  My Ford pickup is going inside tonight and I won’t be getting out to open the door.”

The plumbing went easily and Gene soon fell asleep, making for a more peaceful work environment.  Soon, all Lewis had to do was hang the opener and plug it in.

Lewis, being fifteen, was in the midst of the awkward, uncoordinated phase of his physical development.  While a normal and natural thing, it was something Gene did not, or would not, comprehend.

When the time came to carry the assembly up the step ladder for mounting on the ceiling, Lewis’s balance was slightly off.  The lift mechanism slipped, with the corner of the box hitting the ground, putting a small dent into it.

Gene woke up and flew into a rage.  Bolting forward toward Lewis, Gene grabbed Lewis by the arm, turned him around and threw him against the wall.  The beating Gene then administered to Lewis is best described as vicious but not life-threatening.  Gene’s beating resulted in Lewis having a bloody nose, one eye nearly swollen shut, and two loose teeth.  Lewis would later suspect he had also experienced a cracked rib or two.

After a bit, Gene calmed down enough to bark at Lewis to get his garage door opener hung and operational.  With impaired vision, and eyes welling with tears, Lewis was able to quickly and, most importantly, correctly install Gene’s beloved garage door opener.  It worked flawlessly on the first attempt.

Gene was magnanimous enough to put batteries in the remote which would be kept in his Ford pickup.

After another beer while he incessantly raised and lowered the overhead door, Gene announced he was leaving for town and would be back later.  Gene departed the house in his Ford pickup at 5:35 pm and had not bothered to clean himself up from his administrations upon Lewis.

When Lewis lost sight of Gene going down the rural two-lane blacktop, Lewis took off his bloody shirt and pants out in the driveway, dumping them in the nearby trash barrel.  Discovering blood had soaked through his underwear, Lewis threw them into the trash also, walking back into the house naked.  In later years Lewis would view this as being a symbolic rebirth of sorts.

After spending a long time in the shower washing off his blood, Lewis painfully got dressed and made himself dinner.  He had not eaten anything since that slice of toast twelve hours earlier.

As it hurt to breathe, Lewis spent the evening on the couch watching NBC’s Saturday Night At The Movies.  Lewis knew not to expect Gene back before midnight but he stayed awake, because he needed to be.

Lewis had to fight his tiredness.  His aching and bruised body was screaming for rest, but Lewis knew that was not in the cards.  Yet.

At 1:30 am, Lewis saw the headlights from Gene’s blue Ford coming down the long, gravel driveway.  A few minutes later, not yet having heard Gene stumbling around, Lewis slowly and painfully went outside to the garage, seeing where Gene had miraculously managed to park that Ford perfectly.  As was sometimes the case, Gene was passed out.  However, unlike in previous weeks, Gene had left the headlights on and the engine running.  Lewis knew this would be easier than his original plan.

Lewis smiled to himself; it hurt less that way.  Ever so quietly, Lewis dryly stated “Enjoy your long nap, you worthless bastard.”

Reaching inside the walkthrough door, Lewis pressed the button to close the overhead garage door.  When the overhead door closed, Lewis then closed the walkthrough door and painfully smiled as he went back inside the house.

Prior Installments:

The Passenger

The Next Passenger

Without a Passenger

The Ferryboat Passenger

The Unwitting Passenger

The Inverse Passenger

The Explosive Passenger

The Absent Passenger