Shaking his head, Oscar walked into the store, looking for his publisher and the other authors. He found them gathered in a comfortable area near the back of the store. There were several upholstered chairs and a coordinating loveseat arranged in a cozy manner. Most of the authors were sitting down sipping different teas. The store sold every imaginable tea as well as books. Oscar fell in love with the environment as soon as he walked in.
Patrick, his publisher, came forward with his hand extended. “Great you could make it, Oscar! Let me introduce the gang.” He went around the group introducing the others proudly, a wide grin on his face. “So that’s the rest of our little family,” he chuckled.
The store opened a few minutes later and customers dribbled in at first, then more as the morning wore on. Several of them stayed as the authors read excerpts from their books. All of them were well received. Oscar sold six books. Feeling elated, he talked several minutes to a pair of elderly ladies who were thinking of buying the books for their reading group.
A piercing, annoying whine filled the air. A customer who was just walking through the door, glanced at the parking lot over his shoulder. “Someone’s car alarm,” he pointed. “That white Prius.”
Cursing rather more loudly than he intended, Oscar ran outside. The remote refused to work from the doorway. He had to walk over to the car and use it less than four feet away. Muttering darkly, he walked back inside to apologize, but the women had chosen another book instead. Giving him dubious glares, they left quickly.
“Oscar, what’s wrong with you?” Patrick asked him, eyes concerned.
“That car will be the death of me!”
He told the whole sordid tale. By the end of it, he had quite an audience of customers and authors alike. Everyone listened with rapt attention.
“I feel like the dumb thing is out to get me,” he finished lamely.
Patrick, who was a former counselor, put his arm around Oscar’s shoulders. “You know that’s delusional, right? This isn’t one of your spine tinglers, Oscar. This is real life. In real life, cars don’t have a personality and the GPS doesn’t reprimand you for going the wrong way.”
“I know that, Patrick. I can’t help how it feels, can I?”
“I guess not. Have Jim brew you a cup of that relaxation tea. Have a seat and drink it. It will help you calm down. I’ll lead you to the next venue.”
“Thanks, Patrick. I’ll do that.”
He sipped the relaxing brew, letting his eyes drift shut. He didn’t realize, until Patrick woke him, that he’d fallen asleep. It was time to leave for the next venue. Feeling somewhat better after his nap, he got in the car. He turned it on, not setting the GPS. Patrick pulled up and he followed him out of the parking lot.
“Calculating route,” the GPS said in a chilly voice.
“I didn’t set you. You’re not supposed to be working.”
Stopped at a light, he fiddled with the GPS, but the light changed before he made any progress. Trying to keep his eyes on Patrick in the heavy traffic, he ignored the GPS until the next light. Satisfied that it was off, he waited for the light to change. The car stalled. Cursing, he fought to restart it, but it was being stubborn. Honking accompanied his attempts and Patrick pulled away, oblivious to the fact that Oscar wasn’t following him.
The car started up on its own, hurling him into oncoming traffic as the light changed at the intersection. Spinning the wheel, he got back in his lane, accompanied by the shouts, honks and finger gestures from other drivers.
“Sorry!” He called to no one in particular. “I’m from out of town!” He caught up with Patrick at the next light. His phone rang.
“Thought I’d lost you, buddy.”
“Car’s being a pain in the butt, Pat.”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Keep going.”
“Okay. Call if you need me.”
“Yeah.” He hung up, tossing the phone on the passenger’s seat.
“You aren’t even supposed to be on, you stupid, sorry, crappy, piece of …. Shit!” The car stopped dead in the middle of the intersection. “Oh, no! What’s going on?”
Nothing he did this time would restart the car. He sat there, holding up traffic from all roads, desperately trying to restart the car. A police officer pulled up a few minutes later. Oscar’s automatic window refused to go down. He mimed that he needed to open the door. The police officer stepped warily away from the car.
“I’m sorry,” Oscar began. In a shaking voice he explained his problem.
“Won’t start, huh?” The officer looked angry, turning red in the face as the car purred to life.
“I swear! It was totally dead. It got hit by lighting last night. It’s been acting up every since.”
“Just get out of my intersection,” the cop growled. “Move it! Now!”
“Yes, sir. I’m moving!” Hopping back in, he fastened his belt and took off. “Dammit, now I’ve lost Patrick.” He tried to call, but the phone, which had been fully charged that morning, was totally dead.
Desperate, he set the GPS. “Calculating route,” the cheery voice greeted him. “Right turn in .5 miles.”
“Well, at least it’s working at the moment – I hope.” He followed the GPS which seemed to be on the right track. Less than three miles from his destination, it directed him off the main road onto a side road.