Help wasn’t coming. With no chance of rescue, Andrew knew he was hopelessly stranded. As he sat there in the dark by himself, his mind began to replay events of the past, and he accepted the inevitable outcome of his current, desperate situation: he was not going to make it home alive. He had survived the landing at Normandy, and three months of brutal fighting across Europe, only to die pointlessly here tonight. Somehow, he had become separated from his unit in the panic and confusion of war, and now the sad waste of it all began to fully sink in. Andrew was frightened, and he lamented under his breath, “I just want to go home. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
A voice from someone unseen in the opaque darkness brought him out of his despair, “You’ll be home soon enough. It should only be a few more minutes.” It was his friend, Alice, reminding him that his memories were from 77 years ago. Andrew could barely make out Alice’s face. She was partially lit by the massive Walgreen’s sign that hung from the store in front of them, and his cataracts, like a greasy fingerprint on a camera lens, surrounded everything with a fuzzy halo. The sign was so bright that it fooled the local birds into thinking it was daytime; they flapped and flitted about the parking lot, like old women in a discount clothing store.
Andrew and Alice sat alone in the car together, solemnly waiting for what seemed like an eternity. To pass the time, Alice recounted a war story of her own. “I remember when I was stationed in Paris, and that poor boy lay dying on on the street after the attack, his body crushed and broken. I held his hand and patted his head to soothe him, but I knew there was nothing that could be done to save him. The poor thing barely knew what hit him.”
“Don’t you remember, Alice?” It was Bob speaking from the backseat of the vehicle. The scratchy voice startled Alice, for she had microscopically forgotten he was there. “It was your car that hit him, and it was just yesterday, in Milpitas. You would have missed the bugger if you hadn’t swerved over the curb to get to the sidewalk at the last moment.” He added with a slight chuckle, “It was a good piece of driving, that was.”
Indignantly, Alice retorted, “Well of course, I remember! I hit him! What I said was, he didn’t know what hit him, since he didn’t see me coming up on him from behind. That will teach him for driving his bicycle home from school on the sidewalk like he was. Well… it certainly would have if he had survived. I wonder what took the ambulance so long to arrive? Which one of you called 911?”
Andrew and Bob exchanged blank face stares for a moment before looking back at Alice. They all laughed in unison as they realized that nobody called 911 because they each thought the others had. Nearly breathless from laughter, Bob spoke next. “We waited there for 45 minutes, telling everyone that help was on the way, and it never was!” After several minutes, the laughing eventually subsided, and the interior of the vehicle once again drew silent.
Andrew, Alice, and Bob were waiting alone, together, in front of Walgreen’s, in the dark of the fully lighted parking lot, when yet another voice spoke out from the backseat. It was Charlie! He hadn’t said a word for several hours, so his verbal outburst surprised the other three occupants of the vehicle. “I wonder, what is taking Martha so long? She just had to pick up some ointment, but it has been nearly seven minutes since she went in there. I hope nothing is wrong; she has the keys.”
Sensing the concern in his voice, Alice reassured him, “There, there, Charlie. Patience. Everything is fine. She’s picking up prescriptions, and you know how slow Walgreen’s is for prescriptions. They always want to explain how to apply your bum cream, as if it’s your first time at the show. Martha survived the war all those years ago, living in Virginia like she did, with her family and all. She can handle a little sass from a Walgreen’s pharmacy assistant.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” replied Charlie, though he seemed not entirely convinced that the corollary between staying at home during war time and dealing with a truculent pharmacist, or their assistant, at Walgreen’s was appropriate. As he was about to voice his protestations, Martha came out of the store. “There she is,” Charlie said. He unlatched and pushed the car door open for her.
Martha climbed in to rejoin the others, all of them alone, together, in the dark of the lighted parking lot, each waiting for the sweet release of a death they would not be experiencing tonight. Then, Greg leaned slightly forward, drew a short, sharp breath as if about to speak, but before he could utter a word, Andrew, Alice, Bob, and Charlie, all together and all at once, interjected:
“Shut up Greg! We are sick and tired of your goddamned bullshit!”