Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Route 1 South of Freeport, Maine

Thank God Clipboard Man had jacked a hybrid. I could keep up.  Still, he was about a third of a mile ahead of me.
Wonder what kind of mileage a hybrid gets in a car chase?
He kept passing vehicles -- which was very irritating, because that meant I had to.  At the last second he veered onto the I-95 southbound ramp, nearly spinning out as he made his move.  I followed -- and managed to keep at least one wheel on the ground.
A twenty-some kid with a backpack, Rasta hairstyle and cardboard sign ‘Anywhere South, Man’ waved as I flew past on the on ramp. 
I wonder if he'd hop in if I invited him on a car chase? 
I threw Rasta a wave and kept driving.  I flew down the ramp and onto the highway in front of a big rig.  Clipboard Man must have maxed the Prius; I'd lost ground and was almost a mile behind him. So I downshifted. The V8 engine protested as the RPMs near redlined, but the truck rocketed forward and we closed the distance.  Traffic was light.
Thank God.
Signs for Falmouth flew past.  We approached Portland in a blur. 
Wow, I had no idea this truck would do 91!
Clipboard Man's jacked hybrid skittered sideways as it entered the sweeping, curved bridge over Portland's back bay. He was fighting to keep the car on the road.  I slowed to avoid losing it.  Right as I came to the bridge was a sign for baked beans.
I love those beans! 
I looked over my shoulder at the sign on the bean factory smokestack.
Crap – bread truck!
The truck driver steered his rig onto the highway without checking his side mirror.  I swerved, missing him by inches. My truck’s pathetic horn tinned a blare at him.  I kept going as the bread truck slid sideways and spilled its load onto the highway.
I’m really hauling buns now.
I started laughing uncontrollably.   My horrible pun had triggered a near breakdown of laughter. Tears came to my eyes.  I actually snorted.
I snort?
My laughter started steaming up the windshield. I turned on the defroster in an attempt to keep it clear. The defroster was too slow. The windshield became a milky film with only a small crescent of clarity above the air vents.  I hunched down to see better. That didn't work.  So I rolled down the window and stuck my head out.
I could only imagine what other drivers thought when they saw a Prius being chased by an old truck with a laughing lunatic wearing a Burqa. 
A badly patched pothole jarred the truck. The jolt somehow switched on the radio.  The Beach Boys warbled "... then everybody'd be surfin' like Cal-i-forn-i-a!"
What kind of nutjob yells the lyrics to "Surfin’ USA" in a BURQA???
I lost sight of the Prius for a moment.  I-295 cut through Portland, past the minor-league baseball park, and out toward the airport.  A commuter plane roared overhead as I sang in my Burqa and searched for Clipboard Man ... there, going down the ramp to South Portland.
Everybody’s going Surfin’ …
I followed.
A bushy bushy blond hairdo …
He turned left despite the red light.
Inside outside USA … Inside outside USA
I ran the light too, just missing a station wagon.
Surfin’ USAaaa …
I played keyboards on my dashboard and drove with my knees for a second.
Clipboard Man knows where he's going. Why else go through South Portland?
He wove in, out and around traffic, often just missing oncoming cars.  Horns blew. Soundless obscenities flew at him and me behind angry windshields.
Inside outside USA … Inside outside USAaaaaaa
I was gaining on him. He veered right as we left South Portland – taking the shore road.
Where the hell is this guy going?
I downshifted.  The windshield was finally clear, so I rolled my window back up.
Everybody’s going surfin’ … Surfin’ USA
Now we were in Cape Elizabeth -- strictly upscale. Most of the angry drivers here were in Range Rovers or Mercedes.  The speeding Prius and my beater truck didn't look the part.  There – turning in at the – Portland Head Light?  
What the hell?
I followed him into the park where he stopped, jumped out, and took off running.  Feathers of snow dusted the lighthouse and keeper's quarters, but despite the weather and the late hour -- almost dark -- a few tourists strolled the grounds. 
I slid the truck to a stop and jumped from it in one motion.
I caught my Burqa on the Truck’s door handle and fell right on my face.
This style is never going to catch on.
My god, I pun even when I don't want to.
I ripped the gown – again – and climbed back to my feet.  There!  Clipboard Man was running down to the cobblestone beach.  I started after him and saw papers and stuff flying in his wake.
Clipboard Man did not realize he'd lost paperwork off his clipboard – he’s too busy getting Ass Outta Dodge! 
I bent over to pick up his tailings.
Something hit me from behind.  It rolled me over and sat on top of me.
“Honey, I got one of them MUSLIMS! He was making his move to blow up the lighthouse!!” A tourist bragged sitting astride me.
“Get the hell off me!” I yelled back.
“I got the terrorist! Call Homeland Security, Sweetie!!!” My proud captor shouted.  Then he slugged me on the jaw.
 “GET – THE – HELL – OFF – ME!” I repeated in a lower, more menacing tone.  My hands still clutched the papers.
This time he listened.  “You sound American, Mister,” he bleated.
Slowly, he hoisted his bulk off me.  I sat up and looked down the beach. I spotted Clipboard Man boarding a Zodiac-type rubber boat.  The boat backed its engine and pulled back and out into the bay. 
My jaw ached.
Damn – the fat tourist packs a punch.
“I called Homeland Security!” his wife whined.
“Honey …” the man said sheepishly.
The woman clunked down the rocks on 4-inch platform shoes.  “You Muslim people can rot in hell!” She whacked me over the head with her bag.
“OW!” I groaned and tried to shield myself.
“Honey, he’s American!” the man continued to protest.
“You TERRORIST!” she swung the bag back to hit me again.
“HONEY!” The man yelled at his wife.  She stopped.
I stood and stared at them as they stared back.  The woman continued to eye me and the man kept sneaking glances at her.  Just then the sound of a chopper rumbled over the water and a spotlight scanned around us, then pinned us.  A second chopper raced out to sea, its light scanning the waves.  A PA speaker blared from the first.
The air swirled around us as the chopper flared and landed up the hill from us.  Dark shapes erupted from it.  I looked over at the tackling tourist and his wife. Both had their hands in the air.  I was too tired for that and just stood waiting for the dark shapes.
As the shapes scrambled down the gravel path towards us I heard a voice I knew too well.
“I told you to WAIT FOR US!” Dolores appeared out of the twilight.  Armed men flanked her in SWAT gear.  She stormed up to me and smacked me on the shoulder.
“That’s for making me worry about you!”
She whacked me again on the side of my head.
“And that is for disobeying me!” she continued.
The wife chimed in, “I hit him too!” Maybe she thought she could score points.
“Shut up!” Dolores snapped. The woman quailed and hid behind her husband.
“Come on, Jake. You,” Dolores eyed me “... have a lot of explaining to do.” She took me by the arm. 
Gently this time.
One moment she whacked me, the next mothered me.
Yep, that was Dolores.
“Get this man an ice compress!” She ordered the SWAT team.  They were afraid of her, too, and scrambled to obey.  The husband and wife stood there like bobble-head dolls, looking from me to Dolores, to the armored team to the helicopters.  At least they had the sense not to follow us.
We walked up to the chopper where lights bathed us.  She looked me up and down.  “You look like hell.  And this dress!  Ugh!  It makes you look fat!” 
She held the instant cold pack to my head. 
“Lordy!  You thought you could disguise yourself as a woman with those hairy hands?”
My jaw hurt. I must have sprained my knee when that man tackled me because I was limping. My head and shoulder ached from where Dolores had whacked me. 
But I had managed to palm Clipboard Man's abandoned stuff into the hidden pockets of my Burqa. So I kept my mouth shut.
The lighthouse shone its beacon through the dark.