Excerpt from novel
by Amy Platon
At seven o’clock, Clair got a knock at the door. She looked out her window and was surprised to see that it was Edie, peering over her shoulder. Clair grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
“Oh good, you’re ready. Come on, I got us a ride.” Edie motioned for Clair to follow her. “Out front!” she said in a half-whisper.
Clair turned out her hall light and the two rushed toward the steps. Clair barely had time to lock the door behind her.
She turned to Edie, who was waiting for her. Once Clair caught up, the two headed for the parking lot. Clair followed closely, while Edie, holding a set of keys, led them toward the end parking spaces.
Clair stopped. “Which one?” She demanded.
Edie stopped at a parked golf cart, and got in. Clair noticed that the golf cart was the Holiday Park security cart…Bill’s security cart. Clair peeked under the canopy at Edie, who had already started it.
“Edie? Where did you get this? It’s Bill’s cart!”
“He spends the night with Carol every time he works the second shift, he’ll never miss it.” She said as she adjusted the rearview mirror.
“You stole it?!”
“The keys were in the ignition, and we’re are only borrowing it. Now get in before someone sees us.”
Clair rolled her eyes, and took the passenger seat. “Oh, great!”
She sat with her knees together, hugging her new purse in her lap. She was like a nervous child clinging to her bedtime blanket.
Edie put the cart in reverse and let off the break. The women were thrust backward. Edie then overcorrected by pressing hard on the break. Clair’s body did its best to keep up with the frantic motion of the cart.
Edie, overrun by determination, put the cart in forward drive then took off toward the back of the parking lot. Clair bounced backward a bit. Her arms flew up and out in different directions as she scrambled for a handle to hold on to.
Her purse fell to the floorboard between her feet. Her right hand was clung to the edge of the canopy. Her left was grasping a vinyl handgrip that was sewn into the seat between her and Edie.
It was clear that Edie had little experience driving golf carts, but at this point Clair was just praying that the two wouldn’t have an accident or roll over. Her next concern was where Edie was taking them.
“Edie, there’s no exit this way!”
“We’re going the back way.”
Neither of them had a clue as to what this night had in store. They just drove on, hair parted by the wind that whipped over the short windshield. Clair had to blink hard behind her plastic saucer glasses to keep her eyes moist. Eyes that were fixed forward trying to make out the tree stumps in the dark woods ahead of them.
Then she did it. Edie jumped the curb. Clair could feel the wheels spin freely as the cart jumped from the pavement. When they landed it caught traction unexpectedly. They kicked up some grass and it sent the cart into some side-to-side motion that jiggled Clair’s body and nearly knocked her glasses off. They were caught somehow by the tip of her nose. Edie drove on aiming for the narrow sporadic walking path ahead of them.
"Edie we'll never fit!" Clair let out in an I-want-out scream.
Before she knew it, they were deep in the woods with low lit front beams barely lighting their way. The exposed roots and uneven land made the ride like being in some made for TV weight loss contraption. Clair could hear the contents of her purse rattling on the floor board but she couldn't risk letting go of her strap to get it.
Somehow the two made it out the other side of the pine needle track. It spit them out at the back of the strip mall that housed their destination, Dumpling Night at "The Arcade.”
The glare of the parking lot lights reflected off of Clair’s glasses as she looked in Edie’s direction in shock over what she had just put her through.
Edie eased up behind the building and parked the golf cart.
Clair emerged to solid ground. Then she leaned in again to collect her belongings from the floor of the cart and placed them back in her purse, which she would be sure to zipper before the ride back home.
Edie fixed her hair in the long rearview mirror then walked around the cart to Clair’s side. She waited as Clair composed herself. Edie walked toward the building… as calm as if all of that chaos was in the plan. Clair's body was numb from all the vibration. She did her best to straighten her hair as she followed Edie to the front of the building.
The storefront of The Arcade was tinted black. Neon signs read “The Arcade” and “Game House.” This perfectly legal concept had a grungy black market feel. Clair thought they needed a special knock and handshake to get in. But Edie just pulled on the metal ribbed door handle. The door cracked as she stretched it open for Clair. Once inside, Clair saw that the Arcade was laid out like a casino. Slots lined the walls and other electronic games were grouped randomly in the center of the floor. It was low lit and the sounds of winning slots filled the cool damp air. The sweet salty aroma of chicken and dumplings also competed for Clair’s attention.
Clair followed Edie to the counter where a fat old woman sat like a club bouncer. Her cigarette ashed as she spoke, "Need a card?"
The woman was perched behind what looked like a jewelry case with a register on top. Edie explained that Clair could trade her winnings or points for gift cards or trade them in for items in the case. It was a Chuck-E-Cheese for seniors. Instead of stickers, toys, and candy, it was a sea of dollar store quality items and things like plates, silverware, perfume, ceramic dolls, glassware, and simple jewelry. Clair was more interested in the gift cards than the case prizes.
The woman at the counter charged up their cards and the two were off to play like they were in Vegas.
Clair pasted on a smile, “Where’s the restroom?” She pointed her cigarette toward the back of the game room as the flesh under her arm swung, almost waiving goodbye.
Clair turned to Edie, “I have to pee and you’re coming with me.”
“I have to go too.”
The two ladies Pac-Manned their way through the maze of machines to the back hallway that was labeled Restroom. Raw tube lights in the ceiling made Clair's eyes squint. They entered the women’s room and each took one of the two stalls. Clair hung her purse on the door. “Are you sure Bill’s not going to miss his cart?” She said as she positioned a disposable cover over the toilet seat.
“He doesn’t come out until morning when he stays with her.” Edie reassured her.
As they began to relieve their bladders, Clair asked, “Do you think $60 a good amount for the card?”
“I put $100 but $60 should be fine, if you start winning.”
Clair laughed, “Edie, pass me some toilet paper, would you, this one’s out.”
Edie reached into the bottom of her toilet paper cover-contraption and only felt a cardboard role. “Shit, this one’s out too!”
Clair inhaled, “UH, wha-do we do?” as her voice echoed in her stall. “What do you have in your new purse?”
Clair shuffled through it, “Nothing, just my wallet, checkbook, and keys.”
“Pass me a check Clair.”
“Oh my God, Edie, I’m not giving you a check. We’re just gonna have to drip-dry.”
“I don’t have that option Clair, I need something, and that’s all we’ve got.”
Clair put her head back. She looked up at the ceiling, hoping for a better idea. “You NEED something?”
“Well, with all the bouncing around we were doing, I guess…. Please Clair?”
“Oh, alright.” Clair folded a check at the perforation, tore it neatly, and handed it to Edie under the stall.
“Fine. What’s the check number? 306?”
“You’re putting it in your ledger?”
Edie looked down at the check, “And you voided it Clair?”
“Hey, you never know these days Edie, people can steal your identity with the information on a check.”
“I don’t think you need to worry about this one Clair, it’s the ultimate void!”
Perfect Circle (Bingo Night)
Cracked (Grocery Run)