Status: Drafting the fourth book in the PERILOUS series!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Adventures with Mark and Tamara: Running out of gas

Some day in the future, I'm going to write a book chronicling the misadventures of a young married couple. It will be entirely fictional, of course. Here's a preview:

Tamara glanced at her watch and saw the minute hand ticking past the eight. She felt a rush of alarm. It was almost nine p.m., and she still had to drop off some of the kids from youth night, pick up her own kids, and head to Missouri.

"All right, out to the car," she said, baby carrier balancing on one arm while she ushered the kids out to car. She shivered in the five degree air, checking to make sure the pink blanket was secure around the baby. 

"Oh! I've got to use the bathroom!" the 16yo girl said, turning and running back into the church. 

"Okay!" Tamara called after her. "Hurry! We'll be right here!"

"Let's just leave her," the girl's brother said, jumping into the front seat.

Tamara didn't respond, though she did wonder why the girl waited until now to need the bathroom. She clicked the baby's carseat into place and climbed into the driver's side. How long did it take to use the bathroom?

The doors to the church flew open, and the girl came running out. Finally, out of the church parking lot.

The small group chatted comfortably while Tamara drove to a friend's house to pick up her other two kids. Of course the children didn't want to leave, and then they were hungry, and then they needed to use the bathroom. 

By the time she got them in the car, dropped the other kids off, and got on the road to Missouri, it was 9:20pm. And she still needed to get gas. Roads were a bit slick. I forgot to grab blankets, she thought. Her children were in pajamas with coats, but no blankets this time. She pulled up the gas station. Oh well. One tank of gas always gets us there and back. She had made this trip more times than she cared to count, after all.

She swiped her debit card and hooked the pump up to the car. Nothing. No signs indicated that the station was closed, but she saw someone else trying to go into the convenience store, and the man inside wouldn't open the doors. What, the gas station closed at nine today?

Getting back in the car, she drove across the street and filled up. Time was ticking by.

The three hour drive to Fort Leonard Wood felt like an eternity. The 2yo cried for the first hour and a half before finally giving up and going to sleep. As the time drifted past midnight, she fought to keep herself awake. I'll pluck all my nose hairs. That's usually painful. After half an hour, though, the tweezers were coming up dry, and she resorted to her old standby for staying awake: biting her fingers. Thank goodness Mark was driving on the way back.

She felt a burst of energy when she saw her husband. He was coming home for the weekend. And hopefully he'd have a different mode of transportation for the ride back! They switched places, and Tamara popped her contact lenses out, leaned her seat back, and fell asleep.

It wasn't exactly a deep sleep, but it was sleep. Two hours later, feeling rested, she sat up. "I forgot my glasses," she told Mark.

"I need to get gas," he replied. 

That was new. Tamara focused on the console and could make out the yellow light. "When did it turn on?"

"About ten miles ago." 

Tamara looked out the window at the blackness that surrounded them. She didn't think there were any gas stations between here and Joplin on I-44. "How far is Joplin?"

"Twenty miles."

That was cutting it close. Not wanting to alarm her husband, Tamara said confidently, "We'll make it. Just don't take the 71 exit; drive into the city."

"Are there gas stations there?"

"Sure there are." One time, Tamara had missed the 71 exit. But to be honest, she didn't remember what came after that. She reached around and turned off all the heat dials, in case that was draining the gas.

They drove past the 71 exit and continued on I-44. So did the nothingness. 

"We're not going to make it," Mark said, uneasiness in his voice. "This isn't good."

Tamara had to admit he just might be right. "It'll be okay. I have my emergency card and we'll call for help." Though that would mean sitting for forty minutes with no heat while they waited. Tamara kicked herself for not remembering the blankets. "What are those lights?"

"It's a gas station. But there's no exit."

Tamara stared woefully at the bright flashes as they drove past. Maybe they should stop the car and run across the interstate to buy a gallon.

"We're going to make it," Mark said, and Tamara noticed the change in his tone. 

"Did you see a gas station?"

"Yes. Next exit."

Tamara settled back into her chair, fully awake now. Mark filled the tank up, and when he came back in, Tamara let out a little chuckle. "Well. That was fun."

"No," Mark said, his voice tight. "No, it wasn't."

The End


Elisa said...

whew, glad ya'll made it! Running out of gas in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of winter... doesn't sound like fun AT ALL.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

hey! I never said this was about us! it's just eerily similar to us...okay, it was us.

Jemi Fraser said...

Gotta love car trips! So glad everyone (fictional and otherwise) survived! :)

Hillary said...

I'm with you (Or the very, tamara like, tamara in the story) I'd let out a sigh of relief and a giggle at the end knowing we now had gas and could continue on our way. However is tight voiced "no it wasn't could be an indicator that things are going to get worse maybe this sweet little family is in the middle of an earthquake as they struggle to get home and they end up stranded outside of the only town in miles and all the little men in the gas stations are just peering at them through the glass of there dark gas stations and won't let them in for the help they so desperately need! hmm.. just a thought :)

MaDonna Maurer said...

This totally reminded me of one of our adventures. We were traveling back to MO, too. We had been at a wedding in Ohio and kept driving to at least IL. Then, we started looking for hotels....No vacancies. It was pouring down rain and way past midnight. I think we traveled to near Jeff City, MO when we finally found a room at 5am. I was laughing and calling us "Mary and Joesph"...he didn't think it was that funny. I think we had been married a few weeks. LOL

Stephanie Faris said...

EEEK. Sounds like a great book! I read a book recently that advised that in order to create tension, we need to throw as many obstacles at our main character as we can...looks like you have that going for you!!!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

lol. No kidding, Stephanie. How about this? the baby wakes while getting gas, and cries the rest of the way home?

CL Beck, author said...

Cute story. Glad you ... er, I mean ... they made it okay. :)

Thanks for clicking to follow me on Networked Blogs. I clicked here to follow you, too.

Renae W. Mackley said...

I LOL at the plucking nose hairs part. Crises in someone else's life (someone fiction, of course) can be hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

Jannie said...

Oh, how I can relate :) So glad you guys made it! I LOVED your Christmas card! Thank you SOOO much for thinking of me and sending me one - I just loved it!!!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Jannie! Miss you more than you can know, woman! Still trying to plan a trip out that direction...

@Renae--so glad someone found that funny! i was worried maybe i put myself too out there...

nice to meet you, CL!

Kim said...

Ha! Don't know what you're writing about . . . can't relate . . . has never happened to me . . . ; )

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