Kevin and Esther’s drive back to Victoria was going even more quietly than the drive up, other than the continuous crunching of carrot sticks as Esther tried to relax from the tension and discomfort of the prison visit. Kevin opened his mouth a few times to try to start a conversation, but thought better of it each time. It was obvious Esther had a lot on her mind. Maybe it was better to just let her process it.
As they approached Mill Bay, the carrot crunching stopped. Kevin glanced over and saw Esther looking into the empty plastic container and sighing. “Out of carrots?” he said.
“Sure you don’t want any bacon?”
Esther looked out the window for a few seconds, then held the plastic container out towards him. “Yeah, fine. Bacon me.”
“Crispy or chewy?”
“Chewy will probably last me longer.”
Kevin held his hand out and concentrated briefly. Plip! The container was filled with several juicy, moist strips of bacon.
“Thanks.” Esther grabbed a strip, tore part of it off with her teeth, and began chewing again.
Kevin checked the gas gauge. The needle was pointing straight up: halfway empty. No, half full, thought Kevin. I could use some optimism today. He turned up the volume on the radio, but the hissing and static just increased. Every part of this car seemed to have something wrong with it…
They crested the Malahat and Kevin considered asking Esther whether she wanted to pull into a rest stop and enjoy the view for a bit. He turned his head and opened his mouth to ask, but she was munching furiously on the last strip of bacon and staring blankly at her feet, so instead Kevin just put his hand out and gave her a bacon refill. She smiled a bit to acknowledge the gift and resumed her chewing.
Kevin tapped the brakes as they hit a long downhill. He shifted down into fourth, and as the gears caught he felt Rosy’s engine sputter, then sputter again, then cough. He pushed in the clutch and revved the engine a bit. It did some kind of car engine equivalent of a dry retch and died completely.
“Um,” said Kevin. “That’s bad.”
“Hmm?” said Esther, looking up from her bacon and introspection.
Kevin wrestled the coasting car onto the side of the road and brought it to a stop. He turned the ignition a few times, but nothing happened.
“What’s wrong?” asked Esther.
“I don’t know. I’m not really much of a car person.”
“What should we do?”
“I’m going to call Andy.” Kevin hit the four-way flashers, popped Rosy’s hood, and got out. He could see this conversation with Andy going a little sideways, and figured he’d rather have it out of earshot of Esther. She didn’t need the added stress. He lifted the hood and propped it up. One look at the engine immediately confirmed what he had already guessed: he had no idea whatsoever what any of this stuff did.
He pulled out his phone and dialed.
“Hey man,” said Andy. “What’s up?”
“Oh, not much,” said Kevin sarcastically. “Just sitting on the side of the highway, staring at the engine of your dead car.”
“Rosy’s dead!? What did you do?!”
“What did I do? I was just driving along, and out of nowhere she just started sputtering and then died on me. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Did you gas up at all?”
“I checked the gauge five minutes ago and it said we had half a tank.”
Andy laughed. “Half a tank, eh?”
“You didn’t happen to check it when you left my place, did you?”
“…No, I don’t think so.”
“Well you had exactly ‘half a tank’ then, too. I thought I told you the gauge was broken.”
“No,” said Kevin, dryly. “You definitely did not.”
Andy was still laughing. “Sorry,” he chuckled. “My bad, my bad. But hey, look on the bright side: this means more time with Esther, right?”
Kevin sighed and hung up. He slammed the hood down and got back into the car.
“So?” said Esther.
“Andy never told me the gas gauge was broken. We’ve got an empty tank.”
“Oh, well that’s not so bad,” said Esther. “We can just hitchhike to Mill Bay and get a jerry can. Or worst case scenario we could walk, even. It would only take us a couple of hours there and back.”
Kevin thought about walking up and down these mountainous hills carrying a 25-pound can of gas. “Or,” he said, “we could call a taxi.”
“Nah, waste of money,” said Esther. “Come on, we’ll keep our thumbs out while we’re walking. I bet we’ll get picked up in 10 or 15 minutes. The fresh air will be nice, anyways.” She hopped out of the car and slung her purse over her shoulder, seeming far too enthusiastic about the whole situation.
Well, Andy was right. This was a chance to spend some extra time with her. Kevin just hoped he wasn’t coming across as too much of a wimp. “Okay, let’s walk it,” he said.
Esther was standing by the trunk, waiting for Kevin to join her. As he locked the doors, he heard a muffled bumping noise coming from Esther’s direction.
“Did you hear that?” said Esther.
“Yeah. What was it?”
“I don’t know. I think it came from the trunk.” Esther leaned down closer to the trunk. “Yeah, there it is again. We should check inside.”
Kevin came around and stuck the key in Rosy’s trunk release. “What the heck could he be keeping in there?” He popped the latch and raised the trunk.
There, flopping around like a fish out of water, was Andy’s left arm.
“Huh,” said Kevin. “Well I guess I should probably tell Andy I figured out where his arm went.”
Esther shook her head with a wry smile. “Your friend is so weird.”
Kevin shut the trunk again and fired off a quick text message to Andy to inform him of the discovery. Then he and Esther started walking.