Drive-By, A Free Short Story to Read Online

Image courtesy of  Open Clipart-Vectors via Pixabay.
 I remember the last time I felt a curious man’s eyes fall on me and linger. When I was younger, I would have called it “checking me out.” I’m not sure what sure what kids today would call it. It was a glorious, sunny afternoon in Michigan’s upper peninsula, and I was driving a convertible.

The top was down, of course—I’d always thought it should be a punishable offence for a convertible-owning Michigander to drive with the top up when the weather was good. I’d forgotten my usual ball cap—my curly red hair restrained instead by a black ponytail elastic—and the sun was hot on the top of my head, a welcomed contrast to the relentless cool breeze the lake sent forth as evening approached.

I was heading downstate from a weekend at my parents’ cabin, and, as usual—though I’d made the drive some two dozen times over the course of their summers away—I’d gotten turned around. I found myself driving through a quaint small town. The homes were all very old. Some were showstoppers, with scalloped slate shingles, shutters with hearts cut into them, and thin-spindled porches. Others, stunning in their own right if only for their excellent condition, were blocky, solid farmhouses, their porches plantation-style columned numbers.

It was on one of these wide, shady porches that my ogler sat. I spotted him in my periphery as I rolled to the stop sign at the intersection of the town’s main street and the thoroughfare I was fairly certain would take me back to the highway. My mind formed a picture of the onlooker. An older man, assuredly, taking shelter from the relentless sun in the cool recesses of the porch, likely sitting on a rocking chair, or even a straight backed chair, leaned against the wall.

Or a younger man, I thought, or, perhaps, hoped, relaxing on the porch after a long day of work, watching the pretty girls drive by in their convertibles. I imagined a beer in his hand. I tried not to imagine a woman inside, getting supper on the table.

I wanted to look back. I wanted to determine, with certainty, what the man’s age was, and what sort of chair it was he sat upon. I dared not, however, for fear I would meet the eyes of a man old enough to be my grandfather, and reveal my own crooked teeth and too-large nose, thereby destroying the magic of the moment for us both.

The radio was too loud, I thought, harsh and screeching, all crashing drums and whining guitars—hardly the soundtrack for a bubbly redhead in a peppy two-seater convertible. I frowned as I considered the impression my music was making on the man who watched me from the porch. I hadn’t been giving it much thought as I drove, the summer wind originally carrying my thoughts away to the shoreline of the Saint Mary’s River—musings which had been responsible for my current geographical predicament.

I endeavored now to turn the radio down, careful not to move my shoulders and thereby destroy the illusion of the carefree convertible driver. I slid my arm forward and twisted the knob with my fingers. Once I thought the volume more acceptable, I fiddled with the buttons to provide a more appropriate soundtrack to accompany my journey through this picturesque town.

My fingers found “Boys of Summer” and I smiled, easing back subtly in the seat of the cruiser. I even kicked the sandal off my left foot, then brought it up to perch on the edge of the seat, my left knee up between my chest and the steering wheel. I propped my left elbow up on the door frame and fussed with my hair. I imagined how I looked in the eyes of the man on the porch, who could only see my most fetching features—narrow, rounded shoulders, slender arms, prominent cheekbones, delicate jawline. Summer beauty, I thought, and smiled.

Traffic was clearing. I would soon make the left turn that would carry me far from this intersection, far from the man who appreciated me from under the porch. As I readied to make the turn, I could resist no longer; I looked back over my left shoulder. There, in the shadows of the otherwise empty porch, sat a tall, broad, potted plant.