Shelly Reuben’s new novel is about … well, we’ll let you find out for yourself as we weekly serialize the chapters. If you miss one, get back up to speed with our article archive. Now, welcome to:
Parking Space: A Love Story!
By Shelly Reuben
Chapter 18 - A Tentative Hypothesis
Amos took two aspirin, and Lilly made more hot chocolate. Burgess got two bags of frozen peas out of the freezer, gave one to Amos, and held the other against his nose. And Noah Pitt asked Lilly Snow to describe exactly what she had done the morning before.
I won’t repeat all that she said here, because you’ve heard it before. But for a quick recap: Lilly got off the bus, started down the sidewalk, switched to the street, and continued down Chestnut Avenue until a speeding car almost ran her down. Which was when, to save herself, she jumped into the empty space in front of her future home.
She went on to describe how happy she was to be in The Big City and how, unable to control her exuberance, she had launched into her “Lilly Snow in the snow” song and dance, to the applause of friendly passersby.
“Were you actually inside the parking space when all this happened?” Noah asked, his face inscrutable.
“All ‘this’…” Lilly repeated in a tone that mocked what she thought was disapproval. “As in my happy dance?”
“Yes, Mister Cranky Snowplow Driver, I was inside the parking space.”
“Between the curb and the street, where people park their cars?”
Lilly rolled her eyes. “I know what a parking space is, and I know when I am in one.”
“And you were?”
“Yes. Yes. And yes.”
“In front of the building? In front of this building?”
Lilly said, half annoyed and half amused. “In front of this building. In this city. In this country. On this planet. Orbiting this solar system. In the Milky…”
Noah held out his hands in surrender.
“Sorry. I get it.” Then, still leaning forward and his voice still urgent, he asked, “What happened next?”
She stared back at him. “You are an extremely annoying individual.”
“I know. Go on.”
Lilly closed her eyes to summon the memory. When she reopened them, her big blue eyes became bigger, rounder, bluer, and to Noah’s great regret, even more engaging.
She took a deep breath, exhaled mightily, and said, “Then a car tried to ram into me.”
“A car tried to ram into me.”
“When? Where? How? Be specific. Be exact.”
Lilly shook her head as if she weren’t going to answer. But she did.
“After I finished singing, a horn honked so loudly and so close to where I was standing that it scared me half to death.”
“What kind of a car?”
“Bronze four-door sedan.”
Mouse Meekly, his jaw tight and his eyes narrowed, said, “Hector Van Hooft drives a bronze four-door sedan.”
Noah nodded at Burgess, but continued to press Lilly. "What time did all this happen?”
She furrowed her brow. “Let’s see… I got off the bus at seven-fifteen.”
“Yes. And by the time I did my happy dance, it must have been between seven-thirty and seven-forty.”
“That was when the bronze sedan revved its engine and honked?”
“Yes. The car jerked back and forth like a bull pawing at the dirt before it attacks.”
“The driver gunned his engine again, and I was afraid that it was aiming at me.”
Burgess muttered, “Jerk.”
“I turned back and saw the car bolt forward. I leapt up on the sidewalk, but instead of it following me in, it bounced, or seemed to, away from the parking space like a giant beach ball bouncing off a wall.”
Noah pursed his lips.
“By then,” Lilly went on, “I could see the driver’s face. He was bald, wore eyeglasses, and was in a rage. He yanked open the car door, jumped out, dashed around the engine compartment, and ran toward the parking space. Then – just like his car – he bounced off it and landed on his rump.”
“What time was that?”
“Oh…I guess…pretty close to seven-forty-five.”
Burgess said, “That’s when I’m supposed to pull out every morning for work. But yesterday morning, my alarm clock was off by an hour, so I left early.”
“About seven a.m.”
Noah dropped his elbows to his knees, cupped his chin in the palm of one hand, and for a long few seconds, gazed thoughtfully at nothing. He turned to Burgess.
“You say you pulled out at seven?”
His eyes shifted to Lilly. “And you got off the bus at seven-fifteen?”
“You did your song and dance at around seven-thirty?”
“And Hector tried to ram into you at a quarter to eight?”
Noah raised his head and said, “That leaves forty-five minutes between when Burgess pulled out and Hector tried but failed, to pull in.” He looked, one at a time, into the eyes of Burgess Meekly, Amos Goode, and Lilly Snow. “And during those forty-five minutes, some unidentified force from the fifth-dimension or the Twilight Zone transformed a normal parking space to one that defies nature.”
Noah sighed and said, “From which series of events, I humbly admit that I can deduce nothing.”
Amos Goode’s nose had stopped bleeding, and Lilly noted for the first time that both the Director of the Department of Public Works and Noah Pitt were big, well-built, and handsome men.
Amos said, “You’re wrong.”
Noah grumbled, “About what?”
“That we can’t deduce anything from what happened.” He paused for a reflective few seconds. “Do you remember when we went to college?”
Noah chuckled. “An abortive attempt.”
Amos said. “You studied mechanical engineering.”
“I studied comparative religion.”
“And ever since then, I’ve have a soft spot for the unproven and the unprovable. Religion, fairytales, folklore, myths...magic.”
Noah grinned. “Pulling rabbits out of hats?”
Amos shook his head. “More like Atlas holding the world on his shoulders, and Athena popping full grown out of the head of Zeus.”
Burgess Meekly asked, “You seriously believe all that stuff?”
“I do. And I don’t. Usually, I don’t. But today, I do.” He walked to the living room window and looked outside. As with the window in Lilly’s apartment, it overlooked Chestnut Avenue. Noah, Lilly and Burgess joined him at the window, and all four gazed down at the parking space that was causing so much consternation.
Amos said, his eyes on Lilly Snow’s footprints, “I think we can all agree that there is an invisible shield around this parking space.”
Three heads nodded.
“I also think…” But he did not finish the sentence.
“What?” Noah insisted.
Amos shook his head. “I can’t say it aloud because it will sound preposterous.”
Noah’s mouth twisted into a rueful smile. “Today preposterous is the norm. Do your worst.”
“All right.” He said, and turned to Lilly. “I believe that yesterday morning, when you entered that inanimate expanse of asphalt on which you danced and sang, it was so beguiled by your youth and joy that it…the parking space…fell in love with you.”
Noah coughed into his fist.
And Burgess began uncontrollably to blink.
Amos went on, “I also believe that since the parking space knows – of course it knows – that parking in The Big City is at a premium and people will kill for a space, it is manifesting its love for you by preventing anyone else from parking there.”
Lilly thrust back her head in alarm. “But I don’t even have a car!”
Noah said, “One of life’s little ironies.”
And Amos added, “Nobody ever said that love has to make sense.”
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2021. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com