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:
Chapter 41 - Aftermath: Part 2
After the last car had been towed and the last demonstrator, film producer, videographer, meter maid, and executive chef had left the block, Noah Pitt entered and exited the parking space in front of 1582 Chestnut Avenue. He did it fifteen times, and only stopped when he was absolutely certain that it was no longer surrounded by an impenetrable and invisible shield.
Then he said to Lilly Snow, “Let’s go.”
“I want to show you my office. We can pick up sandwiches along the way.”
What they spoke of as they drove the ninety-two blocks north and three avenues east would be of little interest to anyone but themselves. Lilly discovered that Ivanhoe was Noah’s favorite novel, and Noah discovered that Lilly was looking for a job. But when he offered her one as his office manager, she turned him down.
First he led her to the storage shed behind his office. He told her the name of each piece of equipment and explained what it could do. Then he brought her into his office and showed her the photo album that he and Amos had created of every structure they’d built on every job that they’d done. Noah called it his “baby book.” Finally, they sat across from each other at his desk and he regaled her with stories about himself and Amos at college and during their early years struggling to make a go of it as independent contractors.
As they ate their sandwiches, Lilly told Noah about growing up in the Midwest and coming to The Big City because she wanted to “gobble up every last morsel of life.”
They spoke of hopes, dreams, aspirations, and Noah’s father’s recipe for potato latkes.
Noah described for Lilly the plot of his favorite movie. The one about the wildcat oil man, the phony telephone book, and the exploding pickle barrel. He couldn’t remember the title as he had only seen it once when he was sixteen and was never able to find it again.
Lilly told Noah her favorite joke, which had no punch line, and was the only one she could remember: “Did you hear about the streetwalker in Venice who drowned?”
Noah groaned and said, “That’s funny.”
Then he yawned.
Lilly caught and returned the yawn.
They smiled at each other, and he said, “I’ll drive you home.”
“In the snowplow?”
“Of course not. I have a car.”
And so he did.
A very old Chevrolet, spotlessly clean on the inside, but with a sufficiently beat-up exterior to deflect thieves in the not-so-great neighborhood where the employees of Pitt-Goode Construction had to park their cars.
They drove to Lilly’s apartment building in companionable silence, Noah having forgotten that Lilly’s parking space – the one small speck of real estate in The Big City reserved for her and her alone – had disappeared.
Lilly said, “Just drop me off in front of my building, Noah. You’re exhausted, I’m exhausted, and there’s no need for you to park your car.”
But Noah shook his head.
“I may be belligerent, stupid, blind, and…what were those other character flaws you pointed out so emphatically?”
“Cold and aloof.”
“Right,” Noah nodded. “But my mother brought me up to be a gentleman. So…” He put a finger to his lips and stared through the windshield.
He drove down Chestnut Avenue from 86th to 82nd Street.
There was nowhere to park.
He turned East on 82nd Street.
South on Grove.
West on 81st Street.
North on Milburn.
East on 85th Street.
South again on Grove.
West on 84th Street.
And then, right on the corner of 84th Street and Chestnut Avenue, half a block from Lilly Snow’s apartment, there it was.
A parking space so serenely empty, it was as if it had been waiting for them.
Noah stopped for a red light at the intersection. He waited patiently for the light to turn green. Then he drove slowly across the street, planning to slip into the empty space like a hand into a glove.
Déjà vu all over again.
Something immovable, intractable, impenetrable, and (of course) invisible, prevented his car from moving forward. His front bumper stalled against the…whatever it was.
Noah shifted the Chevrolet into park, got out, and conducted an inspection of the space – hands out like a mime – exactly as he had done on the Tuesday before.
Lilly joined him outside the car.
She walked right into the space.
Also as she had done before.
Noah appraised the girl with the huge blue eyes and asked, “Can you drive?”
“I’ve never driven in Big City traffic, but I have a license.”
Noah tossed her his keys.
“Get behind the wheel.”
He opened the passenger side door, adjusted the seat for his longer legs, and sat.
Lilly did the reverse for the driver’s seat. She put the key in the ignition, started the car, and easily pulled in.
Noah said, “Evidently, your devoted parking space decided discretion was the better part of valor and found a new home.”
Lilly seemed to be having a hard time keeping her face straight, but responded, “A very sensible thing for it to do.”
In a voice that was both pedantic and professorial, he went on, “Once again, we seem to have a situation wherein an individual who does not possess a car has exclusive access to a parking space.”
“An invisible one.”
“So it appears.”
“A parking space so besotted by love that it is following this individual from block to block.”
The corners of Lilly’s mouth twitched, and she began to laugh.
Noah turned and looked directly into her impossibly large, impossibly blue eyes. Then he cupped Lilly’s chin with his right hand, leaned forward, and kissed her.
Half a minute later, he pulled away, grinning.
Lilly stared back at him, her heart thumping wilding and her eyes dazed.
Noah asked, “Are you all right?”
She shook her head. “Not at all. I feel like I’ve just been hit over the head with a fairy godmother.
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