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June 6, 2008

Katie & Armando, Part III

Don't forget to enter the sweepstakes to win a pile o' books. Winners will be announced on Monday!

Have a great weekend!!

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Before: Katie & Armando I | Katie & Armando II

They drove in silence toward the border separating Mexico from the Unites States, separating real life from vacation life. Separating her old self from her new self. The traffic had begun to slow some five miles back and now the cars inched slower and slower, until they were in view of the distant white border patrol booths. Traffic slowed to a crawl, stopped for minutes at a time. Armando looked over at her during one of these periodic stops, idling the car and said, “Let’s switch.”

“Switch what?” Katie asked.

“You drive.” said Manny. He saw the question before she spoke, and answered. “It’s easier for a nice little white lady to take a drive across the border with a Mexican friend than the other way around.”

So she slid over him while the truck was in neutral, and in her mind the scene would have been sexier than it really was, but for some reason she wasn’t on edge with excitement and daring. She wondered where the exhilaration was, the goosebumps and insane happiness she had expected. She thought maybe it was because they were still in the car on this side of the invisible line separating her old life and her new one. And it wasn’t even one o’clock yet, not time yet to really be missing or to be missed. She could just be on a late summer drive. So she slid on top of Armando and he moved to the passenger’s seat. Automatically, she checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror, and adjusted the view to suit her.

She fastened her safety belt. The gap between their car and the one in front of them had widened, she eased into first gear and let out the clutch until they were again bumper to bumper with a Volvo family whose kids would turn around and wave every few minutes.

One of the things Manny had first noticed about her, in her own car, was that she drove a stick shift. He had looked at her then with a face of surprise and admiration.

“You drive manual?” he asked.

“I like to feel in control,” Katie had told him.

“I don't know many women who drive a stick,” he said. “Most women don’t even know how.”

She had smiled then. A little of the old show-off Katie had never died, the Katie who would turn on the radio and pile her high school friends into her secondhand Volkswagon and jackrabbit all the stoplights in their five-stoplight town.

And now it was late September, the hottest month in Southern California, three thousand miles from her Texas hometown. She propped her left arm on the door, out the window, and shifted into neutral. Idling.

Ernie was probably getting his lunch in his office, eating at his desk or maybe in the office lunchroom with a copy of the Times spread out in front of him. Maybe the secretary who thought Ernie's Senior VP title was sexy would join him with her Lean Cuisine in the breakroom and he would ask her about her kids.

Soon the grimy border checkpoints were so near she could see the uniformed men inside the little booths, just like on a toll road. Except some carried automatic rifles. Where she had expected butterflies and trembling hands there was only calm. What kind of woman was she? Who's calm at a time like this? She pulled the International level with the stall and smiled evenly at a man her same age, who asked her, “License, please.” And she reached over to her pocketbook, showed him her California driver’s license, and said, “Hot out today.”

“September, you know, think it would cool off by now,” said the man. He looked briefly at her passenger, but Armando was busy blowing his nose. The border guard handed Katie her license back. “Have fun.” He handed Katie her license and she smiled at him, and just like that she was across the border. The border from real life to this life.

She reached across to fiddle with the radio. Being in the driver’s seat did afford some rights, and one of those was picking the radio station.

The guv'ment totally ruined my Katie & Armando, it's not nearly so easy to cross the border anymore. Giant, gaping plot holes! But if they could get across the border without being in a database, wouldn't they have an interesting few weeks together? Until she figures out who he really is, anyway...

Posted by laurie at June 6, 2008 10:21 AM