The Angel in the Breakdown Lane – From Chapter One

[ No Comments ] Posted on 12.01.07 under Read an Excerpt

With the car back under control now, Benjy was enjoying his last puffs on the cigar when his head snapped left at an angry buzz out the window, like a flight of giant bumblebees. He put the perfecto in the ashtray. Four Japanese compacts with noisemaker mufflers and baldhead punks at the wheel swarmed around and past him. They were rolling buzzbombs, slammed so low they threw up sparks from scraping on the pavement. Like those gangsta movie computer games, Benjy thought. Or was it gangsta computer game movies? No matter, he decided. This is what happens when life imitates art after watching cartoons.

Up ahead, the buzzbombs swarmed a brown Buick with a “Retired and Loving It” bumper sticker. The noise sent the Buick’s driver into a wartime flashback of diving into a slit trench as Mitsubishi Zeroes strafed his position. He stomped on the brakes to let the attackers go by, sending Benjy swerving into the breakdown lane to avoid smashing into him. Benjy looked up, and he started hallucinating, too. An angel was standing there. Straight ahead. A long-legged beauty in dark glasses, her shimmering hair and designer silk dress lifted by a steamy breeze stirred up by passing cars.

I can’t be dead already, can I? wondered Benjy. Going on instinct, mashing and feathering the brakes at the same time to keep from locking them up, he saw the angel looking at a broken Jaguar with one wheel down at a crazy angle. Now she was waving one hand, with the other held up to her ear. Wait a second, he thought. Angels don’t wear shades or talk on the phone, do they? Now she was turning to face him, arms outstretched, beckoning. Or not. Slowing fast but running out of room, Benjy could see the angel’s lips moving and her hands held up in front of her. She was shouting “Stop!” Benjy cranked the wheel to the left, yelling, “I’m trying!” as the Mustang almost swapped ends and shuddered to a stop, sideways, in a dirty cloud of tire smoke.

Benjy gathered himself, took a deep breath, stretched and prepared to jump out and help the stranded angel. But the near-collision and stomping on the brakes to avoid it had turned his legs to rubber. They buckled when he stood up and he fairly fell over the driver side door. He held on to it. The angel was screaming at him.

“Are you crazy?” she shrieked. “You almost killed me, you maniac!”

Benjy couldn’t speak. He burbled something unintelligible, let go of the door to point at the highway and his legs buckled again, sending him down in a heap for the second time this morning. When he came to, he sensed the angel standing over him, her beautiful face inches away, her fresh scent washing over him, her summer silk dress rustling with a fragrance of jasmine and baby powder on soft skin. So I am dead, and this is heaven, he thought.

“Wake up, dimwit,” the angel said. Seeing Benjy stir, Delia Torres stretched to her full height, arms folded, sunglasses dangling from her hand. She was runway-model tall, with sculpted legs pulled tight in high heels and curves a man could get lost in. Most wanted to.

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