There were three houses, and they all looked pretty much the same. There was no way for me to tell which housed the crazy rednecks and which housed the friendly farm folk. Besides, I had no earthly clue what I was supposed to say. I’d gotten lost once before, when Erma made a wrong turn while we were heading to a Shinedown concert. But we had our cell phones then, and called a friend who knew the area. I was an idiot and didn’t take my phone to the birthday party. Goddammit, I cursed myself, the one freaking time I don’t take my phone with me, something like this happens! I wondered if this was some kind of punishment for forgetting my phone.
For a long while, I screwed around in my head with possible things to say, until I realized I was making a big deal out of nothing and only had to ask if they knew the way back to Turnersville. If any of them turned out to be a crazy, gun-toting redneck, I’d do my best to haul ass before he could shoot me.
I walked up to one of the dusty front porches, rang the doorbell, and crossed my fingers behind my back. I tried to listen for sounds that indicated the guy was getting a gun, and then realized there wasn’t even any sign of anybody being home. No lights were on, no cars were parked in the front, and everything was so unnaturally silent. This was true for all three of the houses. But Al had said there were people in them…but how was I so sure he wasn’t trolling?
Just as I was thinking this, the door opened so abruptly that I jumped. The occupant of this house was a short, stout man with black frizzy hair and a thick black moustache. He reminded me of Super Mario. Before he could ask me who the hell I was, I instantly began to speak. “Hello, sir,” I said. “I’m really, really sorry to bother you, but I’m really lost. I’m from Turnersville. Do you know where that is? Is that anywhere near here at all? Can you please tell me how to get back to Turnersville?”
The whole time I’d been babbling, the guy just stood there and played with the tip of his moustache. He made no move to interrupt—I’d been talking so fast that I expected him to say, “Whoa, slow down.” But he didn’t speak until I’d said my piece. “Tur-ners-ville? Never heard of it.” Then he closed the door in my face.
It was then that I realized exactly how far from home I must have been; I was in a world where the statues moved and talked, for Pete’s sake! I wasn’t only far from home, I was far from the normal world! How is this possible?! I thought. How is this happening? “I’m dreaming! I’m dreaming!” I cried out in desperation to nobody. I didn’t know what to do next. I hadn’t even left the Mario guy’s porch yet. I stumbled around frantically, acting as if I meant to go somewhere or do something, but I was unable to figure out what it was I had to do or where it was I had to go. Finally, I just threw myself down on that guy’s porch and bawled my eyes out. I thought of Mel, Erma, and Sunita and how furious I’d been with them for dumping me. My fury subsided upon realizing it was impossible for them to have dumped me in a place like this—I’d somehow gotten away from them during the time I’d been passed out. I thought over stories I’d read about dimensional rifts, blips in time, and transport to other worlds. They were all fiction, or at least I thought they were. Who’s to say the stories we pass off as fiction aren’t based on personal experience, but outed as fiction because they sound so unbelievable? I didn’t know what I believed anymore! I just knew I’d have given anything to see one of the girls I’d been so pissed at not too long ago. I’d have given anything to see any of my friends! I’d have given anything to see my guy, Dirk!
I heard the Mario guy say, “Hey, lady? You all right, lady?” I hadn’t heard him open the door to come out, I’d been bawling too loudly. I must’ve looked like the world’s most pitiful human being right then, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to go home, rest off the party in my own bed, and watch House with Dirk.
The Mario guy went back in the house, and returned with a thin terry cloth rag, which he held out to me. “Wipe yer tears, lady,” he said in a scratchy voice, “and we’ll figure out what’s to be done about ya.”
I really didn’t like the sound of those words, but I took the rag and cleaned up my face anyway. I was beginning to feel gross from all the snot. “Th…thanks,” I stammered. I balled up the cloth in my fist and glared at the guy, wondering what he was going to do next. If necessary, I would strike him.
“’s that better now?” the man asked.
“Yeah…” It was a bullshit answer.
He patted my head. “Now come on inside and we’ll see what we can do for ya.”
I didn’t like the idea of going in that old farmhouse with that scratchy-voiced dwarf at all. I felt it would’ve been just asking for trouble. “N…no!” I stammered. “No! I…just remembered where I have to go! I gotta head out…I think I have a friend waiting for me!” If he could tell I was scared, I didn’t care.
He seemed to accept my answer. “All right, now. You take care of yourself, girl. You’re a right pretty little bird.”
Ew! “Right,” I said, rising to my feet. “Bye.” I speed-walked off that porch and back down the dirt road in the direction I came from. I may have been bullshitting about knowing where I had to go, but I hoped the part about the friend wouldn’t turn out to be bullshit too.
Please still be there, Al! I silently pleaded. Please!