Thursday, March 08, 2018
Oscar Friedman's Freakish Occurrence - Part 2 by Dellani
Oscar's on a book signing tour, and not having a very good time yet. The GPS in his rental car seems determined to make him completely crazy.
Oscar kicked the tire and the alarm screamed again, making everyone cover their ears and complain. Unfortunately, this time, the button didn't work right away. It took three tries before it was silent once more. The crowd dispersed, making rude comments to him as they did. With a final invective directed at the car in particular and the manufacturer in general, Oscar went back into the hotel ready for another shower.
"I'm terribly sorry," he told the girl at the desk. "Honestly, I didn't set it."
"Car alarms set automatically, Mr. Friedman."
"Whatever. Can I leave the remote down here? Then if the damn thing goes off again, someone from the hotel can shut it off."
"I'd hate to be responsible for that, Mr. Friedman. It is your car, after all."
"It's a damn rental. It's insured. If it gets stolen, so what? Please. If it goes off at two a.m., do you want to be the one who has to call me?"
She most emphatically did not. With the manager's permission, she placed his car keys in the pigeonhole for his room.
"Just ask for them when you leave." She tried to smile, but it was forced.
"Thanks. I apologize for being a bother. I wish the damn thing would get struck by lightning," he mumbled.
That night, the skies opened, pouring down more rain in an hour than the city had seen all year. Oscar woke twice during the night, lying awake as the rain pounded relentlessly against his third story window. Unable to sleep after the second time, he lay in the dark, watching the streetlights cast eerie orange ripples across his walls and ceiling. He was just drifting back to sleep when a vividly bright light filled the room, followed by a tremendous clap of thunder.
Oscar sat bolt upright in his bed, blankets and pillows scattered like fallen leaves. Every car alarm in the hotel parking lot shrilled into the dark night. Phones all over the hotel rang until bleary, angry guests woke up enough to answer them. Even Oscar's phone rang. He picked it up, wondering why.
"Mr. Friedman?" The young woman sounded terrified.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, sir."
"What's wrong? Did my car get hit by lightning or something?"
There was a prolonged silence followed by a nervous clearing of the throat. "How did you know?"
Oscar started to laugh. The young lady did not join in. His mirth tapered off and another uncomfortable silence ensued.
"You're kidding. Aren't you?"
"No, sir. That's why I called."
"The manager said to tell you that the hotel is not responsible for damage of this kind. It's considered an act of nature."
"I see. I guess I'd better call the company and get a different car."
"That's the odd thing. The car appears to be undamaged."
"What? How's that even possible?"
"I don't know, Mr. Friedman. I haven't seen it myself."
"I'll be right down. Thank you."
He dressed rapidly and took the elevator to the lobby. A huge crowd had gathered around the lobby entrance, most of them in their pajamas holding car alarm remotes. The rain fell just as steadily, but they couldn't seem to make themselves go inside. A clutch of people stood around his car. The doorman handed him an umbrella and he wandered over to the front of the lot. The group parted ranks as he arrived. He recognized the manager in the center, talking animatedly with a police officer and a fireman.
"Here's the owner now," the manager said, pulling Oscar forward.
"It's a rental," Oscar replied before he got blamed for anything. "I just picked it up this afternoon."
"So it doesn't belong to you personally?" The police officer flipped open his notepad.
"No. It's a hunk of junk and I was going to return it in the morning to get something else. The GPS is borked and the alarm went off for no reason."
"He's right about that," the manager interjected. "We've had to turn it off seven times during the evening. He left the keys at the front desk for us."
"You'll need to contact the rental company in the morning," the cop told him. "They need to know what happened and assess damages."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you, officer," the fireman said calmly. "I used to work as a mechanic. From what I can see, there's nothing wrong. It didn't even damage the paint."
"That's weird as shit," the cop said.
"But damn fortunate," the fireman added. "Specially on a rental. They'll get you six ways to Sunday on those otherwise."
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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