FICTION: Parking Place A Love Story

By Shelly Reuben
FICTION: Parking Place A Love Story

Chapter 4 - The Arrangement

 After having driven halfway across the country, moved into a new apartment, and left behind all that he knew and loved, taking on his tyrannical neighbor was simply beyond Burgess Meekly’s capabilities. He had depleted his allotment of courage before his first carton was unpacked, and he complied with Hector Van Hooft’s parking space scheme simply because he was afraid not to.

And once the agreement had been struck (even though it was one-sided), Burgess did not know how to get out of it.

This is the way it worked:

Hector had to show up for his job as night chef at the Wedgewood Restaurant by 7:00 p.m. It never took him more than half-an-hour to get to work.

Burgess a.k.a. “Mouse” Meekly usually left Verbal Expressions by 5:00 p.m., but the sound studios being all the way downtown near the Triangle Bridge, he rarely made it home in less than forty-five minutes.

Hector Van Hooft’s instructions were explicit and non-negotiable. Burgess’s car was to always…always be outside 1582 Chestnut Avenue by 6:30 p.m. If Burgess arrived early, he was to double park alongside Hector’s car until Hector had descended from his apartment, unlocked his driver’s side door, entered his vehicle, started the engine, and pulled away.

Then and only then was Mouse allowed to pull his Jeep into their sequentially shared space.

And, Hector instructed, he must do so quickly, because drivers in The Big City—continually on the lookout for parking—could slip in faster than it took to blink.

But that was only part of the arrangement.

The other part was that Burgess had no rights.

Absolutely none.

Even if he was required to work late at the studio, he had to be home by 6:30 p.m. to pull his car into Hector’s space at the exact instant when Hector was pulling out. Then he would have to take a subway back to his job at Verbal Expressions, do what needed to get done, and return to his apartment by public transportation.

Under no circumstances was Burgess permitted to vacate Hector’s parking space until 7:45 the following morning, at which time the autocratic chef would be double parked in the street, waiting impatiently for Burgess’s car to pull out.

If, for whatever reason, Mouse left work early or was sent home sick, he could not park in front of his building because Hector’s car was already there. Then, regardless of his health, the weather, or his well-being, he had to collect his car from wherever he had parked it, and be back at 1582 Chestnut Avenue no later than 6:30 p.m., so that he could switch places with Hector.

The next morning, at exactly 7:45 a.m., the routine would begin all over again.

The consequences to Burgess Meekly of failing to participate in this scheme had never been specified but were too dreadful contemplate.

On weekends, Hector’s car occupied “his” space from Saturday morning until Monday evening. Where Mouse parked the Jeep during those 36 hours was, the autocratic executive chef asserted, “not my concern.”

Being terrorized twice daily by Hector Van Hooft took its toll on Burgess Meekly’s peace of mind. Otherwise, he was a happy soul. He loved his small apartment, and he loved to sit by his living room window and watch people walk by. He loved to buy odds and ends from the Elegant Eccentricities Gift Shop, and he loved to flirt every night with Pilar, a shy, curly haired waitress who worked across the street at Rocco’s Bistro and was even newer to the city than he was.

He truly loved his job.

And, despite the chaos she eventually brought into his life, he even loved that Lilly Snow had moved to into his building and become not only his neighbor but also his new best friend.

Originally published in The Evening Sun, Norwich, NY - evesun.com Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her books, visit www.shellyreuben.com.