SHELLY REUBEN: Parking Space: A Love Story!

By Shelly Reuben
SHELLY REUBEN:  Parking Space: A Love Story!

Shelly Reuben’s new novel is about … well, we’ll let you find out for yourself as we weekly serialize the chapters. If you miss one, get back up to speed with our article archive. Now, welcome to:

Chapter 9 - The Snowplow: Part 3

 

Other than being ebullient, optimistic, and intrinsically joyful, Lilly was an inveterate observer. She was not keenly attracted to any one particular thing, but if it moved, she pretty much wanted to watch it: people getting on and off buses, tourists photographing each other, cranes hoisting steel beams to the tops of skyscrapers, helicopters circling overhead, ships docking, cops directing traffic, pigeons pecking at bread crumbs, delivery boys skidding on sidewalks, vans unloading cartons, and…well, trucks plowing snow.

So, when she was almost home but still across the street from her building, she stopped in delight to observe the ballet (that was what she called it) of a bright red truck pushing an enormous black blade into immaculate swaths of snow, each scoop tumbling a big, beautiful mound toward the sidewalk before returning to a forward position and continuing on its way.

Spellbound by the power of the vehicle, the dazzle of red and black against white, and the grace of the operation, Lilly’s eyes followed the truck as it plowed up the street. It seemed to stop, though, when it arrived at her apartment building.

First the plow scraped against the surface of the road and accumulated a massive pile of snow. Then it angled to the right to push the snow into the empty parking space in front of 1582 Chestnut Avenue.

But that did not occur.

What happened instead was a replay of events earlier that morning when Hector had attempted to pull his car into that very same space: The snowplow blade jammed up against an unseen barrier that prevented it from moving forward.

There were no clangs. No bangs. No sound effects from the collision. But there was a grinding of gears as the truck strained against…what? After several more attempts, Noah turned off the engine, opened the door, jumped down from the cab, and walked to the front of the truck.

His eyes scanned the parking space. Left. Right. Street side. Curbside.

Nothing.

Not a speed bump. Not a traffic cone. Not an empty crate. Not an abandoned shopping cart. Not even a block of ice. Just an empty rectangle of pristine snow.

Noah held out his arms and gingerly moved his hands forward, like a mime inspecting an invisible wall. His right hand touched first. He felt something cold and hard, but he saw nothing. Nothing, that is, other than a vacant space the width of a car, between two parked vehicles, outside a row of apartment buildings.

He was about to bring his other hand to the party when he heard a single soft syllable coming from about the height of his left shoulder.

He looked down.

Gazing up at him with very round, very compelling, and startlingly blue eyes was a girl.

“Hi,” she said cheerfully.

Their eyes met and Noah frowned.

He felt, in a blink, as if he had been transported to an alternate universe. One in which, like a hiker in a flash flood, life as he knew it was about to be swept away.

The girl was the flash flood.

She…or her eyes.

Noah was not looking for romance and he was not looking for love. Nor was he looking for attachments. Not now. Not until he was ready. And he might never be ready. Yet here she was. This woman … girl … staring up at him. Like a puppy. A puppy in a shelter that wanted to be taken home. But Noah did not need a puppy; he did not want a puppy; he had no idea what to do with a puppy.

Trying not to grimace (his mother had brought him up to be polite), he emitted a curt “What?”

She—the puppy—undaunted by his cool response, said gaily, “I’m Lilly Snow.”

Noah appraised the interloper.

He saw a spray of freckles over a pug nose, ivory skin, a small, determined chin, and smiling lips. A knitted white beret with a red pompom covered curly brown hair, and the pompom bounced when she moved.

He returned his eyes to the parking space.

“What’s the problem?” Lilly asked.

Noah tapped the knuckles of his right hand against the invisible barrier.

He took a step toward the street, turned slightly to his left, and then rammed his right shoulder into … whatever it was. Or wasn’t. The impact hurt but otherwise produced no results. Then continuing his mime-like inspection, he walked the perimeter of the space, and with each tactile connection, confirmed that an unseen barricade encompassed all four sides.

When he returned to where he had started, the girl with the big round eyes asked, “Is this your snowplow?”

He nodded. Distracted.

“I’ve never driven in a snowplow.”

“Uh huh.”

“It must be wonderful.”

“Uh huh.”

“To see the world from all the way up there,” she indicated the vehicle’s cab. “Shoveling mountains of snow. Lifting, lowering, and rotating the blade. I bet it’s like working the controls on a space ship!”

Noah’s eyes returned to hers.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said coldly. “I’ve never driven a spaceship.”

She was still smiling.

He thought again about a puppy. One for which he had no room in his life. He saw the look in her eyes, and he shook his head.

“Don’t do that,” she responded “I haven’t even asked for anything yet.”

“Asked for what?” he barked.

Again, the huge round eyes.

Again, the impertinent smile.

“Can I…” she began. She stopped and started over. “I mean…may I go with you?” She darted a glance toward the truck’s cab. “It would be sheer heaven to sit up there on my second day in this big, beautiful, unfathomably fabulous city, and watch mountains of snow being pushed this way and that.”

Noah continued to stare at her.

“How old are you?” He asked.

“Twenty-two.”

He snorted. “You look seventeen.”

“Well, you look thirty,” she snapped back. “How old are you?”

“Thirty.”

Lilly laughed and said, “I’m so smart.” Then she lifted her arm to show the shopping bag in her hand. “I want to put this in my apartment. Will you wait for me here, please? I’ll be back in three minutes, I promise. Please. Please. Please.”

She turned and took a step toward the empty space that Noah had just verified was surrounded by an impenetrable albeit invisible wall.

He shouted “Stop!” Anticipating a painful collision.

But that did not happen.

Instead, Lilly Snow walked in one side and out the other, unaware that what she was doing, apparently, could not be done.

Assuming that he could now do the same, Noah attempted to follow her.

His face slammed into the barrier.

He felt something wet.

He touched his nose with his right hand.

His nose was bleeding.

He reached into his pocket for a handkerchief and held it up to his face.

Then he sighed heavily.

The president of Pitt-Goode Construction was completely and utterly perplexed.

Copyright © 2021. Shelly Reuben. 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.