This is an extract from my new book, Albert Quimby.
In the station’s small coffee shop, drinks in hand, they make like a loving couple, sitting on the same side of one of the few tables.
After a while, Cloe notices a rack of road maps for sale. It reminds her of their mission. “Where you taking me, Albert?” She peers coyly at him, “And, do you mind if I call you Bert?”
He chuckles, “As long as I can call you Ernie.”
She gives him a solid love-tap on his shoulder. “Oohh!…” Thinks about it. “Well, why the hell not? Call me Ernie. My new persona.” The thought brightens up her face even more.
He enjoys her much improved composure, then ploughs ahead, “Ok, Ernie. So where we going? I assume someplace away from Oscar the Grouch?”
“Far away…” She stares dreamily out the window.
“How about the South Sea Islands?”
Cloe-Ernie nearly jumps off her chair. “Can we? Can we?”
“Well, yeah. Like, Pender or Hornby Island, or Galiano. I always kinda liked that na…”
She clobbers his arm; hard, this time.
“Hey!…” He grins. “Was that a lover’s swat?”
“Whadya mean Hornby Island? When you said South Seas…”
“They qualify,” he pleads. “They’re in the Salish Sea and they’re south of us. Like, I…”
She is about to clobber him again. He flinches. She grabs him and drags him closer for a long kiss. The server working behind the counter enjoys a few glances at them as she replenishes one of the donut trays in the display case.
After they slowly part, he nods. “I like the making-up part better.”
The dusk outside is pierced by lights from cars and big rigs passing on the highway next to the station. Albert-Bert stares at the traffic absently. He mumbles, “Tempus fugit.”
“Is that a play in London? Can we go to London?”
“Latin. Means time is passing, but the root for fugitive…”
“Ohh, stop. That hard-drive of yours is loose again.” She pulls his face close for a kiss.
He smiles inside and out. Used to have to let the hard-drive topic finish or it hurt somewhere. Doesn’t hurt anymore.
They get up to leave, walking closely arm-in-arm, step-for-step. He isn’t skittish now. His pace and hers are merged. I must have changed into a different persona, too.
Slipping through the aisle of hats and tee-shirts and maps for sale, the glare of a parking vehicle shines over their heads from the back window. Ernie notices the driver as he gets out of his car and walks to the entrance. She grabs Bert’s arm. “It’s him.”