Things Can Only Be Okay
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Chili"
Originally featured on 05-14-2010
As part of our series "All From These Magic Beans"

There was a line of yellow light at the edge of the steel floor that shook and jolted. The rest was dark. Strapped to the floor, my wrists tied and a wooden board beneath my head, I could hear the diesel engine and the whish of the highway. There were two of us in the trailer of the truck. At least two of us who were conscious. The other had a feminine voice. She started yelling hysterically for the police. I told her to be quiet.

She said, “Oh, I thought I was alone.”

I said, “So did I until you started hollering.”

“Who are you?”

“I’d hold off on questions like that.”

She breathed heavily, displacing air at a rate I felt on my cheek.

I said, “I just think we should start with questions like, do you know where we are?”

“In a fucking truck, I know that much.”

I tried to laugh, assuming that she was trying to be funny. She wasn’t, and I didn’t. “Trailer of an eighteen-wheeler. I was on the road with my wife and our son Jimmy. Heading to Pennsylvania. I don’t remember the last- I mean, I guess technically I do remember the last thing I remember, but I can’t…anything. Nothing. I just remember the car had half a tank of gas, and Jimmy was fogging up his window with his breath so he could draw a tic-tac-toe board in it, I yelled at him to quit it, then we stopped for some sandwiches and milkshakes, then we were driving, I… What do you remember?”

She breathed some more.

“Are you crying?”

She quieted her breathing. “I don’t know. I really don’t know. Just…living my life, I guess. At home. At work. In my garden. Practicing the piano. Nothing in particular.”

“It’s strange. I should be panicking, like you were a minute ago, but I feel like they’re safe. My wife and Jimmy, I mean. I feel calm when I think of them. Whatever happened, though I don’t remember, I know they’re okay, somehow. Anyway, I’m-”

“Wait.” Her breath hitched. “Maybe we shouldn’t. I mean, for our safety. In case someone asks us questions. About each other.”

“If anyone asks us questions, it will be the police. I don’t have a criminal record, and I don’t care if you do. I just want to know- well, there’s a bunch I want to know.”

Her voice poured out of her body in globs of salty fluid but she kept talking through the sobbing. “I’ve seen horror movies where this happened, where people- it’s- but if we don’t remember anything, maybe this isn’t really happening, maybe we’re- maybe if we just go to sleep I’ll- we’ll wake up somewhere else. Maybe this is just my- just guilt.”

“Now hold up, before you set your head all a’spinning. I don’t blame you for being nervous, but I think we should think. I mean, think. Is there any way you can free yourself? I’m tied up pretty good. If we can’t do that, we should listen and try and figure out where we are. And if we can’t do that-”

My head bounced on the wooden plank. Pain shot into my right knee. The truck was stopping. The line of yellow light smeared into a zigzag and my stomach felt like water.

She whispered rapidly. I couldn’t hear the words she whispered, there were too many of them too fast too soft, but it sounded like prayer. With the engine turned off, I could feel her body shaking in the shaking of the steel floor on my back.

I said, “My name’s Wade. I like to eat chili. My favorite baseball team is-”

“This isn’t the time, Wade.”

The trailer doors swung opened and brightness surged in. I closed my eyes.

My wife and Jimmy are safe. I must have seen them flee to safety. Whatever I don’t remember, I suppose a part of me does remember it, or remembers enough of it to know that they’re okay. They can only be okay. I’m Wade, I like chili, my favorite baseball team is the Red Sox, and the line of yellow brightness that just became daylight will not change the inescapability that everything can only turn out to be okay.

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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