Sunday stories with Shirley: Who knew what the adventure would bring us.
I picked Sam up at 6:00 am wanting to beat the commuter traffic out of town. We had agreed we were leaving. Leaving for good. She had had enough of her husband telling her how to live her life. And I had no attachments. Not right now.
With the two hundred dollars I had made working odd jobs in my pocket I figured we could get far enough away not to be found, then find some odd jobs to keep us going. Sam had nothing except the clothes in her pack, a backpack holding her computer, and some water and Oreo cookies. We planned to pick up some breakfast on the way.
Heading north. That's all we knew. Glacier National Park? Maybe we could get an end-of-season job since Sarah worked there and said they were having trouble keeping people. Finally, we both felt free. Free to do whatever our hearts desired. What was that exactly?
"I don't know why I stayed so long," Sam said to Mandy knowing exactly why. She was afraid. She had lost herself in the relationship with Tom. He told her what to do every minute of every day. He called her from work to check up on her. He wouldn't let her see her friends. Mandy was the only friend she really had and she kept that a secret. Being isolated had made her paranoid and skeptical of what might be out there--out there in the world, but Mandy gave her courage.
"Well, it doesn't matter now," I told her. "We're on our way and we'll figure out each next step as it comes."
After two and a half hours on the road from Cheyenne and what seemed like a long silence, Sam startled Mandy. "There's a McDonald's. Let's stop for breakfast?"
We took the exit and pulled into the parking lot. Stopped into the ladies room first and were planning on placing our order when we noticed a man dressed in a suit and tie and ski mask pointing a gun at the service clerk. What was a respectable looking businessman doing holding up a McDonald's? Unfortunately, he notice our movement before we could get out the door and he shot a round in the air. We both stopped breathing and looked back with that deer-in-the-headlights look. Neither of us spoke. Hoping he would just get back to the business of robbing the place, we stood statue-like thinking once he turned his attention we could slip out the door. Not to happen. Not right now. We slipped down to the floor and sat.
Mr. Businessman ranted at the clerk about his french fries being soggy and that he'd asked for no pickles on his burger. It was like everyone was made of stone except him. In the distance we could hear sirens. They couldn't get here fast enough for our liking, but the sound of the sirens turned before they got to us.
Suddenly Sam realized she recognized the navy silk pinstriped suit. Could that really be Tom? We were in Casper. What was he doing here? He wouldn't hurt us, would he? Of course, he must have recognized us. But maybe not in his state. We had to get out. How? I looked back toward the ladies room. Maybe we could get to the side door without him noticing. Tom continued to rant. The clerk was speechless not wanting to aggravate him more. But the manager stepped up and offered to make him a new meal. "No," he shook the gun in the manager's face. "Just stand there so I can see you sweat."
Sam and I inched our way out of sight and kept low. Finally, we got to the side door, but when we pushed we found it jammed. What now?
"I'm thirsty. Get me a root beer you little bitch!" Sam wondered what had made Tom snap. He used to talk to her that way, but never ever in public. The clerk was slow and Tom hollered again, " Get me a fucking root beer!" Sam and Mandy looked at each other. If there was going to be a time to get out, it would be now. Sam pointed to a door with a sign, "Employees Only." They looked at each other again, quickly took off their shoes, and ran for the door. Thank god it was unlocked.
The clerk managed to get her cement-laden feet lifted off the floor and started pouring the root beer. She found her charm again too. "That will be on the house, sir." But Tom wasn't hearing any of that. "You bitch. The warm buttery smile of yours won't save you. My wife has used that card for years and I'm just not taking it anymore." He fired. Screams. Shock. The manager dialed 911 on his cell phone, but he knew he couldn't talk or the scene would escalate so he left the phone on the floor with the volume turned off. Four other employees crouched behind the counter and fryers. Sam and Mandy ran out the back door with every ounce of energy they could pack into their legs.
Tom suddenly froze, still pointing the gun toward the manager. What had he done? This was not him. He never intended to kill anyone. He was just looking for his wife. She'd been threatening to leave him for months and when he called from work and she didn't answer he was sure she was headed north. She'd talked about going to Canada for years. She had to be somewhere on this damn highway. And McDonald's was her favorite stop. Egg sandwiches. Fish sandwiches. And those stupid fruity drinks.
The sirens blared. He realized they were close enough that he had no chance of escaping. He melted into the floor putting his head in his hands. It would be over soon. All of it. He didn't know what he'd done wrong with Sam, but he was always angry. And now he'd taken it farther than he ever had before.
Sam and Mandy hadn't stopped running until they heard the sirens and saw the "bubble gums" speed by. They sat down. Weakened. Tears streaming. "What am I going to do now, Mandy?"