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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

“On the Road” by Eva Strazek

Artist Name- Lila Wright

I wouldn’t say I was exactly excited to take my on-the-road driver’s test. In fact, I had grasped the wheel so hard as I carefully made my way to the DMV that any blood flow to my knuckles had been violently slaughtered. I’d driven with my parents, each one airing their own set of grievances as I attempted to reach perfection, and my instructor, who was kind, helpful, and maintained a flexible temper. But this was different. This was a matter of life or death for me, a matter of freedom versus forced submission. If I didn’t do well on my driver’s test, I wasn’t going to get my license, and I had no way to get to school, or soccer practice, or violin lessons. I was to become a hermit, a recluse, a nobody if I didn’t have that sheet of paper in my pal by noon today.


As I sat in the waiting room, my pale knees knocked together, and I did everything I could to stop my face from turning red under my mask. I couldn’t show fear— that would, undoubtedly, make the whole situation worse. If I really wanted to pass, I would show up to my test with my shoulders forward in confidence, and a spring in my step. My mom, who had been forced to ride along as my supervisor, put her hand on my shoulder. 


“Marietta?” The woman at the front desk called, her tongue attempting to grasp every syllable of my name but coming up short. 

“Your Instructor is out in the lot. Feel free to go outside and join him. Good luck!”


With a final kiss on my cheek from my mother (despite my efforts to pull away) I was off— walking with imminent speed to the DeLorean that looked to be the sole car in the lot. What an odd choice for a testing car, I thought to myself.


The man in the car almost looked too old to be judging this sort of thing. He was nearing eighty, with a large bald spot in the middle of his straw-like, gray mop of hair, and a white, bristly mustache obscuring his upper lip. 


“Hello, Mariette,” he said, readjusting his stack of paper. “I’m Mr. Worm, like the bug. I’ll be testing you today.”


I got into the car with a small wave and a squeak of a hello, and when he handed me his keys I took every care in the world to place them into the ignition 100% perfectly. As I started out of the lot, the flush began to rise in my cheeks again. Mr. Worm insisted that I shouldn’t be nervous, and if I had prepared the proper amount, there should be no doubt in my mind that I would ace this test. I calmed down a bit after that, a smile playing on my lips as I pulled out of the lot. Then, Mr. Worm sprung a new idea onto me. 


“Just so you know,” he said “I oftentimes like to go on a different route than other driving instructors— it’s not easier or more difficult, but it just gives you something to look at while you’re testing. Turn down this alley. It seems small, but the car will fit.”


I did as I was told, flicking on my signal and turning the wheels to go down the alley. The car did indeed fit, and, even more curiously, the alley seemed to be quite wider than it had appeared from the street view. As I continued to drive, I began to notice that it was also quite longer than I had previously thought. There was almost no sign of light at the end, but Mr. Worm did not seem wary. So, I continued to drive.


Five minutes passed, and I finally saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. When I pulled out, I were met with a sight that I wouldn’t have believed if it was explained to me several times over.


It was essentially the 1800’s. The roads had become dirt, and horse driven-buggies were everywhere. My first thought was that we had catapulted into an amish village by accident, but those were miles off, down in the rural part of my home state. Mr. Worm seemed completely unphased.


“Turn left.” He instructed me, and I did so, taking in the post colonial sight that was dancing in front of my eyes. I fought back the urge to curse in shock and surprise.


Suddenly, Another alley caught my eye. Mr.Worm smiled another warm smile, and advised me to turn right, down the alley.


Again, the alley possessed qualities that could not be explained by any rational reason. As I drove for five more minutes, he turned the radio up. The station was striking in and out, between old western saloon toons and a cacophony of metallic clicking.


When I pulled out of the alley, I almost crashed into the car.


Buildings were floating, cars were in the sky. Everything was plated in chrome, and the sidewalks were so utterly cracked that they couldn’t have been laid any less than 20 years ago. Everyone was dressed in the same manner, a black pantsuit and shoes, and their phones in their faces projected their text messages into the sky for them to see. I was in awe, but I had to focus on the road.


As I took in the sights, I heard Mr. Worm shift next to me. I stopped at a red light, and looked over. 


“Looks like we’re almost out of time.” Mr. Worm said, checking his watch. “I want you to turn down the next alley you see. “


I did as I was told, and after another five minute, I gasped and almost doubled over in shock when I saw that I was snacking in the same parking lot where I had begun. I pushed through my curiosity and parked the car. Mr. Worm shuffled through his papers as I turned the engine off.


“Congratulations,.” He said, handing me a golden certificate. “You passed!”


I looked down at the paper, and up again to thank him profusely.


However, the second I looked up, he was gone.

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