'Murphy was a fucking optimist,' Talley thought as she glanced at her watch for what seemed like the hundredth time. Traffic to the airport was gridlocked. Her flight was due to leave within the hour, and there she sat in a cab at a dead stop in an endless line of traffic.
If truth be told, the whole trip sucked. First, there was the temporary loss of her luggage, which meant she had no suitable clothes for the meeting at which she was the featured speaker.
And then there was the mix-up in room reservations ? no record of hers, even though it had been made three months in advance and she had the confirmation number. The list went on and on. She hadn't even had time to check out the local talent. The trip was not a total loss, however. There had been time for sneak a visit to her favorite shop to pick up some of the latest toys and replace a few wornout ones. She smiled as she thought about breaking them in.
The cab inched forward slowly, and Talley felt her impatience rising. She tapped her fingers against the armrest.
"What's the holdup?"
"Looks like a fender bender up ahead," the cabbie groused.
"Just my luck. How far are we from the airport?"
"About five minutes if this mess ever clears up."
"Listen, there's an extra fifty in it if you get me there in time to make my flight."
"When's your flight?"
Talley looked at her watch again. "Fifty-eight minutes, thirty seconds from right now."
"You got it, lady." The cabbie carefully inched her cab across three lanes until she reached the lane nearest a sidewalk. Then, in a move worthy of a NASCAR driver, she flew up over a curb and turned down a side alley. "We'll just have to take an alternate route."
Talley leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes. Maybe there was hope after all.
"So what brought you to Medford?"
"Publishing conference." Talley kept her answer short and her eyes closed, hoping the cabbie would concentrate on driving instead of conversation. No such luck. Murphy struck again.
"You a publisher?"
Talley couldn't miss the excitement in the cabby's voice. 'Oh, no' she thought. 'Here it comes.'
"I'm a writer too."
'Of course you are.' Talley groaned inwardly as she waited for the cabby to continue.
Surprisingly, the woman didn't tout her own talents. Instead, she asked, "so, what's your name? Are you anybody I might have heard of?"
Talley laughed. "I don't know. My name is Talley Edwards. I'm ?."
"Oh my god. I thought you looked familiar. Talley Edwards? I love you!" the cabbie enthused, turning to look at Talley. "Well, I don't exactly love you. I mean I don't know you. I bet I own everything you've ever written. I love your work."
"Shit! Watch out!" Talley screamed as the driver narrowly missed a black sedan pulling onto the highway.
"Gotcha covered. Sorry." The cabbie averted her eyes and stared straight ahead.
"Just keep your eyes on the road, please. I'd like to get to the airport on time and in one piece." Talley looked into the rearview mirror as she spoke.
The driver glanced quickly but briefly into the mirror at the same time.
'Gorgeous eyes,' Talley thought. 'If only she didn't talk so much.'
Talley leaned back against the car seat again and closed her eyes. They rode in silence for a short distance.
"So what do you write?"
'I can't believe I just asked that,' Talley thought, silently berating herself for restarting the conversation until her own mantra for success crowded out that thought - 'be kind to the fans.'
"Nothing like you. Just poetry." The driver's tone was soft, almost apologetic. "I mean, I know there's not much of a market out there for poetry but ? well ? I just have a passion for it."
"Good for you."
"You're into poetry?"
"The crown of literature is poetry. It is its end and aim. It is the sublimest activity of the human mind. It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes."
"Don't be. You'd be surprised how many people like poetry ? even the ones who wouldn't admit it publicly. But that really doesn't matter, does it? Follow your passion; it won't lead you wrong."
"I will. Thank you. You're very kind."
"So, what's your name?"
"Well, Andrea Brazeale, it's nice to meet you. I look forward to reading your book when it's published."
The lights of the airport came into view and Talley remained quiet as Andrea negotiated her cab through the airport traffic, pulling up in front of the TransAir terminal.
Talley looked at her watch. The ride had only taken 10 minutes; there was just over forty-five minutes until boarding and Talley prayed it would be long enough for her to make it through the security process.
The two women exited the cab at the same time, and Talley waited as Andrea removed her bag and laptop from the trunk. She pulled the fare from her wallet and added another fifty dollars to it. "Thanks. You made an otherwise miserable day bearable," she said, flashing a dimpled smile at Andrea.
"Keep it," the cabbie said, handing the fifty dollars back to Talley.
"Take it, please. You earned it," Talley responded. "It's the least I can do."
"No, there's something else I'd rather you did." Andrea looked terrified and hopeful at the same time.
Talley hesitated, wondering if she was going to have to reject a pass. Not that she wouldn't have enjoyed it. She certainly was horny enough. And the cabbie wasn't bad ? not bad at all, but Talley had a plane to catch.
Talley took a deep breath. "What is it, then?"
Andrea reached into the front seat of the cab and pulled out a tattered journal. "Read these. Let me know what you think." She grabbed a pen, scribbled her name and address on the inside cover, and held the book out to Talley.
'Christ, a fifty dollar tip would have been a lot easier,' Talley thought. "Of course, I'll be happy to read them." She took the journal and grabbed her bag and computer.
Check-in was easier than expected, and Talley attributed that to the fact that many of the passengers were probably still tied up in the traffic jam on their way to the airport. She headed to the security checkpoint and dropped her laptop and small suitcase on the conveyor belt. Just as she stepped through the gate to retrieve them on the other side, she heard the sound ? a dull buzzing at first, and then a full-fledged symphony as her bag began to vibrate.
The security guards went on high alert the moment they heard the sound. Two of them grabbed Talley and shoved her up against the wall as they unholstered their pistols.
The bag on the conveyor belt began vibrating harder and continued to shake as it moved through.
"That your bag, lady?" one of the guards asked gruffly. The other put her hand in the center of Talley's back and held her up against the wall.
"Wait. Wait. You have this all wrong," Talley protested. "It's not what you think." 'Shit! I knew I should have removed the damn batteries,' she thought. Her cheek was against the wall, but she could see out of the corner of her eye as her bag come to a halt under the x-ray machine.
The red began to creep up Talley's neck and into her face as she watched the first guard look at the picture on the x-ray machine and then call the other guards over one-by-one. The laughter began slowly and then erupted as the guards recognized what they were looking at. The conveyor belt started again, and Talley wanted to melt into the floor as she watched a guard open the bag and hold up the first item, which buzzed rapidly in her hand.
"It's ok, Tip, let her go."
The guard holding Talley against the wall, stepped back, and Talley turned to look at a laughing guard standing by the conveyor belt.
"And this would be?" the guard said, looking at Talley with undisguised amusement.
Talley took a deep breath and responded in a serious tone. "That would be an electrical device consisting basically of a vibrating conductor interrupting a current."
"Say what?" The guard holding the vibrator looked quizzically at her counterpart.
"Looks like a pocket rocket to me," the second guard said.
"So, are you one of our satisfied customers?" Talley asked, looking at the woman who had correctly identified the vibrating object.
The other guards laughed uproariously.
"Look," Talley said with all the aplomb she could muster. 'I work for Consumer Laboratories. We test products to see if they meet manufacturing standards. Now can we please shut those off? "
Talley smiled sweetly at the guards who were looking at her in disbelief. "Hey, it's a job, and it pays well."
After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. interrupted only by the monotonous buzzing of the toys, one of the security guards turned them off and threw them back in Talley's bag. "Ya might wanna remove the batteries next time," she said gruffly.
Talley closed the suitcase and grabbed it off the conveyor belt. "Thanks. Watch for my article in Consumer Reports," she called back over her shoulder as she started toward the boarding concourse.
"Talley! Talley! Ms. Edwards!"
Talley stopped dead in her tracks. 'What now?'
She turned towards the sound and saw Andrea racing toward the checkpoint swinging a gym bag over her head.
The thought barely had time to race through Talley's mind. The scene played out in slow motion as she watched Andrea trip, then fly through the air, the gym bag flung out ahead of her. The bag arched in the air, and it and Andrea hit the concourse floor at the same time with a sickening thud.
Talley raced back through security towards the fallen woman. "Andrea, are you all right?" she asked, kneeling beside the fallen cabdriver.
"Andy." The cabbie looked up at her with a dazed expression.
"Andy. My friends call me Andy." A hint of amusement joined the embarrassment in the cabbie's eyes as she started to sit up. A wave of nausea and dizziness overcame her. "Oh," she gasped weakly as she fell back.
Talley dropped her bags and sat down beside the cabbie, gently lifting her Andrea's head onto her lap.. .
"Can we get some water, here?" Talley yelled at the guards who stood aimlessly by watching the scene playing out before them.
When no one moved, Talley yelled out again. "Snap out of it. Stop gawking. We need some water here, and a cold cloth if you can find one."
The tallest of the guards nodded and headed rapidly toward the closest restaurant. She returned in a few minutes with a wet towel and a glass of water. She knelt down by the two women on the floor and placed the wet towel against Andrea's head.
Talley helped Andrea sit up a bit and cradled her in one arm. "Here." She tipped the cup so that Andrea could sip some water.
The cabbie looked up gratefully. "Thanks."
"Are you ok? Do you need a doctor?"
"No. I'll be just fine. Give me a minute."
"Take all the time you need." Talley smiled down at the dark-haired woman in her arms. "You're going to have some goose-egg tomorrow."
"Nah, it's nothing. Go on. I'll be all right. You'll miss your plane."
Talley thought about it for a moment but stayed put. "To hell with it. There'll be another one."
"Too bad." Andrea muttered.
"Too bad there'll be another plane."
"Feeling better are we?"
"I'm sorry. That was rude of me." Andrea moved her body away from Talley's and started to rise.
"Wait!" Talley pulled Andrea back against her. "If you try to get up too quickly, you'll probably get dizzy again. Relax, rest a minute."
"You're right. Just let me catch my breath." Andrea relaxed into Talley. 'You smell good,' she thought. 'Like ? like ? frangipani and musk.'
The two women sat on the concourse floor oblivious to the small crowd that had begun to surround them.
The guard stood and began to move the crowd away. "OK, folks. It's all over. Give the lady some air. Move it along."
Then, the guard looked down at Andrea. "Lady, maybe the doc should just check you out."
"I'm fine. I don't need a doctor. But thank you."
"All right, then. If you change your mind ?. but I really think you ..."
Talley glared at the guard. "She said, no. Just drop it."
The guard glared back at Talley. "I'll be right over there if you need me," she said.
"So, where were we?" Talley asked with a smile. "Ah, yes. You write poetry."
Andrea blushed. "This is a heck of a time to be talking about that. Besides, I can't believe I was so pushy. Or so clumsy for that matter." She flashed another embarrassed grin at Talley.
"Well, look on the bright side. You've certainly caught my attention. So, are you ready to get up now?"
Andrea nodded, and stood up slowly, then held her hand down to grasp Talley's and help her to her feet.
"Thanks. You really have missed your plane, you know."
"I know. Like I said, there'll be another one."
"Well, let's go check on it, then."
"No. I'll get a room and check from the hotel. This was the last flight out tonight for my destination."
Andrea was quiet for a moment, weighing her next words carefully. "I'll drive you to the hotel. Uh, then can I buy you coffee or dinner? I mean it's the least I can do after ? "
"You know, I think that would be lovely. But, I'll buy. After all, I'm the cause of that lump on your head."
"No buts. Let's go. I'm buying!"
Talley picked up her suitcase in one hand and reached down with the other to pick up her computer and the gym bag.
"Here. Let me help you." Andrea started to take the gym bag from Talley's hand.
"No, I've got it."
It wasn't a struggle, really. Talley pulled one way; Andrea pulled the other; and inexplicably, the bag opened spilling its contents onto the floor. Blouses, stockings, lingerie, and in the middle of it all one soft, curved, object looking very much like ?.
"What's this?" Andrea asked innocently holding the flesh-colored thing in the air. "It looks like a ? ohmygod!" Andrea stood there holding the object in her hand like a baseball bat. "This is a... it's a .. ohmygod ."
"Geeze, Andy, get a grip! It's only a dildo," Talley croaked, wresting the offending piece from Andrea's tight grasp. "At least it doesn't vibrate."
"Never mind. I'll tell you later."
Talley stuffed the clothes and the dildo back in the gym bag. "Let's get out of here."
"You've had one hell of a day, haven't you?" Andrea could hardly contain her mirth.
"You don't know the half of it," Talley sighed.
'If Murphy will just fuck off, chances are it's going to get a lot better soon,' Talley thought as she watched Andrea's callipygian butt swinging ahead of her down the concourse toward the terminal exit. 'A lot better.'