I shouldn’t have left the keys in the ignition, but that’s what happened and all the sorry in the world wasn’t going to fix my problem. At least I had the Subaru and the presence of mind to jump in immediately and give chase. How that White Van was driving itself was beyond me, but such are the wonders of our bafflingly high-tech world.
At first it was just shaded streets—sidewalked and stop-signed—and at every corner my fingers twitched with hope. I just might get my hands on the driver’s side door and put a stop to this nonsense. I just might, as long as no child leaps in front of me, no squirrel bounces into view, confused, and possibly suicidal.
But the distance between us remained, and now we were approaching bigger traffic—wide open, two-lane traffic with strip malls and stop lights. It wasn’t long before I got caught at a light, stewing in fearful guilt, watching the van weave up onto a highway ramp. I stared at its sputtering turn signal, hoping with all my heart a patrol car would intervene.
I didn’t have a chance in hell, but I shoved my foot down onto the accelerator and sped ahead, the first prickles of sweat gnawing at my hairline.
Mercifully, there was not too much traffic and I was able to keep my target in view—a scarred white van ascending skyward over a thin interstate overpass. I fully expected to see it fly over the guard rail and onto the innocent and unsuspecting bystanders below.
But the van somehow managed to remain centered, eerily purposeful, until it eventually slowed to turn left into a deserted rest stop. I pulled in after it, heaving as though I’d run the whole way and, pulling my keys from the Subaru, stepped onto the dusty asphalt. And, because this was a dream, the van smiled and said, “How do you like this spot for a picnic?”
You fucker, I thought between clenched eyelids, We could have eaten at home, but I tugged the corners of my mouth into a reciprocal smile and spoke calmly—as one would to an escaped tiger—and approached one step at a time.