How the heck did he do that?!

I was in total awe by what I’d experienced, but what could I say? It’s a story I can tell only if I leave out names and exact locations. Technically, what he did was illegal, and I don’t think the statute of limitations have expired yet. Nobody was injured, so I doubt the police would care.

I was living in the northern Mid-West and after working at a gas station, needed a ride home that night. The night was black dark gray where the clouds were. It had snowed most of the day, and the roads were nasty. My wife at the time made what I felt was a perfectly reasonable request, one that did not lead to our eventual divorce: try to get a ride home and spare her from having to be on the roads.

As I clocked out, I remembered that one co-worker, Kurt, lived in the same nearby town I did. “Kurt,” I said. “Could I get a ride home with you?” He nodded and a weight fell from my stomach. I was relieved as I hated driving in this weather and didn’t like the idea of my wife having to come get me, either. Unlike me, Kurt was from that area.

There were two ways to get home. One was a straight shot that intersected a thoroughfare that would intersect the road that took us home. It was usually well-plowed. The second road, a less traveled thoroughfare, curled and writhed like a giant python fighting an alligator over who would be dinner.

Kurt took that road.

As we drove, I tried to relax and looked out the window, seeing all the snow in the embankments and collected on the road, making for a white journey. As I’d driven to work on the same road a few days earlier, I remembered seeing a few cars and even a 4X4 truck slid into the ditch.

I looked over at Kurt and noticed that when he wasn’t glancing at the road and steering, he was looking down at his cell phone. Throughout the seven-mile drive, which took about 20 minutes, he constantly received, read, and sent text messages.

If we slide off the road and skid into a ditch, take comfort in knowing this isn’t your car, I thought, expecting that we’d skid.

And yet, despite all the curves we rode on, despite the snow accumulation, we never skidded, not even once. No slides on black ice. No loss of control because the tires failed to grip the snow. No screams of a four-letter word because we lost control and are headed into oncoming traffic. The drive was completely uneventful, as if Kurt had been closely paying attention while driving in the summer when tires grip the road like a major league baseball player’s batting gloves grip a bat.

After I got out of the car, I thanked him, and then wondered, How on EARTH did he do that?

Richard Zowie lives in Fredericksburg, Texas, where he works as a broadcaster, blogger and fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at fromatozowie@gmail.com.

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Finished L’Amour’s ‘Last of the Breed’

My father, who died last year at 81, was a big Louis L’Amour fan, so decided to finally read one of his books. The next one I’ll read is more era appropriate: The Quick and the Dead.

Recently, I “read” Louis L’Amour’s book Last of the Breed. It’s about a Native American who becomes a pilot in the Air Force. In one flight, he’s forced to land in Siberia during the time of the Soviet Union. A reference is made to Mikhail Gorbachev, meaning the story takes place sometime in the mid-1980s.

I say “read” because I listened to it on CD while driving to work. David Strathairn provided the narration, and he does an impressive Russian accent.

Major Joe Makatozi (or Joe Mack, for short), is a Lakota whose gray eyes are the mark of a trace of Scottish ancestry. He’s taken to a prison camp run by a man named Col. Zamatev. The colonel’s plan: to interrogate Joe Mack so he’ll reveal American aviation secrets, and then execute him. Zamatev, who wants a cushy job back in Moscow, is hoping Joe Mack’s capture and interrogation are his tickets.

Zamatev escapes and, using his skills as a Native American, decides to ultimately head east toward the Bering Strait, entering America the same way his ancestors did millennia before. He lives off the land and is pursued by Alekhin, a Yakut native (for lack of a better term, a Native Russian) who’s an expert tracker and knows every square inch of the land. Alekhin realizes, unlike Zamatev, that in order to capture a Lakota, one must think like a Lakota.

I’ll not reveal the ending, except to say I liked it a lot, even though I normally am not a huge fan of open-endings where the reader is left to decide what ultimately happened.

L’Amour, I observed, writes in a balanced style where he gives you enough description to set the scene, but doesn’t let it overpower.

I have many books to read, and in the fiction realm are two sets of Westerns: those by L’Amour and those by Larry McMurtry.

Richard Zowie is a writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.