Launch of The Lighkeeper's Daughters

Launch of The Lighkeeper's Daughters
by Jean Pendziwol

Elvis the Mountie Dog Steals the Show at the Book Signing

Elvis the Mountie Dog Steals the Show at the Book Signing
Elvis, Joan M. Baril, customer poet Rob Lem

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

KAMINISTIQUIA TALES, ONE by Joan Baril

The Key.

In early November, 1985, Kathy Lind was driving home from work when the motor of her car stopped. Her geriatric but lovable Ford Escort, as polite as ever, did not cough, did not sputter, made no sound at all as it rolled silently forward, to eventually halt, dead. The road was flat, the weather clear and the highway empty of cars.

She looked at the fuel gauge. Plenty of gas. She reached for the key to restart the engine and her hand hit air. She waved her fingers around but they did not connect with the key or its Mickey Mouse metal tag. She flipped on the overhead light and stared at the empty ignition switch for a long minute. Where was the key? Kathy squeezed her eyes shut. There must have been a key; she reminded herself, or how could she have driven this far. But could a car key just fall out of an ignition?

A deep calming breath. It was here somewhere. First things first, to switch on the flashing emergency lights. With her ears alert for the sound of an oncoming vehicle, she grabbed the flashlight from the glove compartment and ran the beam across the floor by her feet, then over the dash, the passenger seat, her lap. Nothing.

Still no cars coming. She opened the door and got out, listening for the plunk of metal falling from her clothes to the road. Silence. Once more she checked the floor of the vehicle and then the roadway beside it and then, kneeling, the pavement under it.

The lights from Lepinan’s store shone out about a hundred feet behind her. Should she run and ask for help? Her own house was just around the next corner, but there was no one home. Her teen-age son was in town on a sleep over. And alas, when she’d purchased the Escort second-hand three years ago, she’d been given only one ignition key. She had no spare.

Kathy felt herself becoming frantic. She shoved her hands down the crevice at the back of the driver’s seat. She emptied the bag of groceries on the passenger side and tossed the items one by one into the back followed by a dozen cassette tapes. Outside, in the headlights, she took off her jacket and shook it. She ran her hands over her body and into her long hair. She removed her boots and turned them upside down.

But headlights were approaching now, and in her stocking feet, Kathy waved the flashlight in the air like a movie heroine trying to stop the train. Her neighbours, Sheila and Donald Wilkins, who lived three houses past her along Highway 102, pulled up on the shoulder behind her.

When they heard the story, Donald suggested the three of them push the Escort to the side of the road so they could make a more organized and less dangerous search. Before they’d rolled the car more than a few inches, an OPP cruiser, lights whirling, arrived and from then on, the two police officers took over. They helped move the car and, while one shone his high-powered flood light into the interior, the other quizzed Kathy, shaking his head in disbelief.

“A key does not jump out of the ignition, Miss Lind. You’re talking impossibility here.” Even while scribbling in his notebook, his suspicious gimlet gaze surveyed her face. Perhaps he thought she was drunk. Or on hallucinogens. Or insane. Or, the cynical stare seemed to say, she could be some sort of rural hippie prankster.

Sheila and Donald searched the Escort. Both officers searched the Escort. Kathy searched her body and clothes, turning out her pockets, surreptitiously feeling in her underwear and bra, taking off her boots once more and then her socks.

“I know the Escort,” said the officer with the flood light. “I’ve got one myself. Once the key is turned and the motor running, you can’t pull that sucker out unless you stop the engine” He switched off his power beam. “King Kong couldn’t muscle out that key. It’s twisted in as long as the motor’s on.”

Kathy had already told them she owned no spare key so they radioed for a tow truck to pull the Escort to her drive. She rode home in the cop car, the tow truck following, and the police questions continuing. It was after ten o’clock before she was able to heat up some supper and go to bed.

The next morning, a Saturday, she dressed to make one last attempt to find the key in the car which was now sitting in the drive. Her sister and brother-in-law were coming out later to help with the search. Her brother-in-law was bringing his shop vac as well as tools to remove the front seats. But now, standing in her tiny front porch to spring the bolt on the outer door, a flick of sunlight hit her eye. There, on a low table under the single window was a familiar object. A metal tag in the shape of Mickey Mouse and attached to it, the key.

To this day, she has no idea how it got there.

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