March 11, 2010 by The Citron Review
by Dixon Hearne
“L.A. One Way”
Michael turns left when he should have turned right and speeds past the second stop sign where he was told to turn north. Still new to L.A., he finds himself one hour later circling and craning in search of a familiar street sign. One red light. Two. Then dead ahead into the waning daylight, frustrated—but not at himself. “His stupid damn directions!” he swears aloud. “Couldn’t steer a guest to his own damn bathroom.”
One mile. Two. Miles soon give way to time measures. Fifteen minutes. Twenty. Turn upon turn brings only more darkness and less street. The road narrows abruptly into a one-way alley. He pulls into a parking slot along the curb to clear his head. A pounding pours from houses along the crowded alleyway, a resonance that shakes the car and drowns his thoughts.
In control again, he backs the car onto the street where he had turned off, wiping the sweat from his brow. He checks the gas and drives quickly away, retracing his path. Forest Street. Hillside. A cul-de-sac. “That stupid jerk!“ he yells at the dashboard. “Sending me on a wild goose chase.” He reaches, then realizes—no cell phone. “Where the hell am I?”
Right on Kennedy, a wide street that circles downward again. “Ah! A direction with promise,” he sighs aloud. Two blocks. Dead end.
Frustrated, he pulls aside again to consider his options. There is no familiar landmark rising from the city floor. Nothing helpful. “How stupid! Stupid-stupid-stupid!” Hands tensing, he shifts gears and crawls slowly backward.
“Street signs. Where the hell are all the street signs?” Up ahead, two cars slow and pull to the curbside. Other faceless figures lean against cars parked in the distance, and pounding fills the air again. The road narrows: Forest Street to the right…Hillside left—he has come full circle.
The figures now move from the moon shadows and into the street. “When I get my hands on that son-of-a …!” The darkness swells with angst and the pounding overwhelms. He scans the radio for comfort, something to muffle the din, but the air seems to thicken with vulgar chatter. Hateful sounds.
At length, two figures approach, tap at the window, pull at the doors. He wishes to blow the horn. Blow them away. There in the passenger’s seat beside him lay the real estate documents he was to deliver, the big deal that would take him away, far away from the urgencies and ugliness of L.A. Two more days, maybe—three at the most.
Senses jar. He is snatched back into the moment, heart cowering. His door lets loose with a whimper and the soothing trills within spill out and collide with the cadence of the street.
Dixon Hearne teaches and writes in southern California. His work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his new book, Plantatia: High-toned and Lowdown Stories of the South, is nominated for a 2010 PEN award. Other short fiction appears in Cream City Review, Wisconsin Review, Louisiana Literature, Roanoke Review, Post Road, and other magazines and journals. He is currently at work on a novel and another short story collection.