This story is based upon several writing prompts from the Midtown Writer’s Group that came together to form the story. The prompts are in italics.
I thought I was on the correct floor, but I was lost. The car park was identical for as far as my mind could grasp. I was a child who lost his mommy and it didn’t help that my car was a rental. If I searched my mind hard, I might remember what my car looked like.
I hit the panic button on my key fob as I walked the corridors of P3. I got no response from my car, but at another car there was a knock on the door. It was the tail of a dog beating against the glass. The cocker spaniel didn’t bark. Instead it just smiled, panted and wagged its tail. I walked on: P3? Or was it P4?
My phone vibrated due to a text message. “Well, why don’t you come on home?” the message said. I texted back, “But I’m lost – lost in the parking ramp. I’ve been here for hours. No lie.”
Maybe my car was stolen? But how would I know that? I know! The rental company has GPS in all the cars. I could call customer service and they could find my car.
I called customer service. I was on hold for 10 minutes before they told me they needed me to put the key in the ignition to activate the GPS. That doesn’t help me. There have been better days.
I continued pacing around P3 and returned to the dog, still knocking the door window with his tail. I could tell we both wanted out. I opened the car door to let out the dog. When I did that, I set off the car alarm. Like most car alarms, nobody cared. The cocker spaniel took off across the car park, darting under and around cars, blissfully barking with joy.
The din sounded like an urban choir, between the barking and the car alarm. I just stood there with the door open. It was the smell that got my attention. The dog must’ve eaten cheese, because the car reeked. I shut the door and continued searching for my car, this time on a different level. I had already caused enough trouble on P3. Now to try P2.
It was almost time for dinner and I still had not found my car. After hours of desperate search, and a dead key fob battery, I had not found my rental car. In the great maze of concrete and motor vehicles, the cocker spaniel found me and chased after me, jumping and barking all the way. The dog stopped, panting. Then it raised its leg and began to pee on the lot sign. I was in Orange Lot East. Didn’t I park in Purple Lot West? Shit. Which way was west?
I started walking towards the daylight that I saw in the distant concrete horizon. As I walked, I heard sobs echo off the concrete pillars. I couldn’t quite make out the cries in the distance, but it sounded like a woman. I went down the ramp to P1, hoping to find level, natural, earth-based ground, instead of this disorienting concrete prison. Sometimes the echoes faded and got louder. I didn’t care. I was almost free and so was the dog.
Finally I heard the screech of the owner, “Pebbles! PEH-bbles!” spoken with a heaving sob, followed by a, “Here boy! Oh Pebbles, where are you?”
It was all a game to this dog. He let out one low and quiet bark, and charged off towards more parked cars.
I got another text. It read, “I’m coming to pick you up. Where are you?” I texted back, “Haven’t you been listening? I. Don’t. Know!”
The dog owner pulled alongside me just as I was putting away my phone. Her make up was running all down her face and her red hair was as frantic and frizzy as she was. “Excuse me, sir? Have you seen my dog? He’s a little cocker spaniel.”
I looked up, past the woman, past her car. In the distance of my 1,000 yard stare, I saw the curly hair of the puckish pet curled up in his hiding spot behind a tire many aisles away. I looked at the woman. I looked at the dog. Did I want to get involved? If I helped her, and she offered to help me, did I really want to sit in the rotten, foul-smelling car of spaniel butt-cheese? Wouldn’t it be better to just walk to Purple Lot West? But where is that?
The crying woman drove away, “Why can’t anyone help me?! PEH-bbles!”
I finally reached the edge of the car park, but a biting wind rose up and hit me in the face. To my right was an enclosed land bridge connecting the neighboring lot, an elevator bank, and a map. I went in from the cold and looked at the map. I sent a text, “I found a map. I’m in between Orange Lot East and Red Lot North.”
“I’m sorry. Something’s come up. I can’t help you. Call a cab,” was the responding text message.
I crossed over to Red Lot North when there arose a familiar knock at the glass door. The dog was lying down right at the crease of the door, wagging his tail. I remembered from the map that similar skyways connected all of the parking ramps. I called the elevator and went up to P3 and got out.
When I got out, I saw a security officer riding in his security cart with the yellow light flashing. I stepped out to wave him down, but he drove right past me and drove down the ramp to P2. Why can’t anyone help me?
Walking, walking, walking. Walking vaguely westward, I think. Why are these parking ramps always so large? Am I lost again? They say that humans travel in large circles if they get lost. Gee, that car looks familiar. Why do so many cars look alike? Is that my car? No, the key doesn’t work. Great, I’ve set off another car alarm. I bet a person could go crazy in a situation like this.
After an eternity, I finally reached the other end of Red Lot North. Echoing in the wind, I could hear red-headed lady’s voice, “You let him get away! How could you let him get away?”
“I’m sorry ma’am. I’ve called for backup. Please remain calm.” The security officer’s deep voice was calming and provided a baseline of sanity to the treble of craziness I was responsible for and currently involved with.
I crossed the bridge to Purple Lot West, but for some reason, P3 crossed over to P2. Whoever designed this had no sympathy for people who get lost. I stopped in the shelter, closed my eyes, and tried to use my imagination to remember what my car looked like and where it could be. It was so long ago since I went in to the mall to return those clothes, that I think the value of the money in my pocket is worth less due to inflation.
I used my imagination to travel further back into time, back to when I first parked. Was I happy because I got a good parking spot or was I angry or sad because I had to park far away? No, I was neither. There were no feelings for the parking spot, only the annoyance of returning the clothes. I opened my eyes and started walking.
Once again lost in the concrete labyrinth, I heard a bark. “Oh no,” I thought. There was another bark followed by a heaving echo. The dog was throwing up. I turned the corner of a row of cars and there he sat, wagging his tale in front of pile of vomit several cars away. I approached the dog and he jumped up and down. I glanced over and Pebbles had puked right next to my rental car. I was in shock. My jaw dropped. I looked at the car and I looked at the dog. “Good dog,” I said, “Good boy, Pebbles.”
I instinctively tried the key fob, but the battery was dead, so I turned the key in the door and, like magic, the car alarm did not go off. I opened the door and the dog jumped into my car ahead of me. I got in, shut the door and pet the dog as it sat on the passenger side seat. For a brief moment, I thought of taking Pebbles home with me, but then he let out a big cheesy fart that destroyed the new car smell.
I pulled out of my parking spot and followed the exit signs out of the lot. After exiting Purple Lot West, I pulled alongside 3 security carts and the woman’s car. I rolled down my window and yelled, “Ma’am! Is this your dog?” pointing to the cocker spaniel in my seat.
“YES!!” she screamed, “Where was he? How did you catch him?”
I was tired and didn’t want to get into it. “It’s okay,” I said, “He’s happy to see you. Come on over and take him.” Pebbles went back to her owner and I went home. The lady even gave me her number, but I’m not sure what I would do with it. Maybe I have a friend who would like her?