by Martin Maenza
Red Crawford was always cautious when driving his pickup down these mountain roads. You never knew when a deer or another animal might cross your path. The sun was almost ready to set when he noticed a figure up ahead walking on the side of the road. He slowed the truck even more as he approached her.
It was a woman in her late twenties or so with long, wavy black hair. She wore a simple green dress and seemed to be moving rather oddly, almost uncertain of her steps. As the truck came up beside her, Red stopped the vehicle, leaned over to the passenger window, and rolled it down. “Excuse me, miss,” he said, “are you OK? Do you need some help or something?”
The woman looked at him with her big blue eyes, in a wide-eyed, innocent sort of way. “I… I guess so,” she said in a timid voice. “I’m really not sure, though.”
Red looked her up and down, concluding that she didn’t look like much of a threat. If anything, she looked a bit lost, confused, and frightened. Regardless, she didn’t need to be wandering around the forest alone at night. “Well, can I offer you a lift into town or something?” he asked.
She thought for a second, then sort of half-smiled. “Yes, that would be nice. Thank you.”
Red unlocked the door, and the woman climbed into the passenger seat. She closed the door behind her and fastened the seatbelt. The man put the car back into gear and started down the road. “My name’s Red, by the way,” he said, and offered his right hand as a gesture.
The woman hesitated, then shook it gently. “Pleased to meet you,” she said. “My name is…” And she fell silent. She honestly wasn’t sure what her name was. It started with a C, a hard C sound, didn’t it? Connie? Cathy? No, more like Car-something. Finally she spoke again. “Carrie? Carrie. My name is Carrie.”
Red smiled back at her. “Pleased to meet you, Carrie.” In the back of his mind, he knew that something had happened to this woman, though he doubted she even knew herself. If she did, she certainly did not appear to want to talk about it. Best not to press the issue. As the truck slowly drove down the mountain road, the sun was setting over the ridge. It made the skyline all pink and orange — a beautiful end to the day.