Trip to Tahoe

headlightsNorthern California, January, 1931

Spencer downshifted the old Ford truck as they took another tight corner. The mountain road to Tahoe was none too safe, especially not with all the snow and ice from the recent storm, but they should make it all right. So far, there had been no signs of the feds.

Grant checked through the rear window. “No headlights behind us. It’s so cold—nobody wants to be out tonight.”

Spencer nodded; that was the truth. “We’ll stay in the nice, warm casino until it’s day again.” The parties there lasted until dawn.

“Did I tell you I saw Greta Garbo the last time we were there?”

Spencer shook his head. “You’re making that up.”

“No, I swear. It was just for a minute—she got up from a table to walk to the elevator. But it was her.”

“And where was I?” Surely he’d have noticed Greta Garbo.

“Over at the blackjack tables.”

That had not been a good trip at all—Spencer had been trying to recover their losses. Federal agents on their tail had meant they’d needed to abandon their truckload of liquor, and the boss wasn’t an understanding man. They had to get through with this load, or they’d better not come back at all.

“I’m not sure we’ll ever get rich doing this,” Grant said, staring glumly at the road ahead.

“Is that what you want?” Spencer asked.

“Of course. How about you?”

Spencer peered through the windshield. “I’m not sure. I’d like to have more cash—who wouldn’t?—but that’s not all I want.”

Grant laughed. “You gonna go to Sacramento and run for governor? Get them to overturn Prohibition?”

“No, nothing like that. I just think there has to be more to life than bringing rum to movie stars.”

“At least it pays well,” Grant said. “Those actors go through hooch like kids with lollipops.”

Spencer nodded. Grant was right about the pay—unless the feds got a whiff of what was going on. But Spencer wanted something besides money out of life. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he wanted to do something that mattered. Something besides rum running. He’d have to keep his eyes open so he didn’t miss any opportunities.

A bridge ahead brought his attention back to the road. It looked straight, so he gunned the engine. They needed to momentum to help carry them up the next grade. The truck was almost across when they hit a patch of black ice. They spun out of control. Spencer slammed on the brakes, but they plunged over the edge, down into the chasm below.


January, 2016

The road was dark, but Jonathan shot a quick glance at his rear view mirror. “Don’t make me stop this car.”

It worked for maybe thirty seconds. He sighed as Maddy and Dustin started squabbling again. “Look, trust me—this will all be worth it. Remember, we’re going for a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.”

“We can go sledding every day if you like,” Allison promised. “And just think, the hotel has a maid. You won’t even have to make your beds.”

Dustin perked up at that. “Thanks, Mom. I forgot about that.”

“And we’ll go out for all our meals, so nobody has to do any dishes.” Allison sighed. “I’m really looking forward to Tahoe, Jon.”

Jonathan nodded. This trip would not be cheap, but they hadn’t had a family outing in years. Now that he’d gotten that promotion they could finally take a vacation, before the kids were too old to want to go anymore.

He glanced at his wife. This trip would be good for all of them. Too much of their lives were spent just going through the motions, getting things done. They needed a reason to enjoy life again. He was going to put together a summer camping trip as well.

“This will be it, Allison,” he promised recklessly. “From now on, we’ll make sure our lives matter.”

Her smile turned into a gasp. “Are they even watching the road?”

Headlights were coming straight toward them. Jonathan slammed on the brakes. He pulled as far to the right as he could, but they were on a bridge. There was nowhere to go. Maddy screamed as the lights kept coming. Jonathan grasped his wife’s hand and prayed they would miss.

Just before they hit, the lights faded away. Jonathan’s breath was coming in short, painful gasps, but he got out, “Is everyone all right?”

“What happened, Dad?” Dustin asked. “I thought—”

“Don’t say it,” his mother said in a shaky voice. “It’s over now.”

“But what did happen?” Jonathan asked. “The lights just…went away. There was no room for them to turn.” He left the car running with the lights on and grabbed a flashlight from beneath the seat. “I’ve got to know.”

He opened the door and took deep breaths of the cold air. The flashlight’s beam was bright enough to show there was no sign of the other car. He zipped his jacket up to his chin and trudged on ahead. Three car doors closing behind him let him know the rest of the family would be joining him soon.

“Where’d the other car go, Dad?” Maddy asked as she caught up, holding her mother’s hand. Allison gasped.

“I don’t know,” Jonathan said, “but now I’m grateful it was here. Look.”

The flashlight showed a huge granite boulder in the road ahead, right at the end of the bridge. They wouldn’t have seen it in time to stop.

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in My Stories
15 comments on “Trip to Tahoe
  1. Stunning. Brilliant. Moving. Cool.

    This is REAL writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. brmaycock says:

    Love it! Couldn’t stop reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have goosebumps all over. Almost choked on the tension. The is Fantastic, Cathleen. 😀 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Grace says:

    Fantastic. Really excellent development, very cool with the split in time… Wasn’t sure what the two stories had to do with each other, other than the fact that they were both in the same place… I feel like this story isn’t over yet. And did the boulder have anything to do with the previous story? Part of me feels like I missed something.

    But it was really well written, very nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, everyone. This story is also rooted in a real life event. A boulder rolled onto highway 80, which is the road to North Lake Tahoe, last month (Jan. 2016). CalTrans had to use dynamite to get rid of it. My husband and I started talking about what it would be like to be the first people to see it on the road–especially since these things usually happen on stormy nights.

    Then I started playing around with the idea of chasm (last week’s blog battle prompt). But the story wasn’t quite ready. I was going to try to force it anyway until the eagle story sprang to life fully formed.

    But that’s okay, I like the way it worked out. I would’ve never thought of the lollipop line without the prompt. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. phoenixgrey85 says:

    That was amazing. The tension and then that ending. You really brought the two parts together in a great way. I loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful. Love this. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well written. This would be great published in an anthology or other collection of short stories. 🙂 I like this take on a true event.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is my kind of paranormal! 🙂 That was great, Cathleen. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent story with great tension. I like the split time and the paranormal play of fate. Sometimes I think this happens in “real” life. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks again, everyone! My New Year’s Resolution is not to miss an installment of Blog Battle. Getting my stories out there and having them read is really the point of this whole writing thing, at least for me. I’m grateful beyond words that you’re all helping with that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, wow! Guardian Angels!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Contact Cathleen Townsend

%d bloggers like this: