Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The Man in the Backseat
BFF Kathy told me about the Man in the Backseat when were in high school. She has been terrified of him for about thirty years, now. I think she first learned about him in a horror/suspense movie, one of those cheesy but fun-to-watch B-movies, probably.
I never saw the film, but from what Kathy said I think the plot had something to do with an unsuspecting woman pulling into a gas station. She was afraid to get out of her car, thanks to the strange man trying frantically to get her attention. She thought that the strange man might be the escaped lunatic she had heard about on her car radio.
It turned out the strange man was trying to get her away from the escaped lunatic that had been in her car's backseat the whole time.
Fictional or not, Kathy always checked for the Man in the Backseat before she unlocked the door to her Ford Pinto, and while getting into the front seat, and then again before taking off.
She wasn't going to take any chances.
Kathy also taught me something else: where she had hidden the spare key to her car. This was in the olden days before we all had car alarms and remotes attached to our key chains.
One night, when I knew she was about to finish a dinner shift at Jack in the Box, I let myself into her Ford Pinto and hid - you guessed it - in the backseat. I made sure to wear all black. Even so, I was sure that I would be discovered right away since she always checked. Always.
Kathy must have had a busy and distracting shift that night.
I kept my head down as I heard her regular key open the door on the driver's side. I made the gargantuan effort not to giggle, thinking she would realize at any second that her worst fears had come true.
I continued to stifle my laughter as I listened to the car's ignition come alive and when I heard the slight crunch of parking lot gravel under the Ford Pinto's tires. Kathy lived less than a mile away and I felt the car take the familiar route to her house, first on a short stretch of River Road, and then a right turn into her neighborhood.
I sat up and looked around at the quiet and empty street, ghost-lit by the street lamps in that peaceful and eerie way. I kept my voice very low.
"Do you ever - ?"
I never got to finish my sentence. The Ford Pinto came to a screeching halt immediately. It felt like Kathy had swerved the car 180 degrees, practically, almost hitting one of the wooden fence posts on the dirt horse trail that served as a sidewalk. Kathy was pounding my chest with her fists and screaming at the same time. Actually, it sounded like she was crying and laughing at the same time, and at a very high volume.
"I'm going to kill you! Do you want me to kill you? Do you want to die? We could've died! I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!"
When we had both calmed down, I realized that her car was stopped at a slight angle, not even halfway over the dirt horse trail. Her emergency stop did not look as extreme as it had felt. Still, we were lucky that there had been no other cars around that night, or pedestrians - or horses!
Kathy loves/hates to be scared. She looks back on that night fondly, sort of. "Yeah, remember?" she'll ask me, as if I hadn't been there. "That was a great night!"