It is a routine visit. Quick labs in and out. In was fine – out was a visit to the 12th level of hell; mask hell.
I discarded the mask I was wearing on the way to the parking garage. I did not want the ick it may contain following me around. I don’t drive with a mask on and there are extra masks in my purse and the car console.
Paying at the parking garage exit is always a pain as it requires manual dexterity that exceeds my grasp. I drive up to the credit card machine, slide in my credit card; nada, zip, credit card doesn’t work. A quick view in the rearview mirror indicates several cars behind me. Frantic for release from this fustercluck, I press the “help” button to beckon the parking garage witch.
She and I have had encounters in the past and from the expression on her face I determine she recognizes me. She motions wildly for me to put on a mask. Grabbing one from the console, one ear loop breaks free from the mask, leaving the other ear loopless. As I free my hand to hold the loopless mask in place, the credit card falls from the machine to the ground.
Opening the car door to retrieve the credit card, said parking garage witch motions for me to put on a functioning mask. Now she is standing at least six feet away from me, but I respect her diligence in safety.
It is dark in the bowels of my handbag as I paw frantically for another mask and another credit card. Cars start honking and the witch is growing more agitated by the minute.
I get out of the car, retrieve my credit card from the pavement. I give the witch the look that moms give unwieldy children when they misbehave in public; the one that would make a crime boss cringe and wonder if the she is willing to sacrifice her life for a two-dollar parking fee.
She was not. After returning my scorched earth glare, she opens the exit gate and I am free. Next time I think I’ll call a cab.
I am a lifelong Southerner, short story author, and essayist. Home is Dallas, Texas.
My essays have appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Writing.