“Fiction has a truth exceeding that of history”
It all started with a trip to Bolinas. Irma had invited him out to spend a few days. She’d even arranged a ride. The driver was Grendel. Or Gretel. Hungarian she said. Or Czech, her thick accent convincing, blond showing dark at the roots, in her late forties, good looking in a world weary sort of way, but much too animated for him, even after a second latte. She’d never been to Bolinas before but the map showed Hwy 1 up the coast as the way to go. What did he know? Except that Irma had taken a different route, by way of Fairfax, the last time he’d been out, saying something to the effect that no one in their right mind took the scenic drive.
The car, a filthy green rust bucket, sagged at the right rear like it had been in a dog fight and lost. It belonged to an acquaintance of Gretel Grendel’s who was letting her borrow it for the day. She’d claimed to have driven everywhere in Budapest. Or Prague, from whence she had flown several weeks earlier, on a whim, quit her job, withdrawn all her savings, to fly to San Francisco, and now had to get to Bolinas to meet up with a friend of an old friend who might help her out because her purse had been stolen so she was broke and desperate, all of which she’d related with the air of maniacal optimism.
There’d obviously been no traffic when she drove the streets of Budapest, or Prague, because she seemed intent on hitting the multitude of fenders and obstructions that confounded her attempts to steer in a straight line. He applied the phantom brake so often that he’d ended up with a cramp in his good leg.
Maybe in Eastern Europe you can drive and sightsee at the same time, but on the West Coast the drivers are very serious about getting to where they are going and one did not slow to a crawl to marvel at the fact that they were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Not to mention that he’d felt like he was on a guided tour. Of her life! That made her all the more erratic of a driver because at times the vehemence of her account required that she remove both hands from the steering wheel.
He felt relieved when they’d left the freeway and joined a slow moving stream of traffic taking the twisty climb up the wooded hillside, and relaxed a little, trying to wrap his head around whatever possessed him to accept Irma’s offer. Things were not that bad, or as bad as she’d heard. But by the time Grendel Gretel became uncontrollably excited at catching flashes of the sparkling blue Pacific on the horizon and they’d entered the switchback curves descending into Stinson Beach, he began worrying again and, pretty soon, fearing for his life.