Don’t Try Your Hardest, Try My Hardest – Chapter V

Driving home that evening, Michael takes the highway instead of the backroads. He’s not taking any chances and is confident in his ability to manoeuvre out of trouble at high speeds.

Constantly checking his rear-view and sideview mirrors for any sign of being followed, Michael makes the usual 40-minute drive in about 25 minutes. Travelling at higher speeds would allow him to notice anyone trying to keep up.

Before going to meet his family at his dad’s place, Michael decides to swing by his house to make sure everything is okay and maybe turn on a light or two if Maria forgot.

Keeping with his cautious behaviour, Michael comes around the back way to his house, travelling down roads he usually doesn’t. Driving down his street, he notices a navy-blue SUV sitting on the side of the road a few houses down from his.

Connor doesn’t drive an SUV, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t borrow one.

Michael pulls up behind it and puts on his high beams. He could swear he saw a head in there move, so he waits with the lights illuminating the unknown vehicle in front of him.

After a few minutes of no action, Michael drives past the vehicle very slowly and looks in as best he can. It looks empty. His mind must be playing tricks on him, which would make sense given the day he’s had.

He drives close to his house and notices all the lights on. She’s a smart lady and knows we have nosy neighbours. With all the lights on like that, someone on the street would notice any unusual visitors.

Not bothering to stop, Michael drives by and goes to his dad’s house. When he gets there, he finds everyone eating polpette al sugo di pomodoro con rigatoni (meatballs in a tomato sauce with rigatoni).

The aroma is fantastic and Michael hurries to wash his hands before sitting down to eat. Once settled and with a few bites of the delicious dinner in his belly, he begins regaling everyone with the happenings of the day.

When his story is finished, the family looks a bit unsure of what to do next. The kids had been paying attention and seemed worried.

Michael tried to assure everyone that this isn’t as serious as it sounds. That Connor has been under tremendous stress, “we all have,” and is going to snap out of this moment of madness. He just needs time to come to his senses.

“Be careful,” his dad counsels. “As much as you think it’s not that serious and that you could handle any situation that pops up, a person who feels they have nothing to lose is very, very dangerous.”

“I know, I’m not underestimating the situation, I’m staying positive that this will be something we can all laugh at in the coming years.”

Despite his parents insisting they stay overnight, Michael and his family head home. When they get there, Maria and the kids see their neighbour outside having a cigarette.

They go over to say a quick hi while Michael goes inside and does an extensive sweep of the house. He looks in every nook and cranny, opens every door and checks under every bed: the coast is clear.

Michael opens a window and calls to his family, “hey kids, it’s time to get ready for bed. Teeth brushed, pajamas on, let’s go. Say good night to Mr. Seymour and come on in.”

Once everyone is inside, Michael locks all the doors. He goes upstairs and reads the kids books while Maria makes their school lunches for the next day. The phone rings and when Maria answers, whoever it is hangs up.

She ignores it, there are always telemarketers calling in the evening and they sometimes hang up.

Michael finishes tucking the kids in and goes downstairs to help Maria. When they’re done getting ready for the next day, they check on the kids and then head outside for an evening smoke and a glass of wine.

Just as they’re settling into their Muskoka chairs, the phone rings again. Michael goes to answer it, but as he nears it, the ringing stops. That usually means a telemarketer, but with the call display showing private number, it could be anyone – even Connor.

Michael shakes his head, get these thoughts out of there. You start thinking about the what ifs and you’ll be the one going crazy.

He goes back outside and enjoys his glass of wine with Maria. However, they’re both slightly skittish at the day’s events, so when a racoon makes some noise near the back shed, they jump a bit.

When they realize it was only a racoon back there, they laugh and head inside for the night. A good rest is what they really need. Unfortunately for Michael, a good rest was not on the agenda.

The Full Story is available in: Random Words, Random Stories Volume I

Learn more about the writer: Christopher Occhiuzzi

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