The Belt

March 4, 2008

Andrea lifted the ring off the hook carefully so she didn’t disturb the belt. Each key felt cold and large in her small hands. She pressed them flat against her colorful dress to keep them silent. Silver and bronze shards of color were visible against the backdrop of pink cotton.

The car sat on the grass, anxiously peering down the dirt road, morning dew making the rusted hulk glisten. Andrea didn’t see a car, instead the metal frame and engine were home base. A symbol of safety two dozen feet away.

The gentle slide of her feet on worn wooden floorboards and the rolling, choking snore performed by Andrea’s father were the only sounds in the house. She crept to the door and didn’t glance back.

Cool air ricocheted off her tiny calves raising bumps all over Andrea’s body. She didn’t feel the cold ground beneath her feet because of the scar tissue on each sole. The path to the car was clear—through long stalks of grass and across rutted gravel.

A slap of a screen door froze Andrea. But it wasn’t her house, a neighbor had just wandered out to get the newspaper or water the dog.

It took only four more steps to reach the car.

A faded blue, the car’s finish was rusted. A silver word in script was affixed to the panel in front of the driver’s door—it said Plymouth. The torn fabric of the bench seat in front allowed Andrea to see the yellowed padding inside. She pulled the door open slowly and climbed inside.

The door shut with a click and Andrea sighed. Nearly safe, she took her time sorting through the keys. In a few seconds she had located the right one and stuck it into the ignition. Then she adjusted herself in the seat and grabbed the wheel.

With a quick twist, the car rumbled to life. It shuddered and tossed blue smoke out of the tailpipe, but the engine settled down nicely and began to purr.

Andrea reached for the metal shifter on the steering column. She wrapped her tiny hand around it and began to pull when the door opened.

One rough hand clamped around her arm and another yanked the key from the ignition. The Plymouth went silent.

The journey to the house took seconds as she flailed and squirmed. Her feet touched the ground twice, but most of the trip she was just hanging from a meaty hand that dragged her through the long grass.

He dropped her in a heap near the recliner. It was in worse shape than the car seat, she thought. Threads were broken up and down its arms and springs stuck out of the bottom and scratched the floor.

Replacing the keys on the hook, he carefully hefted the belt. The only wear on it was where it had been bent in half hundreds of times, and where contact with human flesh had made it shiny in one spot.

She saw that it was doubled up in his hand and Andrea propped her feet up on the chair, soles toward the ceiling. She looked away as he drew his arm back.