As he rushed out of the door of his office, he glanced at his watch, “Only 5 minutes late!” he thought to himself. “Drive a little faster and I should make it on time, no sweat!” as he unlocked the door to his car and got inside. He cranked the restored Nova’s engine over and it fired to life, the comforting sound of the big V8 under the hood making him feel a little more confident.

As he was pulling out of the parking lot and on to the main road, he saw drops of rain spattering on the windshield. “Well this might slow this a little but no big deal!” He smiled to himself in anticipation of the night. For some reason, the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland popped into his head… “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date” kept repeating over and over.

It seems as though the closer he got to the restaurant, the harder it started to rain. It was soon a deluge and he had to flick his wipers on high just to keep up with the downpour. Fortunately, he could still see the cars in front of him and traffic was still moving, all be it moving slowly. “God!” He thought. “If I miss this, she is never going to do this again!” He looked at his watch once again, “Quarter till seven! Dammit! I’m gonna be late! I had better call her to make sure she’ll wait!” He pulled his cell phone off of the little clip on his belt and noticed it was turned off. When he tried to turn it back on, a small picture of a battery with a circle and a slash running through it appeared. “Out of juice? I could swear I just charged that!” It was then he heard a most disquieting sound.

From the rear of the car, just under the sound of the mufflers, he heard a tell-tale “SSSsssSSSsssSSS” like air escaping from a… TIRE! “No!” He thought! “Not Now! I’m late! I’m late!” as the rear end of the car started to wobble back and forth in time with the volume of the hissing sound. Pulling off to the side of the road, he thought to himself “Man, I’ve had it… Left late, can’t call her, flat tire – what next?”

You would think by now that man would have learned to NEVER to ask that question…

Flipping on the emergency flashers he opened the door and got out of the car. The passing cars threw water and road grime up at him as he made his way to the trunk. Once there, he turned the corner of the car and felt a sinking feeling… literally and his foot sank into 4 inches of mud. Pulling his foot out of the mud “he thought to himself, “I don’t believe this…” and his shoe slid easily off his foot, still stuck in the mud. Holding one foot off the ground now, he bent over to pull his shoe out of the mud and he lost his balance and stuck his foot and sock firmly in the mud right next to his shoe.

“What is my problem tonight?” he thought pulling his now muddied foot out of the mud. “I’m late! I’m late…” He retrieved his shoe from the mud and stripped off his sock, throwing it onto the trunk lid. He now put the wet foot inside his muddied shoe and hoped that the worst was behind him.

Standing at the side of the car now he reached over and unlocked the trunk. He then retrieved the jack and tire iron from their designated hiding places. Setting the jack under the bumper, he cranked the car up slightly. He then squatted in front of the tire and began loosening the lug nuts. One down… Two down… three and four went without incident but when he tried number 5, it wouldn’t budge. Leaning on it, pulling on it, nothing was working. He decided to try one more time (like he had a choice), put the lug wrench on it and got on his knees to lift with all his might! Then he realized that he had now laid both knees in a strip of mud that was exposed on the road side of the car.

Cursing slightly, he figured, “Well, it’s too late now!” And he gave the lug wrench a mighty lift and felt the log nut squeal in protest as it slowly started to move. Finally, it was off! “Yes!” He thought, “Now we’re getting somewhere!” as he got up to finish jacking the car up. He put his left hand on top of the jack and inserted the tire iron with his right hand into the jack. He started pumping the jack and the car started its upward climb.

As he was pumping, be it the rain or not paying attention, he didn’t notice the wrench was coming loose until with what seemed like amazing speed, the tire iron slipped out of the jack and the back of his hand smacked him square in the eye. Seeing stars in one eye can be a somewhat disorienting at times, but on the side of the road, at night, in the rain, it was DEFINITELY not a good thing. “I’m late! I’m late…”

He froze, afraid to move without his eyesight – the best he could manage was to try and rub it clear with his free hand. Once the stars cleared, he stuck the tire iron back in the jack and restarted pumping. It wasn’t long before the car was up and the old tire off. Reaching inside the trunk, he found the replacement tire he would have to use and pulled it out for inspection. It was hard to see anything in detail but he knew that the tire was one of the old tires that used to be on the car before it was restored – narrower and smaller than the tire he had just taken off. “This is going to look funky but it will have to do.” There it is again… “I’m late! I’m late…”

He slid the new tire in place and started screwing the nuts in place one by one. With all hand tightened, he walked behind the car and “squish” went the other shoe… This time he could feel the water seeping inside it. He gently dislodged it from the mud (managing to keep it on his foot this time) and started lowering the car onto the new tire.

After lowering the car for what seemed like a very long time, he finally felt the jack get easier. Dislodging it, he threw the jack into the trunk – the time for formalities was gone now – and walked to the tire to tighten the lugs only to see the reason it had taken so long. The tire was half flat, at least. With no other alternative, he tightened the nuts one at a time, all the time praying the tire would last long enough to get him there. His prayers were interrupted when the wrench slipped off one of the nuts and his knuckles hit the pavement.

“God bless…” he said out loud as put his knuckle in his mouth to try to stop the bleeding before it started. Realizing this wasn’t going to work, he reached into the trunk and got the only rag he could find… and old greasy red shop rag that had obviously seem it’s better days. Wrapping around his now throbbing hand, he finished tightening the lug and THREW the wrench into the trunk. “That’s it!” He thought, “That’s the last thing that’s going to happen! I am going to MAKE this thing WORK tonight NO MATTER WHAT!!”

Slamming the trunk lid closed, he started around the car to get in. That’s when he felt the tug and heard the muffled tearing sound his wet trench coat made as it started too spilt up the back. “AAARRRG!” He screamed as he finally lost it. Grabbing his now stuck, ripped trench coat as close to the trunk as possible, he put one foot on the bumper and gave a might tug!

You ever had one of those moments in life when things begin to happen in such quick succession that you experience every detail because it seems to be going in slow motion? Well, this was one of his. As he gave his coat a mighty yank, his other foot (the one with the sock) slid out from under him and started to slide under the back bumper of the car. He tried to brace his fall with his right hand (the rag hand), but being in slow motion the way he was, he only got it half way into position. This way it would slide out from under him, scrape up his palm and encrust the rag in mud.

This WAS one of those times however, that all those stretching exercises came in handy! His left foot (sockless) remained on the bumper and basically forced him to do a single leg deep knee bend. Pushing his knee up against his chest as high as it would as if he was taken one HUGH step up. Problem was, when he finally stopped flat on his back half under the car, he felt the rear seam of he pants rip slightly up the back.

Dislodging his foot from the bumper, all he could do was lay there for a moment and stare into the rain falling into his face. Then he starting laughing, “This is too much!” He thought. “If you don’t want me to get there, just give me a sign, don’t torture me!”

Slowly he got himself out from under the car and started to fish his keys out of his pocket to open the trunk and get his trench coat out. Just about the time he got his keys out, the end of his trench coat slid out from under the trunk lid like it had a mind of its own. He stood there and shook his head, chuckling to himself.

He walked up the side of the car and opened the door to get in. Just then, a tractor trailer came full bore down the road not 5 feet away, drenching him (again) and the inside of his car. “Well” he thought, “that should get some of the mud off me!” He climbed inside his car, closed the door and, first wiping some of the grime off of it, looked at his watch. “DAMN! I’m almost an hour late!” He jammed the key into the ignition and turned it to start the car. He hadn’t noticed that the emergency blinkers weren’t blinking anymore.

As he turned the key, a low groan followed by a clicking sound greeted him. “I’m late! I’m late…”

“NO!” Turning the key off, he tried it again. Just the clicking sound… All kinds of thoughts started racing through his mind. Call a taxi? No… Phone’s dead. Hitch a ride? In the dark on the side of a major street… no. not a good idea. Flag down a cop? Like they are ever around when ya need em… Hmmm…

He decided to wait a couple minutes and try it again, spending the time trying to get some of the accumulated grime off of himself. A small puddle was developing around him in his seat and on the floor beneath him … Given any other time, this would probably have really upset him, but tonight his dream girl was waiting and if he didn’t get there soon, he was sure she was going to leave! “I’m late! I’m late…” the rabbit whispered in his ear.

He took a deep breath and turned the key… the engine turned over very slowly then spit and stuttered to life! “Finally! Something worked FOR me! He thought as he put the car in gear. He managed to merge himself back on the road and found himself at the restaurant in less than five minutes. “Hell, If I had known it was THAT close I would have walked!” he thought as he got out of the car. He also noticed that it had stopped raining.

Starting to walk toward the restaurant, he felt the now familiar tug of his overcoat trying to keep him near the car. He turned and looked and this time discovered that he had closed it in the door. “Fine!” He yelled. “You want to stay with the car so bad? You got it!” He then took the overcoat off and threw it down where he stood.

Crossing the street and walking into the place proved uneventful, a change from the beginning of his evening, but he decided to stop in the alcove to TRY to make himself somewhat presentable just in case she hadn’t left him in the lurch.

When he opened the inside doors, he spotted her immediately. Blue eyes, auburn hair to the shoulders and red lipstick to match the form fitting red dress she was wearing. She stepped forward and said to the man at the door “I think that belongs to Me.” and she smiled at her date. She took his hand and pulled him aside and helped in wiping off some of the dirt.

“You’re Late…” She said “Have a bad day?”

“You have no idea…” bowing his head feeling a bit ashamed “I was wondering if you had left.”

“Never. You said you’d be here, I knew you would.” putting a couple of fingers under his chin, she lifted his head and looking directly into his eyes, she said “Happy first wedding anniversary darling!” and kissed him full on the lips.

He felt warmth inside him that could only be one thing… Love. He kissed her back, being careful not to pass any of his grime on to her red dress.

“Let’s go eat… I’m starving!” She said as she took his hand again and turned to walk to the matre’d.

He tugged at her hand playfully and asked “Are you sure you want to be seen with me looking like this?” She stands and looks at him for a moment. Then, before he can stop her, she pulls him to her and grabs him in a full body hug, even nuzzling her face in his neck. He hears her chuckling as he half-heartedly tries to pull away. A moment later, she releases him and wipes the grim from her face.

“That better?” Everyplace that his body touched hers there was a wet spot with a little caked on mud for good measure.

“I guess that’ll do!” and they both laughed as they turned back to the matre’d.

“Reservation for Downey!” He says.

The Matre’d scowls at them, looking them up and down, and then looks their name up in the book. “I’m sorry sir; you’re over an hour late for your reservation. I’m afraid we’ve given your table away.” And turns to other business. He was ready for this though! He reaches around to his back pocket to get a little “incentive” for better service. Its then that he discovers that the ripping sound he felt from the back of his pants was not, in fact, the seam of his pants – but his wallet pocket. Apparently his wallet felt the need to reserve his spot on the side of the freeway lest some one else come along and try to park there aside from him.

Seeing her husbands discomfort and obvious embarrassment (once again), she opens her clutch and pulls out a $20 bill. Placing one hand on the arm of the stuffy guy and placing the bill in his hand with the other she whispered something in his ear. He looks at her husband and with a smirk on his face, proclaims “Right this way!”

The Matre’d then went into the dining room.

“Madam” with a flourish, the husband waves his wife in before him and he follows, last in line.

He didn’t notice the step up into the dining area until his next slow motion event of the evening. His toe (the one with the sock) hit the short step and he tumbled forward. This time he did manage to grab the first this he saw in a vain attempt to try and steady himself.

It was red and kind of stretchy…