Bartholomew and Geraldine were driving down the road in Bartholomew’s car, a 1974 Peugeot, white with pink side panels and chrome trim. The car had been his father’s who kept it in the garage and only drove it on special occasions. They were heading to the Mountains of the Great Divide for a picnic lunch on the hottest day of the summer. Geraldine had suggested the outing as a way for Bartholomew to make up for burning down her father’s cabana. She also insisted on Bartholomew’s father’s Peugeot, as she thought it looked European, which it was.
“Oh Bartholomew,” gushed Geraldine, “You are so romantic taking me to the mountains for a picnic. Did you bring the food I asked for?”
“Uh, not all of it,” said Bartholomew. “I brought sunflower butter and beet sandwiches on oat croissants, corn, some kale and a dessert. Oh, and some apple-carrot juice. Of course, it is all organic.”
“I didn’t ask for any of that disgusting food. Didn’t you bring the pickled pig’s feet, Donkey Double Cheeseburgers, chips and bubblegum ice cream? Didn’t you bring any of that?”
“No,” said Bartholomew, twitching in his seat a bit. “I guess I didn’t understand.” But he did understand. Bartholomew didn’t like the food Geraldine requested so he brought the food he liked. He was beginning to think that he and Geraldine had many obstacles to becoming a couple. After all, they didn’t like the same food or movies and Geraldine didn’t like to read. Also, Oliver, Bartholomew’s cat, didn’t like Geraldine and Gerald, Geraldine’s father, didn’t seem to like Bartholomew, even though he often said quite the opposite.
“Bartholomew, you look just like a race car driver behind the wheel of this car. It’s like you’re Jimmy Stewart or Cam Gordon or some racing guy like that,” said Geraldine.
Bartholomew smiled and enjoyed the feeling of driving the twisting and turning mountain roads, the sun above, the cool wind on his sweaty skin and a girl by his side-- someone who thinks he’s something special. Suddenly, Bartholomew felt something between his legs. He looked down and saw Geraldine’s hand rubbing the inside of his thighs. When he looked up at the road again the Peugeot was almost rubbing against the guardrail. Bartholomew quickly adjusted the car.
“Geraldine, could you please not do that while I’m driving?” asked Bartholomew.
“Oh, Bartholomew, you are driving…me crazy. I have wanted you so bad since the cabana,” said Geraldine as she moved closer and started rubbing Bartholomew’s crotch even rougher.
“Geraldine! I …stop…please, don’t…”
The speed at which the Peugeot drove down the mountain increased greatly. Bartholomew had trouble holding the car in the turns and they were drifting into the opposite lane.
“Geraldine…please…” Bartholomew started as Geraldine was undoing his zipper.
Another car was coming up the mountain, approaching the Peugeot. Bartholomew was trying to pull Geraldine’s hand out of his pants when he finally noticed the other car. He swerved the Peugeot back into the right lane just in time.
Ahead Bartholomew saw a place to pull over and park in front of a small roadside store called the Last Chance Oasis and Frappacino Cafe. Bartholomew was disappointed in Geraldine. She seemed blinded by her desire for intimacy. He felt that she wasn’t even cognizant of him and what he wanted. Perhaps he should tell her that their relationship wasn’t working and that it should end.
Bartholomew turned off the engine and opened his mouth to tell Geraldine he was going to drive her home. But all that came out of his mouth was a groan as Geraldine’s hand had suddenly done something very satisfying in Bartholomew’s pants. Geraldine wasted no time. She reached around Bartholomew, grabbed a lever and reclined his seat. She then lifted up her skirt and straddled Bartholomew. He couldn’t help but notice that she was not wearing underwear. He wondered if she was wearing any when he had picked her up. A little more disconcerting, Bartholomew noticed that part of himself was now outside of his pants.
Geraldine slid back and forth on top of Bartholomew. Sweat collected on her forehead and streamed down her face, her neck, across her tattoos and onto her breasts that were now clinging to her sweat-soaked tank top. Their moans mixed in the air with the cicada buzz, the oppressive heat of the sun and the calm sweet chirping of birds. Geraldine’s body was throwing off heat, a heat that made Bartholomew sweat from every pore. His breathing started to become labored. His eyes began to roll up into his head and he felt that if they continued he would pass out from the heat.
“Stop,” Bartholomew whispered weakly. “I…I…”
Then Bartholomew, feeling like there was a raging fever inside him, saw something that startled him. On the back seat, to the side of his reclined seat, he saw a small fire start. The flames stayed low and licked along the surface as if the air was too humid to welcome it.
“Stop.” Bartholomew said a little less weakly this time. Geraldine paid no attention. With her eyes closed, quiet unintelligible words sputtering from her moving lips and with each thrust of her hips, Bartholomew could tell that she had left him and gone to another world somewhere inside herself. Bartholomew realized she suddenly seemed very young and vulnerable.
Although she may have seemed vulnerable, Geraldine was still very capable of accidentally kicking the gear shift into neutral. Imperceptibly, the Peugeot began to roll backward out of the parking lot.
Paying attention to what was happening closest to him and feeling a bit of déjà vu, Bartholomew said “Geraldine, stop, there’s a fire!”
Geraldine paid no attention as she continued to rhythmically rock on top of Bartholomew.
“Geraldine, there’s a…AAAHHHH!” said Bartholomew as he noticed a tree trunk go pass his window. The Peugeot began to pick up speed. The added breeze whipped up the flames on the back seat.
“GERALDINE, STOP!!! WE CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS!!! WE ARE GOING TO DIE!!!”
Needless to say, at this point, Bartholomew’s body did not have any attention, or endurance, for intimacy. As a result, Geraldine slowly came out of her stupor to the sounds of Bartholomew yelling at her.
“GERALDINE, STOP!!! PLEASE!!! I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS WITH YOU!!! WE DON’T BELONG TOGETHER!!! I’M GOING TO DIE!!!
Geraldine stopped and looked down at Bartholomew as the Peugeot was bouncing along the shoulder of the road. Geraldine dismounted and sat in her seat. She folded her arms across her chest, hiding her sweat-soaked breasts and stared out the window as a couple more tree trunks passed. Bartholomew continued to lie in his seat, surprised by Geraldine’s response and feeling as if he had done something wrong. The Peugeot slowed as it started up an incline and eventually came to a gentle stop as the bumper nudged up against a tree.
“You can take me home now,” said Geraldine, still looking out the window.
Bartholomew pulled his seat upright and looked at Geraldine. Then he remembered and looked back at the fire. It was out, there was no sign of it anywhere. Had Bartholomew really seen what he thought?
“You can take me home now,” repeated Geraldine while tightening her arms against her chest and staring out the window.
Bartholomew started the car and quietly made his way down the mountain road. The weather felt muggier than before and it seemed like an eternity before they pulled into Geraldine’s driveway. Once the Peugeot was parked, Geraldine turned toward Bartholomew. She had tears in her big yellow eyes and mucus rimming her up-turned nostrils.
“Bartholomew, I thought you liked me,” she said, holding back the tears. “You were always doing things for me and being so polite and thoughtful. You made me feel special.” Geraldine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“I’m always polite and kind to people. That’s who I am,” said Bartholomew.
“Well, where I come from, people aren’t very nice or kind,” said Geraldine. “When they are, it’s because they like you.”
“I just thought that’s the way everyone is supposed to be, whether you like someone or not,” said Bartholomew.
“It would be good, in the future, since you are so nice, to let a girl know sooner if you like her or not,” said Geraldine, as she began to cry some more.
“You’re right, I should,” whispered Bartholomew.
They both sat for a while in the Peugeot and listened to the idling engine.
Geraldine reached for the latch and opened the door.
“Well, goodbye, Bartholomew.”
Geraldine got out of the car and stood next to it for a moment. “You know what really bums me out?” asked Geraldine as she looked away from the car. “I’m not going to have a boyfriend to celebrate my eighteenth birthday next week.” Then she walked off and into her house.
Bartholomew took a big gulp of air, slowly pulled out of the driveway, and drove home with only one very large thought on his mind: “Whew!”
Written by Mark Granlund
Illustrations by Mark Granlund