Down and Out

I’m working on the daily Wordle, my obsession, when my phone vibrates. At first, I try to ignore it, deep in my mental algorithm of substituting letters across some still empty spaces.

The phone rattles on my desk again. Irritated at the second breach of my Wordle absorption, I grab it and check the screen. It’s a message from Lyber telling me that Virgil will arrive in 10 minutes.

Virgil? I haven’t even called for a Lyber. I hit the Call Driver button. It rings but goes to voicemail. I leave a message telling him that there’s a mistake, that I didn’t call for a ride.

Just as I turn back to Wordle, the phone vibrates again. I pick it up and find that Virgil will be at my house in 10 minutes. Typical.

How many times can they say he’s 10 minutes away?  Again, I hit the Call Driver button. Again, I am sent to voicemail.

Irritated, but curious, I go to the front door, head outside, and sit down on the stone wall bordering my yard. I look at my phone. It does buzz. Virgil will be here in 5 minutes.  Progress.

I survey the street, look left, look right. Not a single car in sight yet.

My phone buzzes once more. Please call Virgil. I call. This time someone answers, and, oddly, that someone is a woman.  I’ve never met a female Virgil.

“Ah, hmmm,” I say brightly, “is this, er, Virgil?”

The woman says, “Who?”

“Are you by any chance Virgil?”

There’s a pause. “Who is this?” the woman asks.  Her voice is smooth, the kind hypnotists have, the kind late-night FM radio DJs have.

“This is Chris Lau,” I say. “I’m getting a message that you’re my Lyber driver and you’re close to picking me up.”

She laughs. “Ah, I don’t know about that, but my name’s Angela. I don’t drive for Lyber or any other rideshare company. Right now, I’m eating breakfast at Lucky’s Drive-In.”

“Geez, this is weird,” I say. “Lucky’s is close to me.  Like a 10 to 15-minute drive.  What are the chances?”

“Seemingly very good,” she says. “Hey, here’s a wild idea. Do you want to join me for breakfast?”

I think about my incomplete Wordle. “Well, I’m right in the middle of something.”

“I’ll buy,” Angela says, her temptress voice encouraging, beckoning. “That is, Chris, as long as you’re not some crazy dude. If you are, please don’t come join me.” She laughs, and so do I.

“Well,” I say, “if you swear to me you’re not some kind of kook, I’ll forego what I was doing here and head on down.”

“Great,” she says, “I’ll be waiting.”

I go back inside, take a look at the Wordle again. I have LO**R. Oh well, I put my computer to sleep and head back out to my car.

Just before I get in, a car slows by me and stops.  The passenger side window lowers.  “Are you Chris Lau?” the driver asks.

“Ah, yeah, are you Virgil?”

“That’s me.  Hop in.”

I do.  He asks, “So we’re headed to the airport?”

I give him a quizzical look.  “Is that what I supposedly requested?”


“You know,” I say, “this is a mistake.  I didn’t request a Lyber.”

“Whatever,” Virgil says.  “Do you want out, or do you want a ride someplace?  If you bail, I’ll have to charge you for the ride here.

“Well, as fate would have it, I’m headed for Lucky’s Drive-In.”

“Sounds good, Mister Lau.  I’m glad I can help you out.”

Just as we turn into Lucky’s it comes to me. Of course, this is that kind of charmed morning. Angela’s that kind of woman. The Wordle, I realize, is LOVER.

Virgil takes me to the front door.  I thank him and race into the dining area. There are four old men drinking coffee, and a young man is typing on his laptop. Maybe Angela’s in the restroom?

I sit down and wait. And wait. Hmmm . . .

Okay, I think, I’ve got it. I take out my phone and hit the Call Driver button again. The phone rings and a man answers. “Hi, this is Virgil.”

“Oh, yeah, this is Chris Lau.  I dialed you by mistake.”

“No problem.  Call me when you need a ride back.”

 I hang up, take one last look around, then head home.  This time I want to walk.  The day has turned to crap.

When I arrive home, I sit down at my computer and wake it up.  I imagine Angela in my arms.  We kiss.  It’s electric. Man, that would have been something.  Alas.

And now I see it.  I type in LOVER.

It gives me LO*ER.

Of course, dam*it.  I sag, balloon down. It’s the story of my life’s journey.  I sigh and type it in again, this time with the S.

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