The Reading Circle

The Reading Circle by Ashton Lee Page A

Book: The Reading Circle by Ashton Lee Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ashton Lee
Tags: Fiction, General
as they negotiated the hairpin curves that wound their way through thick pine and hardwood forests just beginning to bud out from winter weather.
    Jeremy checked his watch again. It was getting close to a quarter to six, and he hadn’t even gotten to the Alabama line yet. The last wooden exit sign had pointed the way to the nearby town of Collinwood, Tennessee. From past trips, he calculated it would be another fifteen miles or so until he hit the border—then another fifteen minutes from there to the Mississippi line.
    â€œC’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he was saying absent-mindedly, knowing the Michiganders could not possibly hear him. But he kept uttering the words anyway. They kept coming out of his mouth while Debussy simultaneously filled up his head and the small space inside the car. How ironic to have such an idyllic environment surrounding him while only enormous and constant frustration loomed directly outside and ahead!
    He considered his cell phone. Never one to embrace new technology, he still used the flip variety that came free with the plan. Maybe he should forget about surprising Maura Beth and just tell her he was on the way but was probably going to be a little late. One of the drawbacks of his ancient phone was no hands-free dialing, so he began looking for a spot to pull over safely. Then he would make that call.
    He tried Maura Beth’s home number first. If he failed to find her there, then he would try the library. She had to be in one place or the other. But he had no sooner finished his task than technology’s ultra-annoying graphic flashed onto his cell screen.
    NO NETWORK ! it said. The phone might as well have been telling him to go to hell in a handbasket.
    Well, he should have known. Why would there be a network available way out here in the middle of nowhere among these stone outcroppings and unspoiled forests of rural Middle Tennessee? Who would be making the calls anyway—wild turkeys needing to catch up on their gossip, raccoons wishing each other, “Happy Birthday!” and deer telling their friends about this brand-new place to graze that they simply had to try?
    Jeremy managed a smile, but he suspected he needed to get where he was going to avoid further inane speculation. So he tried Maura Beth’s number again just to be certain. The same message all but slapped him in the face.
    He had no choice other than to drive on, hoping eventually to enter a viable cell. The time and the light were both slipping away, so he began speeding up. With the Michiganders no longer blocking his way and his view—and what a relief that was!—he quickly reached sixty. Patrolling park rangers had been known to give tickets for going much over that, so he decided to put the car on cruise control. After a couple of tries, he got the Set button to stick right around sixty. There might still be enough time to make it to Cherico if he could continue at that speed instead of crawling along under fifty behind some recreational behemoth.
    Then his little Volvo crested the top of a steep hill, and that was when he saw he was home free. “Yahoo!” he shouted, surprising himself with his choice of words. He had never used that expression in his entire life, but at the moment he was smiling as the Yahoos of Gulliver’s Travels came to mind in brilliant literary fashion. Jonathan Swift—at least the political satirist side of him—had long been a favorite of his, often echoing his own dissatisfaction with the foibles and failings of today’s society.
    What suddenly had him so pumped, however, was the sight of the Michiganders and their moveable residence pulled over to the side and parked in one of the many picnic areas that had been so thoughtfully included for the convenience of tourists. It was getting a little dark for a picnic actually, but Jeremy hardly cared what whoever was inside intended to do at that particular mile marker. The important

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