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Heavy gusts of wind blew the cars that passed the run-down motel on their way up the snow-blanketed mountain off course, often colliding or driving into ditches at the slightest jerk. When visiting the motel, the former owner, Anne Lamont, would rock back on a plastic white chair and watch them with a beer in hand, laughing maniacally each time one swerved off the road. Although she was a skilled driver herself, death befell her one icy night when she pulled out of the motel to drive home. It wasn’t the wind that blasted her car into the telephone pole, shattering the front window, but rather the alcohol she’d had in celebration of a car that had succumbed to a heavy tuft of snow inches from the road.
In a way, her daughter Lola thought, it was how she’d have wanted to go.
In her will, Anne Lamont asked that all of her remaining possessions be passed on to her only daughter. Although in many ways she was a disappointment to her mother, especially in that they were nothing alike, she was also her sole friend in the world.
Lola was quixotically vain about her appearance, spending (or wasting, as her mother liked to say) fourty-five minutes each day primping, applying, moisturizing, lining.
She ran the motel, fulfilling her mother’s final wish, with unsurpassed tenacity. Each morning she warmly greeted those she saw, who took more kindly to her than they did her mother. She lowered what she considered the outrageous price to spend one night in one of the rooms, fixed their peeling plaster, added veneer, and even put locks on the doors.
Taking pity on the passing cars, one morning she wrapped an orange scarf around her neck and walked outside with a sign that read “VERY WINDY. DRIVE WITH CAUTION!” in boldly printed letters. She stuck it into the ground a few dozen yards down the road and, despite its general ineffectiveness, it was something she took immediate pride in.
One evening, after everything had been locked up, and there were no more scheduled guests, Lola took one last glance at the motel before accelerating her car to the main road. The windows were frosted over, and the windshield wipers batted furiously against the clumps of falling snow. She looked over, as she always did, to the telephone pole that was home to her mother’s demise.
For the first time since that day, there was a car smashed into the pole. With bloodless fingers, Lola gripped the wheel tightly and spun it right. When the car was safely off the road, she walked as quickly as she could in her heavy leather boots to where the car was crashed as wind stung her scarlet face. She blinked furiously when a snowflake hit her eye and melted on her pupil, and almost fell over upon seeing the car.
It was her mother’s tan Subaru. She knew, like she knew the sun would come up tomorrow, that this was impossible. And yet there it was, the way she had discovered it three years ago.
The figure hunched over in the driver’s seat appeared to be dead, and thus Lola let out a shrill shriek when it raised its head to reveal itself as her mother.
She blinked again, and again, and yet again, only to find she was still there, eyes glued to her daughter. She was not translucent and seemed confined by normal human standards. In fact, the only thing that looked different about her was the blood that had pooled on the skin of her forehead, gleaming drops of red visible even through the snowy windows. “Mom!” she shouted when she found her hands shaking and lungs almost out of breath.
Lola darted forward, never taking her eyes off her mother. But, at last, another snowflake caught in her eyes, forcing herself to blink. In that less-than-an-instant, it all disappeared: the car, her mother, even the telephone poll itself. Only her car was in sight, and behind that, the sign she had placed weeks ago.
She ignored its warning altogether, instead returning her car to the parking lot and waiting out the storm until morning.