Prom Night in Purgatory
Author:Amy Harmon

Prom Night in Purgatory by Amy Harmon





That which has been is now;


and that which is to be


has already been.


Ecclesiastes 3:15








To Every Thing There is a Season






The house was the same, but different. The old swing wasn’t old. In fact, it looked as if it had just been hung, so squeaky clean and shiny were the chains that suspended it above the broad front porch. Red and yellow tulips dotted the flower beds, the first buds of spring. There hadn’t been any the last time she’d looked. The house appeared as if it had just been freshly painted and the shutters were a gleaming black instead of the peeling flat charcoal they had faded to. There was Irene’s car. It was parked haphazardly in the long driveway, as if it had been left in a hurry and was waiting for its owner to return. The chrome glistened, and the pink of the paint looked so new that Maggie wondered that it didn’t drip from the doors. Another car passed in front of the house. And then another. There must be a classic car show nearby. A big black Buick pulled into the driveway behind Irene’s Cadillac, and a man Maggie had never seen before stepped out of the car in a huff and slammed the heavy door.


“Irene!” The man bellowed, walking towards Irene’s poorly parked car. He was tall and a little heavy set, but he wore his weight well, like a man who was comfortable with himself and accustomed to leading others. His hair was slicked back from his face, waves neatly lacquered into place. His suit was black and almost baggy in its fit, the roomy legs of his slacks pooling slightly above shiny shoes. His white shirt was neatly pressed and his thin red tie disappeared into the V of his big suit coat. He wore a hat like Frank Sinatra’s, and it gave him a dapper air. Men looked good in hats, Maggie thought randomly, watching the man stride toward the pink Cadillac.


“She never puts the car away like she’s asked, constantly leaving it blocking the driveway,” the man mumbled as he yanked the car door open, leaning inside the Caddie’s roomy interior. Maggie could see that the keys hung from the ignition. He slid his big frame into the car and pulled the door shut behind him. Maggie wondered if she should stop him or call out for help. He was obviously taking Irene’s car. She lurched forward, lifting her arms and shouting. Instantly she stood by the open window of the car, as if propelled at lightning speed to her goal. He didn’t seem to notice her standing pressed against the window – and then she wasn’t, pressed up against the window, that is. She now sat beside the big man on the bench seat of the car; the high-glossed leather of the seat should be smooth against her thighs, but it wasn’t. She couldn’t feel the seat at all or her legs that lay against it. As she ran her hand along the dashboard, it was as if she pulled her hand through the air. She couldn’t seem to connect with the objects around her. She must be dreaming. Yes. That’s what it was. Just a dream. The big man turned the key in the ignition and prepared to drive the car forward, his eyes trained on the garage in front of him. Someone tapped at the window, a sharp rat-a-tat, and Maggie’s head swiveled to the left, a movement replicated by the man beside her.


Johnny. He was leaning down to peer into the driver’s side window, his dark blonde head tilted to the side, the knuckles of his right hand still pressed to the glass. A small grease stain made a black crease between his first two fingers. The man next to Maggie quickly rolled the window down several inches. An aqua colored truck with bulbous headlights and rounded wheel wells sat at the curb. A flat bed extended from the cab with “Gene’s Auto” emblazoned on the side. The truck’s horn tooted, and the driver touched his cap and pulled away from the curb.


“Mr. Honeycutt. Sorry to startle you, sir. Gene sent me to pick up the Buick.” Maggie’s heart skipped and smiled in her chest. Johnny wore a striped blue work shirt with GENE’S embroidered on the pocket. The short sleeves were rolled a little, as if he struggled to conform completely to the uniform.


“Oh, that’s right!” Mr. Honeycutt wiped a big hand down his broad face. “I forgot all about that. I did tell Gene to send someone by.”