There was a slight flash of light from behind me. As well, there was a blam-like sound. After that, a different sort of sound broke the silence of the night. Thump kada da thump, kada da thump. Thump kada da thump, kada da thump. The steering pulled to the right. Those things, the sounds and the pull, were all I needed to know that I had a flat tire. I slowed down the car, then eased off to the right of the road.
What a way to spend an evening after a long road trip on business. At least, it wasn't raining or snowing. Nor was it outrageously cold.
The jacket I earlier tossed on the seat beside me was more than enough to ward off the chill of the evening as I stepped out after parking off the road. Having been licensed as a driver for several decades, I had enough experience at changing tires to know exactly the sequence of actions to go through. Of course, it didn't mean that I particularly liked changing tires, especially at night.
I picked up everything to put away, having used the cheap donut tire that the automotive companies foisted on the public in order to save money for themselves. It sure as hell wasn't going to save me anything. I planned on stopping at the next service station to see about having my blown tire repaired, if that was possible.
Rolling the blown tire to the trunk, it thumped at one point, signaling to me that something was stuck in it. If it was merely a nail, there was a chance that the tire could be repaired at little cost. At least, it was something to hope for. Running my hand over the tire as I rolled it, I was surprised to discover that the object was quite a bit larger than a nail. Shining my flashlight on the spot, I looked at what had to be the ugliest rock I'd ever seen.
It was ugly only because it had punctured my tire. Otherwise, I guess it would have just been a rock to me. I couldn't even budge it from the rubber to see how bad the puncture was. My hopes of an inexpensive repair faded quickly.
I didn't find a service station that evening before reaching home. It was all I could do to get myself to bed a short while later, having had a busy day in more ways than one. I didn't realize that nothing would compare with the days ahead of me.
The following morning wasn't anything out of the ordinary. I dressed for work, ate breakfast, called in to let the office know I'd be a few minutes late, got in the car, and drove at a reasonable speed because of that lousy donut tire. Other than feeling tired, I didn't feel any different. I stopped at a service station, showing the blown tire to a mechanic. He shook his head on seeing it.
He said, "Nope, you aren't going to get that repaired. I'll put another tire on the rim. You want another blackwall?"
"I guess so," I said, getting the cost from him so I could write a check.
A few minutes after that, I left the station with the new tire in place and the cheap-ass donut tire stored away once more.
That afternoon, I was dead tired when I got home. After eating and showering, I went to bed a bit early.
The next day was when everything began to happen to me. Maybe I should say when I noticed what happened to me. I'm sure now that it was because of that rock. I wish I had never seen it, just like I can't see a lot of things now. Oh! I skipped telling you what happened, didn't I?
I got up with the alarm, slipped on my clothes, ate breakfast, and went out to the car. Up until then, I felt normal except for a mild headache right behind my eyes. Since that wasn't anything unusual for me, I simply put on my sunglasses to cut down on the glare.
Usually that worked to ease the strain and reduce, if not eliminate, any headaches for me. Then I pulled out of the driveway and onto the road. It was still early, so there wasn't much traffic about.
Pulling onto the interstate highway was where the fun began for me.
I was driving a fast 65. That means that I was actually doing just under 70. It was fast enough that I didn't lag back in the traffic, yet I wasn't about to get ticketed for speeding, either. Still, at that speed, I was often passed by other drivers who were willing to push the limit a bit or a lot more than myself.
Only a few minutes after I entered the interstate, I was passed by a car driven by a woman. I happened to glance over at her and had to steady myself upon seeing her. As best as I could tell, she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing! I fumbled my sunglasses out of the way just to be sure I wasn't seeing things. With the sunglasses out of the way, she was still quite naked and very good looking as well as she passed beyond me.
Well, of course, I wanted to take another look, so I sped up a touch until I was beside her car once more. Glancing over at her, I could see most every inch of her upper body that showed through the two windows of her car and mine while I smiled at her daring and courage.
I knew that was something I'd never try to do. Anyway, I didn't keep gawking since I had a job to reach. Nor did I want a ticket for speeding or driving recklessly, so I dropped back to my normal fast 65 and let her go her own way.
My thoughts lingered on her for a moment. I reasoned that she was probably involved in some radio contest for a thousand bucks or something like that. It had to be a damned good prize to get someone good looking like her to drive in the buff during broad daylight.
Thinking of that, I turned on the radio and scanned the channels in hopes of hearing just what sorts of shenanigans were going on. I figured I could use a good chuckle. Of course, I also kept my eyes on the road while one hand pressed the scanning buttons on the radio.
I sensed another vehicle passing me just then and happened to glance over as it went by. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw a second woman in an open jeep just as nude as I guessed the first woman was. I guessed my luck was really running good that morning after seeing two attractive women nonchalantly driving down the road without a stitch of clothing on them. I didn't bother trying to keep up with her, but I kept searching for the radio station that I felt sure was the cause of my good fortune.
By the time I got to work, I still hadn't found that station. As well, I knew it had to be for a really good prize. By then I had seen close to a dozen men and women driving down the interstate without anything on that I could see. I mean, if it was for a prize of ten thousand dollars or more, I might have convinced myself to be more daring and brave than I felt I was. However, not knowing what station was sponsoring the contest or the rules, I just went on ahead in to work.
I was early and went to my office where I settled in for a hard day of work at fabric design. When I entered my office, I was startled to discover that things were missing. I just stopped and stared while feeling stunned. For a moment, I even had the dreaded sensation that I was being fired and someone had cleaned out all the projects I was working on. However, my name was still on the door.
I soon realized that only the fabric swatches were missing from atop my desk. I rationalized that someone had likely borrowed those in my absence.
Now, believe it or not, up until then I hadn't even glanced down at myself or I would have realized right away that the problem was in me.
I would have known then that those other people were clothed. I mean, it was just after I sat down when my secretary came to my door that I knew something was going on. It sure wasn't a contest. When Judy came to the door, all I could see on her were her shoes and a belt. The rest of her was beautifully nude.
"Are you all right?" Judy asked when she saw my stare and gaping mouth.
I replied, "I think so. Would you mind telling me why you are naked?"
Judy stared at me for a moment, then laughed as she asked, "Okay, what's the joke?"
About that time, one of the other secretaries stopped beside her to ask her something. I was stunned to see even more of her than Judy.
All I could see on her were shoes.
I said, "Joke? I'm afraid that you're the ones pulling the joke. Why are you both naked?"
Of course, they glanced at each other before they stared at me as if I was crazy.
"Are you sure you're all right?" Judy asked.
"I think I am," I said as I rubbed my eyes for a moment. "I guess I've been working too hard lately. I could have sworn just now that you were both really naked."
Rubbing my eyes was all it took then to make me see straight again, but it didn't last long. Within another five minutes, I was seeing everyone naked again. The fabric swatches disappeared from my sight once more from where they had been all along on my desk. Rubbing my eyes several times more resulted in less and less relief until it just didn't work any longer. By then, I was glancing down at myself, seeing my keys suspended in the air below my hip.
By noon, I knew that I was finished in the fabric business. There was no way I could do the work if I couldn't see what I was working on. Talk about the emperor's new clothes, I could only see exactly that.
By the end of the week, just about everyone at work knew I had a problem, though they didn't realize what it was or the extent of it.
I guess the only thing that kept me out of trouble, at first, was that I had enough sense to keep my mouth shut and not tell anyone about their tattoos or birth marks. By the end of that same week, just about everyone around knew also that I was finished in the business. It was evident just by the way I dressed. I couldn't tell fabric colors when I dressed myself in the morning. I was doing it by feel. I had to literally feel in my drawers and closet for clothing to put on. I had no idea what colors I was putting together.
At least no one laughed or ridiculed me for my appearance those last few days. It was altogether another matter just putting my tie on, not to mention having to constantly check to see if I had zipped up my pants since the crummy zippers were mostly plastic and invisible to me. Even paper was becoming transparent and almost invisible to my sight.
I was called into the head office that Friday where my situation became more than just threatening to my job. It killed my job. About the only thing I could do was agree with my boss that I couldn't do the work any longer and ask for some assistance in emptying my office. I couldn't tell anyone what my real problem was, not even then. I had enough problems without embarrassing someone or starting a fight. I think you can understand. After all, there were folks in the office with more padding than a football quarterback playing in the pros.
After I was fired, I had my only good idea to strike me that week.
I enrolled in a Braille course since I was blind in a way. After all, a lot of objects were simply transparent to me. It was as if I was looking at people wearing transparent clothing, handling transparent paper money, and reading transparent books and magazines. I was effectively shut off from much of the world. I learned a lot from the Braille course, but it wasn't enough to get me a job. It was of little use to know Braille when I couldn't find easily what I wanted to read in the first place unless it was imprinted on metal.
It was shortly after that course ended when I got my only other good idea. That's when I made my career change to something I felt before that I wasn't daring or brave enough to ever do. That was when I cashed in some of my investments and purchased a nudist resort that came onto the market.
At least there I wouldn't have to worry about having my zipper closed or whether I was really seeing naked people or not. In fact, I wouldn't have to wear anything myself which was good since I couldn't see what I was wearing anyway when I could even find my clothes to put on. I just figured it was kind of fair for others to see what I could. Plus, there was the added advantage that it was safe for me not to dress since it was a nudist resort, thus avoiding the embarrassment of wearing mismatched clothing.
Thankfully, the nudists turned out to be pretty nice folks so my career change worked out well after adjusting my attitude a bit. I was glad since I couldn't think of much else I could do with my vision problem.
Well, I did one other thing as well. I went back and found that blown tire of mine. The rock I recovered from it turned out to be a meteorite. That helped explain the flash I saw just before I got the flat. It also explained why I had suddenly become limited in what I could see. Or should I say that my vision became unlimited in a way?
Anyway, since then I've had what I consider might be one last good idea. I've often thought about letting someone handle that rock, but I just haven't met anyone I wanted to punish or reward, depending on how they might view their predicament.
But lately, I've thought of a really good use for it. I'm thinking of sending a small piece of it to every member of Congress. Who knows? Maybe they'll see a way to make better laws about what's important to people. Maybe they'll have a better vision for our country. Maybe they'll learn just how visible they are to us. At least, they'll learn just what it's like to wear the emperor's new clothes.