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Parking Structure 3 from Page 36

“Do it.” The next level downwasmarked LevelMinusOne. John said,

“They ought to hang the engineerwho designed this structure.” He looked around.All the cars on this level were old.Vin-

tage about 1980. Kept in real good condition, though. Polished, shiny,mint condition. John looked atMillie.Hewas being an old S.O.B.Too hard on her. She couldn’t help the fact that she wasn’t logical like him. She didn’t even have a law degree. He looked lovingly at her young face – the smooth face of a

nice 40-year-old, not thewrinkled face onewould expect on a 50- year-old. He eyed her black hair. She must have dyed it again, and he hadn’t even noticed until now. “I love you.You look real pretty today,” he said. “Humph,” she answered. The next level downwasmarkedMinusTwo.The air smelled

damp and moldy. The parking spaces were filled with classic cars, all fromthe era of about 1950 to 1960, and each vehiclewas in amazingly good condition.There was some realmoney here. “Wow,” he said, “is there a car show here today?” John squinted out the window into the darkness. There, a

dozen yards short of the next turn, his parents’ old 1956 pickup was parked in one of the spaces reserved for the handicapped.He recognized the license plate. A stooped old man stood next to the car. It was John’s

dead father. His father looked up, caught John’s eyes, and dart- ed into a doorway leading down a long corridor that receded into blackness. “Wait. Stop,” John said. He yelled atMillie. “That was my

dad. Dad was right there by his car.” “Oh, John, John, John,” saidMillie. “Your father has been

dead 10 years.Your mother too. And their old car was hauled away to the junkyard and sold for spare parts.” “No,” John insisted, “It was him. Him.” John’s breath came

in shallow gasps. Millie glowered at him. “Whatever iswrongwith you?Have

you lost yourmind?” John looked out the car window again. He thought, She’s

right. Dad is dead. Maybe I’m losing my mind, or at least my sense of logic. Besides, they were 100 yards underground on this so-calledMinus Two Level.Where would a doorway and corri- dor lead to? He wiped his wet forehead with his shirt sleeve. “Here we go,” Millie said, “Here’s the up ramp to the

higher levels. Now we’re getting somewhere.” She sounded young, musical. John turned to look atMillie. She looked like a teenager. Or

was it just the darkness of this parking level? Several bends later, they passed a sign that said, Plus Two

Level.All the cars herewere ultra-modern looking, almostweird. Stubby electric vehicles, low-slung cars with ergonomic shapes. Some even had wings. There must indeed be some sort of car show going on.Maybe they could stop by the show afterMillie made him sit through the lecture on obsessive-compulsive disor- ders. He would at least humor her. He looked at his watch. It was already 7:15 p.m. The date

was wrong, though. It said, Tuesday, 2011, and it was really only 2001. Stupid watch. He hated defective merchandise. Another trip to the damned shop. His fingers began to twitch again – he rubbed them along the seams of the fuzzy acrylic wool seat covers. “We’ve already missed the first 15 minutes of your useless


lecture,” John said. The car slowed again, then stopped. “Something is wrong,”

Millie said. “We’re on level four, and there are no cars here any- more.And I remember the sign said this is only a four-level struc- ture. So how can we park on level five like it says we should?” Her voice sounded tired, defeated. Millie’s hair was gray

again. Her face was wrinkled leather. The light in this odd park- ing structure must have been playing tricks on John’s eyes. Then he saw the tears on her face. Apang of guiltwashed through him. “Letme take over driv-

ing sowe canmake some sort of progress,” he said, getting out of the car and walking around to the driver’s side.As John settled into the driver’s seat and put his hands on the sweaty plastic of the steering wheel,Millie slid over. Her passenger seat clacked as she ratcheted it down into a lower position. She groaned softly with arthritic pain. He said, “I’msorry Iwas so cranky. I’ll try to do better.”As a

mumbled afterthought, he added, “I love ya.” Millie lay back on the reclined seat. “Sorry?That’swhat you

always say. But you never change. Everything changes around you, but you’re always the exact same person.” She turned away to stare out the window. John drove round a corner marked Up. They were still on

level four; they needed level five, so going up seemed logical, in fact obvious.A few minutes later, they rounded the same corner – still on level four. “What the hell is wrong with this structure?” John said. He

raced the engine and roared the car around several bends, delib- erately going the wrong way at the next corner, no matter what the sign said.A new sign said, Level Six. But they needed level five, not six. How had they skipped it? John turned and shouted at Millie. “You and your stupid

psychology lecture.” Millie cringed against the far window. John looked out through the open sides of the parking struc- ture, hoping to catch a glimpse of the university buildings to reorient himself. What he saw caused him to slam on the brakes. He flung

open the door, jumped out of the car and ran to the side of the empty sixth level. He grabbed at the cold concrete column as he leaned forward and looked out over the countryside. It should have been almost sunset this July evening, but the

sun was nowhere to be seen. It was somewhere behind a slate gray sky that hung lowover the city of darkened buildings.There were no cars on the streets. Mounds of snow lay on the concrete sides of the parking

structure.An icywind blewsnowflakes onto fluffy piles and onto his shirt.This couldn’t be happening anywhere in July – especial- ly in LosAngeles. He walked back to the car and climbed in. He stared blankly at the steering wheel, breathing hard. “What?” asked tired oldMillie. “It’s snowing. In L.A. In July.And we’re on a sixth level that

doesn’t even exist.” Millie said, “Seewhat Imean about your trying to force your

logic on everything?” John’s fists tightened on the steering wheel again. “I’m

gonna back the car right out of this damned place.”He revved the engine and craned his neck painfully out the window, backing around a turn.He screeched the car to a stop again, just in time to avoid backing over the sharp 2-inch spikes lying in the car’s path. OneWay, Do Not Enter, Severe Tire Damage, the sign said. The only possible direction to go was up. “Those god-damned engineers,” John said. He pounded his fists on the steering wheel and shouted. “This place was built by Continued on Page 40

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