It was about the biggest traffic jam Bud Price had ever seen.
There were cars on the right, cars on the left, cars at front and rear, and none of them were budging an inch. Heat waves rolled up from the tarmac, off superheated car bodies, making the whole overpass like a string of shaking red Christmas lights. Every so often somebody, God knows why, would start hitting their horn, and someone else would honk in retort, and then nearly everyone was honking inanely, not caring how much noise they made, buzzing-mad impatience and stress.
Bud sat there in his Saturn, staring at the traffic. At least the AC was working now. How long had it been? Two hours? It could go on a lot longer. He'd seen another jam, much smaller than this, that stayed gridlocked for four hours straight. It looked like he was in for the long haul.
The tension was getting to him. He turned on the radio. CCR was playing. Bud muttered along with John Fogerty:
"I see the bad moon a-risin'!
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin'.
I see ba-ad times today!"
Bud imagined some kind of cheesy news-report joke to go along with it – "Yessir, bad times today on the interstate! Hyuk-hyuk-hyuk..."
That's the kind of thing they would say, he thought darkly. Goddamn newscasters...
There was a sudden knock at his window. Bud jumped about three feet.
The guy outside was young, about mid-twenties, dressed in a navy-blue suit. His hair, once properly coiffed, had fallen across his face in sweaty strands. He must have been broiling out there on the tarmac.
Bud rolled down the window. Hot air and angry traffic noise gushed in. "Can I help you?"
"Yes, yes..." The guy pulled out a handkerchief and mopped the sweat gushing down his face. "I just wanted to ask you a question..."
Bud was staring at the guy's suit coat. Enormous sweat stains were spreading from both armpits, ready to meet in the middle. Poor guy's AC had probably given out. "Yeah, sure, anything you need."
Some guy was hitting the horn over and over and over again three cars down; Bud didn't hear the question very clearly, what with all the noise and the heat – he dug his pinky into his ear and said, "Excuse me, could you repeat that? I'm not sure I heard you right."
The guy smiled weirdly, repeating his question: "Are you saved?"
Bud took a long, hard look at him. Was this a joke? No – this guy was definitely serious. Was he stoned? His eyes had a glazed look, almost staring off in two different directions.
A fly buzzed around Bud's head. He waved it away.
"Listen," he said as calmly and clearly as he could, "give me your card, and I'll call you, and we can discuss this further, okay, bud...?
"Oh no," the other man said. "I think now is a perfect time to discuss it."
"That's right," the guy was saying cheerfully, his fly-eyes looking in opposite directions, "the Lord's coming, coming very soon. And if you're not saved, he'll cast you into the pit, and your body will be eaten by maggots. Doesn't that sound lovely? Eaten alive by ten thousand maggots."
Another fly buzzed madly by the window, and then another.