“What the hell happened, Evan?” my wife Sally says, writing another worry line across her prematurely aging forehead.
“I…” I show my palms, because I don’t know where the fuck to begin.
I think I do.
I had just picked my girl Marie up from daycare, her happy babble in the backseat calming me from the rage I always feel from New Jersey traffic. Fuckwits rubber-necking at a crash that had as much drama as a Phillies baseball game, or idiots refusing to stagger when a lane ends – all make me want to just turn my wheel at an opportune moment and send them crashing through the barriers and into a tree, or the highway below this or that bridge. Grrrr-fucking-grrrr.
Then I have to contend with Sally, who since deciding I would be the sole bread-winner, now spends her isolated hours painting over-wrought pictures nobody wants to buy, and continually freaks out about her daughter’s safety. Just because she stood at the edge of a reed-strangled pond that time when I wasn’t looking. One minute late and I’d get it in the ear. I had to find a way to convince her to get back to work before my love ran off a cliff.
My mood lifted as Marie sang stuff I always crow to her on our car journeys. A bit of Elvis, a bit of Blondie, a bit of Faith No More. She makes my ears sing.
That good feeling didn’t last. The red Porsche caught my eye immediately in the side mirror. I had got on the long slip-road to I-295 with a trail of cars getting in behind me. As I got close to the median between the oncoming ramp to I-295 and the highway I was leaving, this rat-faced squirrel-fucker indicated to get in front of me. The prick had no chance, he should have got in line way back – the line didn’t stretch enough to induce such impatience. I put my foot down and cut that donkey-fucker off, leaving him screeching and veering to the left to avoid hitting the dividing barrier.
Ha… I broke into song, my girl repeating the line “Baby, you can drive my car.” She mirrored my whoo-whoo fist-punch, a cute little curl dropping over her left eye.
It must have been four or five miles down 295 that I thought I saw that red car again in the side-mirror, fifty-or-so yards behind and in the overtaking lane. Only he didn’t do any overtaking. I thought about getting in front of him so I could flip a middle-digit in the rear-view. The thought of my girl seeing prevented it. Plus, I knew I’d be late, by at least five minutes. I thought about buying plaster to fill Sally’s forehead cracks. Her head would look like a railway crash tonight.
Every time I took my hands from the wheel I felt my navy blue Honda Civic veer to the right. Felt like a flat. Great. Spending unnecessary money on a new tire felt worse than Sally’s tutting right now, so I took the next exit and pulled up on a gravel patch, corn bordering both sides of the road. I pulled myself out, not wanting to look at the tire, dreading to see dollars slip from my wallet.
My concern drifted, focused now on the motor pulling up behind my car, its red paint looking hotter under the sun. One foot emerged from the Porsche, as polished as the car’s paintwork, followed by another. The man seemed to glide out, helped no doubt by that smooth silk shirt.
“Whoa…” I said. “There’s no need for that.”
The man walked like a robot, a handgun by his side, stopped arms-length from me, and planted its muzzle on my forehead. I could only see myself in his mirrored-glasses, my eyes goggling.
The man’s neck snapped his head to my daughter. My girl… she made this man back away, leaving only a vowel imprinted on my head. He shushed his lips with the muzzle and screeched away.
“So?” Sally asked.
She didn’t need another worry line.
“I got a flat, that’s all,” I smiled, feeling lines form on my forehead.