Friday, October 25, 2013

Road Rage

The 80s Mustang in his rearview mirror swerved out again and this time Monk let it pass. Goosed his pickup just enough the guy had to cut in tight to avoid a head-on with an SUV coming the other way.

Sure enough, by the next stoplight, they were side by side again. Street lined with houses. They’d just passed a school zone. Monk rolled down his window and the asshole in the Mustang did the same. Thing is, it wasn’t some young tough. The driver had to be sixty, wrinkles on sun-baked cheeks belying expensive hair color and botox. Monk slid his Ray-Bans down his nose so the guy could see his eyes and said, “Seriously?” Chances were their kids had played baseball together. Twenty years ago.

Monk cranked Aerosmith and recited his newest affirmation. The one about being at peace, about letting things slide. Guitar raunch bathed his ears but his mind went to a grassy shore by a cool stream in a tranquil forest under fluffy white—

Out of nowhere, Mustang was in front of him, slowing hard, forcing Monk to slam his brakes. His eyes flipped to the rearview and caught the side of a minivan throwing up dust as it slid to the soft shoulder to avoid plowing into his back end. He took three deep breaths and pulled alongside the jerk where he waited at a stop sign. His hand dropped behind the passenger seat, reaching for the crowbar that wasn’t there. A reflex.

I am a happy man, a loving father who sets good examples. I am joyful and—

Getting the finger didn’t faze him. Asshole’s sneer looked downright foolish. As did the sea-green double-wide racing stripes on a car once favored by women of a certain age.

I see the humor in all things. I care—

Hork. That’s what they called it when they were kids. Spit was white, runny. A diss you could shrug off. The green splat that landed eight inches from Monk’s face, spreading and sticking to the window…that was hork.

Ray-Bans up, he turned his head left and pointed to the next intersection. Stereo volume on full, he drove slowly to the light, letting it turn red. Mustang sat waiting.

Half a mile of open road lay ahead. Brand new pavement headed nowhere until construction got done. Monk’s own crew. A good job he wanted to keep. Not too late to turn away, let it slide.

What’s one race? Old time’s sake. And this guy’s an asshole. Ancient affirmations crept in.

I am fast. I am speed incarnate. I get there first.

Mustang revved. Monk gave him the smile that said goodbye. The light turned green and Mustang got a hundred feet on him out of the gate.

Maximum acceleration and easily a hundred extra horses dragged the half-ton in close. Monk nosed ahead then held. They hit the first curve doing seventy but neither let up. Trees whipped by both sides. Mustang in the oncoming lane, but there’d be no traffic. Monk knew there wouldn’t be. He pulled ahead thirty feet to see what Mustang could do. Impressive. Stupid as shit, but more guts than Monk expected. He gave a little more, putting the piece of shit in his blind spot as the right turn began.

Coming out the corner, Monk braked hard. His tires melted, grabbing the last two hundred feet of asphalt before he skidded onto sand and spun. Three-sixty, five-forty, seven twenty, and rest.

Mustang had no such luck. By the time he reacted, the loser was off the pavement onto new road. He had to be doing ninety-five plus when his granny-mobile collapsed itself onto the grater’s flank. Did maybe a thousand bucks damage to the big yellow scoop but the car looked like it had already been halfway crushed at the wrecker, face first.

Monk didn’t bother looking inside when he walked past. There was no point.

He used his key to let himself into the construction trailer and grabbed his smokes, right where he’d forgotten them, on his desk. He wished to hell he could find an affirmation that worked for smoking. One day at a time.