Traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see; probably farther. The sun was high and hot and everybody was in a hurry. Of course, I thought that this would be a quick trip across town.
The city bottlenecks at the Ferry Street Bridge and has been a constant headache as city officials try and remedy the situation without spending millions on a new bridge. When there’s an accident it messes things up for miles because there isn’t really another way; not one that’s handy anyway.
I just missed the light and have to watch as hopeful motorists squeeze in behind each other, congesting the intersection and blocking my hope for, at least, making the turn onto the onramp.
I sigh a defeated sounding sigh; even to me.
Traffic creeps along and I have to force myself to let people in who need to merge. I have to force myself not to hate everyone in front of me who is a little closer to where I need to be. I have to force myself to breath and realize that there is no way to change this.
I think of the Serenity Prayer.
Three lanes have to become two lanes and I politely let the VW go in front. I realize that I’ve developed a system of every-other-car and I want everybody to follow it. She’s a sorority girl with the stickers to prove it. I can see her in her side mirror and I imagine that she’s telling whoever she’s on the phone with about me. I’ve mellowed out about the whole traffic jam thing now as I imagine everyone present has. It’s hot, we’re stuck, I guess we just suck it up and hope for a good song on the radio.
Two lanes become one. Everybody follows my every-other-car system that worked so well earlier and within a few seconds we’re all moving even slower than before but we’ve consolidated ourselves to one lane. Obviously, the accident is in the empty lane. People are being courteous and allowing everyone to get into a spot in the now single-file line to wait it out in the sun. Everyone is giving each other the thank-you-wave and/or nod and generally banding together in the face of catastrophe.
I use the word liberally.
Except for this guy. There’s always one guy who thinks that he’s in a bigger hurry than everyone else. Or thinks that he can somehow circumvent the event by doing what no one else is doing and driving in the wide open lane.
He thinks he can cut. No one stood for it in grade school but this guy obviously doesn’t remember.
He needs some reminding.
I roll down the passenger side window and pray that no one lets him in until I get there. By now, you can see the red and blue lights from the overabundance of cops that arrived at the scene1. He almost muscled his way in front of my sorority gal but she managed to squeeze by.
Now it’s my turn.
With the window down and the slow approach, it’s easy to aim.
His front, driver-side tire goes flat in one burst of gray dust. Gunshots are loud in enclosed spaces and my ears are ringing. I pull in front of him, out of the line and turn my car off. With the gun still in my hand I get out and approach his decrepit vehicle, the gun casually bumping against my leg as I walk.
He looks pissed. His window is down and the hot and heavy air is streaming in making him look red and shiny like a pig. He starts shouting as much profanity as he knows at me and tiny, white flecks of spit are flinging off his lips. I level the gun and rest it in the ocular cavity of his left eye.
He is silent.
I am silent.
We share a moment.
A few cops from the accident site heard the gunshot and come wandering over. Their uniforms are ill-fitting and the sweat glistens of their swollen faces. A diet of pride-swallowing and donuts have left them armed and impotent. Dangerous. So I greet them with measured caution.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen.”
“Afternoon, Sir.” Cops are always so polite. I lower my gun so it points harmlessly at the asphalt.
“What do we have going on, here?” Anyone who uses the patronizing ‘we’ should probably be shot but, as it stands, I don’t have any bullets left.
“This guy was going to cut in front of a line of cars,” I gesture at the sweating motorist, “so I stopped him.”
“You know that you’re going to have to pay a fine for discharging your weapon in a moving vehicle.” Our boy in blue folds his arms across his chest and stares at me with phony bravado. Too much Serpico.
“Don’t worry about the fine, officer, I’ll have my new friend here pay it for me.” I gesture again. The gun wavers between his forehead and his chest. I see him swallow but he makes no other movement. I’m extra casual with my gesturing. Every sweeping arc makes somebody’s breath stop whether it’s the cops or the overcooked asshole.
“This I gotta see.” I hear the second lawman mutter under his breath.
“You're are going to pay my fine, aren’t you?” I ask in a tone that can only really be described as coy. “After all, you are the one that caused this little scene.” I smile broadly.
“The hell I am.”
I grab him by the collar and forcibly pull him out his open window. He struggles but not enough to get free. I have him on his knees, in the middle of an empty lane, on a bridge, with the sun beating down on everything. I haven’t pointed the gun anywhere yet and it rest by my side as I eyeball the police for any indication of resistance. They both seem to be pretty relaxed like maybe it’s worth the story in the locker room later this evening.
“You’re not going to do anything,” he shouts, “the cops are right there.”
“How much would the fine be?” I ask the cops.
“You’re going to die for sixty dollars? I just shot your tire because you tried to cut me off; you think I care about the fucking law. I have a gun in my hand and I’m sweating like the side of a beer – I would really like to shoot something.” I wave the gun in the air like a fanatic. “Do you see this?”
“Well, here’s something the cops don’t know,” I pull another gun out of from underneath my shirt, “I’ve got more bullets in this than people who I need to kill to get away.”
He blinks and swallows his spit.
“Look at the traffic,” I move so that he can see the gridlock, “it’s not like they can chase me, they’ll have to go on foot and we both know I can outrun them.” For a minute, I even fool myself and I wonder what a life on the run would be like. I press the gun into his flesh but not hard. The cops don’t make any move to stop me but one of their hands hovers above a radio.Give
I spit the words out and cock the hammers of both guns slowly.
There’s a whimper but I can’t be sure if it came from the asshole or the cops. I gently press the muzzle of both guns into his flesh.
There is a small pause.
His wallet clatters against the asphalt and my feet. It lies open with his driver’s license peering out at me in a half-blink. I put one of the guns in my other hand and grab his wallet. There’s nothing in the cash pocket except cash, which is rare. In it were exactly three twenties. I grabbed them and released the magazine from both of my sidearms. They fall to the feet of the asshole with a surprisingly loud clack.
He looks at them and all their empty glory. But I'm already a few steps passed the cops, my money floating to the ground in the still air. The cops, arms in their armpits, watch me get into my car and successfully merge into the gridlocked traffic jam.
As the line of cars move forward and the asshole gets back into his car to wait for the wrecker I could swear that I hear one of the cops laugh to each other.
“Can you believe that guy."
1Eugene has a one-to-one ratio of perpetrators to police.