996 words, posted exclusively at BlondeRJ, for your reading pleasure. Thanks, Heather Fitzgerald, for the idea!
How long have I been driving?
The freeway seems to yawn forever in front of me. Stop and go. Stop and go. LA traffic is hell on wheels.
I am waiting for exit 6, but I can’t even remember what time I left home. My mind is fuzzy and blurry and I’m exhausted.
The license plate in front of me reads “IMAH8TR.” Not clever or cute. Just stupid.
Fantastic. I’m stuck behind the “Hater” and the eye-piercing sunlight makes my head ache. I recall that this is normal for me. Headaches are part of life here in the smog of LA.
Hater slams on his brakes in front of me. I slam on mine as well, cursing loudly. Who gives losers like this driver’s licenses?
To add to Hater’s incompetence, he has something sticking out of the trunk of his Toyota Camry. I squint, my eyes tired. It looks like part of a blue flannel shirt. So Hater has a trunk full of clothes? What is he – an illegal immigrant? For some reason, this irritates me further. I can feel the road rage escalating inside of me. Pedal, brake, pedal brake. I’m going crazy.
Wait. Wasn’t the shirt blue? Now I can see that part of it is actually red. What kind of flannel combines blue plaid and bright solid red? So Hater has poor taste in clothes as well.
I am sitting so closely behind the Camry that I can see the red more clearly now. It’s not even in any sort of a pattern. It’s like a big bad stain. And it’s spreading. With a gasp, my brain comes into focus in an instant.
The red is spreading.
The bright color boldly creeps into every corner, overwhelming the blue and conquering the fabric for its own. Soon the scrap hanging out of the trunk is completely crimson.
What is this: sunlight-changing fabric? If only the hue didn’t remind me so much of…
Time freezes as the first drop falls. I watch it, stopped dangerously close to the Hater car in front of me. My stomach clenches as I drive over it a second later. For crying out loud, it’s got to be blood.
I’ve got to call the police.
Ignoring the hands-free driving rule, I fumble for my cell phone, my fingers trembling and shaking. I accidentally drop the phone at my feet and swear, stretching sweaty palms to find it, my eyes glued to the dripping of scarlet that hits the asphalt every other second.
“I’m on the 5, between exits 7 and 8!” I scream after dialing 911. My temples throb. “There’s a car with something hanging out of the trunk. It looked like a shirt, and now it’s covered in blood. It’s dripping.” Admitting this makes it true, and I shudder at the words.
“Can you stay behind the car and keep us on the line, sir?” The woman’s voice responds to me calmly.
“I’ll help! They’re getting off the freeway!” I cry, not knowing what I’m saying. I find a gap and pull into it, heading for the right hand side. They’re leaving at number 6: my exit.
“And he’s pulling into the gas station at the corner of 9th and Steton,” I whisper now, the buzz of the freeway replaced by quieter road sounds. I feel so obvious, trailing the car. I park as inconspicuously as possible in the nearest parking spot, facing the car with the bloody shirt.
A burly man gets out, tattoos marking his shoulder. He begins to pump gas, lighting a cigarette dangerously close. He looks right at me through my windshield.
I’m dead now.
But he simply nods at me. My breath exhales all at once, and I feel like throwing up.
The officers appear out of nowhere from around the corner of the convenience store. Engaging the burly gas-pumper in conversation, three policemen suddenly attack him, throwing the man’s chest against his door. While two officers slips handcuffs onto the man’s brawny wrists, one hefts open the trunk.
He lifts out a much smaller man. His shirt and pants are caked in crimson, and he collapses against the officer who saved him.
I throw up my hands with a shout of glee, dropping my phone against the seat.
A tap at my window startles me. Two of the officers have made their way to my driver’s side door, dragging the criminal with him.
What are you doing? I mouth. Just let me be the good citizen! I don’t want this nasty fiend knowing who I am or that I ratted him out! I’m frozen in fear behind the wheel.
“Please step out of the car, sir,” they say firmly.
What the heck?
I do. And find myself also thrown up against my own door, my hands twisted back uncomfortably behind me. “You have the wrong guy! I’m not with them! I reported this to you!” I shout, wrestling against them in sheer terror.
They lead me, handcuffed, to the back of my own car. The bloody man is pointing, finger shaking, at me. Using my keys, they pop my trunk, and out jumps a woman! With an animal yell, she races, tripping and stumbling, over to the bloody man, throwing her arms around him.
My head stabs.
“Mick!” growls the burly, tattooed man. “Mick, you sold us out, you son of a dog! You called the police, didn’t you?” He curses and spits. “Your head hurts, doesn’t it, man? I knew you were a liability, you piece of puke!”
With a crash in my skull that feels like I have been electrocuted, it all comes back to me. My name is Mick. I beat up and kidnapped a wealthy couple. The tattooed hunk is my right-hand man. I suffered a brain injury in a robbery last year. I black out some times and forget who I am and what I’ve done.
And I just called the cops on myself.
Copyright RJ Conte 2015
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