I love living away from the city. All that filth and crime gets on my nerves. I'm lucky that beautiful mountains surround most of the major cities around here. I drive a half hour through tree-covered foothills every day to work. There's not much traffic and I never know what I might see. It seems like just yesterday I passed a coyote skulking along the edge of a small pasture. I almost didn't see him in the morning mist.
Of course, these winding mountain roads do have their drawbacks. All it takes is one asshole driving too damn slow to screw up your morning. You see, there's usually only one lane each way and all those curves mean you don't get much opportunity to pass someone that's holding you back. I hate that. I really hate it. One day a while back I just couldn't take it anymore.
I got stuck behind this old lady. That happens to everyone sometimes, no big deal right? Except I had gotten stuck behind her the day before too. And the day before that. I don't know where she came from or why she was on the road every morning. Probably just to piss me off. Anyway, I swear she must've been blind as a bat and didn't know what a gas pedal was for. Stupid old people. They shouldn't be allowed to drive. I swear, she never drove faster than about 20 miles an hour. It was worse than being stuck behind a friggin' school bus! After driving at a snail's pace behind her for a week (and being late 3 out of the 5 days), I decided to do something about the old bitty.
As I drove home Friday evening, I scoped all the likely places to make my stand. It wasn't hard. These roads can be tricky. Small white crosses adorned with faded flowers marked more than one spot where drivers were beaten by the twisting roads, bad weather, or alcohol. I finally decided it should be somewhere along the twenty or so miles of asphalt that follows the curve of the river. The road is especially narrow there, and drops down hundreds of feet to rushing whitewater through most of it. Yes, this would be the place. I drove home with a light heart. My wife even asked me if I'd gotten a raise or something because I was in such a good mood when I got home after being cranky all week.
The weekend seemed to pass dismally slow. I wanted to take care of this problem right away. I guess I'm funny that way. Finally, Monday morning came around and I was already awake when my alarm went off at 5 AM. The air was crisp and left my lungs in plumes of steam as I scraped the frost off my windshield, engine running so my big SUV would be toasty warm for my drive. Since it was January, it was still dark when I left the house at 6. That would help since I figured I had home court advantage over the semi-blind old lady. I had barely gotten two miles away from home when I saw her pull out about 100 feet in front of me. I was forced to step on the brakes as usual to accommodate her painfully slow pace. Instead of the usual scowl and obscenity, I felt a smile curve my lips. I stepped a little harder on the gas pedal till my bumper was inches from hers. Tailgating her hadn't worked before, and I didn't expect it to work now, but I figured it was worth a try anyway. We drove that way for another two miles before I edged my foot a littler harder onto the accelerator. My bumper kissed hers with perfect precision. I laughed with glee when I saw her bleary old eyes glance back at me through her rear view mirror. She picked up the pace by about 2 MPH, taking us up to a lightning 25 miles an hour. It felt so good to see her squirm, and I tapped her again, a little harder this time, then backed off for a lone car coming from the opposite direction. She returned to the usual 20 MPH. I frowned and watched the other car in my rear view until it rounded the curve out of sight. As soon as it was gone, I punched the accelerator and watched with glee as the blue-haired head jerked back at the impact. We were just reaching the arc of the river now.
I could see alarm in her eyes now, reflected back through her mirror. She sped up again, her wrinkled old face turning from side to side as she looked for one of the rare turnouts along this stretch. I was already edging to the shoulder, forcing her away from the sanctuary she'd never bothered to use before, when she'd had the chance to do the courteous thing. She swerved back into the center of the lane inches away from mashing into my front end. 'Good girl, that's just what I wanted' , I thought to myself. I dogged her tail, alternately tapping her bumper and backing off, playing with my little grey mouse. By now she was finally proving she could go over 30, and still picking up speed. The road took a curve toward the left, my chance was up. No car was coming towards us so I moved up and over into the empty oncoming traffic lane, speeding up till I was side by side with the old bat. I grinned and flipped her off when she turned a disgusted face towards me. Then I jerked the wheel to the right, coasting into the side of her 1968 Dodge. It was a long, ponderous car, but not much match for my big boy. I heard gravel crunch as her tires hit the soft shoulder of the road. I think she screamed too, but it could've just been the grating metal of our vehicles. She slammed on her brakes, trying to slingshot me past her, but I was ready for that too and had better reflexes. I slowed, falling in gently behind her still moving car. Confusion and panic were starting to wear on her now, I could tell , as she wove unsteadily back onto the road. I followed, glancing at my speedometer. Well Lordy be, she was actually doing 50 now. I knew she could, stupid old witch.
We were about halfway through the river valley now, with a sharp curve toward the passenger side coming up. This was it, my chance to get rid of her for good. Still I harried her, tapping her and angling to her outside just to keep her off balance. Every time she'd slow, or try to pull off, I hit her hard on the rear bumper, pushing her back onto the road if I had to. She wasn't getting away that easy, no way. Her back bumper was starting to angle down now with the repeated pressure. Her driving became increasingly erratic as panic took its toll on her. I smiled. It was almost over. 'Too bad, in a way' , I thought. This was kind of fun. I only hoped she didn't croak of a heart attack before I gave her the coup de grace. There it was, the row of bright yellow chevrons warning of the coming turn. A speed limit sign warned to reduce speed to 20 MPH. My speedometer said we were doing at least twice that. I was maintaining my edge toward her outside and started to move in now, slowly. She had little choice but to try to slow and move to her right, closer and closer to the guard rail. I moved in right alongside her, like a tugboat guiding a barge right to the valley of hell. Metal shrieked as the guard rail bit into her passenger side. I moved out just a fraction to gain a little leverage then jerked the wheel violently toward the little old lady and her slow old boat.
It's hard to describe the sound of a tearing guard rail. It's almost like a sudden herd of elephants trumpeting at once as metal tears into metal and finally rips away. Her car seemed to move almost in slow motion when it broke free like an eagle taking flight out over the river. There was a moment of silence as her car soared through the air, then sudden cacophony when it slammed into the steep volcanic rock that formed the sharply angling walls of the riverbed. I thought I heard a loud bang, maybe her windows exploding out, but I suddenly had no time to think about it as the curve strove to snatch my tires out from under my big SUV. I pumped the brakes and grappled with the uncooperative steering wheel. I heard my tires squeal, still pulling me toward the soft shoulder. It occurred to me that those guard rails were pretty pathetic in the face of a huge hunk of metal like my car. My heart was racing by the time I finally slowed, still pulling toward the right. I blessed the guard rail as it stretched its arms around my car. I guessed I'd gotten a flat, but I was all right now.
I'm not sure how I came to be standing along the side of the road. Maybe I hit my head. I can't find my car and I've been trying to hitch a ride for what seems like months now. I can't believe not one person has stopped for me. It's like they can't even see me. Rude fuckers.
©Sonja Torres 2000