The stoplight three houses down from my apartment must be the longest fucking traffic signal in three counties. It never fails to turn red when it sees me. Two cars are stopped ahead of me, both idiots blabbing into their phones. No other lane to pass. The light turns green, but both cars just sit there. Neither driver’s paying attention, both jawing into their mobiles without a care in the world and evidently no place to be.
I pound the horn, demanding both vehicles blow to pieces in a fiery explosion. It doesn’t happen. God, I wish these assholes could hear me cursing them. The first car pulls through the intersection, but the second driver, a tough guy, eyeballs me in his rearview mirror and just sits there, taunting me by blocking the lane. The bass of his speakers is rattling my car. I promise him through the windshield that I will step out of this car and smash out his teeth with the pipe wrench laying on the floorboard if he doesn’t move his vehicle. Finally, it rolls forward. He takes a left. I swerve past and spit on his trunk.
If I don’t make it across town in ten minutes then my whole plan falls apart. So it’d be a good idea for all pedestrians to evacuate the route between me and where I’m going. I am an unstoppable force. I am a laser-guided cruise missile.
That stupid bitch had sent me a text message meant for that cocksucker Gary Davidson. “Meet you in 10 at the Paradise, Sexy!” She was headed to that fleabag hotel over on Highway 11. I’d known what was going on for a while, known deep down in my gut. And now I was going to catch them in the act. When you’re cheating on your husband, you should pay real close attention who you’re sending your dirty notes to.
Some old crone with a giant purse is crossing the street. She’d better run. She does and shouts something as I whiz by her. Old ladies run like chickens.
If I hit the main drag driving the way I am, I’ll have a cop on my tail in no time. So I stay on the surface streets, ignoring the stop signs. The hammer’s to the floor, and this rundown Chevy is really motoring. But it’s a hilly roadway; I lose speed at every dip and bottom-out with a heavy bang. The suspension is screeching, and it feels like I might lose a wheel. But screw the car. It’s only got to make it a few more miles then I won’t need it anymore.
The road broadens into a four-lane. Every driver I weave past blares their horn and flips me off, but they can all go straight to hell. Now back to a two-lane. Some old fart who can barely see over his steering column is clogging my path. He doesn’t deserve to be on the road. I jam my front end next his and stomp the gas. I wedge him over. BOOM, he slams into a parked car or three.
I see the hotel’s cheap plastic sign coming up. Its parking lot is potholed and littered with trash. My wife’s been giving it up in a pay-by-the-hour ass shack like some sort of truck-stop whore.
I pull across the street and idle, looking over the place. I spot her Honda. Holy shit, there’s Gary Davidson getting out of his BMW and walking over to meet my wife. She and Gary embrace in the middle of the lot and greet with a kiss. How sweet.
I’d considered caving in his skull with the wrench, but I’m not married to that idea. I grab my phone and click on the key screen. I type a reply to her errant message—“Be there in just a sec!”—and hit send. Then I buckle up.
Modern technology is a marvel. She gets the text almost instantly, and I’ve already started accelerating. She checks her phone and furrows her brow. Confused, dear?
I murder the gas pedal. Tires squeal on the pavement. She and Gary are now looking at my car and they’re both getting close very fast. I’m laughing like hell. He shoves her out the way. I cream him, and his face shatters on my windshield. The car bucks with the blow, but I keep the gas throttled and head straight for the block wall at the edge of the lot. This will hurt. When we crash I feel like I’m plunged underwater. But that doesn’t last long.
I’m back in the car. Vision’s blurry, but Gary has met his maker. The impact pinched his body between the crumpled hood and the wall, and a gob of pink goo has squirted from his mouth like he was a human tube of toothpaste. I hit the wipers.
I hear precious wifey screaming. I grab the wrench from the floorboard and kick open the crunched car door. When she sees me, I can tell from her expression that she’s struggling with a number of regrets. Sirens are wailing a few blocks away. Here comes the cavalry. But I only need a few more minutes, a little private time up close, to make sure I leave her with a face that no man will ever want to kiss again.
* * *
Now, I’m in Gary’s Beamer. Nice ride, but it’s hard to focus on that because I’m so worked up over my wife and her big mouth. A total harpie until the bitter end, that one.
I was going to leave her alive but severely disfigured, which struck me as poetic justice. But then she said it.
“You’re nobody,” she told me. “You never amounted to shit! You’re sick, and you’re nobody.”
She always had to get the last word in edgewise. Congratulations, dear.
I showed her I’m not a man of words. I’m a man of action. And I introduced her to the pipe wrench, over and over. I couldn’t stop myself. I did away with her face and smiled like a blue-ribbon winner when a trio of cop cars, lights flashing like fireworks, blazed right past the hotel parking lot and shot down the street. Stupid assholes.
So I hit the road.
I’m nobody? Wrong. I’ll bet a fine bottle of bourbon that my name’s going to be all over the local news within hours. Publicity like that turns a nobody into a somebody in no time. And if you really put the hammer down, if the needle hits the red line and you keep right on going, then you might even make the national news. That’s when you really become somebody.
Let me show you.
At my apartment no cops are in sight. I give myself two minutes tops, grab the shotgun and a box of shells.
Back on the road, I’m cruising down Highway 78. Things are chill. A BMW is a finely tuned piece of machinery, and the ride is smooth like I’m rolling on a boulevard of warm butter. I turn on the radio and learn that Gary Davidson was a fan of soul music. Al Green is singing softly about how he’s still in love with me, which cools me down like a damp towel. With the windows open, the breeze feels nice.
I pass a school bus. Dusky Pines Elementary is stenciled on the side. Must be a field trip. The kids stretch weird faces and laugh at me through the windows. Ahead of the bus is a classic Cadillac convertible with an older couple, both with white hair. The top is down.
The streetlight ahead turns red. I stop at the intersection alongside the convertible. The man driving has a cigarette in his mouth. He takes it out, leans over and kisses his wife on the cheek. She giggles. They both look like golfers, each wearing shades. The school bus pulls up to their bumper. More cars file in behind us.
The 12-gauge is loaded with five shells and already racked. I shift into park and take my foot off the brake. Al Green has a beautiful voice. The old couple is listening to a talk station.
I rest the muzzle on the edge of my driver’s side window. The street light’s green arrow has expired and traffic now crosses the intersection. I lift the stock and aim the barrel at the woman’s beehive hairdo. She turns and sees me, and her mouth becomes an O. I squeeze the trigger. Her whole head turns red. The gun kicks like karate. The old man is a howling baboon, cradling her body. I open the door and step out of the Beamer. I rack the gun and shoot him through the neck.
Cars bang into each other, trying to speed away.
The bus rumbles into reverse, smashing into the car behind it. I rack the gun and go for its door.
I see the bus driver reach for the control lever. The shotgun blasts apart the glass between us. I have to wedge open the door with the gun stock but manage to force my way through. The screams of children chime through the cab. Some average-joe hero is rushing into the bus, but I toss him the driver’s body like a boxing bag, and the man tumbles back outside. I peg the go-pedal and rip through the gears. The bus rams past the convertible and jumps the curb. We ramble over the median and roar down the road; it’s the expressway or bust. Holy crap, I already her sirens!
A school bus engine can pack upwards of 300 horsepower, and can move a lot faster than you’d think if you don’t give a damn about the cargo aboard.
“Mister, are you going to hurt us?” asks one little girl.
“Why’d you shoot Mrs. Hinklemeyer?”
“I hated her name.” I keep the gun beside me, right where they can see it.
“Why are you doin’ this to us?” asks a gap-toothed chubby kid.
“Because y’all are a bunch of nobodies,” I tell them. “And so am I. But I’ve got a plan to change all that.”
That’s when I hear it—the sweet sound of beating mechanical wings. The thrum of helicopter blades is rising in the distance. The eye in the sky is on its way, ‘cause baby I’ve hit the big time, now.
“What kind of plan?” asks the tiny princess in the seat behind me. I meet her eyes in the rearview mirror.
“A plan to make us all famous,” I tell her. “See, I’ve had a really bad day, but I plan to wrap it up on a high note. Today we all started out as nobodies, me and you both, darling. But by tomorrow, each and every one of you kids will be celebrated all over TV. Everybody’ll know who you are. And everybody’s going to know my name, too.”
I’ve got nothing against these kids, but I’ve got an omelet to make.
Most other cars on the interstate are falling away to give passage to the battalion of police cruisers and SUVs that are closing in fast. I hear the chopper right above me, slicing the air to shingles, and there’s a broadcast news van chasing up the rear.
I come upon a tiny red Kia and make a hard right on top of it. Like a pinball paddle the bus sends it hurtling, and the cop cruisers scatter to avoid collision. I careen onto the off-ramp, a fairly steep uphill climb to an overpass bridge. I’m stabbing the gas and grinding the gears to keep the clunky yellow box up to speed. The children are crying, but we’re almost at the top.
Damn the brakes; we fly through the intersection. I decide there’s no off-ramp in our future and jerk the wheel slightly to the left. We’re headed for the sweet spot between the bridge and the embankment.
The cops are trying to communicate through some sort of public address system. They’re calling to me. They announce my name on a loudspeaker. Great balls of fire! They know my name! We leave the road, and the bus is one loud, long scream, launching into the air, casting a great black shadow over the cars passing on the lanes below.
Maybe I was a lousy husband. Maybe I never became a big-shot in life. But I know at this one spectacular moment that I’ve finally achieved something significant. Something a lot of people won’t soon forget.
Like it or not, I’ve become somebody.