Rush Hour Commute

One of my goals (as you’re likely aware) for 2019 is to post more random short stories or scenes from my idea journal. Here’s a really random one. As always, it’s a draft I’ve never done anything with so keep that in mind. Feel free to comment with what you think, what you like, or what you’d change. Just don’t steal. S

Seventeen minutes until I arrive, according to my GPS. I stare ahead at the lanes in front of me, solidly packed with cars. Brake lights are flashing like possessed holiday strands meaning people are as impatient as I am.

I ease my foot off the gas pedal letting my little car roll about half a car length forward before I have to switch back to the break. I’ve been stuck in this traffic on my commute home for a lot longer than usual. Ahead of me in my lane, it doesn’t look like anyone is moving. Perfect opportunity to try and figure out what is going on.

I flip the radio station to my second set of presets and push 2. This button has been programmed for one of the many satellite radio traffic stations, a necessity when your commute to and from work includes freeway driving in Phoenix. “The 1-17 is flowing a little slowly due to rush hour. Travel time from Peoria to the Durango curve is sitting at about 27 minutes.”

My finger hovers over the button, ready to flip back to some soothing tunes. The 1-17 is not my freeway, but if they’re reporting freeways it shouldn’t be long. “That’s not our big traffic story today, folks,” the announcer bellows. I sigh, having a feeling I’m not going to like where this is going. “The 1-10 has completely backed up thanks to a rollover near the stack. If you’re trying to go into the West Valley, bring your patience or take an alternate route.”

I smash the radio to a nineties grunge station to match my mood. This is bad. I decide, although it will add miles and time, I’m going to pop off at the next exit and take surface streets home.

The brake lights in front of me flicker off. The blue Civic I’ve been following for two exits move forward an entire car length. I give a little hoot of appreciation before slipping my foot off the brake enough to let me roll. No point in hurrying.

Before I can catch up to the Civic the black truck on my left turns sharply into my lane practically severing my bumper in the process.

“Shit.” It’s not brilliant but it’s what I shout. Good thing my foot is still hovering over that brake. I smash it to the floor and feel the jolt of my car stopping suddenly. “Asshole,” I mumble.

I look down at my phone again, checking the GPS I programmed with my home address when traffic stopped moving. I’m about three miles and 23 minutes away now.

I creep close enough to the next exit to take my leave of this chaos. I’m not surprised to see my friend, the crazy driver in the truck, merge onto the ramp with me. He accelerates up the ramp like the few seconds to the stop light ahead will make a difference. I drive a more normal speed, although even I’m zooming past the commuters taking their chances with the freeway.

I’m relieved when he gets into the left turn lane at the light. I accelerate into my right-hand turn, glad to be making progress again. My speedometer rushes up, glad to be moving past the little white 10 on the dial. I buzz my window down and let the wind carry my stress away. It’s really a beautiful day. Sun shining, comfortable 83 degrees, blue skies. I reach and turn up the radio dial again, singing along when an old favorite song comes on.

Two turns from my own street I hear what sounds like a revving engine nearby. I check every direction from my vantage point at the four-way stop. Why would someone be going so fast in a residential area?

I wish I could say I’m surprised to see the black truck coming in my direction from the right. But the truth is there’s something in my brain saying “of course it’s him.” I take my right turn followed by an immediate left. My house is more than halfway up the street. I can’t see it yet but I still open the drop down cubby to access the garage door opener.

Then I check my rear-view mirror.

I think I already know he’ll be there. Riding my bumper, impatient that I’m driving twenty-five in this little residential street where kids play.

I refuse to rush.

My house comes into view. I slow down so I can swing into the driveway even as I hit the button to activate the chain drive. Big truck guy swerves around me because who can wait while I pull in, right? I shake my head and pull into the garage.

I shut off the car, grab my purse, and take my time exiting my car. My husband opens the door to the garage, smiling and drying his hands on a little dish towel. “How was your day?” he asks.

I walk to the end of the garage and look around. My shoulders sag. “I met the new neighbor.” I point right next door to the house with the SOLD sign on the lawn and the big black pickup truck parked diagonally across the driveway.

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