UNDER THE INFLUENCE - R. THOMAS BROWN
“It’s fucking ridiculous is what it is.” Douglas sped down the freeway, the cruise control set at sixty-seven. “Look, I don’t even speed.”
“Calm down, honey.” Marie, his wife, flipped through a book on her phone.
“I will not fucking calm down. This is not fair.”
Marie set her phone in her lap. “Look, you got a ticket for talking on your phone. It’s against the law.”
“I know what the fucking law says.” He moved into the left lane to pass a white truck. His daughter in the car behind them did the same. “The point is I was not being unsafe. It’s a stupid law.”
“You’re setting a bad example for your daughter. You know, she texts all the time when she drives. They say it’s more dangerous than drinking.”
“Fuck that shit. Show me someone who can drop being drunk in their lap when they need to pay attention.” He pulled up even with the truck and looked over. “Look at this son of a bitch.” He pointed. “He’s fucking eating while he drives! From a bowl. A fucking bowl.”
“So, there’s no law against that shit.”
Marie picked her phone up again and rolled her eyes. “They’d give him a ticket if he was driving dangerously.”
“Right, and that’s how it should be with my texting, too. I’m driving safe? Leave me the fuck alone.” He flipped his middle finger to the truck driver who balanced his bowl and returned the gesture.
“Doug, don’t do that. Driving angry doesn’t do anyone any good. Just relax.”
“I’ll relax when I fucking feel like it.” He passed the truck and took a deep breath. “Fucking nanny state assholes telling me what to do all the damned time.”
He glanced in his rear view mirror. “What the fuck? Now look at that douchebag.”
“What?” asked Marie.
“He’s swerving around like he’s fighting off bees or some shit. What a prick.”
“Is Stacy alright?” Marie turned around. “Doug, I’m worried.”
“See, see what I mean about real dangerous driving?”
“Not now, Doug. Stacy.”
“If he hurts her, I swear I’ll fucking kill him.”
“Just pull the fuck over, Doug.”
“Pull over and let him get past us.”
“Fine.” Doug pulled to the shoulder and Stacy followed.
The white truck slowed next to them. The driver leaned out his window and spit on Doug’s Mercedes before driving away and laughing.
“That fucking asshat.” Doug sped off. “I just got this fucking car washed.”
Marie held onto the oh-shit handle. “Doug, what are you doing?”
“I’m gonna teach that little shit a lesson. The fucking police may be too busy giving out tickets for goddamned phone use, but this little fuckwad needs to learn.”
He was on his tail.
“Doug, back off.”
“Shut the fuck up. I’m trying to concentrate.”
The truck accelerated, but Doug had little trouble keeping up. “That’s right, run, fucker. Who’s the badass now?”
He ignored Marie. “I’d bump you off the fucking road, if it wouldn’t hurt my paint job.”
“Doug, you’re scaring me.”
“Then go the fuck to sleep!”
The truck made a sudden exit. Doug followed.
“What about Stacy?”
“We’re taking our fucking daughter to college.”
“She knows how to get there.”
“Douglas Bryant, you get back on that highway!”
The truck turned right. Doug followed.
“Doug, you’re going to get someone hurt.”
“Yeah, that fucker in the truck is gonna hurt.”
Marie crossed her arms and shook her head. She placed a call. “Hi, Stacy, your father has decided to be a fucking idiot again, so we’ll be late.”
“Love you, honey,” Doug yelled.
“Yeah, bye, sweetheart.” She ended the call. “Happy?”
“I will be. As soon as this assclown learns his lesson.”
“And what lesson is that, dear?”
“To fucking drive.”
Marie sat with her mouth agape. “Unbelievable.”
Doug started to respond, when the truck hit its brakes. Doug slammed on his, and skidded around the truck. “Fuck.”
Doug got his bearings back, but the truck was gone. “Son of a bitch!”
“Can we go now?”
“I guess so. Fuck!” Doug shifted the car into drive and headed back along the two land road.
“Do you know where we are?”
“Somewhere between where we exited and the college.”
“Not funny, Doug. Do you know how to get back to the highway from here?”
“Oh, I’m sure it’ll be easy enough. We’ll just drive along until we get to a major road again. I think we passed a couple.”
“Yeah. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Doug drove slowly, trying to pick out signs. “Get your phone out and find out where we are.”
“See, phones make driving better.”
“Not now, Doug.”
He leaned forward across the wheel when the car lurched forward. “The fuck?”
The white truck sped by, the driver’s middle finger extended toward the sky.
“Oh, that is it. You are fucking dead.” Doug sped toward the truck, forty, then fifty on the speedometer.
“Doug, slow down.”
“Fuck that, he hit my car. He’s a fucking menace.”
“So are you.”
Doug ignored her as he merged back onto the highway. “See, back on the highway. No problem.” He kept pace with the truck. Seventy. Eighty. Ninety.
“Doug, slow down.”
“I’m fine.” He wove in and out of traffic.
“Shit, Doug, not again.”
“Look behind you.”
Doug grimaced at the police cruiser lights. “Well, at least that asshole will get a ticket, too.”
Ahead, the truck slowed alongside a whiter Mercedes.
“Shit, that’s Stacy,” Marie shouted.
The truck bumped her into the guard rail.
“Fuck you.” Doug pulled up behind the truck and clipped it from behind. “You are fucking dead.”
Marie turned around. “Stacy’s still driving. She’s seems okay.” She turned back. “Let him go.”
“No fucking chance. He’s a goddamned menace, and I’m going to stop him.”
“Doug, let the police handle it.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? I stop, he’ll stop with me. Call ahead to some other shithead to stop the truck, but who knows if they’ll find him.” He rammed the truck again. “Probably too damned busy writing tickets for texting.”
“I’ll decide when it’s fucking enough.” He pulled up to the back corner of the truck and turned, sending it into a spin. It hit the cement wall and came to a stop. “Give me my gun.”
“Doug, I don’t...”
“Give me my fucking gun!”
Marie didn’t move.
Doug reached over her and took it. He stepped out of the car. “Come on, fucker. Get out.”
The police cruiser stopped.
The driver of the truck got out. Bowl in hand.
Doug marched closer, gun extended. “You almost killed my daughter, you jackass.”
The driver tossed his bowl at Doug. “Why don’t you cry about it, old man?”
Doug tasted the wet, sweet, gummy contents. “Oatmeal? You fucking threw oatmeal at me?” He leveled his pistol at the driver’s head.
“What, are you gonna shoot me, old man?”
Doug fired a shot over him.
“Shit!” The truck driver fell to the ground.
“Put down the weapon,” the officer ordered.
Doug looked back. “This asshat almost ran my daughter off the road. Twice.” He kicked the bowl. “Because of his fucking oatmeal.”
“Put down the weapon.”
Doug shook his head. “No, I’m not the bad guy. This little shit is who you need to fucking arrest.”
“I won’t warn you again. Put the weapon down.”
Doug stared at the pistol.
He heard tires squeeling.
He saw Stacy crash into his car.
He saw Marie tossed from the car over the side of the highway to the underpass below.
He saw the semi drive out with Marie on the hood.
He heard the tires screech and the engine rumble.
He dropped the gun and ran toward the crash.
The officer yelled something he didn’t hear.
He ran to Stacy.
Blood was everywhere. Her limbs broken and at odd angles. Her eyes lifeless.
He glanced down and saw the half written text message.
He didn’t fight when the officer shoved him to the ground.
BIO: R Thomas Brown reviews crime fiction at his blog rthomasbrown.blogspot.com and crime novels at Crime Fiction Lover. His writing appears around the web and he has a novel coming in 2012 from Snubnose Press.
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