I love NPR but could never stand A Prairie Home Companion. I was disappointed to learn that the last episode did not involve a troop of genetically enhanced baboons laced with steroids and weapons-grade Viagra being airdropped into Lake Wobegon. I’ll just look at this picture and dream of what might have been…
The blanket was stalking me, and I decided to play it cool.
I was reading in bed on a cool weekend afternoon when I saw it out of the corner of my eye. A blanket suddenly appeared in the bedroom doorway. The only thing giving away its intentions was a slight flutter and a barely suppressed giggle from underneath. Any parent with small children has had this happen to them. I knew what to expect.
I kept reading and noted the blanket moving out of sight behind the foot of the bed. A page or two later and I looked up to see it was now on the other side between the bed and the window. This was a very patient blanket, indeed. But it was also bold.
It was only a few paragraphs after this that the blanket crept its way onto the bed near my feet. Again, there was an admirable suppression of wiggles and giggles as it did so. Any moment now… As expected, the blanket was thrown aside and my six-year-old shouted, “Surprise!” But that’s where the expected took a sharp left turn into anarchy. Her big surprise was an eight-shot automatic Nerf pistol, and she opened fire at point-blank range.
The worst part? It was a girl-gun. A few years ago, the Nerf company decided to expand their user base by attracting girls into the market. They made a whole series of weapons that were white, pink, baby blue, and purple. They called it their “Rebelle” line. The whole idea is completely biased and unnecessary until you handed one to a young girl. The reaction of both my daughters was something along the lines of “My arm is now complete,” said in a voice that would have chilled me had my girls not been so damn cute.
The fun-gineers at Nerf also had another idea. “You know what girls need besides pretty colors? Twenty-five percent more velocity.” Between my wife and I, with a lot of help from Craigslist, we accumulated about 20 Nerf guns over two years. I know the Rebelle ones by sound and impact alone. Without even looking, I can tell if it was a girl gun that shot me, the difference in pain is that noticeable. I am willing to bet that Nerf hired a few female designers and I was now feeling the impact of that decision. Back to the assault…
The weapon firing at me is called the “Powerbelle,” which is a cute name for an engine of pain, and it’s my youngest daughter’s weapon of choice due to its ease of use and how much it hurt. I told her I was a little afraid of the thing, and she took my show of weakness to heart as the electric mechanism was peppering me from four feet away. I managed to keep the number of hits to four thanks to the many pillows on our bed. I stopped complaining to my wife about them after that moment.
There are good days being a parent and bad days. I took the attack in stride, and after some laughs we talked about the need to openly declare a Nerf war from that point on. My reaction, which could have steered towards a raised voice and punishment, went down the path of having a teachable moment. That was a good day. We laugh about it still and I have not been the target of a Nerf assassination since. On a serious note, it reinforced my decision to not have a real gun in the house. Thus ends another tale of the Wild West of parenting.
The captain stood on the deck of his vessel, the mightiest of ships, and took in a deep breath of satisfaction. His ship was unsinkable. Now, mind you, many a master has said this of their ship, and their hubris was eventually revealed as they sank beneath the waves. But in this case, it was not a boast; it was a scientific fact. His ship held a wonderful secret that rendered it invulnerable. Every other ship in the world relied on the space it occupied to stay afloat. Three simple measurements of length, breadth, and depth were combined with weight to determine its buoyancy. Add a few hundred pounds of iron shot and a few thousand tonnes of water, and any vessel would eventually sink. That’s where he held the advantage. His vessel was equipped with a remarkable safety device that ensured its continuous survival. A fourth dimension. The last third of his vessel was taken up by a tesseract of decks that would absorb all the cannon fire in the world. The secret was to properly align the fourth dimension. That was the secret, but the real trick was finding a shipwright who could cobble it all together without needing all the wood in the world. The captain finally found a carpenter with a third eye (not on the outside, but rather inside his head) who could warp and wrap the fourth dimension of every plank and beam to make the most of the materials. That the ship was so voluminous inside was itself a source of potential worry as there could be a situation where the ship’s tesseract could absorb all the water in the oceans. That would leave this proud vessel standing in a puddle of water in the abyssal mud of the ocean’s deepest trench as every drop leaked into the hull. An event of that magnitude would involve a lot of bailing and pirates, like all sailors, grumbled so when forced to man the pumps.
A fit of coughing woke me up from the pirate dream. That, and the fact my throat had constricted to the size of a drinking straw. I got to my feet and sucked in with all my might and headed towards the kitchen sink the next room over. I had been sleeping on the loveseat for a week at that point, since being upright minimized my discomfort. Cold season is tough for me and this was one of the bad ones. I had escaped the troublesome sinus problems my siblings experience except this one area. A bad head cold would have me cough hard enough to take out my voice. Two years ago, I went a week without being able to talk at all. This year’s had come close to that.The airway clenching I was experiencing had scared the hell out of me a few days before. People with asthma have dealt with things like this for most of their lives. At fifty, it was the first time for me. The way to deal with it was to keep breathing and get some water to soothe my throat. As I rounded into the family room that adjoins my kitchen, I realized I had not entirely awoken. While walking, the story of the pirate captain and his ship continued.
The ship was flooding. Not taking on water but actually being engulfed by the sea. The mighty vessel was going down. The captain acted quickly, shouting orders to check the bulkheads, sealing the gun ports, and manning the pumps. It was an emergency of the first order, and the crew went to work swiftly, though he could make out the faint grumble of the men on the pumps. Some things never changed. These were all things a normal ship’s master would do, but there was something more that was needed. “Carpenter, test the tesseract!”There was a simple test of a four-dimensional vessel. It was to take a six-sided die in a cup and drop it on the deck. If the number showing was anything from 7 to 11, then the ship was safe. That indicated that there was more than one side of the cube showing at the top at a time, which was impossible in normal space. “Five, Sir!” came the response with a hint of panic. There was far too little fourth dimension and far too much of the other three. The ship was doomed.
I managed a second breath at the point as I entered the kitchen proper. I was still dreaming but awake enough to see the parallels between the flooding ship and my greatly reduced air intake. Water and relief were only a few steps away. The captain had a revelation.
“The red handles!” the captain exclaimed out loud. “Check the handles!” As busy as the crew was, they were disciplined enough to respond to the command. It helped that there was a multitude of pirates manning the tesseract. All the handles were up, according to the reports that flooded out as chaotically as the water that was flooding in.The handles were installed by the shipwright as a means of manipulating the extra dimension. They were placed at random along the long length of the tesseract passageways. Random, that is, to someone thinking in terms of conventional space. As quickly as his mind raced towards a solution, he also raced towards identifying the culprit who was sinking his ship. The bosun had the authority to have all the sailors pull the handles at once, but not the knowledge of how. The carpenter certainly knew how to arrange the men in the precise order to sabotage the ship, but not the authority.The captain stood straight upwards as the revelation arced across his keen mind. HE was the only one who could have caused this catastrophe.
I reached the sink and ran the water. Drinking when your throat is so tight can be difficult. I managed enough water to sooth the dry irritation and my next breath was noticeably easier. I knew I was coming awake.
The pirate suddenly knew the nature of the problem. He was of two minds. A crew acting against itself was the doom of any voyage no matter the vessel. A rowboat, a brig, an immense tesseract-bound vessel, or even a human mind was vulnerable to such a split. The captain had been proud of his mighty vessel and had dedicated so much of his life to its creation and maintenance that there was precious little room for anything else. Part of his mind ordered the disruption of the tesseract and now part of him was desperate to save it. When the problem was fully revealed the curtain drew aside and the two halves could now see each other clearly. He loved the ship but was afraid of how it became his whole existence. An accord was made on the spot. He ordered the crew to the red handles and, with a single command, the ship’s fourth dimension was restored. He knew it right away, though the carpenter’s gleeful shout of “Eleven, Sir!” was welcome.In keeping with the accord, the captain stepped down and left it to the crew to elect the next master of the vessel. That was always the way of pirates. With a deep breath, as deep as the one in that far distant kitchen, the two halves of the pirate captain were no more, and a single person was left. He stepped off the gangplank to find a new adventure or maybe even an ordinary, extraordinary life. Wherever he went, though, he would feel the joy of knowing the magnificent ship, wonderous in extra dimensions beyond any other ship, would sail on.
I woke up completely at that point, glad the pirate captain had found peace. I filled up a cup of water to keep next to me in case my throat decided to choke me again. I slept the rest of the night with hardly a cough or a flood. The ship sailed smoothly towards the horizon.
There comes a point when writing historical fiction that causes either dread or delight: that moment when you come across a real-life person that makes you pause, sigh deeply, and say, “I should have thought of that.” That moment for me was when I stumbled across Lancelot Blackbourn…pirate, scoundrel, Archbishop of York.
Just the name alone made him stand out. I can picture a creative writing teacher calling me out for coming up with a moniker like that. But like so many things in this world, there is so much more to him than a name. His early life as a buccaneer was obscure. History placed him in Nevis as a young, freshly ordained deacon of the church. Rumor had him as a ship’s chaplain to a band of buccaneers, or perhaps a pirate himself. The only record we have is the King giving him a large sum of money for “Secret Services.” Why do we assume it was for something nefarious? This was after the Treaty of Madrid when legal privateering had ended, so there would be little legal shade for such activities. And let’s face it, he was nefarious as hell as a bishop. How likely was he to be a paragon of virtue with a pistol in his belt boarding a Spanish ship?
And sketchy he was. Horace Walpole, a contemporary, wrote of him thusly: “The other Preceptor was (Thomas) Hayter, Bishop of Norwich, a sensible, well-bred man, natural son of Blackbourn, the jolly old Archbishop of York, who had all the manners of a man of quality, though he had been a Buccaneer and was a Clergyman; but he retained nothing of his first profession except his seraglio.”
Let’s break this down. The man being described, Bishop Thomas Hayter, was Blackbourn’s bastard son. And a seraglio? That was an old term for a harem. In a move that was big pimpin’ even by today’s standards, Bishop Blackbourn moved the lad and his mistress in with him, over his legal wife’s objections.
But what kind of minister was he to his flock? His advice to the queen about the king’s infidelities says it all: “He had been talking to her…about the new mistress, and was glad to find that her Majesty was so sensible a woman as to like her husband should divert himself.” Let players play, Queenie. There must have been more, since descriptions of him refer to “his reputation for carnality” and “the laxity of his moral precepts.” A modern take on him states his “behaviour was seldom of a standard to be expected of an archbishop. In many respects his behaviour was seldom of a standard to be expected of a pirate.”
He died of old age a wealthy man, perhaps the greatest mark of success for any pirate. The lesson he bestowed to me is not to rein in my characters overly much. History was often made by over-the-top unrealistic eccentrics who strove through life like caricatures made flesh. And the Right Honorable Lancelot Blackbourn, Archbishop of York, was an expert in fleshly delights.
I posted this on Craigslist a few weeks ago to see who or what might show up. I did not post an address or email, and the map was pointed to a spot that was a half-mile away. I figured that the runes and wheat, which were not visible from the street, would be enough for a genuine magic-user to find our house.
This seems like an odd request, but it’s one of those things you have to do from time-to-time. Test the fabric of reality. It’s like that billion-dollar payout for someone who has a perfect bracket for March Madness. That is clearly a trap for time-travelers. The payout is huge, but the odds are roughly the same as running around with a net in an attempt to catch a meteorite. In reality, time-travelers win the West Virginia lottery and bank the winnings for a century in one of the few extant banks from today that will survive that long.
I covered my bases, none-the-less. The first protection was the aforementioned disambiguation of my address. That would weed out charlatans or magic-users lacking intuition. My family can be so complicated, and a lack of insight could lead to problems. I also specified that I wanted actual magic and not a magic trick. The reality is, I would drop a ten-dollar-bill in your hand if you pulled a rabbit out of a hat on my front porch. That should go without saying.
As for protections, I said the magic had to serve my house. I’m not in the market for monkey-paws or the like. I certainly don’t want a scenario where I am beheaded, and my family finds a million dollars in large denomination bills stuffed in my skull. I think that’s what happened in the original Monkey’s Paw, story. It’s been a long time.
I specifically prohibited the eating of children. As a parent, this was a bottom-line requirement. But like a lot of you, I have a few neighbors in mind should eating humans be a requirement for something really cool. And finally, there was the midnight-to-dawn prohibition. This is a policy of mine for a long time and is motivated by the desire to keep flakes from showing up at random times. That it might deter creatures of darkness is just a bonus.
The payment was specific. Coin, food, well-wishes, and blessings. No souls, no limbs, no sacrifices. I make a homemade mac and cheese that is pretty great. That may get me to go lower on the coin part, I hope.
Adventure stories need to start with someone intent on having an ordinary day. Sure, you can begin a trip with the idea of doing something crazy, but no matter how amazing the results, they end up being travelogues, a mere telling of a set of events. Our kayaking trip was planned as a routine trip up the Willamette from the public boat ramps under the Abernathy Bridge to Willamette Falls, a trip we had done a few weeks before. It was close to sunset, but the light lingers on in late summer so we were not worried about being on the river after dark. The one thing we changed was switching Faelan from Cyn’s kayak to mine. We did this because they were not a good match on the first trip. Cynthia has more patience for a lot of things, but the occasional paddle coming back towards her head and almost clocking her was not one of them. I am a somewhat stronger paddler than she is, so I could also keep up even with a passenger who does not paddle much at all. We made it to the Oregon City Bridge without any issues. It’s a beautiful cement arch that contrasts with the very utilitarian Abernathy further downstream. Faelan likes to cycle over it with me on her bike trailer, though that is a trip that requires balance and patience as she can sometimes lean the bike in a way that makes the ride shaky on the narrow sidewalks. We crossed over the channel to the side near the Willamette Locks to continue upstream. We were now between the two paper mills that bracket the falls. The one on the Oregon City side is shut down and awaiting demolition and the one on the West Linn side should join it. It turns out that one of the most beautiful sites in Oregon is sandwiched between two crumbling piles of industrial wreckage that can best be described as Stalinist. Many of the buildings there have not received a coat of paint since the Truman administration and have corroded fixtures whose only purpose now is to drip rusty water into the river as it flows past. The best part of the mill is a vast wall with arched channels cut out of it through which water comes streaming out of the darkness and into the Willamette. It looks like something from Lord of the Rings, maybe a channel flowing out of Moria. Faelan was just as fascinated as I was with the largest of the channels, which has spiderwebs across the top of the opening that doubled-down on the haunted quality of the thing. As I said, the mill on the West Linn side is functioning. That day it had its auxiliary water spouts open, spilling water into a narrow side channel that is normally quiet. There was now a flow of water coming out of that channel that rivaled the falls themselves. I wanted to paddle into the flow like I had done at the Falls previously and shoot down the river in the current. I took stock of the flow and its turbulence, I set my entry point, and completely mistimed our turn. The turbulence tilted us to the right and the current caught the side of the inflatable kayak. We went over immediately.
There was no moment of asking myself what happened or wondering what to do next. Kids help with that. My first thought was to swim immediately to Faelan and get a hold of her. She sputtered a bit as the water splashed her face but the life jacket did its job and kept her head out of the water. But she was 4½ years old in the river and needed an adult to hold on to. The kayak was now behind me but I had my paddle in my hand and grabbed hers as I reached her. I knew she would clutch me and pull me down a bit, but I had my life jacket on and was prepared for it. I held her close to me and had her face right up to mine. “That was crazy, wasn’t it?” I said as we spun around. I could see our kayak, now stuck in an eddy away from the current, fall behind us at a fast pace as we drifted down the river together. I said that to her because I could see that she was shocked and surprised, but had not quite reached a tipping point where she had to decide between panicking or not. Framing it as a crazy adventure on the river would give her a scaffold to form around her experience. She never did panic, so my idea and her inherent strengths took hold. Dad and daughter were drifting down the river with two paddles but no kayak.
She did start to wonder about what was going to happen next. She wasn’t the only one. I could see Cyn paddle towards us, but I shouted for her to grab the kayak. She had the right idea, prioritize the kid and husband in the water (in that order), but I thought we were okay and shouted for her to grab the boat and bring it to us. We’ve been together eight years now, and I could tell her eyes were rolling from where I was almost a quarter mile downriver. But she took me at my word and started the process of bringing our kayak with her. Faelan’s chief concern was otters. She wondered if they would swim up and nibble her. I wasn’t worried about sea otters, but I knew that sea lions frequented the area in other parts of the year. There were none in the area that I could tell, based on our slow paddle upriver. We would have definitely seen one as we came up. “Don’t worry, the otters will only nibble me since I am so much bigger than you.” The whole rest of the time I told her how brave she was and how she was so good on the adventure. She also joined me in wondering, out loud, what was happening upriver.
I saw that Cyn was struggling to make any progress with the second kayak. It was difficult for her to get both kayaks into the current and start the process of picking us up since she did not have a tow rope. It was just as frustrating on my end watching her difficulties as every second pulled us further away. I thought she could have held the kayak in back of her and gotten Teagan to paddle up front, but she had a better idea. Since they were out of the turbulent water, she had Teagan climb aboard my newly upright kayak and had her paddle downstream alone. At that point, a large fish jumped out of the water near us. It wasn’t a surprise; small fish had been jumping here and there, indicating that a larger fish was chasing them, but it was startling since we were floating downriver without a boat. For half a second I thought “sea lion,” but that was my water-soaked paranoia and I dismissed it right away. Sea lions seldom show aggression towards humans, anyway. On top of it, there are exactly zero fish in that river that would be a concern for us, but it did remind me that we were drifting almost as fast as Cyn and Teagan could paddle and that it would make catching up to us a lot harder. Faelan didn’t really notice the jumping, but she said what I had been thinking. “Let’s swim to shore.” With that, I started kicking to the rocky riverbank using the scissor kick I learned in lifeguard training. There was no paddling with my hands since I had a tight hold on Faelan and our paddles. We made it to shore after a few minutes and sat tiredly on a rock in the shadow of an abandoned mill building.
Looking upriver, I could see Cyn and Teagan making steady progress. I laughed because Teagan had asked to spend time paddling on her own and now she was getting a crash course. I knew she was loving it. Faelan and I sat by the shore. She was alternating between wanting to be held because she was cold and exploring the shore we were on. In other words, she was just as mercurial as ever. One of her nicknames, her Viking one, is Quicksilver. It’s a lot less common than Little Bug but is so very apt. Soon Cyn and Teagan came around the bend to pick us up. Cyn took a turn telling Faelan what a hero she was for being so brave in the water and I told Teagan the same for her daring rescue of her family. That cemented the outlook on our adventure. It could have been fear or a dislike of anything kayak-related, but instead, it was a story of both my girls growing a lot in a short period of time. Cyn took Faelan in her kayak and headed downstream. I had to convince Teagan, who discovered an outlet pipe with an awesome echo when you shouted into it, that it was time to paddle home. At that point, I was feeling my first pang of guilt. I tipped my youngest child into the river and was worrying about her developing a water phobia after this (despite her continued bravery). I also realized I lost my eyeglasses in the river. I was just about to start a very fuzzy week. Teagan turned to say to me “I totally wanted to try what you tried.” This was not an effort to comfort me; she was just stating her opinion of what I had attempted. But it did end up comforting me a lot. We spent the rest of the trip back talking about her first time paddling alone and I could hear Cyn deconstructing the events with Faelan on their kayak. We were almost at the docks when Cyn told me that she had also wanted to try entering the current but had held off after seeing our mishap. That was yet another comfort. She went up to back our car down the ramp to make loading the kayaks easier. My fears of a water phobia were allayed by the fact that I had to work really hard to get them out of the water at the base of the ramp. It was a real struggle to get my little heroes out of the water. We made it home with a short stop at McDonald’s for an extra meal. The girls ate before we started, but we figured the extra fuel was needed and the Happy Meal prize deserved. We made it home and plunked them into the tub. More water, I know, but we had to wash the Willamette River off of them. I made them medals out of special sparkling paper to mark the occasion. Faelan’s reaction was to put it in a special cup where she can put all of her future medals. She fully expects unexpected events in her future. I have to agree with her.
Last night I had a rare sort of dream, one that was a story in its own right like a short film. I know that I dream every night, but so few of them pierce the veil of consciousness to stay with me after I wake. This dream involved my breaking in and looting an abandoned mansion in the face of an imminent conflict. There were many things of note in that house, but the one that stuck with me the most was an aquarium that was full of dogs swimming underwater. There were many of them in a tiny tank that was only a few inches wide from front to back, like a computer monitor or a large book stood up on edge. They all seemed to be very happy in there, and I wondered how so much depth could be compressed in such a small container. I could not possibly steal such an artifact since the skill to even maintain such a wonderful thing was clearly beyond my ability. I think I’ll unpack this dream and a few others and get them down on paper. Look forward to some interesting stories.
It was a typical afternoon commute: a little bit of hell with engine noises and a combination of classic rock and NPR tossed in. I just left Costco after picking up supplies on the way home from work and was pulling onto I-5 South. The car had a wonderful cooked chicken smell that would have been disturbing as hell in other circumstances. Was that a random animal that crawled up inside the engine compartment and was slowly roasting? Was that smell coming off of me? It was possible; my AC stopped working at the beginning of the summer and the vents were putting out a steady stream of hot air. Don’t worry, though, it was a dry heat like fire or a branding iron. The smell was from the freshly baked rotisserie chicken…that was cool. If I smelled bacon then that would not have been cool because that had been refrigerated at the store. A cooking bacon smell would have been indicative of a car fire. That was my canary in a coal mine. It wouldn’t have been a wave of overwhelming heat coming from the back because that would never have competed against the torrent of dry heat in my face. As soon as I pulled onto the highway I saw that it was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see and I was on the hill heading down so I could see quite a way. Of course, I moved up to the last possible decent point before merging in. I honestly think it’s a genetic issue. I once tried to queue up at the end of a long line of traffic instead of zipping in at the last moment…I lasted about 20 seconds before I started having an anxiety attack. That sort of driving is not a great fit for me. At that point, Waze chirped in to let me know it came up with a faster route. For those of you not familiar with it, Waze is a navigation program that relies on user input to let you know about traffic and other issues ahead of you on your trip. It’s like having your own personal astromech droid in your car helping you navigate, except it’s a bug s*** crazy Astromech droid that can shave precious minutes off your commute every day or route you through some not-so-shortcut through the boonies. Most of the time it works well; it’s just crazy enough to suit the kind of commute I have every day to work. Waze was telling me that I could shave 15 minutes off my trip by taking the next exit. I could see the offramp up ahead, gloriously free from traffic. It looked wonderful. The catch was that beautifully abandoned stretch of road was 200 yards ahead and traffic was now at a complete stop. I had to do a quick calculation in my head: do I go around the 10 or 12 cars to get to my exit via the breakdown lane or do I give voice to the part of my brain struggling to keep me from being an a-hole in traffic? You all know me and know what my choice was. I had the law enforcement angle covered if I was pulled over for this. I would point to the wisps of smoke that occasionally wafted from under my hood. “I think my engine is having problems,” I would say. My car is dying, but it’s a hopefully long, drawn-out affair as it battles inevitable senescence. The smoke itself was largely from an oil spill from a recent top off. I could have cleaned it up more thoroughly, but I figured if there was a little smoke coming off it then the engine may be tricked out of self-immolation. With all of my irrational rationales safely accounted for, I pulled over to the breakdown lane and headed to my exit. I rolled about 20 feet before a large black SUV pulled out in front of me. “Aha, a fellow traveler,” I thought briefly. The SUV did not accelerate right away. I made a shooing gesture to indicate that if they were going to do what I was doing they would need to do it in a hurry. But then I noticed that the driver was not looking ahead but was stopped and made eye contact with me in her mirror. She started shaking her head and brought up a right index finger into view, shaking that slowly as well. “No, no, no,” was the universal gesture. She was not pleased at all with my creative use of the driving space and was blocking me. Not cool. I was considering waiting in the still immobile traffic and was pulling back into my lane when I looked back up again. She was still at it with the finger. At that point, I noticed a ring on that hand and it was a huge one. I was at the end of a long day of work and grocery shopping. A long day with at least 50 minutes of driving ahead of me before I made it home and doing another shift of being a dad for the night. (Being a dad is hard work, but totally worth it.) On top of that, I was driving a 14-year-old car that was slowly roasting me. The only plus side was that I was starting to give off a smoky Mesquite flavor; I was delicious. I became angry enough to where I wanted to wave my finger back at her, but not the same one. I put my hand down because I was likely giving her the satisfaction of seeing me upset. The fact that she was in a huge, new-looking vehicle in cool comfort wearing a gigantic ring led me to one conclusion: this lady had entirely too much satisfaction in her life. The decision was made. All that was left was a set of quick calculations on the fly. The conditions were dry, the shoulder was solid, I was in a 14-year-old vehicle but I had only 8000 miles on a new clutch. But the most important calculation was this if this rich a****** made me wait 10 minutes in traffic for no reason beyond her personal pique, then the terrorists win. An old car with a new clutch has quite a bit of zip in it, much more than she probably realized. I was in first gear and already around her before she had the wherewithal to drop that freaking finger and clutch her wheel. I kicked up a little dirt from the shoulder as I decided to give her a wide berth…she was probably privileged enough to think that she was in the right to side-swipe me. But in truth, I was around her too fast for her to do much of anything. I quickly reach my exit and was back on the universally accepted driving space. I looked in my rearview mirror to see her pulling out again to try the same thing with a white Jeep. “This lady has too much time on her hands,” I thought. I made it to the top of the ramp and waited patiently at the red light, took a deep breath, and relaxed. After a moment of thought, I realized I forgot something. I took a deep breath and said, “Pirate freedom!”* Taking time out to mark a victory is important. When the light turned green I looked back and saw the white Jeep exiting onto the ramp well ahead of where she had been. Good for him. I made it home in good time and avoiding rubbing anybody else the wrong way. I talked to my wife and came to the conclusion that I needed to leave for work earlier and try to change my commute altogether. I also fixed the air conditioning so the only cooking smell in my car the rest of the summer was my food.
*Pirate Freedom is a freedom you take and is not given. And no, it is never meant to be taken seriously.