January 24, 2015

I saw the white sedan approaching at a rapid rate of speed. I was going 45, the speed limit, westbound toward Genehouse, the setting sun directly in my face. The driver made as if to ram my car, then began to honk. I looked in the rear view mirror. It was a teenage girl.

Being the calm and cool person I am, I ignored the kid. She braked and backed off about fifteen feet then she hit the accelerator and came at me again, this time putting her hand on the horn and holding it there. I looked at her again and out came her left middle finger. I tell you, I was terrified.

I waved—well, I returned the finger gesture and mouthed a word appropriate, I felt, for a stupid teenage princess, rhymes with “runt,” and wondered who the parents might be, of this moron who felt she owned the road, the car, the old man, the United States, the world, the universe.

Now the princess began to hand jam the horn: BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP! Now I slowed to thirty, then twenty, then ten . . . then I stopped. (I hear you, gentle reader: “Oh, Gene, you didn’t.”

The girl slammed on her brakes and I saw the color drain from her face. Now cars came up behind her car. She was between a rock and a hard old man who just might be a maniac.

I got out of the car, my tres cool sunglasses reflecting her car, me rising to my full six feet one, and I popped open a Dr. Pepper and calmly stared at her and drank. Now the cars behind her began to honk, and Princess looked like she had swallowed her gum. But! She gave me the finger again, this brave maiden, and checked her smart phone.

The twenty or so cars behind her began to pass in the center lane, not allowing her to escape. I smiled that warm smile of mine which has won over friends and wives for decades. And I drank some more Dr. Pepper: “the friendly picker-upper.” I held out the soda can and offered her some. (“Oh, Gene, you didn’t.”)

I got back in the car before the last passing car reached me and slowly took off. The dumbass girl, however, didn’t pass. I realized she didn’t want to be in front of me now, because the old man might follow her. And so it went, for another mile and a half, at 20 miles per hour, not so much as a beep from my new girlfriend.

I turned left onto Clifton Terrace,

and the enraged teen floored it, burning rubber, her car’s rear fishtailing, her car crashing into Farmer Orville’s steep embankment, the car now rolling, the girl screaming for Jesus, and her car rolling upside down and catching fire, her smart phone tumbling end over end into the air, like the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

—sorry, fantasy—

and I drove down the hill, as the enraged teen floored it, burning rubber and blasting down Route 3, no old man to block her very important way, into the sunset.

I could picture her arriving home, Mom putting meatloaf on the table and Baby Brother showing Sister his artwork from school, and the family joining hands and thanking God for this day. And in the family share-around, Sister told the story of a mean old man who terrorized her on the highway.

My only disappointment was my Dr. Pepper had been sacrificed. I had been intending to drink it while I petted the cat and watched the sunset.

I thought of the famous W.C. Fields quote: “I love children—so long as they’re properly cooked.” In the film “If I Had a Million,” Fields plays a man who has been given an anonymous gift of a million dollars. The character buys twenty cars and hires twenty drivers, and he drives around looking for bad drivers, and when he sees one, he crashes into their vehicle, climbs out and shouts, “Take that, you road hog!” And he climbs in his next new car and sets out again.

Had that character driven on Route 3, he would have wrecked all twenty cars in four miles. The rage around here is palpable. The road hogs are homicidal.

I too love children. There are many of them in my life; I am blessed. But clearly, I am prepared to “not go gentle into that good night.” Princesses and strut-your-stuff, puffed up boys in hoodies, beware.

This old man bites.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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