Mad Maxine (or Death Truck Be Not Proud)
by Gemini Cricket
A funny thing happened to me on the way to work today. It was a beautiful morning, there were cartoon birds winking at me in the sky and across the way a doe is nuzzling her fawn fondly near a lake. Life was good.
After a quick breakfast of cereal and an apple, I leapt from my apartment doorstep and danced down a flight of steps as the tune ‘Happy Feet’ played from a speaker somewhere out of view. A ray of sunlight sliced a cloud in two and bathed me in a spotlight, all for me. Life was good.
There in my driveway was my noble steed: a brown 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. Newly washed and waxed, I brushed the car’s hood proudly with my sleeve.
“Good Morning, Ralph.” I said.
It may have been my imagination, but I think my car pulled his hood back a bit and showed off his insides in his version of a car smile.
I gunned the engine and headed off to work. Like a maple leaf falling into a flowing river and being swept away, I got onto the freeway.
Everywhere I looked were smiling, happy faces. I turned to the left; there was Mrs. Gunderson from Aptos blowing me a kiss and mouthing the words “Brad, call me”. I winked and drove on. I turned to the right, there’s Mr. Hashimoto from my cul de sac. He waves a hearty hello at me as he changed lanes. What a nice man. Behind me, Sister Mary Margaret from Saint Angela’s Church waved a half eaten bagel at me. I gave her the thumbs up from my rearview mirror. Life was good.
Pulling off the freeway with the grace of a ballet dancer, I started down the street towards my working place. Like a track star with the final baton in his fist, I couldn’t wait to get to the finish line that I call work.
I get to a four way stop, to the right of me Mr. Shilstone has just completed his stop and crosses the intersection in front of me. He says, “Hey there, Pal! Have a great day at work, Chief.” He always called people ‘pal’ and ‘chief’ and ‘champ’… what a guy.
It was my turn to cross the intersection, when out of nowhere a truck appeared from the Mr. Shilstone had just left. When I saw this truck, the world went silent. A crack of thunder was heard in the distance and the sky went overcast.
“Something strange there.” I said to myself and drove into the intersection. Half way through the intersection, the truck decided to lurch forwards before I could clear its way and came within 2 inches of hitting my passenger side door.
After I slammed on the brakes, as if my feet were made of cement, to prepare myself for impact, I turned my head to lock glances with the truck’s owner like a cowboy preparing for a gunfight in the middle of town. Mad Maxine gazed back.
Let me describe her to you. She was about fifty, bad eighties hair and white polo shirt with the sleeves rolled up. For pure effect and manipulation of your imagination, I will add that she also had long pointy nails, a cigar in her mouth and teeth so yellow that she could spit mustard. What appeared to be a scarecrow sat in her passenger seat, I would guess that that was her husband.
So after we sat there for a mere two seconds, and I did the innocent oops-we-almost-had-an-accident-but-we’re-both-fine shoulder shrug at her, I was fully prepared to move on with my wonderful day. Mad Maxine wasn’t so prepared. She picked up a heavy palm and slammed it down on her horn. It was if there was a foghorn under her hood.
Knowing where this was going, I ignored her and kept driving on. Mad Maxine decided to follow me closely, her truck grill hounding my car’s bumper like a giant dog sniffing my car’s butt. I decide to ignore her more and keep driving. It was then that I heard another horn blast.
I look in my rearview mirror and see Mad Maxine gripping her steering wheel as if she were wringing it out excess water from it. I drive on with her tailgating me. There is literally no room between our cars. We get to an area where there are two lanes. “How nice,” I think to myself. “One lane for her, one lane for me.” I get into the slow lane. MM gets into the fast lane, lines her truck up with my car and proceeds to come into my lane as if to force me onto the shoulder.
This is officially where my good day ended. The sky went from overcast to dark, thunder quaked and lightning bolt struck a seagull making circles in the sky. The bird’s carcass made a loud thud in the bed of Mad Maxine’s truck.
This is when I became Mad Brad.
Some people talk about mood swings, for me this was a mood takeover. My face turned into a scowling mask, my hands gripped my steering wheel as if I was strangling someone and my “Happy Feet” theme song turned into a theme that was a dark marriage between Nine Inch Nails and Metallica.
I veered my car towards Mad Maxine’s truck. Recoiling, Maxine got back into her lane.
If I had a shoulder angel, it would have told me to just slow down and get out of this mess. My shoulder angel was gone and sitting on my other shoulder holding hands with my shoulder devil. “Game on.” He told me.
I sped up and veered Ralph in front of Mad Maxine’s Death Truck.
This made Maxine even angrier. The scarecrow sitting next to her started shielding himself from the flames coming out of her ears.
“Let’s do this.” I said aloud. “Bring it on.”
Maxine got into the slow lane and gunned her truck forward. I lined my car up next to another car in the slow lane, which was now in front of Maxine, to box her behind us both. This made MM lose it. She started to switch lanes repeatedly behind both of our cars. I waved at her. I really shouldn’t have done that, but I did, dang it.
The car next to me takes a right and disappears down a side street. This now released the Death Truck to speed up and go next to me. I turned my head to look at Maxine now. She was looking straight ahead, smiling.
Smiling. She was enjoying this!
And you know what?
So was I. I knew, with all certainty that I was going to leave Maxine in the dust somehow. Everything else in my life could go down the toilet today, but what was going to happen was Maxine was going to get hers.
The problem was, I didn’t know how I was going to serve it.
Then I saw it, what she was smiling at. There was a semi truck ahead of us. It was in the slow lane ahead of her. She was going to go around me and get me stuck behind her and the semi while we went into the tunnel that leads into Monterey and Pacific Grove. Smart move, MM.
But I wasn’t going to let that happen.
I sped up. She sped up. She was going very, very fast. I looked down at the speedometer and realized that we were both going fast.
Then it hit me. “What am I doing? This is so stupid.” I asked myself. “This ain’t a movie.”
I slowed down in the tunnel. She raced ahead of me. And a funny thing happened. She seemed to realize that she was going fast too and slammed on her breaks. She barely had enough time to slow down. If this were a movie, the Death Truck would have slammed into the semi and a terrific explosion would have occurred and I would have had to race the mushroom cloud from the blast and it would just barely get me as I bolted out of the tunnel.
Maxine had slowed down considerably, and I passed her. We both gave each other this glance of how stupid we were both being and I drove on in the fast lane and she waited until I passed to get back into the left lane.
I drove on and the sun came out through the clouds again. I was glad that I could pull myself out of a maddening situation like this. I didn’t care what happened to Mad Maxine and the Death Truck. All I knew was that I slowed down like I should have.
I traveled down Lighthouse Avenue thinking about how I could regain my good day. I looked in my rearview mirror and found out how. Mad Maxine got stuck at a stoplight. It’s one of those long stoplights that takes forever to change to green. That would do for now.
About a block from work I heard “Happy Feet” in my head again. I tapped the gas lightly to the beat of the song, knowing that I could tap just as happily on the brake, too.