I love the smell of fresh plastic—plastic covered seats, plastic dash and my brand new thick and sturdy plastic steering wheel. Say what you will about Ford and fashion, my new little Focus handles so smoothly, it practically drives itself. Talk about convenience. If only I could get it to give me a massage. Hey, that’s not a bad idea. If you put some kind of motor inside the seat, instead of your ass falling asleep in the torpid bumper-to-bumper, you could get your blood circulating by vibrating your way to work.
Guess until that happens I just have to inch along the Pasadena Freeway with everyone else and try and enjoy the ride, as they say, by admiring how shiny my new car is. I chose black because it looks stylish. Now I realize that color makes my hood a mirror to the sky and as I gaze at the cloud formations reflecting off it in some kind of wonderment, I see her, or, I think I see her.
It’s like you’re watching a scary movie and something whizzes past the screen’s periphery, it makes your heart sink and your mind hope whatever it is, it’s not there.
She’s there all right.
In a pleated blue and black plaid skirt, like Catholic or something, her blouse torn, her hair wild standing on the freeway, young arms extended out pleading. She can’t be more than fourteen.
I know one thing, if I never see an expression like that again in my life I’m going to die a somewhat happy man. I say somewhat, because I’ve already seen it on her face. And there’s a lot of it. Face, I mean. It’s the widest face I’ve ever seen, I can’t tell you in inches exactly, but it’s about the same width as the mid-sized flat iron pan I use to fry four eggs in. OK? Picture four over-easys spread out nice and comfortable in a fryer and that’s how wide her face is.
She climbs on the hood of the convertible in front of me then tumbles off and over to the next car’s hood and says “fuck you fucker” or something like that to the driver.
“Help,” I yell out my window. “Somebody help her.”
She gives me the finger. Not just the finger but the finger again and again, like she needs me to get it. The finger. The finger. You. You. You.
I adjust my rear view to see how the driver behind me is reacting. Not so good. His hands completely cover his face and they are huge, just huge.
I look up.
Now she’s on the hood of another car, her blouse in her hand, her bra, if she even has one, is no where to be seen, not that anyone is looking for it.
Then someone yells, “Put your shirt on.”
Some guy in a red truck opens his door and says, “Come in here, sweetie. I’ll give you what you need.”
Jerk. At least she flips him off too.
I look to a driver nearby, a pert woman with stiff hair and say, “You’re a woman. Do something.”
Circling her finger around her temple, she gestures the girl is crazy, or, maybe she is trying to tell me she is the one who is crazy.
Looking up I see the girl is gone. Not in the red truck. Not to the side of the freeway. Not behind me, not anywhere. Gone.
A belief in God would come in handy right now. I hear people who believe say all they do is ask him for help and he answers. If I did believe, I would ask that she be all right. How easy does that sound? And, if anyone wants easy, it’s me.
Finally we start to move again at more than a snail’s pace. Still, it takes about twenty minutes to get to Arroyo Parkway the exit before mine and wham, it’s a parking lot again.
It takes us another fifteen minutes to move four feet.
I see flashing red lights on the overpass in front of us.
Definitely going to be late for work. I turn on the radio for a traffic update.
“If you’re on the 110 Pasadena North, it’s going to be awhile, if your not, folks, take an alternate. We have a jumper on the Orange Grove overpass.”
I can’t look. I cover my face like the guy behind me did earlier then want to know if he is still there, behind me, so I look in my rear view. He’s there all right and his hands are off his face, which is flat iron fryer wide, just like hers. Or is hers like his? Their faces are identical in shape.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before, it’s right there in the corner of his dash, a crumpled vest or jacket or something in a Catholic plaid—the same plaid as her skirt.
He catches me staring.
“Please,” I hear myself mutter to I don’t know who.
“Jump!,” some driver screams. “I have to get to work. Jump.”
The man behind me must’ve heard, who didn’t? All I want to do is something. Anything. I could get out of my car and go talk to him. When I try to get out, the vehicle on my driver’s side, one of those big square things like Schwarzenegger drives, is so close to me, I can’t open my door.
© Copyright 2009 TK Carr. All rights reserved.
In the summer of 2001, when TK Carr’s career in music took her to Chino Men’s Prison to teach songwriting, she received a grant to participate in UCLA’s Screenwriting Program. By the end of the program, she had written three screenplays. Frustrated in her efforts to write a musical, she wrote it as a novella. Having already written several short stories, she put those together with the novella, The Subliminialists, and is shopping it to agents.
3 thoughts on “Morning Commute by T.K. Carr”
Nicely paced. I’d like to hear more.
That is a wham bam of a story. I want to hear more, too.
Wow. What a wealth of powerful images packed into a tight, riveting package. And somehow you fit mystery and pathos in there too. Well done!