I drove my car to the parking lot and plunked it down right in the center, ninety degrees to all the yellow lines showing me where to park. It felt good. Why are you supposed to follow stupid rules like that? It was a holiday or something and nobody was around. I just sat there, smoldering, glad to be off work.
But after a bit another car entered the parking lot, which simmered just like me in the mid-summer heat. The hairs on my back stood up. He pulled around me with his tinted glass windowed Lexus very slowly and then cut right in front of me. What kind of moron cuts you off like that? Then, still slowly, he went around to the back again and just waited to see if I’d react.
I wouldn’t, being wise to his nonsense. Then I heard him step on the gas, ease on the gas, and come around for another spin. He drove around me as I felt the gun by my side. He was asking for it. He knew exactly what he was doing. I hate Lexuses. I hated him. Whoever it was had it coming.
Again, he was behind me. He’d notice if my head turned even an inch to look in my mirror, so I sat there stock still, although my hand reached for my gun. What do they say — third time’s the charm? It was hot in here. I’d lost count.
OK, this was the third time. He came around once more and stopped alongside me. I heard his tinted window go down, or maybe it was the breeze or a flock of geese or the crepuscule of afternoon collapsing like a Danish pastry. No, it was definitely the tinted window. I had to turn and look at him.
He was pointing a gun at me.
It was Bob! Of course! Bob had a Lexus, and a gun. The barrel stuck out of the window like an ostrich looking for termites or an anteater trying to find some shade on the veldt. If I reached for my gun, I’d be a goner. So I sat there — a big dummy like the Swede in the upstairs room. I took all of this in without even turning my head, just rotating my left eyeball until it neared my left ear. Slowly I turned. Bob was wearing sunglasses — Foster Grants. I swallowed hard as he smiled viciously. Somewhere a dog barked or defecated or chased a cat. Dogs are just as stupid as I was, sitting here, waiting for the end.
Our eyes met. Bob’s teeth gleamed in the sun like the grill of a 1974 El Dorado. He cocked his pistol. Then he pulled the trigger and I heard…
And a white little flag rolled out of the barrel with one word in Times New Roman:
Even without the exclamation point, the gun made a terrifying statement, a manifesto of fear that went through me, all the way to my ass, which was dripping with trepidation and something else even gooier.
“Shit your pants?” I heard Bob laugh. “Boy, I got you good!”
“This isn’t funny,” I said sharply. “It’s our day off.”
“Then why the heck do you come here? Look around, nobody’s here.” It was true. Our office was shut. The building was empty. The windows looked back at us like buzzards or diphthongs or dipshits or something. No, dipshits are what worked behind them, dipshits like Bob.
“See you tomorrow, dipshit,” he said, rolling the banner back into the barrel of his harmless gun. “Go do something great on your day off.”
Then he was gone. Tomorrow we would ignore each other at work although work was the glue that held our lives together, the cream in our coffee, the icing on our Danish. What else was there, for crying out loud? It wasn’t like we had real lives. We’d gone to school so we could do this, follow some dumb rules until we croaked. I could go to bed in just six hours. Six hours, and the sun blazed overhead like a hammer.
Wait! I just heard something. Behind me there’s another car. I know the sound of that exhaust pipe. It’s a Volkswagen Touareg. Sounds just like the veldt or the steppe or the fjord. My hand tensed on my gun.
Slowly I turned. It was the Swede!
He looked at me with that sour look Swedes get after sucking on Sour Skittles with that dusting of citric acid. His mouth resembled a sinkhole. “I striped this lot the other day. Here you go, disrespecting my work.”
I noticed the yellow stripes again. “It’s not your work, Swede. It’s the yellow paint.”
“You have an authority problem, don’t you?”
“I have a yellow paint problem.”
“They all say that — paint, subpoenas, sanctions, standing in line. Can I get you to at least turn your car around so that it fits in one of these yellow spaces?”
“Swede you’re making a molehill out of a haystack. It’s our day off.”
“Propriety never takes a day off. It’s just that I was asked to do this, you know, and I thought I could make a difference. I thought somehow my actions could lead to a better, more orderly, more synchronized world.” He shrugged.
“You know Bob? He pointed a gun at me.”
The Swede’s face changed. “A gun, in my parking lot? Now that’s serious.”
“He has serious authority problems. He just left.”
And so did the Swede. He drove his car out into the haggard, weary afternoon. I got out of my car, reached down and touched one of the yellow stripes. The paint was still wet.
What kind of paint stays wet after two days? Now it was all over my hands. I wasn’t going to get it on my steering wheel.
I walked home. My day off was lousy. Somewhere a synchronized dog chased a corpuscular cat wearing Foster Grants. The good thing was I could come back here in about fourteen hours.
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