Cole rolled his eyes. He hated traffic. He hated traffic, especially when it happened on the drive home. Traveling to work, it didn’t matter how much time traffic ate into his day, but this was ‘home time’ he could be spending catching up on a recorded show or playing a video game.
It was so slow his foot never touched the gas pedal. He’d just ease off the break a little and roll forward. "There better be bodies scattered all over the road for this kind of crap," he grumbled. "It's probably some guy changing a tire, and everybody has to stop and look. Bunch of morons." He hated traffic.
When he finally came to the cause, it turned out to be a real accident. Over the top of cars in front of him, he saw the flashing red lights of an emergency truck. Nobody was looking at Cole, but decided to set an example by not looking at the accident scene when he drove by. He wasn’t going to be like everyone else and gawk at someone else's misfortune for his entertainment.
He rolled past the accident not seeing the car on the side of the road with the crushed-in bumper, the body pinned under it, or the driver and paramedic’s shocked expression as the mangled body under the car was still moving.
Finally free of the congestion he sped up looking forward to kicking off his shoes and having some leftover chicken. At least he wouldn't have to cook tonight.
Taking the off-ramp, he let the car take the curve a little fast enjoying the brief moment of speed before stopping at the traffic light. Almost home. Earlier in the day, Cole decided he'd do the dishes that night. He'd let it go a couple of days and it should be done, but the traffic had cut into his entertainment time and the dishes would cut into it even more.
Normally he'd have his daughter over but she was in Japan with her mother for another week, so he could enjoy being a slob a few more days. The dishes could wait.
At the red light he saw a push carts on the sidewalk. On it’s sides were tattered, and sun faded stickers of bagged cherries. Cole caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and turning his head saw a guy moving between the cars lined up at the intersection. That explained the cherry cart. The guy must be hawking cherries to the stopped drivers. Cole glanced down to confirm his door was locked. It was an old habit he picked up years ago when car jacking was a booming industry.
There was movement in Cole’ss side view mirror as the cherry guy made his way towards his car. Cole prepared to wave the guy off, but the vendor passed by his window like he wasn't even there. Cole was the first car in line at the intersection and for a second he thought the guy would circle around to the next row of cars. Instead, he kept walking ahead and into the intersection. There was a break in the traffic as the vendor shuffled into no-man’s land. Dread gripped Cole as he rolled down his window while honking his horn. "Get out of there!" he yelled. The guy stopped at the sound and slowly turned around. Cole’s breath caught in his lungs. "Oh shit..."
The vendor was missing half his face. Black, sticky blood lay thickly on his clothes. His fingertips were bare of any flesh, and the white bones stuck out like hideous claws. All of this hit Cole’s mind in a split second before a car slammed into the grotesque figure. The vendor was flung across the intersection and slammed into a wall with a sickening crunch. The car skidded to a stop as plumes of steam hissed from the crumpled grill. A fat woman, with her cell phone still to her ear, came screaming out of the car. In a waddling run, she ran over to the heaped body. Cole got out of his car, still trying to comprehend the surreal things he'd just seen in the last three seconds.
All traffic had stopped. Some people were on their cell phones calling 911. Others were getting out of their cars to get a better view of what happened, or help.
Panicked tears streamed down the fat woman's face as she knelt down by her victim. Impossibly, the man feebly reached out and the woman took his hand. Something in Cole told him to stop the woman. She was rambling words of comfort and stroke the vendor’s hand as Cole began to move. The woman’s eyes went wide as the vendor suddenly clamped down on her hand. Cole was too far to do anything, but close enough to hear the bones in the woman’s hand crack. The vendor yanked hard on the woman and she flew into his arms. Her wild screams died out in a bubbling, wet gurgle. "Oh shit," said Cole as he began to back away. A cold weight dropped in this gut and the world tilted like a funhouse mirror. Cole could only gape as reality slowly came back.
The fat woman twitched as cherry-guy rolled up on his knees and buried his face in the gaping cavity where her belly used to be. Brilliant red blood covered his face. Others ran forward, grabbing the man and pulling him away from the dead woman. Cole could hear him snarling and the clack of his teeth snapping at those holding him.
As others rushed forward, Cole dived back into his car and floored it. Now driving with anxious purpose he quickly got home and skidded into his driveway. He burst into the house and headed for a large storage box in the garage. Minutes later, he was flying down the road again, cell phone to his ear. "Pick up, Jack. Pick up, Jack. Pick up, Jack."
"Hello, I can't come to the phone ri..." Cole hung up and jammed down on the redial button. Again it went to voicemail. "Damn it, Jack, pick up!" Over and over he called, but there was no answer. Cole saw the store he wanted and pulled into the parking lot, telling himself that Jack was okay, just not able to answer his cell at work. Doing his best to look calm, he walked into the store and up to the counter. A young guy wearing a vest with the store logo on it gave Cole a smile. The back wall was lined with a large assortment of rifles and shotguns.
"What’s up?" asked the salesman. Cole read his name tag.
"Hi, Rick. What have you got for .308, .223, and 12 gauge shells?"
"Let's see," said Rick as he looked at the shelves behind him. "We have...."
"You know what," interrupted Cole. "I'll take all of it. Throw in those .303 shells, too."
"All?" asked Rick looking confused.
"All. Right now," said Cole flatly.
"Sorry, dude," said Rick. "California law limits the quantity of ammo to only..."
Cole leveled his previously hidden 1911 pistol at Rick's face. "Right now."
Rick went white and froze for a moment, but a wave of the Cole’s gun in his face put him into motion.
"Rick, any other day I wouldn’t do something like this, but today isn’t any other day.” Cole pulled back the hammer on his gun. ‘Lets not find out how different today is, okay?"
Rick emptied the stores inventory of ammo into four large boxes.
"I only have one free hand, Rick. You better carry them out to the car for me."
“You know the store’s camera is taping all of this,” said Rick.
“If I’m right,” said Cole, “the cops are going to be dealing with a lot bigger problems than me.”
Without a word Rick hefted a box with a loud grunt and carried it out of the gun store to Cole’s car. With the last box in the car, Cole climbed back into the car keeping the gun pointed at Rick. He noticed Rick staring at his license plate trying to memorize it. When he saw Cole looking at him he looked worried for being caught in the act.
"It's alright," said Cole. "None of this will matter in a few days."
Something silver fluttered out the car window and landed at Rick's feet. Looking down he saw it was Cole’s Visa card.
"That's for the ammo. I don't care what else you use it for."
Ricks face changed from confusion to concern. "Is something bad going to happen?"
"It already has."
Cole roared off.
- - -
Walking back to his desk, Jack hummed the tune of a song he'd recently made up. He smiled at the large breasted girl and she beamed back at him. If she had known the words of his song he'd be fired and she'd be on the phone to have her boyfriend kick the hell out of him. But she thought he was cute and enjoyed how he smiled at her. Jack smiled at her breasts and sat down at his desk. Opening the drawer to get a folder he saw the missed call light blinking on his cell phone. He picked it up to check his voicemail and the phone rang in his hand. The phone’s display showed Cole’s name and picture. He pressed the talk button.
"Hi, Cole. How’s it going?"
Jack forgot about his tune and large breasts.
Copyright © 2016 by Christopher Fritschi. All rights reserved. This material or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.