Privilegemobile 13: The Dukes of Hazard Lights

My alarm went off at 5:45, and like most mornings, it was about as well received as a PBR fart during a scheduled moment of silence. I would personally be OK with said flatulence, mostly because I would likely be the one blasting away. However, those with a sense of reverence would consider it inappropriate. They’re like that.

I was awake already and not by choice, but I had made peace with the situation. As dreary as staring at the ceiling was, it was preferable to getting up and starting my day. Alas, remaining immobile doesn’t pay especially well.

I went into the bathroom while scratching my ass and picking at my teeth with my fingernail (not with the same hand). This past Sunday, I was sitting in Muddy’s and managed to chip one of my front teeth with a wooden coffee stirrer. Some enamel came off, but not much. I still haven’t decided whether it is going to require a trip to the dentist.

It did get me thinking though. Decades of grinding my teeth in lieu of flossing them has left me with a crumbling mess for choppers and it’s only going to get worse. None of my retirement projections have included major outlays for dental care. Maybe it’ll be nothing but extractions from here onward. I think I can live with that. Whiskey is easy to chew.

The big unknown when it comes to retirement is longevity. My paternal grandmother, who smoked until she was 75, lived until she was 101. My father, who enjoyed a cigar now and then until giving them up in his forties, dropped dead at 69. My own smoking habits fell somewhere between the two therefore I should make it to 85.

Math!

I’ll probably know more after July 26. That’s when I go in for a colonoscopy. I’m not sure about the details of the procedure, but I’m guessing the doctor feeds a plumbing snake up my asshole, pulls it out, and checks the end of it for bits of tumor.

So I’ll either make it to 85 or be dead in six months. It doesn’t matter. I still need to plan on living a while. That means financial prudence. That means no indulging any of my self-destructive impulses, no matter what a hilarious piece of performance art it would be in execution.

I showered, dressed, told a semiconscious Becca I love her, and I was out the door. I later sent her a message that the garbage truck had not yet come, hoping she would get the bins and return them to their space under the stairs before our landlady did. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the landlady ended up doing it. In fact, she did it last week while I was spending the first half of America’s birthday with a vicious hangover. I just didn’t want it to happen often enough to breed resentment. We live in a rent-controlled apartment and we’d like to stay in it for a while.

I had my coffee and bagel at Muddy’s, incurring no further damage to my teeth. I kept my eye on the time as I usually do. I have yet to miss the bus and did not want to start.

At 6:34, I left the cafe and walked down Valencia Street toward my stop. Halfway there, I saw a couple of guys talking to a cop in his police car. They said there was a Mini going in circles in the middle of the street.

Sure enough, there it was a block and a half away, and sure enough, it was spinning around with its hazard lights blinking, all out of fucks for anything in the state vehicle code. The cop took after the Mini, cop lights on and spinning. The Mini turned onto Cesar Chavez with the police car in pursuit. I continued toward my bus stop, thinking the Mini driver (no relation to the actress) would end up with a nasty traffic ticket or perhaps a DUI.

About five minutes after arriving at the bus stop, I heard a police siren. The Mini was heading my direction on Valencia with the cop still in pursuit. It was not hot pursuit, mind you. The vehicles were maybe going 25 mph with the Mini exhibiting an OJ-in-a-Bronco. I pulled my phone out to get a picture of this battle of wills, but was too late and they were gone.

Two other police cars soon came down Valencia with their lights going, presumably to join the chase. The Mini would eventually lose this contest. It is the nature of things. Still, I wanted the driver to keep going as long as he or she could. The outcome may belong to them, but the moment belongs to you. Bless you for rubbing that in their faces.

The bus arrived and I boarded, thinking of the day’s tasks ahead of me.

Mr. Dahl

John Dahl found himself wrapped in a soft, white blanket. There were voices nearby, either in the room or down the hall. He was not sure where they were because the blanket was wrapped around his head as well, but guessed they were not very close because he could not make out what they were saying.

He thought back to the last thing that happened before he ended up here, trying to put together some causal link between then and now. There was none. How could there be? The last thing Dahl remembered was dying.

Maybe this was the afterlife, but it was not like any that he had imagined. Heaven and Hell were supposed to be harps and pitchforks. Nowhere did Dante mention being swaddled and mumbled at. Or maybe he had. Dahl had never read any of Dante’s work, but he did have his preconceptions and assumed they were in accordance with the accepted authority on such matters.

For a fleeting moment, Dahl considered the possibility that he did not die at all. He quickly dismissed the notion. That bullet definitely entered his brain via his eyeball and he did have that brief, semi-lucid moment realizing what happened to him as he lay on the ground before everything went black.

Why did the cop shoot him? People who are white and unarmed are usually taken into custody. Dahl wasn’t even making any sudden moves. The policeman probably reacted emotionally and if so, it would have been most unprofessional.  Perhaps he had a daughter of his own at home, someone like Susie. But it wasn’t this Susie so in Dahl’s mind, the cop was way out of line.

How many Susies had there been? Dahl knew early on that he couldn’t keep track so decided to count in reverse. As a result, the latest became number one. The rest were unimportant. He had no recollection how many of them were named Susie, if any. He just liked the way it sounded and considering all that was forced upon them, a name change was small potatoes.

Over the years, Dahl had managed to go through life leaving a vapor trail of AMBER Alerts. It was quite a streak of success and Dahl owed much of it to his approach.

The conventional wisdom was to make his move under the guise of familiarity. “My name’s John. I’m a friend of your mother’s. Get in the car.” That sort of thing.  The problem is that most kids have learned to see through that ruse.

So instead, Dahl would play the authority card. He would introduce himself as “Mr. Dahl,” tell the kid she was in a lot of trouble, and that she had better do what he said if she knew what was good for her. That tactic proved to be highly effective and as a bonus, it established the fear dynamic. This dynamic would be instrumental for what would transpire later on.

What did transpire varied little from Susie to Susie. Anything about a particular girl was unimportant. He did not care much about what she looked like. Hair color, eye color, and facial features were all superfluous details. All that mattered was she was nine years old (or near enough) and that she was terrified. For the rest, the Susie du jour was just, pardon the expression, along for the ride. Dahl then did what needed to be done, to use words he would later tell himself.

With the important business concluded, all that was left was a sobbing, frightened loose end. Sealing the girl’s fate by using his own name was merely a formality for Dahl. Her fear that made her so pliable (as well as so much fun) would wane once she was away from him.

This latest Susie was no different. She would tattle because that is what children do. The only way to silence her was to do it permanently. The problem was that Dahl did not see himself as a killer. For him, strangling the girl with a ligature or plunging a knife into her little heart was as much an anathema as dating a legal adult.

Fortunately for him, he had Mother Earth to do his dirty work. He also had a shovel. So in a rehash of events played out countless times before, he ordered the girl to lay still while he dug a shallow grave. Dahl worked up a sweat as he dug. He thought about making the girl dig the hole herself, but decided that would be unnecessarily cruel. She was also too small and weak to be any good at it.

Dahl stopped when the hole was three feet deep.

“Get in,” he said.

Susie complied.

She continued to sob as he put shovelful after shovelful of dirt on top of her. Dahl was not completely heartless. He could see the sadness in the tragic events taking place and to make himself feel better, he decided to believe in reincarnation.

Dahl convinced himself that Susie and all the Susies before her would come back and lead charmed lives, devoid of this sort of unpleasantness. Of course, there was a small chance that all future lives would be an endless stream of sex and death coming way too early.

What kind of God would allow that, Dahl asked himself as he emptied the last of the unearthed soil to the hole and smoothed it flush with the ground around it. It was a deep philosophical question and Dahl promised himself to ponder it when the next Susie came along.

That moment would never come. A hiker witnessed Dahl and Susie walking into the woods, thought it suspicious, and called the police. The cops arrived, but as is often the case, a little too late.

While one officer held Dahl at gunpoint, the other frantically dug up the girl. She was unresponsive. He tried reviving her with mouth to mouth, but to no avail. Seeing this made Dahl smile, as he recalled doing something that looked like this just 20 minutes before.

“Does this amuse you, you sick fuck?” said the cop who was holding the gun on him.

Dahl thought it prudent to try to calm the police officer. He knew getting caught would eventually happen. When it did, it behooved him to come off not as a monster, but as a man who genuinely loved children. And who better than Mister Rogers? Dahl had spent years practicing the late Fred Rogers’ grin in front of the mirror and now it was time to put it to use.

The impression was spot on. Maybe that’s why the policeman shot him. Dahl died before any explanation was given.

So here he was now, wrapped in a blanket, and neither shot nor in any afterlife that he had ever heard of. Perhaps he had been reincarnated, just as he hoped Susie would be. It seemed as likely an explanation as any.

Hands large enough to cover most of Dahl’s torso surrounded him and carried him away. The blanket kept him from seeing anything, but the echo of heels on floor tiles made it sound like he was being taken down a long hallway.

He heard a door open.  A few moments later, the blanket came off and he was staring into the face of a girl who looked to be about nine.

“OK,” a woman’s voice said. “I want you to meet a friend of mine. His name is Mister Doll. He is your friend as well. He’s going to help me know things that you may not want to talk about. All you need to do is point out the part on his body where the man touched you.”

The girl reached out and touched a spot between Dahl’s legs. Her hand was trembling. There were tears in her eyes.

She was just his type.