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The International Writers Magazine: Car Life

Spontaneous Prose
Tony R. Rodriguez

Maybe I shouldn’t be driving 85 on a 65 MPH freeway when the road’s saturated with the rain from last night’s Halloween. And it looks like it’s starting to sprinkle. But that’s the norm for some drivers in the SF Bay, especially the drivers of 880. So far, I’ve counted three other cars ripping across the wet road like fierce speedboats. But I have a good excuse to drive this fast: I’m a half hour late for a meeting with my publisher.

I left Union City and am making my way north to Oakland. My publisher is waiting to hear a pitch for my fourth novel, which is allegedly completely mapped out and ready to be constructed. But the truth is that I have yet to map anything out. I’m clueless. I’m a compulsive procrastinator. And I’m not worried about what I’m going to pitch them. It’ll all come to me.

Another car zips by me.
This one’s a beat down Toyota pick-up truck with rust spots tattooed along its off-white metallic body. A twenties-something girl is the driver. She’s wearing an orange mesh hat that reads “Boo”. Her blonde ponytail is sticking out of the back of the cap, and her face is dewy soft with childlike innocence. We make brief eye contact as she rockets pass me. I believe I saw her shoot a slight smile my way, but perhaps my imagination was teasing me. But maybe she did smile? Maybe her name is Sandra? Maybe she’s driving fast down 880 because she just left her boyfriend and is now emotionally distraught? Her boyfriend was cheating on her with her mother, and now she’s escaping from it all. The only reason Sandra isn’t hysterically crying is because she had just gotten the tears out of her system. And now it’s time for her to liberate her heart from the whole crap situation. Maybe she needs someone to talk to? Maybe Sandra is getting closer and closer to her breaking point? Sandra needs me. I should follow her and calm her down. Soothe her. Comfort her troubled heart. My speed limit reaches 90 MPH. I’m getting closer to Sandra’s pick-up. Sandra will later call our first encounter fate. But then up ahead I see swirling lights. They signal me to gently apply the brakes. My speed limit slowly drops to 70 MPH.
I see some heavy drops of rain splat upon my windshield as I reach the spinning lights. On the side of the road, the driver of a silver minivan is being patted down by an officer wearing sunglasses, though the sun is hiding behind thick grey clouds and the rain continues its descending. The driver also appears to be young. Perhaps he’s also in his twenties? I’ll call him Ian. Maybe he’s Sandra’s Ian? He looks like an Ian. But unlike Sandra, Ian is compulsively crying. Perhaps it’s because the officer found something illegal inside his minivan? Maybe Ian was in possession of a large bag of pot given to him by Sandra’s mother? Maybe the officer is planning on taking Ian back to the station? Poor Ian. Poor choice. Poor future ahead.
After driving a half-mile ahead of Ian, I pick up the speed and get back up to 90 MPH. I can’t find Sandra anywhere. She’s long gone.
Another car zips pass me at high speed.
Moments later, I take the Broadway exit, deep into the heart of Oakland, and I coast a few blocks before parking in front of the publishing house. I quickly storm through the door of the building, check in with the secretary, and make my way to the office of my editor. Despite my gross tardiness, he welcomes me into his office and offers me a seat. He’s calm and collected. My heart is violently palpitating like that of a racehorse on steroids. As he leans back in his chair and intertwines his fingers behind his head, he probes: “So what do you got?”
And I begin with complete confidence: “Halloween was an intense night for Sandra and Ian, a twenties-something couple bent on good times, a love for new experiences, and quick money-making schemes. Perhaps Halloween would have been less vivid if the two hadn’t tried smoking heavy volumes of pot. Sandra and Ian decided to throw a Halloween party at Yvette’s house. This is Sandra’s divorced and maladjusted mother. The party had to be there because Yvette’s house is huge with a large backyard and inside living space, ideal for a party housing close to three hundred people adorning eclectic costumes of all hues. It was Yvette who introduced her daughter and Ian to pot. It was Sandra and Ian’s first time with the drug. And that same night, it would be Yvette who would later secretly introduce Ian to other things he’s never experienced before. Ever since Yvette’s divorce five years ago, she’s been slowly creeping backwards into a lifestyle mimicking her early twenties . . . ”
I go on and on and on.
I talk about my novel idea for close to a half hour before the editor leans forward from behind his desk and says: “Great. Great. Stop there. Don’t ruin the rest of it for me. I haven’t read a good book similar to that narrative in a while. I think I know how you’re going to end it, but you’ve surprised me before. We’ll release it before next Halloween season. What are you titling it?”
I pause.
“I’m not sure yet.”

© Tony R. Rodriguez, SF Examiner Dec 2008 

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