By David O’Boyle (Winter 2021)
My head pounded.
I squatted down to the driveway and balled up a clump of snow. Once shaped into a respectable sphere, I let my back slide down the rickety old barn door and onto the gravel. The layer of ice kept the splinters asleep when I did so. Ice is their lullaby. The snow I applied to my brow helped my migraines. Snow is my medication.
Granted, the location of the snow deserved as much credit as the snow itself. The barn blocked the blinking red traffic light beyond the front lawn. Everywhere else, especially inside my second-floor apartment in the main house, was subject to the blinking…blinking…blinking.
Endless blinking. Too many stares at the blinking red light triggered terrible headaches, violent bouts of vomiting too.
The .22 under my bed could put an end to it. By “it” I meant the blinking red traffic light. I didn’t mean suicide. However, the property damage solution was short-sighted, not to mention criminal. If I shot the blinking red traffic light today, a new one would be up before my arraignment tomorrow.
Another option was the straight and narrow. I tried that too, first with written letters to the mayor, then with proposals to the town council, and finally with a town hall meeting appearance. That day was quite a day. When my issue was called, I stepped up to the microphone and presented my case like the lawyer I always thought I could be.
“Replace the red blinking traffic light with a roundabout,” I said, making things short and sweet.
A drowsy councilmember awoke from his open-eyed slumber. A good sign? I thought so. Wrong. The torpid beast simply needed to clear his throat to avoid choking on his own phlegm. In the process of doing so, he had the decency to question my proposition.
“Sir,” he said, “aren’t you just arguing in circles?”
His comment was fucking funny. That’s the worst. When a joke on you is fucking funny.
“What about a four-way stop-sign?” I said into the microphone. A roundabout was a big ask. I came in ready to settle on a stop sign.
“How about you stop talking,” a person in line behind me yelled. Comedy hour commenced.
Accepting defeat, I terminated my lease with the landlord the next day. The day after that I toured another apartment via Zoom. I wasn’t picky. The real estate agent showed me a stove and a bed and I was sold. Intent on moving quickly, I signed the papers, paid my security deposit and moved that afternoon.
“The destination is 1 mile on your right,” my iPhone GPS said. I looked down at my phone for a visual of the actual address. Sirens blared. When I looked back up, an ambulance blew by in the opposite direction.
Flashing red and white lights beamed from the emergency vehicle.
Head started to hurt. Stay focused. Almost there. Driveway up ahead. Bed inside. Deep breaths.
A siren sounded behind me. Blue and white lights flashed from a squad car.
Head started to throb. The mallet tapping on my occipital lobe transformed into a jackhammer.
“License and Registration” the cop said.
“Problem, officer?” I asked, handing him the documents, trying to look composed. My wincing and shaking hurt my cause, as did the sweat that fell from my brow.
The officer glared at me through his aviators. After a moment of silence, he turned and pointed back down the road, near where I passed the ambulance.
“You drove right through that four-way stop sign, like you didn’t even see it.”