He hated fighting with her. He hated it with a passion. But there they were, deadlocked and neither were going to back down anytime soon.
And as he drove, he pushed it on the gas a little harder. The car was a little older, but it was strong. A workhorse. All cars are workhorses if you treat them right. When he turned, he carved into the corners a little more. He could hear the slightest of squalling from the tires. It felt good to take the anger out on the road. It probably wasn't good for the car or the tires, but she had really gotten under his skin this time. And on this straightaway, he knew he had a half of a mile before a stop sign. He knew that the speed limit was 35mph, but he also knew that he could probably double that before he had to hit his brakes.
She had dug her heels in, as stubborn as ever. She wasn't ever going to apologize. That wasn't how she operated. Years and years of this misery. This dealing with a self-serving individual who couldn't see her own faults but sure could see his. he hadn't really thought of it as bad. it wasn't until he was backed up against a wall as he was now that he actually realized his situation. He had these moments of clarity, and then he was lulled back into his life, away from the crisp coherence that she was indeed a poison to his soul.
His foot leaned on the gas pedal and the tires grabbed the road a little harder, pulled him a little faster. Just a little bit. He was ten miles over the speed limit, but it probably wasn't enough for a ticket. She had goaded him this time. Really laid it on thick. She knew he was angry and she had leaned her face right into his. She had dared him to hit her. She told him to hit her. Perhaps he should have. The tension as he stepped away from her had been remarkable. Like she had won somehow by his not following through with the belting she'd deserved. If he'd hit her, then maybe he wouldn't be out here speeding around, asking for trouble on his way to the bank.
Now he was at 55. 55 was manageable, but he was still pissed. He pushed it a bit more. He was a a quarter-tank. He would hit the bank, and then the gas station. The houses lolled by, unrecognizeable. Lots of picket fences. No one seemed to be out this afternoon. This was fine with him, because he was ready to force some air into that carburator.
He had to go to the bank to cover a credit card that she was abusing. Of course she could made it look like he benefited from her abuse of this card. Of course she demonstrated how everyone in the household benefited from her lack of control. But these were benefits that weren't necessary. It didn't need to be this way. What happened to waiting for clothes and dishes and fun things? What happened to jars where you tucked money away? That was how his mother had handled it. Not by getting an American Express card and racking the hell out of it. He'd stood by his point. His point was that he'd told her not to get it. Now she had it and the minimum payment was bigger than they had budgeted for. The part that had triggered him was that it had been manageable the month before. He had no idea what the money was actually being spent on. She wasn't really copping to it either.
68 now. Almost to the doubling point. He felt better. He could look at the road and concentrate on it. This took his mind off of the here and now. The wind whistled outside the car. The radio was off, and all he could hear was the hum of the engine, the hum that had a lot more growl to it if he wanted to use it. It was a smooth hum. There were no ticks and no pops. No grinding sounds and nothing scraping. It sounded healthy, and it was. He let off the gas. He would roll into the stop sign and hopefully feel a little better. There was no traffic on the road. No one was out to see him whizzing by in the family jalopy. The road was his, and with no one out, he felt entitled to it. Hitting 68 in the city limits was always a positive accomplishment.
But what was he going to do about her? He had been raised to think that separation and divorce were bad things...but there was no other way to deal with this one. This one was a serious pain in the neck. This one had issues way beyond him.
The coasting down was smooth and 55 felt like a slow speed. It could have been 25, the way it felt. After almost being at 70, 55 was completely small potatoes.
He would knuckle under again. he would apologize again. He would try and make it work one more time. He would pick up flowers on the way from the bank. There was enough cash in his wallet to pull of a slight bouquet, and that was what he was going to do. It would be better to apologize and try to make nice out of this whole thing than to have another cold night like what had been in his personal weather pattern for the past month. Flowers would do the trick.
And now he could see the stop sign ahead. He touched the brakes just a bit to bring it down to 40. 40 miles per hour. A cop would have to be a complete prick to ticket him now. However, if a cop was anywhere nearby, they would probably have him at the 68. He mused how the signs always said that speed was patrolled by aircraft, but he'd never received a ticket as a result of some pilot.
So tired of fighting. Their relationship was like a glass of water. He wanted to keep the water clean and drinkable. She was willing to allow all sorts of pollutants in, and remain satisfied that there was indeed still a glass of water. Shit water. Well, flowers might kill off some of the pollutants. Counselling maybe? He needed to think. With a sigh, he brought his right hand up to massage his temples.
That was when the kid on the bicycle shot out in front of him. That was when he felt the impact. That was when the windshield bent abnormally and at its last second of stability, it shattered. It blew in patterns of small things too quick to record. Like a thousand dandelion seeds being pushed in random directions by several straight, strong winds. The glass was hard, angry, and it ripped at him. The boy's body went sprawling off of the buckled hood, and for a second he saw the shock in the kid's eyes. The locked brakes caused the car to slow with a lurch and a nosing tip down in the front before settling. It was all quiet, except for the crinkle of glass covering him like a layer of chipped ice. The radiator began to hiss, angrily.
He realized that no, flowers weren't going to cut it this time.