This is a story about a man. An ordinary man. Non-confrontational in nature, and by all accounts wholly ordinary. And then one day, he snapped.
Let’s set the scene: It’s a warm June night– unseasonably warm at that. This man, let’s call him Paul, Paul is behind the wheel of a minivan, with his eight year old daughter and his six year old son in the back seat. Unfortunately, Paul hasn’t had time to get his AC charged yet this year and the car is warm too. The windows are rolled down. Wind is whipping through the van.
Nevertheless, Paul’s back is sticking to the seat. He’s sweat straight through his button down and hasn’t had time to change since work. He headed straight to school, collected his children, and took them to sport practices. His daughter has always had an affinity for horses and is enrolled in an equestrian class. His son has recently become enamoured with old Bruce Lee movies, much to Paul’s delight and to his mother’s chagrin. After talking it over one night, they decided to enroll their son in a Taekwondo class.
Paul has been on the run between work, school, the stables, and finally the Taekwondo class for hours now. He stays with his son, who is still too young to be there by himself. It’s fine, Paul decides as he pulls out his laptop and tries to finish some work. The dojo is close enough to a Starbucks that Paul connects to the wifi. The connection is spotty. Several times, to his growing agitation, the connection drops derailing Paul’s train of thought.
After 45 minutes of increasingly furious keystrokes and being called by his son to watch him, it’s time to leave and pick up his daughter. When Paul and his son disembark to the stables, his son complains that the car is too hot. Paul says their is nothing he can do. The drive is slow going. There was an accident up ahead and traffic is crawling, making Paul anxious that his daughter is probably going to anxious with his tardiness. His eyes dart back and forth between the road, the clock, and his son in the rearview mirror who is growing more restless with each passing sweltering second.
Paul finally gets himself out of the traffic jam to realize that he is twenty minutes behind. He accelerates a little harder, takes corners a little faster, and drives more aggressively. There’s still a number of things he has to attend to at home: dinner, dishes, chores, helping the kids with homework, putting them to bed, and finishing the email that is currently sitting in his draft folder thanks to Starbucks wifi. Suddenly from the backseat, his youngest, enamoured by fleeting golden arches, asks that they stop at a McDonald’s because he’s starving; look dad, he’s wasting away. Paul would’ve laughed had his jaw not been clenched from the growing to-do list he was reviewing in the recesses of his mind.
Paul turns into the parking lot next to the stables to find his daughter the last one there. Her instructor is hovering over her shoulder. They both shoot Paul a look when he pulls in and then ask in rapid succession why he was late. “Traffic” doesn’t seem to appease the teacher who also promptly reminds Paul: that stable fees are do soon, and to not be late with the payment again. Paul loads his daughter into the hellishly hot van and discusses the fees with the teacher, inquiring about arranging an ad hoc payment plan. The teacher flat out refuses the offer and turns in a huff.
Back in the van, Paul’s shirt is stuck to his back, the wind is drowning out the radio, and his children are now both set on McDonald’s, even chanting the name in an effort to sway Paul. Another car is driving extremely close to Paul’s bumper. So close that he can see the driver emoting emphatically with his left hand. Paul barely possess the capacity to think about scratching together the necessary funds for the stable fees on top of the other bills: electricity, the mortgage, water,
….Groceries, new clothes for the kids, the dog’s vet bill,
Paul is nearly home now. He’s tries to get out of the other drivers way by turning into the suburban sprawl.
….Health insurance, more groceries,
He’s still there. Still riding Paul’s ass. Paul throws on his right blinker and pulls over to the right of a relatively narrow residential road. The other driver doesn’t pass.
….Gas, retirement fund
car payments on this van…
The other driver lays on his horn and throws up another middle finger. Paul stomps on the brakes throwing himself and his children forward into their seatbelts. With his right hand he puts the van into park and with his left reaches for the glove box. At his wife’s insistence, they kept a tire iron in the door. For emergencies. Paul swings his door open and marches to the other car with the tire iron concealed behind his back, insisting the other driver step out. The children have fallen silent. The other driver opens his door, yelling a slew of profanities. He stretches his neck to put his face closer to Paul’s. Paul smells his breath: Coffee and something with garlic.
A thud. A bone-cracking thud. The other driver falls into the hood of his car, disoriented. He put his hands up. Paul swings again. Another thud. The driver’s face and shirt is shines a slick red. His hands go to his face as the he slumps over completely. Paul swings again. And again. Thud. Thud. Followed by a sickly sick sound of suction. Paul has blood on himself now. His hands and forearms are covered. He stares at the bloody pulp of bone, gray matter, and excessive pools of blood where the head had been.
Paul was later found and detained in the drive thru line at a McDonald’s. His children were unharmed. Paul himself was unaware of the blood on his person until hours later. He still insists he does not remember committing any crime. Several eyewitnesses directly contradict Paul’s story.