How's My Driving?
Trip rounds the blind curve on Mulholland and the truck is right there, right in front of him, too close, approaching too fast. Brakes screech. Speeds equalize. And they continue on, the truck in front, the BMW behind.
It is 2:59 p.m. Trip needs to be at Kylie's school at 3. He's late. Again.
Swerving into the opposite lane, he tries to pass the truck on the brief straightaway, despite the double yellow line, and barely jerks his car back in behind the semi to avoid the lime green Hummer.
"Fuck!" Trip slaps his steering wheel and stares at the bumper in front of him.
Time has mocked Trip all day. So he made a mistake, thinking that the eight o'clock meeting was at nine. Who the hell has an eight o'clock in this town? Seriously. That bitch Heather has been gunning for him ever since she came over from Imagine. Like she's such hot shit. Like she knows how to program prime-time.
"You're drunk, Trip," Heather said when he staggered to his seat. "In the morning."
Trip did stagger. But purposefully, overemphasizing his unsteadiness -- a joke that played both on his reputation and his state of mind. Too smart for the room, he guessed. And he hadn't been drinking in the morning - last call just happened to be at six a.m., but since he hadn't been to bed yet, it didn't really count as morning, now did it?
But Heather didn't care. The last pilot Trip greenlit was expensive and stupid, that's what matters here. The pitch had been brilliant. A virus turns everyone on Earth into zombies. The last humans get on a spaceship to escape. But a week into their flight, they realize they brought the virus with them. They all turn into zombies, but here's the brilliant part -- they form a society of zombies and become more human than they had been before. Then, the aliens find them. Star Trek and Night of the Living Dead and Desperate Housewives all rolled together. Fucking awesome. Except it wasn't. Trip was drunk during the pitch and that helped it immensely. It would have been fine if the pilot hadn't leaked to YouTube and Heather hadn't started getting questions about it on her first day on the job.
The truck brakes around a tight turn. They've reached the top of the hill and the asshole is slowing down when he should be speeding up.
Vanessa doesn't want to give him joint custody of Kylie. The papers her lawyer filed with the court use words such as "irresponsible" and "unreliable" and "drunk": each one harder to argue than the last. Not that his lawyer has tried too hard; Trip suspects his lawyer doesn't like him. Still, he can't afford to be late, to add substance to the complaint, each indiscretion becoming a line item. And he definitely can't tell Vanessa that he got fired.
Irresponsible and unreliable and drunk.
And late to pick up his daughter.
And stuck behind a truck on Mulholland Drive.
There is an 800 number on the back of the semi.
How Am I Driving?
Trip dials the 800 number. He gets a machine, which asks him for the license plate of the truck and his comments.
"Whoa! I can't believe this guy! Shit! He almost took that car out. Your driver is on Mulholland and I think he's drunk. He's gonna kill someone! He must be going at least eighty. Damn!"
Trip sells it the way he has seen so many bad actors do it in auditions and in bed. Then, he very slowly reads off the license plate and hangs up.
But he doesn't feel that much better. He is still late. He is not drunk enough.
His phone rings. Vanessa on the caller I.D. It is 3:04 - are you kidding me?
Trip makes his move into the opposite lane again, fighting against his BMW. He pulls up next to the truck, gaining ground.
Trip knows this road well enough to fully understand that his ability to pass the truck, to survive another day, depends on whatever is coming around the next blind curve. As he guns the engine, Trip considers the possibility that he is wrong and everyone else is right.
About the author:
Michael Landweber lives in Washington, DC with his wife and two kids. His stories have appeared in Fourteen Hills, The MacGuffin, Beloit Fiction Journal, American Literary Review and Fugue among others. He is an Associate Editor at Potomac Review and is working on a novel.