Audience is seated and conversation is humming. The lights dim and Mr. Swinebottom walks on stage eagerly, holding his script. He is greeted with loud, vigorous applause and whistles. He smiles and pauses mid-stage for a moment, basking in the glow of the flattery. He catches himself and ducks behind the podium, arranging his script. Taking out his glasses, he unfolds them and perches them precisely on the edge of his nose. Clearing his throat, he clicks on his reading light and begins speaking.
“Good evening, ladies and gentleman, and welcome to another Reginald Swinebottom presents. I am your narrator, Mr. Swinebottom himself. Let’s begin tonight’s story, shall we? It all takes place, one late afternoon, on a most trying commute home from work…”
Lights dim; the velvet, red stage curtain stirs once and settles behind the narrator perched on his stool.
“Once upon a time, there was an author who was running late. She had exactly one and a half hours to get home and come back downtown for a 5:30 evening appointment. Upon this journey, the author came into contact with every distracted driver known to human kind. The author, as you shall see, soon lost her cherub-like demeanor…”
Mr. Swinebottom signals to a stage hand to lift the curtain. Four actresses appear, bowing.
“With us tonight to help act out today’s story are the author herself and three supporting actresses. These actresses represent different parts of the author’s brain. On the left we have Logic in the glasses, or the author’s higher thinking. In the middle is her feelings, who we’ll call Heart. Heart encompasses compassion, sensitivity and all those other fuzzy words. She’s holding a stuffed animal tonight, a doggy, I see. And farthest out we have the author’s base instincts and survival mechanisms, whom we’ll call Primal. Yes, that’s Primal with the club. I do hope that’s a prop, young lady…”
Primal sticks out her tongue at the narrator and sneers. The author and three actors get into a stage prop car, Primal sitting in the back with Heart. Logic has shotgun, and the author is driving.
Author glances down at the time displayed on the dashboard and sighs. She nears a car accident site and slows down.
Author (A): “Why do they have both lanes blocked? Everyone’s having to turn around. The cop could wave us around. It’s causing a major backup.”
Logic (L): “It’s for safety reasons. This is a small town, even though it is their main street. Wait, that is strange…Are two cop cars really necessary? It’s just a minor fender bender. Or did the car just stop running?”
A: “Have they nothing better to do? Move, buddy! That’s right, you can’t go straight, too. There you go. I knew you could do it.”
Heart (H): “Be nice, now. They’re lost, too. Their license plate is out of state.”
L: “We’re not lost, we’re simply turning around. You’re clear now, you can turn.”
A: “This driver keeps fixing her hair every ten seconds. I’m serious, she really is. You look great, lady. Shake your tail feathers.”
H: Giggles from the backseat.
Primal is polishing her club, squinting out the front windshield at times. Her frustration is growing in fits and starts.
L: “She’s driving a Jeep and it’s almost winter. She has a winky smiley face on her tire cover, her license plate has a meditation phrase, and she has a whimsical butterfly decal on her back window. My goodness, we’re driving behind a hippie!”
A: “And she’s drifting on the road. Wait…why aren’t we going? She’s waving someone to merge in front of us and everyone’s gone through the green light already. He’s not even paying attention. He’s oblivious lady–go! Finally…And the light turned red. That’s four more minutes, wasted…”
The group quiets. Despair is starting to grow.
L: “We can’t turn right up here. There’s someone waiting to turn left…”
A: “At a stop sign. Someone is trying to turn left, from a stop sign, onto a six lane major road, at rush hour on a Friday. And you have thirty people behind you, waiting to turn right. Good job, American! Good job.”
L: (Looks down at author through her glasses). “And what are we, French?”
Primal (P): “Let’s shoot her.”
H: “We can’t! That’s bad, Primal!”
L: “Only if you get caught. I mean, yes, that’s bad. Heart is right. Excuse me…”
Logic busies herself behind a map, blushing.
A: “This isn’t going to work. It’s already 5 o’clock. It takes 40 minutes to get home, 40 minutes to get back. We’re going to miss our appointment!”
H: (Starts to whimper): “I want to go home!”
L: “Pull over to the bank here and call your husband. We have to change tactics. You already should have been home by now….”
Author ignores advice. Primal starts to stir in the backseat; she is considering blowing out the Jeep’s back tires and whispers her plan to the author.
A: “Sure. You go first even though I have right-of-way. I have nothing better to do than to let your shiny Cadillac go first. Oh, no, after YOU, buddy. After YOU!”
L: “That was a Cadillac. Excellent spot.”
H: “These drivers are mean!”
P: Growls at a passing car.
A: “That’s it! I’m shooting the Jeeps’ tires! You don’t get to drive today lady, that was one hair flick too many. It’s not personal, it’s just you. I’m going to kill her!”
P: (Smiles happily.)
H: (Sniffing back tears.) “They’re poo-poo heads! I want to go home and go to bed. Now!”
L: “There’s a parking spot, over there. Call your husband…Would you listen to me?”
A: “Fine I’m parked. I’ll call him….He’s not picking up.”
L: “He’s probably driving.”
A: “Then why did you tell me to call him?”
L: “He’ll see your missed call. There, he’s calling now. Now, update the plan. He’ll come down here to meet us. It’ll work out better that way.”
H: “Tell him we’re upset!”
P: “Tell him someone’s going to die and to bring a shovel!”
L: “Tell him to meet you at the appointment. if everything works to the second, we can still make it!”
Narrator: “The author proceeds to talk to the saint. Anger is expressed, words are thrown. Heart, Primal and Logic all talk at once and the conversation erupts into a cacophony of opinions and perspectives. And this is why the saint is called the saint, ladies and gentleman. For he clearly is one.
“Join us next time for Act II of “The Author and the Terrible Tale of Traffic.”
Inspired by Thomas Sanders‘ “Sander Sides” YouTube videos.