The light turns green and the tiny Honda Civic hatchback in front of me eases through the intersection, turning left to head south. I release the clutch and ease on the gas in pursuit. The lead car accelerates slowly, arthritically, as if its joints hurt. It never reaches the speed limit.
Proximity of my front bumper to the hatchback’s rear bumper seems to make no significant difference in our traveling speed, so I settle down with my speedometer reading five below the limit and observe the occupants of the car in front of me.
The driver is wearing an age-concealing ball cap. Quick glances in his side view mirror reveal glasses, the frames of which (combined with the driving speed) lead me to believe he is an older gentleman. I also make an interesting observation: the driver has a hole in his ear. Disbelieving, I stare.
As I watch, asphalt gray peers through the cartilage framework of an ear shape, dispersed with brief glimpses of center line yellow or tree line green as our cars bank around the left-then-right turns. There doesn’t appear to be any jewelry forming this ear-window — just an irregular absence of flesh, as if his creator forgot to color in his lines. He reminds me of an old tom cat or a wolf pack leader that has been a participant in many skin-tearing fights.
Next to the holey driver sits the passenger, enshrouded in a giant, red hood. The Red Riding Hood is large: I witness both red shoulders peeking out from either side of the bucket seat. Neither person appears to be talking, and the passenger carefully raises the glowing end of a cigarette and pushes it through a small crack in the window. I don’t see the ashes disperse into the wind, but shortly after the tiny white missile of a cigarette butt is launched out of the window, only to bounce once, twice before disappearing under my car.
Several miles farther, I brake in preparation for my turn and watch as the slow, torn wolf and the giant, chain-smoking red riding hood drive on — out of my reality and farther away from their fairy tale.