Twonkette here. Are you with me so far? (Favorite line from “Life in the Fast Lane.” Also like the line: “She was terminally pretty.” Note to girls: You will get over the notion of wanting to be that. However, it will take a while. Just don’t go into show business.)
Back to the fast lane…
A uniformed California Highway Patrol officer knocked on my front door. He introduced himself as Zaps. I spied his cop car at the end of my driveway.
Before I could figure out if Zaps was a nickname; or should I shake his hand; or if he was lost and needed directions, he asked me, “Was that your trail of blood splattered on Highway 101 from Southern California to the Bay Area?”
“Depends,” I replied.”
“The fast one.”
“Oh. Then maybe. Probably. But we’re talking metaphorical blood, aren’t we?”
“No, m’am,” Zaps said. “Real blood. You didn’t notice it spilling out of you—and your car?”
What was this guy talking about? Was he jerking my chain? I couldn’t see his eyes behind his mirrored sunglasses.
“I didn’t notice anything. My mind was preoccupied.” (More like agonized.) “But my back did hurt a little.”
“Show me where,” Zaps said.
I turned and lifted my sweater, pointed to my lower back.”
“OH MY GOD!” Zaps exclaimed.
“What?!” Did he see my muffin top? I twirled back around—pronto.
“Let me see that again. And hold still.”
I felt a yank. “Oww!”
Zaps held up an eight-inch dagger—covered in dried blood, sand, and shells.
Now it was my turn to exclaim. “Holy crap!”
Zaps lowered his voice. “You have a gaping wound in your back. Right in the base of your spine. You should get that looked at.”
Base of the spine? My root chakra? Seat of tribal issues? My wound was metaphorical and literal? What are the odds?
“This blade is lethal,” Zaps said. “You must have a super strong backbone—like reinforced steel.”
“That’s the difference between humans and worms—a backbone.”
Zaps handed me the dagger. I refused to touch it. “Eeww. Cooties. Can you throw it away?”
“Sure. But don’t you want it as evidence? I suppose you know the perpetrator of this dastardly deed?”
I liked his use of dastardly. “Perpetrators. Plural.”
“Ouch,” Zaps said.
“Exactly,” I replied.
“How many perpetrators?”
“Hard to say. So many split personalities.”
“I getcha. Would you like me to file a police report?”
“No thanks. I’m already on it.”
“Personal injury. Personal justice,” I answered.
“You mean vigilante justice? A revenge plan?”
“Well, I do have a few revenge fantasies. Like hoping that nuclear waste from the Fukushima disaster washes onto the deck of a particular beach house—rendering it uninhabitable forever. Or certain greedy weasels develop a bad case of facial warts and alopecia. But no, I’m using my pen for literary justice. I’m writing to save me.”
“I understand,” Zaps replied. “It reminds me of a gnostic philosophy: If we bring forth what is within us, it will save us. If we don’t, it will destroy us.”
“Right on!” (Who in the heck quotes gnosticism?) “One of my favorite writers said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story within you. And I’ve had enough agony in the last year to last a lifetime. Heck, two lifetimes.”
“Then write on, Miss McGillicuddy!” Zaps said with a grin.
I got all smarty pantsy and replied that of course I would keep writing. I quoted John Steinbeck’s famous line like it was my own: ‘I nearly always write just as I nearly always breathe.’ Then I felt like a jerk—especially when Zaps said he was a Steinbeck fan.
I decided to tone it down. “Ernest Hemingway said there is nothing to the writing process. ‘All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ And I’m good at that.”
Zaps laughed. I think I diffused my jerkiness.
We launched into a discussion of philosophies—still standing on my porch—but I had at least closed the front door to prevent prying eyes from seeing my lack of housekeeping skills.
Zaps told me when he sat in his cop car on the shoulder of Highway 101, he didn’t hide in the bushes and he didn’t clock motorists with a radar gun. He used the time to read. He was plowing his way through an encyclopedia on philosophies. He was on the M chapter—with topics like Machiavellianism, Marxism, materialism, mentalism, modernism, monotheism, and mysticism. I told him I had been subjected to large doses of Machiavellian and materialistic behavior lately, hence the backstabbing.
I asked him what the opposite of nihilism was, because I always wanted to be the opposite of it. He said he didn’t know for sure, but that maybe Utilitarianism or moral relativism might fit the bill. I made a mental note to look those up.
I could have chatted longer with Zaps about a whole range of subjects—because say what you will about CHP stereotypes, this guy was not your average Frank Poncherello. I was thinking of offering him a glass of ice tea when he eventually got back around to the issue of the bloody freeway. He told me he was confident the blood was mine.
“Why?” I asked.
“We took clumps of DNA and googled it. Your name popped up.”
“You can google a person’s body parts?”
“You can google anything. You just need the correct app.”
Damn technology. Even your blood has no privacy.
“Gee, Officer Zaps. I’m really sorry about the mess,” I said. “It must have been gross for the other motorists. I’d be happy to retrace my route and clean it up.”
“Not necessary,” Zaps replied. “CalTrans already handled it. It wasn’t hazardous waste. Just messy.”
“So you’re personally delivering an invoice for me to pay for the clean-up?”
“No. CalTrans billed the taxpayers.”
“You didn’t tell them the blood belonged to me?”
“No, m’am! California agencies don’t speak to one another. But don’t worry, you’ll pay for it one way or the other.”
“Then are you here to arrest me?”
“Maybe I am.”
But I could tell from the way he said it that he wasn’t. Instead he laughed. Definitely had a nice smile—with fluorescent white teeth. Either he didn’t drink coffee or he owned a well-used pair of bleaching trays.
“If I were I wouldn’t know what civil code you violated. Littering?”
Correct use of the subjunctive mood tense of the verb to be. This guy had to have more schooling than the police academy.
“No arrests or citations today. I’m here for other reasons.”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear them. I excused myself and popped into the house for a dish towel. I returned to the porch, stuffing the towel into my pants over the wound—which had started to feel drippy. Didn’t want to bleed on my good jeans. (NYDJ—not cheap.)
“Say, Zaps, when you DNA-tested my blood, did any other names pop up?”
“Yes,” he replied, “Two others.”
“Anyone I might know?”
“The first was Mark Twain.”
“Mark Twain? I love him! I knew we were kin—like kindred souls!”
“There was a slight genetic connection between the two of you…”
Zaps emphasized the word slight. I didn’t care how slight. I was thrilled that I had something familial going on with Mark Twain. Maybe the slight genetic connection was in the verbal department. I could very well have an innate talent to produce a writing career that I had been dreaming about for decades. My head spun. A famous writer relative! What luck! I was so delirious I barely heard Zaps talking.
“But since Twain died in 1910, I deduced it wasn’t his blood,” Zaps said. “The other genetic match was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.”
“The French painter? I didn’t know I had any French heritage. Must be why I love the French language. This is très fantastique.”
“From what I can determine, he’s more like très wacko.”
“Wackiness is derogatory for creative,” I said defending my long-lost Gallic cousin.
“Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t inherit his stature,” Zaps said. “He was only four and a half feet tall.”
“But maybe I inherited his artistry?”
“Don’t think so. You both have the same gene for funny looking toes.”
“Well, that’s something. I’ll take it. And how ‘bout Thanksgiving dinner at my house with both Mark Twain and Toulouse Lautrec at the table?”
“Yeah, but too bad they’re dead. Not much lively conversation.”
“I’ll take two dead guys as my peeps in exchange for any of my disgusting ex-family members!” I could feel my body heat up. Was it anger or a hot flash? For me it’s hard to tell.
Zaps ignored my outburst and continued in a professional manner. “Since Lautrec never stepped foot in America—and died in 1901—it wasn’t his blood either. Which leads me to your doorstep.” He looked me straight in the eye. Or at least I think he was looking at me straight in the eye. Those damn sunglasses.
“We ran a chem panel on your blood. You tested positive for anger.”
I got a good laugh out of that. “Tell me something I don’t already know.”
“You also tested positive for Stockholm Syndrome.”
“But I’ve never been held captive.”
Again Zaps lowered his voice. He leaned toward me. “Are you sure?”