Little does he know, when she pulls in front of him just as he turns into the
parking lot, that this event has changed the course of his life. His coffee
splashes on the floor when he hit the brakes. A quick flash of anger as he
watches her drive on into the parking lot, oblivious to the fact he had the right-
of-way. He sees her again after he parks, when she passes in front of his van; a
suburban clone, blonde, ponytail, distracted by some frivolous conversation on a
cell phone while trying to see over the hood of a tank-size SUV.
She stops a few cars down to wait for an elderly couple get into their car and
vacate their parking space. Why didn’t she take the space six cars back and
simple walk the extra distance? Two cars pull to a stop behind her. They have
to wait for her to get out of the way. She honks, apparently to hurry the elderly
He shakes his head. How many of these clones has he seen before, the type
that thinks the world revolves around them, utterly unaware of the real world, or
other people’s sensibilities, spoiled from the moment they’re born, little girls that
grow up selfish and self-serving, then marry the ambitious fraternity man that
has to have just the right female to call his wife?
Maybe this bothered him more these days, now that his business had gone
under, now that he had lost his house and was living in the lake cabin left to him
by his uncle, all heaped on the pain of losing his wife in an automobile accident
less than a year before. A year ago this obnoxious female wouldn’t have roused
a second thought.
He watches her maneuver the big SUV into the parking space, step down out
of the cab and start toward the grocery store, stopping to confront the cart
attendant about a cart that had gotten in her way. He can see the boy trying to
be polite even though she’s talking down to him, likely accusing him of not
doing his job.
She’s blessed—his whole world has fallen apart. She will fill her shopping
cart with expensive organic food and the latest high-energy sports drinks. He’ll
buy sugar and coffee and maybe a pot roast. His money will run out within a
few months. He feels powerless, like the world had passed him by and he will
never catch up. His optimism and ambition have been reduced to pangs of
inadequacy, failure, unable to solve problems or make decisions; a low that
often feels like a physical pain, a low he had never realized even existed.
His hand-held basket is half-full by the time he spots the woman again. This
time she’s confronting the store manager. He stops a few feet away, looking for
his usual breakfast cereal, close enough to hear the blonde’s complaint.
Something the store had advertised is out of stock. She won’t let it go. The
manager listens patiently as she rants about a properly managed store. He feels
a sinking feeling inside his chest. Something snaps. He looks at the groceries
that have accumulated in the basket—he can buy this stuff some other time.
Back in the parking lot, he moves his van next to her SUV. His plan will
land him in prison, but that doesn’t matter. Can life be more miserable than it is
now just because he’s locked behind bars? He feels almost relieved. No, he
can’t blame her for his tribulations, nor blame her ilk for the woes of the world.
But that doesn’t matter either. All he knows is this haughty bitch just happens
to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This particular woman, this
debutant incarnate, this wretched wastrel is going to be shown another side of
life. Who knows, it might just giver her some character.
He opens the doors at the back of the van, leans in and pretends to be
working on something, and he waits, watching over his shoulder. It’s early in
the day, not much activity in the parking lot. The sun beats down on his back.
His underarms are damp. She’ll be pushing past with her cart any moment.
What he’ll do with her hasn’t been undecided, other than giving her a few days
she will remember the rest of her life.
He spots her a few minutes later.
There she is. Pure bitch. He wonders if under the façade she has any real
human qualities. Probably a family, children, all clinging to their misguided
values in a big house on a tree-lined street. Guess I’m about to find out. What
happened? Why can he no longer connect with the world around him? Why
did his dreams vanish like a wisp of smoke?
His body feels tight. Every muscle operating on impulse. Like yesterday,
and the day before that, tomorrow doesn’t matter, only this obsession, this ill-
conceived notion to satisfy his hunger for some small taste of justice. How
many times has he built cabinets for demanding women like her? The color’s
not right. The counter clashes with the wallpaper. There aren’t enough
shelves. Then they complain about the bill.
He hears the wheels on the shopping cart grow nearer. He tenses. Just a
few more feet. Her image enters the corner of his eye. She’s closer now, just
behind him …
He comes up behind her, throws a tarp over her head, wrestles her into the
van. She screams, kicks, twists like an alligator rolling in mud. Her cart rolls on
past her SUV. Holding her down with an arm and a leg, he glances out the back
of the van and then pulls the doors closed, struggling to hold her down, to cover
her mouth. She tries desperately to break free, to scream. He presses his hand
on the tarp where her mouth should be, looks around. A shop rag. He grabs it,
pulls the tarp off her head and pushes his knee on her chest to hold her down.
Seconds later, the rag is knotted tight at the back of her head, her terrified
screams muffled and lost on the carpenter’s clutter inside the van.
He’s sweating, nervous, breathing hard. He uses cords to bind her arms and
legs. Overpowered by male strength, her screams become whimpers, her
thrashing legs draw up and she lays amid the clutter in a fetal position. The
woman subdued and securely bound, his head falls back as he sucks great
volumes of air through his nostrils. The wave of adrenaline settles, then up
through the center of the van and into the driver’s seat. His hands shaking on
the wheel, he looks around—still no one in sight. A nauseous feeling
overwhelms him as he cranks the engine. It starts after a few sluggish turns.
He feels the acids roiling in belly and the sun-heated van feels like an oven. He’ll
wait before he cranks the window down.
Looking straight ahead, rigid, he pulls out of the parking lot and starts out
through the suburbs. Gated neighborhoods and strip shopping centers fall
vaguely behind. He hears squeals and whimpers from the back of the van, feels
the eyes of pedestrians and other drivers staring at him, as if the words I am a
kidnapper are written in red letters on his forehead.
The world around him seems like a strange, alien place, hostile and
unforgiving. He’s alone now, really alone, alone with his single-minded
ambition. The road that will take him out of town finally comes into view, his
hands gripping the wheel, hot air flowing over his face from the open window,
his forehead beaded with sweat.