That Would Teach Them.
By S. Scott Bullock
Greg Weston had had it. He had reached his limit. He was… fed UP! Sitting in his cubicle he watched with great disdain the approach of his bastard of a boss. Greg HATED this prick. The boss. The head honcho. The royal pain-in-the-ass. Greg thought of picking up one of his pointy mechanical pencils and sticking it into the prick’s hairy hand. THAT would teach him. But then he thought better of it. The boss wasn’t worth it. He wasn’t worth going to jail for. Besides, Greg was a lot of things, but he was NOT a criminal of any kind. Especially not a violent one. In point of fact, Greg was a chronic rule follower. An obey-er. When HE went grocery shopping you wouldn’t find HIM with eleven items in his cart standing in the ten-items-or-less line.
“I need you to call Malone and get the quote. Tell him we have to have it in writing and tell him we need it by Thursday.” The boss said tapping his finger on the top of Greg’s cubicle wall.
“Will do.” Greg said smiling.
“Now. Okay, Greg?” The boss said, tapping.
“Right. On it.” Greg picked up the phone and held it toward his finger-tapping boss. “Calling now.”
“I’m counting on you Greg.” The boss said, walking back to his office.
“You couldn’t count to ten without using both your hands.” Greg mumbled under his breath as he dialed the phone. The one saving grace to all of this was that it was Friday before a three-day weekend and that meant that quitting time was two-o’clock instead of the usual five. But he would wait until five minutes after the hour. Just like he always did.
On regular days, when five-o’clock came, Greg would start packing up his things for home. He’d leave work at his usual time, five minutes after five o’clock. Five o’clock was quitting time, but he refused to leave until five minutes after. He was sickened by the no-accounts that left a minute before five. Or some of the real lazy, Asshat, no-goods who left even earlier than that, so he made an example of himself. He would not only NOT leave before quitting time, HE would leave AFTER it. That’s what a person who follows the rules does. He makes an example of his rule following. That would teach them. The damn Asshats. Especially the “almond cruncher”. That stupid idiot in the next cubicle that ate dry-roasted almonds all day long. Greg could only imagine that the guy, his name was Wayne, (what a stupid-assed name THAT was), must chew with his pie-hole hanging wide open. That’s the only possible way he could make THAT much noise just chewing almonds. Regardless, the sound drove Greg bat-shit crazy. It made him furious and nauseous at the same time. How could ANYONE chew like that? Didn’t he have even the slightest notion of how maddening that sound was to people? No, of course he didn’t. The “almond cruncher” was just another tormentor in the never-ending line of rude, self-centered, tormentors that made it their special sacred duty to push Greg Weston over the precipice and onto the jagged rocks below. All of them, every damn one of them had it out for him. And he knew it. Two-o-five finally came and Greg packed up to leave. As he walked by his bosses open door the boss called out.
“What did Malone say, Greg?”
Greg stopped in his tracks and turned toward his boss. His stomach tightened as it always did when he had to make eye contact with the fat jerk.
“He was out of the office. I left a message for him to call ASAP.”
“Shit.” His boss spat. “Great.”
“Anything else before I go?” Greg asked, knowing full well there would be something else. There was ALWAYS something else with this jerk.
“No.” His boss said. “Go home and have a nice long weekend. Get some rest.”
‘Yeah right’. Greg thought. ‘You’re being nice to me now so I’ll let my guard down. I’m not falling for it. You’re gonna come after me Tuesday and give me some heavy grief. You’re not fooling me for one single second.’
“See you Tuesday.” Greg said and walked toward the elevators. As he exited the building and walked toward his car he noticed how close the car next to his had parked.
“Dammit!” He said to the ice-cold outside air. His phone rang and the sound made him jump.
“Shit.” He said fumbling the phone out of his pocket. His breath was fogging as he read the screen. It read ABBY. He pushed the ACCEPT button and put the phone to his soon to be frost-bitten ear.
“Yeah?” He said way too curtly, especially when addressing his wife.
“Whoa.” Abby said. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Abs. Just some retarded moron parked his car so close to mine that I’ll barely be able to open my door. AND he parked backwards in the spot so he probably dinged my door too when he got out. Jerk.”
“You in a mood?” Abby asked.
“I hate people.” Greg said with just the slightest hint of a smile in his voice. And that slight hint was only there because he was talking to Abby, and Abby was the only thing in life that gave Greg true uncomplicated joy.
“You don’t hate people.” Abby chided.
“Yeah right. I don’t hate people and I LOVE salad.” Greg said trying to fish his keys out of his pocket. He pulled them out and promptly dropped them. They slid under the car.
“DAMMIT!” He shouted.
“OW!” Abby shouted back. “You just blew my ear out! Why are you yelling?”
“I dropped the damn keys.” Greg said going to his hands and knees and looking under the car. “Abs can I call you back or can we just talk when I get home, I’ve got to get the keys, they slid under the damn car and I am about to freeze solid out here.”
“Okay, real quick.” Abby said stifling a giggle, as she thought about her husband getting all red faced and pissed off trying to retrieve his keys from under the car. “I’m making Macho Nachos for dinner and I forgot the damned pickled jalapenos. Could you hit Stop & Shop on your way home and get a jar?”
“This is NOT funny Abs.”
“I didn’t say it was.” Abby said still grinning.
“I can hear you laughing at me even if you’re not laughing out loud.”
At that Abby let out a great guffaw.
“I’m sorry.” She said through her laugh. “I’m just seeing you all PO’d and digging around under the car and that just tickles the poop outta me.”
“It’s a wonder that we’re still married. You have a bizarre and cruel sense of humor and I deeply worry about your sanity.” Greg was halfway under the car holding the phone to his ear with one hand and reaching, to its limit, for his keys with the other.
“Just get the jalapenos.” Abby managed through another giggle fit. “I love you and drive carefully.”
“I will. I love you too.” Greg punched off the phone and crawled all the way under the car. He wrapped his hand around his keys. “GOT YA!” He said raising his head and banging it against the gas tank.
“DAMMIT TO HELL!” He shouted thru clinched teeth as he extricated himself from beneath his Ford Explorer.
Greg stood up fully and looked down at his clothes. His long top-coat was unbuttoned and when he saw that he was one long grease stain from the toes of his leather shoes to the upper most button on his eighty-dollar shirt all he could muster was a sigh and a quiet, “Crap.”.
Twenty minutes later, because not ONE idiot on the road knew how to drive on icy streets, and due to that fact, turned a ten minute trip into a twenty minute one, Greg pulled into the parking lot of Stop & Shop and scouted out a typical spot for himself. He always parked well away from the front of any store and well away from other cars. No spastic, asshat was going to ding HIS door. He found a totally vacant parking lane and pulled his car into the very last spot, leaving a good three feet between his door and the demarcation line. As he got out a light snow begin to fall and the air took on the unmistakable smell of settled-in winter.
“Great.” He said quietly. “Now it’ll take me an hour to get home.”
He walked up to the automatic doors as a woman burdened with four brown grocery bags walked out and right into him. One of her bags went flying and oranges, onions and turnips rolled away like billiard balls after a well executed break.
“SHIT!” She shouted shoving her other bags into Greg’s arms and running after her wayward produce.
“Why me?” Greg mumbled under his breath. Breath that had begun to fog from the sub-zero cold. He set the lady’s bags down on the bench by the door and walked into the store. Before the doors closed behind him he heard the woman shout.
“Thanks a lot, dude! You’re a REAL gentleman.”
He stopped for a split second then. He almost turned around. He’s ears began to get red hot. He needed to read this woman the riot act. ‘Thanks a lot dude!?!?! You’re a real gentleman!??!?!’ Is that REALLY what she said. This dumb broad who slammed into him then dropped a bag of her crap, then shoved the rest of her crap in his arms and ran off after her freakin’ turnips? Is that REALLY what she said!?!? He wanted to rip her a new one. That would teach her. But he didn’t. Greg never did ANYTHING when stuff like this happened. He just swallowed his angst and went about his business. As he headed to the ‘International Foods’ aisle in the Stop and Shop he couldn’t stop his mind from obsessing over the incident. He replayed it over and over and felt his ire raise exponentially with each replay. He didn’t DO a thing to that lady. He didn’t deserve to be spoken to like that. He SHOULD have said something to her. He SHOULD have told her to choke on her turnips. He SHOULD have…
Greg stopped in his tracks. He stood in the ‘International Foods’ aisle of his local Stop & Shop without one clue as to why he was there. It was if he had awakened from some kind of psychic fugue. He looked left and saw canned humus, dried chickpeas and felafel mix. He looked right and saw bottled chicken fat, kosher noodles and matzo meal. He stared at the shelves of foreign food and began to feel a bit frightened. Why the hell was he here? His phone rang from his hip pocket and he jumped again at the sound. He had to change that damn ring tone. Every time his phone rang it gave him a small heart attack. He pulled it from his pocket and looked at the screen. It was Abby again. He pushed the ACCEPT button.
“I just crapped my pants, Abs.”
“You haven’t changed your ringtone yet?” She asked stifling yet another giggle.
“YOU said YOU were going to do that for me. I can’t figure this damn phone out.”
“I will.” She said smiling. “I will. Where are you? Have you left the store yet?”
“No. I’m still here. But I forgot what you asked me to get. This stupid woman slammed into me walking out of the store and…”
She stopped him mid sentence.
“In the car?” She asked concerned. “Are you okay?”
“Oh. No. Not in the car. I was walking into the store and she was walking out and she slammed into me and dropped a bag of groceries and… well… she was a bitch to me… that’s all. What did you need again?”
“Did you help her with her groceries?” Abby asked.
“Yes. I did. I, well I put the other bags she handed me down on a bench and walked into the store while she was chasing down her stuff from the bag that fell.”
“That’s not really helping, Howard.” She always called him “Howard” when he did something she didn’t approve of.
“Can we please skip over this part and get to the part about what you wanted me to get here?” He was feeling a little embarrassed and a lot miffed.
“Pickled Jalapeno peppers for the Nachos.” She said flatly. “But I called you because I wanted you to get some cigars too.”
“Guitars? What are you talking about?”
Abby let out a huge guffaw.
“Not guitars….” she said cracking up. “Cigars!”
Then the connection broke. Greg looked at his phone and saw that his battery had died. Perfect. Just freakin’ perfect. He thought. Cigars? What the hell could she want with cigars?
Greg shoved his impotent phone back into his front pocket and turned toward the Mexican section of the aisle. He picked up a bottle of pickled jalapenos and froze. You give cigars out when you have a baby! He yelled in his mind.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and pressed the call button. Dead. Still dead. A useless brick. He looked around to the front of the store hoping to see a pay phone. He noticed a kiosk out the window in front of the store. He made a beeline for the front doors. When he got to the public phone kiosk he saw that the phone had been removed. And from the condition of the exposed metal it looked as if it had been removed a very long time ago. He looked around for another. Nothing. He thought of asking to use the phone in the store or asking someone if he could use their cell, but quickly thought better of it. He certainly did NOT want to deal with the Asshat’s questions or conditions. And there WOULD be conditions and questions. Asshats ALWAYS have conditions and questions. And that was the world. Greg, Abby and Asshats.
Greg decided to just head home. Get there as fast as he could. He knew that “cigars” may have meant something else, but the chance that it meant what he was thinking it meant was motivation enough to drop everything and get home fast. He and Abby had been trying to get pregnant for over a year with no success. They had started discussing clinical intervention. Abby had even investigated some local fertility clinics. But maybe they didn’t need that after all. Maybe they got lucky and…
“CIGARS!” He shouted as he unlocked his door and got into the car. He noticed that some Asshat had parked their car RIGHT next to his. Even in his excited joy he marveled at the stupidity of people. The mindless idiocy of parking right NEXT to another car in an otherwise totally vacant aisle. Greg put the key into the ignition and only then realized that he was still holding the jar of jalapenos. He should take it back. He was NOT a shoplifter. But… ‘cigars’ she said buy some ‘cigars’! He decided to pay for them on his next visit and set the jar down next him on the seat.
Greg started his car and raced toward the exit. His Explorer did a little sideways shimmy as the tires grasped for purchase on the now slick-with-ice asphalt. The weather was alternating between sleet, freezing rain and full blown blizzard snowfall now, and driving was about to become very difficult. He came to a full stop at the stop sign at the parking lot exit and leaned over to the glove box. He popped it open and quickly rifled through the jam packed cubby. Nothing. Or at least NOT what he was looking for. He popped open the between seat storage and did the same. Not there. Just then a horn bleated from behind him and he looked up to the rear-view mirror, startled. Three cars were behind him waiting to exit the Stop and Shop parking lot.
“Asshats” he muttered and pulled onto the main road. “Where the hell is the damn car charger?” Another beep from behind.
“UP YOURS!” Greg shouted to his rear view mirror. “I should put it in park and JUST STAY RIGHT HERE!!!” He yelled over his shoulder as he slowly pulled further into traffic. “That would teach them.” He finished quietly to himself.
The snow began to fall with an attitude, and visibility was diminishing rapidly. He knew he had to get to the Town Common road before it got much worse. The TCR was the last ten mile stretch before his turn off into the Town Woods and home. It was only one lane going each way, and it was a tough ten miles. It was winding and steep and when it got heavy snowfall, managing it was tricky at best and scary-as-shit at worst.
The light turned red in front of him and he slowed to a stop. The snow increased and a little sigh escaped from deep in his chest. It was a good five miles to the TCR and a lot of snow can fall in the course of five miles. ‘Cigars’ he thought. ‘And snow’. The signal turned green and he crept the Explorer forward, careful not to give it too much gas. The tires slipped, but only a little, and he got up to speed quickly. Already the Asshats were screwing with him. Driving too fast, driving too slow, not going fast enough on the greens and speeding through the yellows. ‘They should all crash into each other’ he thought. ‘THAT would teach them.’
He made the TCR in less then fifteen minutes which, under the current conditions, was quite good time. He made the right onto the TCR and saw that the snow was really accumulation along the sides and filling the long ditches that followed it up to the Woods turnoff. He’d have to take it slower than he wanted but as the saying goes, ‘better safe than dead in a ditch’.
Greg took into account the Asshat count at this time. None ahead of him on the TCR and three behind him. A red Mercedes directly behind him (probably owned by a rich, entitled, trust-fund baby), then behind it and way back, a pickup truck of some kind (owned, no doubt, by an inbred, first-cousin-humping rube), and behind that and at quite a distance, a huge semi. This fact royally pissed Greg off, because semi’s THAT big weren’t allowed on the TCR. They were supposed to take the Powell Highway loop which led them AROUND town and not through it. This Asshat truck driver was not only breaking the law but he was making ANYONE behind him miserable. And Greg had been behind enough semi’s in his life to be VERY familiar with THAT type of misery.
The Explorer took a little slip and Greg let off the accelerator a bit. He desperately wanted to get home to Abby, but he wanted to get home in one piece. As he slowed, the distance between him and the Mercedes quickly closed. The trust-fund Asshat was not slowing enough and came up fast on the Explorer’s bumper. He flashed his lights. Greg was aghast.
“WHAT?” he said aloud. “You’re kidding me right? It’s snowing like a son-of-bitch and you want me to go faster!?”
The Mercedes’ lights flashed again.
“This is NOT happening.” Greg said and slowed a bit more.
Just then the pickup truck completely closed the gap between it and the Mercedes and formed a three car conga line with Greg at the head.
“See how you like this.” He said. “Nice and safe and slow. That’ll teach you.”
The first horn honk came then. A quick short bleat.
“GO AROUND ME ASSHAT!” Greg shouted at the rear view. He lifted his hand and did a ‘go-around’ gesture and then saw through the heavily tinted front widow of the Mercedes a hand raise up as well. But instead of ‘go-around’, THIS hand was only using one finger. The Mercedes honked a little longer this time.
“Son-of-a….” Greg whispered. “Okay. Okay. Let’s try this.”
Greg increased the pressure on the accelerator peddle and the Explorer lurched forward. He kept the pressure as his speed increased. The distance between he and the Mercedes increased as well and when it reached about three car lengths, Greg hit the brakes. The Explorer began to skid, but Greg immediately let off the brakes, hit the gas, and quickly recovered control. The driver of the Mercedes, however, was not as fortunate. When Greg hit the brakes so did the Mercedes driver and the super-expensive vehicle began to skid, totally out of control. The car did a complete rotation and ended up half in and half out of the ditch along side the oncoming lane. The pickup driver had, obviously being a more experienced snow driver, managed to slow to a stop and Greg saw in the rear view that he had pulled over to assist the trust-fund baby. ‘Good’. Greg thought. ‘Asshats deserved it and they deserve each other.’ He also thought, briefly, of turning around and going to help as well, but thought better of it. They’d blame HIM for the accident and gang up on him. And he was NOT responsible. That Mercedes was following too close and…
Just then Greg saw in the rear view that the semi truck was coming up fast. Too fast. The snow was really coming down now and visibility sucked. Too fast. That truck is going to…
The semi driver saw the accident too late and over compensated. He had plenty of room to pass but for some reason, probably shear surprise, he must have thought that he didn’t. He hit the truck’s brakes and the huge semi began to skid. The trailer section spun around, disconnected from the cab and fell on its side. It skidded for sixty feet before coming to a stop laying across and completely blocking both lanes of the TCR. The cab of the semi stayed upright and rolled unceremoniously into the ditch about a hundred feet from the trailer section. The view behind was becoming increasingly difficult to see as the snow fell heavier, but the last thing Greg did see was the trust-fund baby and the cousin-humper running up to the semi cab. Then all was white behind him and Greg looked ahead to see his own course. ‘You should go back.’ His conscience said loudly in his head. But that voice was quickly silenced.
“They’re fine. Nobody hurt. And they deserved it. That taught them. Asshats.” Greg said slowing the Explorer down another couple of miles-per-hour. ‘Their gonna have one hell of a time getting the semi trailer off the highway.’ He thought. ‘Gonna block the TCR for hours, maybe all night.’
He heard sirens then. Police or ambulance or fire? He couldn’t tell, but he was pretty sure it was coming from the direction of town and not ahead of him. Hell there was nothing ahead of him for about fifty miles, so it must be from behind. No ambulance though. Nobody was hurt, so no ambulance. Police maybe. That’d be good. The sooner they get heavy towing equipment out there the sooner the damn road would be open again. Abby’s mom and sister were due to come over in the morning and that road was the only way in from town.
Greg came to the left-hand turn that took him up into the woods and to his tiny rural cul-du-sac. Three houses. His and Abby’s, their okay neighbors, an older gay couple Abby called ‘the boys’ and then the Asshat. No matter how large or how small a neighborhood is, there is always an Asshat.
Ten minutes later Greg made the last turn in the tall trees and begin to see smoke rising from the direction of his neighborhood. His breath caught in his throat as he rounded the corner and saw that a third of his roof, the roof above the kitchen was alive with flame. Fire and smoke were coming from the kitchen window. He revved the engine of the Explorer and came to a skidding stop in front of his house. One of ‘the boys’, Gary, ran up to the driver’s side of the car. Greg threw the door open and yelled.
“What happened! WHAT HAPPENED?! Where’s Abby. ABBY!” He took off toward the house and Gary grabbed his arm.
“She’s at our house, Greg. She’s safe. She was making chips. The oil… it was an oil fire.”
“WHY?!?” Greg shouted heading toward Gary’s and Michael’s house. He was looking over his shoulder at his burning home and stumbled on a garden rock in Gary’s yard. He fell to his knees and immediately lept back to his feet. He took off again, changed course, and headed toward his house, now nearly halfway engulfed in angry red and yellow flame.
“The hose!” He screamed. “I’ve got to get the hose.”
“The fire department is on its way, Greg.” Gary held tight to Greg’s arm pulling him back. “We called fifteen minutes ago. They’re close. They’re right in town. Just twenty minutes up the TCR. They’ll be here any second. Don’t go near the fire. We called them. They’ll be here any second.”
Greg fell to his knees and began to sob.
“No they won’t.” He cried. “No they won’t. It’s blocked.. it’s…” Then very, very quietly through agonized sobs. “That’ll teach me. That’ll teach me. That’ll teach me.”