From David Caprita: The inspiration didn’t come from a true story, or some apocryphal tale I heard on the internet. It didn’t even appear in my imagination about parents and their kids and loss. It came from being in a city where the predominant thought in my mind at least half the day is being stuck in traffic and unable to drive in the carpool lane most of the time because I’m alone, with just my thoughts, which, as the story reveals, are always a little bizarre and disturbing.
Written by David Caprita
Martha smiled and looked over to Abel in the passenger seat as she maneuvered her car through the heavy traffic over to the far left lane. Abel gazed at her from over his Dr. Seuss book and smiled back. Martha loved driving with Abel. The way he sat totally still, never distracting, never interrupting, never suddenly blurting out something silly during one of her favorite songs on the radio as they cruised through the ocean of moving metal and rubber.
Abel stared past her out the window to watch the passing California landscape.
The late afternoon sun hovered over a flat Pacific Ocean. Suddenly Martha hollered, “Carpool!” Abel giggled. It always made him laugh when they got into the special lane. Special because Martha knew that Abel knew they were free to drive in the carpool lane only because he was in the car. With her. It was so good to have him back!
He sat quietly as she ranted and raved and blurted out pointless soliloquies about traffic and work and his dad, who had been gone for months now. For a kid only six, he was an excellent listener. Martha had always joked to her husband Jack, that the boy would make a great priest. You could confess anything to him and he would just look at you and listen without judgement. Jack would laugh and nod in agreement. That was during the happy days, when they would all ride in the carpool together. But Jack had left them, because of the accident.
But, onward and upward! It was her and Abel now. And that was just fine with her. He was the best carpool partner she had ever had.
“Abel? I love you so much.” Her eyes filled with tears, blurring the traffic ahead of her but they were tears of joy. A heavy joy that weighed her heart like a stone.
“So. What do you think you want for dinner when we get home? Meatloaf?” Abel stared.
“Or maybeee . . spaghetti? That would be easy – “
Bright blue lights bathed the interior of the car stopping her in mid-sentence. It took forever for Martha to get out of the carpool lane and move all the way over to the right hand shoulder of the 405. Martha could imagine how annoyed all the other drivers were as she and the patrol car behind her maneuvered through the typically heavy traffic.
She rolled down her window as the cop in the khaki CHIPS uniform approached her car.
“Hello, Officer Gennessee.” She said his name with a barely suppressed annoyance. She forced a smile.
“You know why I’m pulling you over.”
“No! I don’t know why you’re pulling me over. It’s ridiculous, Mr. Gennessee. I know Abel is too short to be seen from behind the car but there he is. I’m legally driving in the carpool lane.”
“Martha. We’ve been through this before.”
“I don’t know why you gentlemen insist on harassing me but it’s really starting to get on my nerves. With all due respect.”
“Okay. Sorry to do this again, Martha, but let me see your driver license.”
Martha held back her anger. She turned to Abel, who was staring at her puppy-like. Without a word, his look said, “How can I help?” Martha smiled.
“Abel, reach down on the floor and grab my purse.’
Abel continued to look. “Abel, honey.” Abel didn’t move.
Officer Gennesse patiently waited for Martha to finish her perennial ritual. He was a father. His heart swelled with compassion as he watched Martha, through her blank gaze cajole her son.
“All right. I’ll get it myself.”
Martha reached down and pulled the purse onto her lap. Extracting her wallet, she found her license and handed it through the open window to the officer. Gennessee knew her California ID number almost by heart.
“Okay, Martha. I have to warn you again, if you get back into that carpool lane – “
“I have every right to drive with my son – “
“IF – Martha, listen to me – if you do it again, you might not be so lucky as to have a nice guy like me pull you over. They’re not going to understand. At best,they’re going to give you a ticket. At worst, you try to explain what you keep telling me, they’re going to haul you in. Now, please. Martha. Please get someone to help.”
Martha stared coldly at him as he gently said, “Have a nice day, Martha.”
“Aren’t you going to say, ‘have a nice day’ to Abel?”
Gennesee stopped. He looked at Martha directly into her tear-filled eyes. “If I do, I’m condoning this behavior, Martha.”
“You’re not going to say goodbye to…“ She couldn’t get his name out.
Gennessee melted. He couldn’t look in the car. He directed his gaze over the car’s roof toward the horizon. “Have a nice day, Abel.”
Gennesee watched through his windshield as Martha pulled back into the slow flowing traffic. He heard himself exhale a sigh of exhaustion and sadness. He turned off his flashers and twisted around to check the traffic through the rear window. The light of the late sun reflected on something on his back seat. Gennessee reached over and picked up a large, thin book with a bright red, shiny cover. “Green Eggs and Ham”. As he stared at the strange Seussian creature on the front, Gennesse gasped. A child’s innocent eyes gazed at him in his rear view mirror. Abel smiled playfully at Gennessee, saying nothing. Frozen, Gennessee forced himself to quickly spin around. He stared at an empty seat.
Gennessee dropped the book in his lap. He stared straight ahead through his windshield at the traffic. A hundred yards ahead, in the ocean of taillights, Martha’s car dutifully maneuvered from lane to lane, to the left, to the left, until it finally joined the other drivers with their passengers, kids, companions, steadily streaming in the carpool lane.
In addition to his love of writing, David Caprita is an actor on stage and film as well as being a DJ on 94.7 The Wave in Los Angeles. He lives with his wife Ellen in the San Fernando Valley, has a daughter and grandchildren in Florida. David’s blogs as his alter ego, Tarzana Ted can be found online on Antix Press.