Topanga Canyon Road


Driving a little above the speed limit for comfort, a restless Chaz rushed to work in his hybrid Lexus h250 series. Between his strict mornings with school and the lack of flexibility at the office the pressure to arrive and deliver felt never more greater than then. It was only a matter of getting to a place that was merely ten minutes away, yet with traffic a 40 minute drive… that is if you didn’t cut corners. Chaz did just that, listening to his High Speed playlist on Spotify while following Waze to get him there as fast as humanly possible. El Chapo blasted through his speakers as the bass reverberated the windows. It was a stressful experience, but the adrenaline to Chaz was ever more invigorating; His hate-love relationship with the commute to work was integral to his life. He almost thought of himself as Speed Racer or Baby Driver, speeding on a mission to do something greater than most average humans get to do. Of course, he was only trying to get to his job in Santa Monica.

The silver bullet shot through the lanes, cutting close to edges, switching lanes to whichever flowed better, and constantly checking his app for the reported cop car lurking about. To Chaz, he was not speeding. He was being cold blooded and efficient. This mentality was on the cusp of being his motto. He wondered if others saw him the way that he viewed other cars that went even faster than he did. And while Chaz liked to be ‘cold blooded and efficient’ he also had his standards: If a car sped on his right side, he might think it would be okay so long that the driver used a signal. Drivers that didn’t use such signals deserved severe consequences according to his standards on the road. He also disliked what he called “suburban” drivers – the ones who drove slow while perfectly residing within the speed limit or lower. In his mind, “city” drivers were the ideal to aspire to: Efficient, corner cutting assholes who drove quickly with the routine and will-power needed to make quick decisions on the road without bothering anyone else. Anything but that became a “dick” driver… there’s no description needed for these kinds. Trust me, you’ve definitely met the type.

And while all this unsettling energy spiraled psychotically in the confines of Chaz’s tunnel-visioned head, a driver half a mile up drove at “suburban” levels.

The rotting yellow look to Gary’s Toyota Corolla didn’t make his dented rear look any better. If anything the car was an exact representation of the man inside. Dented and rotting, Gary’s body and electrolarynx shifted obnoxiously together from left to right as he took his daring turns around the winding narrow slopes of Topanga Canyon Road. Right about now he craved a cigarette but between his near completely greyed teeth, the gaping hole in his neck, and the doctor’s “strongly” advised instruction to quit smoking he just couldn’t do it. To him, the programs thrown at him to “increase the embetterment of self sustainability” were all bullshit. Pure bullshit because while they told him about resisting temptation they provided nothing to replace old habits with realistic new ones, or even how to cope with his PTSD from the last World War.

When he complained to his doctor about such grievances, Dr. Scheingold promptly provided him with “Well we do have brochures for an excellent program just downtown. Trust me, it may look like ‘AA’ but they’re only set up that way in order to make the environment conclusive.”

“Inclusive!” Gary croaked back.

“Yep, yep, yep!”

Gary missed the old days when ‘AA’ stood for Anti Aircraft. While he was shot at on the decks of great ships and while he escorted troops to their death on the prolific battle of Normandy, he recalled a time where he could walk and talk without needing his daily pills, his walker, or even his damned electrolarynx by his side at all the times. When he didn’t sound like a robotic frog, he spoke a smooth baritone swagger often while smoking a French cigarette. Men called him ‘The Great Buck of the West’ for his wild spirit and relentless boxing notoriety while the ladies called him ‘Jimmie Rodgers Twin’ or ‘Al Jolson’s cousin’ for his melodic charm and wit he performed while on dates. That was his prime. He was a king and his queen became Ethel. But those days were gone along with Ethel and the rest of his fame and glory. It was now him, his car, the road ahead and the strange new sounds of loud speakers that were quickly shadowing behind him.

Chaz suddenly had to bring himself to an inconveniently slower speed. The ugly beat up car in front of him moseyed along the narrow sloping canyon. Unbeknownst to Gary, Chaz as well as several others after him, needed to get a move on. With no cars in front of the old Corolla, the others behind him grew anxious. All the space unattended with the potential to be mastered by their wheels… only there was this shmuck was in the way and it was clear he didn’t care. Chaz was on the verge of honking his horn.

Suddenly, Chaz’s tire bumped something on the road – a small rock, a rabbit, a piece of broken tree? The car lightly kicked up causing the usb port attached to Chaz’s phone to sort of sway about. The moment Chaz’s bum hit his seat, the phone glitched causing his El Chapo song to speed up in a static frenzy. His shock was quick from the cumulated combination of events. He didn’t know what to make of it. He looked up and down from his stereo interface to his windshield trying to troubleshoot the song issue while surviving on the road. He hit the skip button and soon a song played that was calmer and not characteristic of the ‘High Speed’ playlist he was listening to. Instead it was a different playlist… Him and Rachel’s playlist.

Rachel and Chaz were a casual arrangement from the start. But after their promiscuous pursuit on one another, it was time for Chaz to graduate and for her to enter junior year in college. The entire year, their focus was spent on something merely physical and fun. But once he was halfway across the world, and once she was left home alone for the summer in California, their attraction for one another became ubiquitous. While in Europe, Chaz could only imagine him and her together in each and every one of the romantic cities he had gone to. As a matter of fact, every city began to feel romantic beyond Venice and soon enough the whole world opened up to the possibility of being a playground for the two of them. But of course, this was sadly imagination. Both sensed the deeper connection, though, and developed a constant stream of communication during the trip. He told her of the amazing sites and she the new experiences in the job she just acquired. It was as great as it was sad to talk to one another. On one hand, there was unspoken fancying. On another, the discouraging promise of separation. Towards the end of his trip, they spoke on a sleepless night solidifying their bond in a long distance relationship… This was great and they even met one magical night half a month after arriving back from vacation, but was soon met with the realization that they both anchored each other. All the pent up romance, preparation, and passion for one another lost to the cruelty of time once again! How he hated time. He hated it so much that adrenaline swelled up inside him: Whether he was creating or exercising, he felt anger fill inside him… Even while he was driving.

Chaz slammed on his horn ruthlessly, “Let’s go you old shit!”

Gary tightened up trying to stay on the road as this silver Lexus unabashedly drove daringly close to his rear. That’s all he needed, another dent for his insurance company to ridicule him on.

50s swing music haunted Chaz in his car. B-A-B-Y by Carla Thomas reverberated out of the speakers and bounced off the windows into his ears. In his own personal hell, he felt the walls of the Lexus close in despite the promised “luxury” experience.

He honked his car again, “COME ON! PEOPLE HAVE JOBS, ASSHOLE!”

Gary slowly led the pack at what he felt was the perfect speed. Left down the curve. Right up the curve. Left in the bend. Right through the tunnel. The trees and towering mountains were meant to be a calming presence but the driver behind him wasn’t helping the situation. He looked in his rear view mirror and saw the hot shit with obnoxiously shiny glasses and gelled hair overreacting at Gary for whatever reason.

Chaz finally saw an opening as the end of the bend revealed a long unoccupied straight road lying next to them. It would be incredibly illegal to do so, let alone dangerous as he would be driving into oncoming traffic but he could taste the opportunity in the air. His pride swelled up inside and told him that he would be damned to let this fucking old man turn him into a suburban driver. He would be damned to let one basic car deter him from getting to work. He would be damned to look back at this moment to remember that time a suburban driver pegged him down to this subserviant league.

Chaz daringly slammed his foot on the gas pedal. Veering his car into the oncoming lane, he sped up leading the pack of followers down the straight. He hit the power button to the stereo silencing the hard working speakers from their usage turmoil. The nose of Chaz’s Lexus began to pass Gary’s trunk on the left. Gary saw the car sinking into and escaping from the blind spots in his left view mirror. Chaz’s teeth gritted together as he realized he had never done this before. The vroom of the engine seemed to roar dramatically despite it being a hybrid. The nose of his Lexus began to pierce passed the point of where the front driver’s door began. Gary now grew stressed wondering what he had done wrong and if he had really been such a hazard to be driven around as such. Chaz now looked over across the glove compartment through Gary’s window to begin seeing the thin grey hair and spotted old skin that made the man frail and innocent. Gary then decided that the decisions that other asshole cars made around him didn’t matter so long that none of them hit him. Chaz now was just about ready to pass him but first he decide to maintain the speed to get a real look at what kind of man would do this to him for this somehow became personal. Gary in this moment seemed to recognize the behavior realizing that he actually appreciated the young man coming up on him. He might have done the same to an old man at his age. Chaz looked over, now even with the other car, in a dual of fates that set their identities for life.

Peering through, Chaz gave the dirtiest, most “What the fuck?” look he could give. Gary calmly turned over and grinned open-mouthed at him, revealing his ugly teeth with pride… with pride, though! And in this moment, Chaz saw a spark of youth more powerful and more experienced than his; That despite his flaws, he was an old law-abiding citizen just doing his everyday routine and that he had more of a right to the road than he did. Who knew what this man’s life really was? And who cared if the man drove slowly in the grand scheme of it all? Chaz, bewildered by the power of such a smile, grew embarrassed realizing he must keep his composure and not speak of this to anyone. He decided to commit and sped forward zooming passed Gary and off beyond the pack to dangerous speeds. Gary chuckled to himself and shook his head thinking I would have done the same thing! and continued peddling forward as the Silver Lexus turned the corner to never be seen again.

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