|The balls to tailgate and not one iota more.|
by Louis Shalako
It was always the way, wasn’t it?
Earl Gardiner had pulled out of the doughnut shop onto London Line, a hot medium double-double in the drink holder in the centre console, and a thin black cheroot sticking out of the pack on the seat beside him. His lighter was keeping warm in his right jacket pocket.
Earl loved driving at night, it was like a game of golf to some other guy. He couldn’t really explain it. A moonlit, winter night-drive, one with good visibility and plenty of snow on the ground was a special thing. It didn’t happen all that often.
He was just lighting up, and congratulating himself on how open the road ahead was, when he saw the headlights coming up from behind in the distance.
All he really wanted was to relax, listen to the radio and get away from his small apartment for a while. He had no place in particular to go. He just felt like a drive. He didn’t much like being hurried, not in anything.
Not at his stage in life.
Glancing at the speedometer, he increased the throttle a bit but it was no good. He could just tell. They were coming up fairly fast, and it seemed pretty inevitable, but he was already going ten kilometres over the limit…
And here they were; after a while. Of course, the person driving, didn’t back off until the last minute. It was always the way. You literally wondered sometimes if they were going to hit you.
Earl speeded up a little, as nothing bugged him more than someone ten feet behind his bumper when they had the whole road open to them.
“We already know you can go fast…” He had all kinds of thoughts about such drivers.
Of course such folks would never pass. They had enough balls to tailgate you and not one iota more. This was their great failing as human beings. He could accept that.
This one showed no signs of passing. There was a good possibility they had been drinking. They were following his tail-lights, like blind mice or something. Maybe they lived just up ahead, and yet there was still no call for it. Driving so close just put all parties in danger.
Earl speeded up, starting to get a little hot under the collar now as the danged vehicle behind him stayed right where it was, dropping back to no more than fifteen or twenty feet. That’s what it seemed like to him, in fact this guy was unusually tenacious.
Surely not the most relaxing way to get home after a night of pounding back the boilermakers and pinching pudgy, middle-aged waitress’ bottoms.
Earl muttered a few things unprintable.
He looked at the speedometer.
A hundred and four kilometres an hour in an eighty kilometre per hour zone. Predictably, they didn’t turn off at the exit for the four lane divided highway, neither did they make a right and go south. No, of course not.
It was like a fucking conspiracy or something.
They stayed right on him.
Earl slowed right down to eighty for a while. His skin crawled, but he put his head down, adjusted the mirror and hung in there. The road ahead was clear and he thought they would pass. Never happened, they just stayed there. The guy couldn’t be more than eight feet from his rear bumper.
After a while he just couldn’t take it, and straightened up again.
Earl put some more gas to it. He gently eased it up, one or two kilometres at a time until the other guy looked to be about forty feet back there…Earl kept up the pressure, as the speedometer slowly wound its way up the scale.
…a hundred and five kilometres an hour…a hundred and eleven kilometres an hour…still hanging in there.
Earl had tried this once before. These creeps would tailgate you at a hundred and eighty. It was a personality type. He wondered how they were to walk on the same street with, would they be stepping on your heels?
Probably, he decided.
It was almost too much to watch the road properly, the bugger was still right on him. The funny thing was, they might be totally unconscious of how irritating it was.
They might be so innocent—I didn’t know, mister. Sorry.
He could imagine the look on their face if he pulled them over and beat them to death by the side of the road.
They would be so shocked—so mystified by it.
Didn’t mean nothing by it. I never realized.
Earl took it up to one-thirty, the front wheels shaking a bit and the pull to the left of the old car becoming much more pronounced. He had to clamp on, using both fists, his biceps taut to hold it steady through the turns, of which there were one or two along here…dark as sin out there, with the yellow lines faded from wear and no lights, no houses nearby.
He had it at one-thirty-five, and the vehicle was still back there, its headlights bathing everything inside his own car in white glare and dark shadows that shook and darted about with every bump.
Earl pushed it straight to the floor and tried to keep an eye on the road ahead.
Sure enough, if a cop saw this he’d probably nail Earl for speeding, let the other car go free as a bird and claim not to have noticed anything funny about how close that guy was following…he knew exactly what they would say.
“If someone is following too close, then pull over.”
But you couldn’t do that every time, could you? It was always like this. Always.
Earl had it up to a hundred and forty-five kilometres an hour and it was all he could do just to hold the thing on the road, but the bastard was still back there.
“Son of a bitch!”
“Let me know when you want me to hit the lights.” Constable Sharon Owens looked over at the sergeant with a sardonic grin.
“Naw. That’s okay. I’m just fucking with his head.”
Sergeant Hal Winchester looked at the speed good old Earl was going and shook his head in amazement.
“Still got it, old boy! Whoo-whee, and good for you, too.” He slapped the dashboard with his open right hand, in sheer cussed good humour and at last backed off on the throttle.
The wind noise fell away and the speed slid down the scale. The radar readout showed the old piece of junk was now going a hundred and fifty-three kilometres per hour and accelerating steadily.
He looked over at Sharon as if suddenly recalling her presence.
She nodded, watching Earl’s tail-lights disappearing up the road at a formidable rate of speed.
“Sure. I could eat.” Her words were carefully neutral.
Something weird had just happened there and she wasn’t quite sure what.