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Monday, July 26, 2021

Death Race Los Angeles – John Scheck


For practice, I've been writing these 700-word crime stories. They have really helped me with my style, making me evaluate the value of every single word. This one is sort of outside the normal boundaries of crime, but there are fewer things in modern society more violent than driving.

 Death Race Los Angeles

 Like most Americans, Natalie wasn’t a criminal. She had no intersection with law enforcement except when behind the wheel, and nothing much there, just a few fines for speeding. A couple of moving violations that raised her insurance, but she felt ahead of the game because she’d talked herself out of several DUIs this year. Her tickets resulted from inattention to posted signs, some ignorable, others crucial. Her real driving sins were the most churlish aspects of modern society: impatience and solipsism.

 Instead of simply walking out the door ten minutes sooner to make it to work on time, she’d push the limits of driving to make up for her early morning procrastination. Whatever, she thought, I’m busy.

 Natalie drove from Irvine to Torrance every morning, a forty-five-minute commute on a good day. She’d stop every morning for her large, double latte, tune her song playlist, and light her first cigarette. After flicking the butt out of the window—she didn’t want to dirty her ashtray—she’d make her first phone call, always pleasure before business. Her first call was to Aaron, a guy she’d been seeing recently, didn’t even know what he did yet. Next, her bestie Karen she’d roomed with at UCLA. They were the only single, non-boring people in their crowd from those days.

 Cruise control always set at 75 mph—no one got pulled over for going seventy-five. She weaved in and out of heavy traffic in the far-left lanes, flipping off some drivers and shouting obscenities at others. What the hell was wrong with people? Driving like tourists on their way to Universal Studies while she had to get to work. If she had to pay a fine for every time she honked her horn, she’d be in a lot more debt that she already was. Fuck’em, she thought. Either learn how to drive, or get the hell out of LA. That should be posted on the San Diego Freeway at every on-ramp.

 She was about to change lanes, lighting her second cigarette, talking to Karen about Aaron when she pressed the stereo to change the lame song that just started. She looked up to see the minivan with out-of-state tags braking hard. WTF? Karen was asking what kind of underwear Aaron wore, Natalie’s cigarette wasn’t lit properly, and the next song was worse than the last.

By the time Natalie processed all this information, the minivan was screeching to a complete stop. She didn’t even have time to so much as tap her brakes, slamming into the van at full speed. The last thing see remembered was a Visit Wall Drug sticker on the back window of the van, that and the seven people inside: mother, father, two children, and two cousins, all from Minnesota. All pronounced dead at the scene. Natalie got off with a broken collar bone and a burn on her leg from her coffee when it spilled. Thank god for air bags.

She was sent off in an ambulance as if she were merely another of the victims and not the perpetrator of what could only be classified as a mass murder. If she’d wanted to kill that family, she couldn’t have planned it any better than to assassinate them with her car when she was sober—almost no one was ever charged in traffic fatalities except when alcohol was a mitigating factor. Natalie had wiped out an entire family, and part of another, without even getting a ticket, although her insurance rates would undoubtedly rise. 

 The tragedy for the young Orange County woman was losing her phone in the holocaust along with all of her photos and contacts. Most of them she could recover soon enough by putting out an appeal on social media for friends to send their info, and any copies of the pics she’d dutifully posted over the past year. She needed a new car, duh. No way she could take public transport, not where she lived. That was for total losers and poor people. Americans demanded the freedom of their own cars, driving everywhere, driving at top speed, and parking for free. Anything else went against everything the country was based upon. Everyone knew that.