Cages

On a rural farm road, I was cruising home from a visit with a friend one afternoon; feeling relaxed, enjoying the sunshine, and listening to some good ole sixties rock n roll.   I glanced in my rearview mirror and nearly shit my pants!  Some a-hole in a rage caught up to me from nowhere and was tailgating what had to be no more than six inches from my bumper.  In my head, I could hear the sound of steel beams bending and finally snapping.

We were thirty seconds from reaching a sharp bend and a one-lane bridge.  I reached into my armrest’s storage compartment and grasped my black “tactical assassin” spring-loaded knife.  It’s actually a cheap, but effective knife, similar in mechanics to a switch-blade, but a bit more intimidating in appearance.

Reaching the bridge, I abruptly stopped, blocking traffic from either direction.  Luckily, except for my nemesis, there was none.  I exited my car quickly but with what I hoped was a disarming smile, the knife cupped in my right hand.  I walked deliberatly to the driver, my eyes locked on his.

He jumped out of his car, slammed his door, and began to scream “What the f…..!”  Before he could finish the “uck”, I drove my extended left forearm into his throat, surprising and pinning him back against the side of his car, while I snapped open the blade in front of his eyes and shoved the point into the opening of his left nostril.  I did not cut him, but by God he knew it was there.

“If you move a single muscle, you’ll never suffer from sinus problems again. Understand?” I asked. He was a statue, barely breathing, but beginning to shake quite noticeably. “Ok” I said. “You may move your mouth. TALK!”

“Yeah, I understand”, he exhaled quietly.

“Good”, I said. “Did you just get out of work?”  He said yes.  “An office job? Maybe a desk, or a cubicle?” Again he said yes.

“I’m gonna tell you a story now”, I said. “I figure we have about two minutes until someone interrupts us, so I would listen quite intently if I were you”.  He said ok, and I continued.  “When I was a kid, I caught a wild mouse that got trapped in a bucket in our garage.  I put him in a cage the size of a shoebox.  I couldn’t hurt him.  I couldn’t hurt any living thing.  Well… of course, there is you now, haha. Anyway… While he was in that cage, he just ran around in a circle, over and over again.  I walked him to a field a few blocks from my house, and I set him free.  Do you know what he did when he got loose in that field?  He just ran around in that same old circle, over and over again.  Do you know what I’m trying to tell you?”

Stuttering, he answered “Ya.. ya.. you like mice?”.  I wanted to laugh but couldn’t break character.

“No” I said without sarcasm. “Someone let you out of your cage today, like they do every day at this time, and you’ve forgotten how to behave in the wild.  That mouse eventually realized he was out, and then he ran in a straight line, at least until he finds his way into the next cage.”

I continued, “When you’re finally free from your office walls, you want so badly to decompress back to normality, that you try to rush the process by acting out or chugging three martinis at the bar… or tailgating me.  Unfortunately, it’s a process that can’t be rushed, but ironically, you don’t have the time to let it run its course. So like a deep-sea diver surfacing too fast, you end up with the bends.  And then what?  You find yourself driving in a single lane… caged once again by the slow-poke in front of you. And then you get home, unlock the door, let yourself in, and lock it behind you once again. Four walls.  Cages, man… cages.”

“W.. w.. what about you?” he stammered. “You’re here holding a knife to my face. What cage did you just get out of?”

I guess it was my turn to freeze. I stared into his eyes. My arm relaxed. I lowered the knife. He exhaled. I answered his question, my time to stammer a little… “That which cages us free-range carnivores.  That which makes it okay for you to tailgate, but not okay for me to retaliate against you.  The rules of a society gone wrong.  I guess if a person percieves and bottles up enough injustices during the course of a life, or even a day, eventually the pressure-cooker explodes. I think that’s what happened to me today. You were the unlucky straw that broke my camel’s back”.

I stepped away from him, reversed the knife in my hand, and extended the handle for him to take if he wanted it.  My eyes still locked on his, I whispered, “I’m sorry”.

“Take your knife and go home” he said gently.

I walked back to my car, but before I got in, I glanced back at him still standing there with a concerned look, nervously patting down his pockets.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.

He replied, “I can’t find my keys.”

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