Every morning Veronica wakes up early and pours herself a cup of coffee. She makes twice as much this morning for her big day. For the past seven years, everything has been the same, everything but the depth of the wrinkles and the gray in her hair. She’s also a bit heavier, but everything else is unchanged.
Ryan bursts into the kitchen, his trumpet tucked under his arm. “You got my–?” he asks, but stops short when the waft of oatmeal reaches his nostrils and he pauses to inhale.
His little sister Liberty runs up behind him, giving him a nudge and grabbing her sugar toast from the table. Pulling the crust off and pushing it aside, she pushes her face in the center and takes a bite, leaving greasy sugar on the tip of her nose.
The kids pack their things in the car. Ryan clicks on the radio from the passenger seat. His imaginary drum set pops out and his arms and head are moving synchronously. “Tell him to turn it down,” Liberty says cupping her ears with a crinkled face. “It’s too loud.”
“We do this every day, you guys.” Veronica turns the radio down halfway and instructs Liberty to put her seatbelt on without looking. It’s off every day as they pull out of the driveway.
The kids each lean over to press a kiss on Veronica’s cheek before climbing out of the car, waving, and running up to the school.
When they’re safely inside, Veronica takes a deep breath and exhales, her hands gripping the wheel until her knuckles turn white. She checks the traffic to make sure the entry on the road is clear and pulls out. At the end of the block, orange cones are set up at the crosswalk. On the corner is her daily nemesis, the crossing guard.
This crossing guard isn’t an excited and happy one like the one on the other side of the block; this one is a life form that shouldn’t be out without a full moon. As if they share an epiphany, her head turns and her eyes narrow, piercing a direct ray through the windshield to Veronica’s eyes. Veronica squints under the pressure, but forces her eyes open even wider and glares back.
Time stands still, as if the women are at opposite ends of the street outside a gunslinger’s saloon. They size each other up, hands hovering over their weapons until one makes her move.
Veronica checks the street and then pulls up to turn. A fat hand clutching the handle of a stop sign shoots out in front of her car. A smirk crosses the guard’s pudgy face above her bright yellow vest. Dishwater blond hair dangles in a ragged mess over her collar. A boy walking toward the corner is still minutes away as the guard waddles to the middle of the street, eyeing Veronica’s car, daring her.
When Veronica guns the engine, frothing at the mouth, the child stops for a second and looks at her, in a quandary. But the driver smiles and motions with her hand to cross.
When the child is safe on the other side, the crossing guard yells at him to have a good day with her cigarette-choked voice. Her stop sign waves madly in the air. With a victorious grin, she pivots toward Veronica and remains between the white lines with the matching cone behind her, as if somehow in a bulletproof shelter.
Veronica slightly lifts off the clutch and punches her accelerator to the floor. The squeal of the tires accompany a plume of smoke behind the car. The vehicle lurches forward.
The horror on the crossing guards face is a carnival funhouse entrance. The car slides around the corner, missing her by the width of a gnat’s wing. The sign spins free, up in the air, while the guard stumbles falling to the other side of the road. Her thick body collapses over a fire hydrant like a lifebuoy in the middle of the ocean.
Veronica smiles and peers at her victim in the rearview mirror while she drives away. Today will be different.