Vixenscratch

Short stories and serials by Alexandra Herakai

Criminal Carpooling

The worst part of the job in the skyrise on the island had always been the commute. Nobody with less than a five-figure salary could afford a decent place to live on the island, and if you had that five-figure salary, or were willing to settle for a cleaning closet, or both, it was still a toss-up whether you’d find a flat, anyway. The skyrail was always crowded, and John was pretty sure homeless people slept, or eliminated, or slept in their own urine, in the skyrail cars, anyway. So he’d bought a nice black car – not can-afford-to-live-on-the-island nice, but nice enough there was no shame in taking good care of it. And at least he had bought it new. That had to count for something, right?

There was nothing wrong with the car, and John had always enjoyed driving, so there shouldn’t be a problem with the commute, right?

You’d think. But then there were the idiots and the grandmothers who for some reason absolutely had to get on the road every day during rush hour. John would have enjoyed the commute in that nice black well-tended car quite well if not for those sloths blocking up the road. He would have arrived to work in the morning in high spirits, ready to get cracking on the day’s tasks. He would have arrived home in the evenings with a deep sense of satisfaction, ready for dinner, a quick jog through the local park, and a shower. Maybe he would even have the peace to try dating.

But life never worked out the way John wanted. He arrived to work with a headache from gritting his teeth behind some heel-dragging neanderthal who must’ve learned to drive in a car running on snailpowers, and was never really effective before at least three big mugs of coffee and maybe lunch. He came back home in the evenings and took a double, or quadruple, shot of scotch, because it was the only way to chase away the aggression that had built up over miles of being stuck behind what might as well have been a roadblock. Some day that double-or-quadruple shot became half the bottle. Some days more.

He didn’t have a problem with alcohol, though. He had a problem with shitty drivers, and the roads out to the island were apparently clogged with them. For all he knew they were driving like the sleepwalking dead just to get to him. It wasn’t his fault people didn’t seem able to read the last 0 on the speed limit signs, was it?

When they’d started construction along the road he took to work, of course the slowpokes had seized the excuse to creep their way across the pavement at an even more glacial speed than usual, and John’s morning headaches had gotten so bad he rarely accomplished much before the afternoon meeting. Even so, he was optimistic – they were widening the road, and in his mind he could see traffic unclogging like water down the drain when the plug was pulled after a hot bath. That was worth a few weeks of headaches, surely. Soon he’d be able to drive his car to work the way it was meant to be driven.

And then, life had smacked him in the face again, this time with a shining new road sign at the start of that new lane, reading “CARPOOL LANE”. The empty front passenger seat of his nice black car was suddenly a gaping void, and when he arrived to work after cruising at a lame earthworm’s pace behind some Sunday driver with the carpool lane wide open on his right-hand side, his head hurt so badly he had to stagger into a restroom and empty the contents of his stomach (three slices of white toast, lightly buttered, a handful of cinnamon-apple crisps, and a cup of chamomile tea) before he could even make it into his office.

He’d called in sick the next day, too hung-over from drowning his frustration in fine amber ethanol to feel up to braving the commute at all.

And then, he’d been struck by genius. His new morning routine was deceptively simple, and brought him to work headache free. For the first time since he got the job on the island he had the peace to jog after work, and he felt like the king of the world. Each new workday was so much easier once you’d figured out how to work the system.

6:30: Alarm goes off. Get out of bed, get dressed, and smooth out the sheets.
6:40: Breakfast. Toast, medium brown and lightly buttered, three slices. Cinnamon apple crisps, a handful. Chamomile tea, one cup.
6:55: Wash breakfast dishes.
6:57: Brush teeth.
7:00: Leave the flat. Remember portfolio, rubber nightstick, duct tape, sunglasses, gloves.
7:06: Pull in at the local gas station (the one with the broken surveillance cameras).
Wait until a lone female driver pulls in to gas up her car. Wear sunglasses and gloves. Come up behind her (silently!!!) and strike the back of her head with nightstick. Place duct tape over eyes and around wrists. Seat her in front passenger seat, fasten seat belt, place sunglasses on woman. Find her keys and put her car in the carpool parking spaces. Drive to work.

A whole productive working day, thanks to learning how to work the system (and remembering to keep post-dating the gas station’s maintenance request for the broken CCTV cameras in the computers). John loved it. Once the working day was over all he had to do was pull into the gas station again, place the woman in her car, and drive off.

At some point someone would notice a woman with taped-over eyes in a car in the carpool parking.

It wasn’t as though it did their careers any harm. Not like having to suffer through imbeciles causing traffic jams every morning had harmed his. Made him seem like a lazy worker.

After all, who wouldn’t forgive someone a single day’s absence after they’d been abducted?



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