Kate Flora: My day got stolen by writing and my evening by a neighborhood annual meeting and suddenly it was: Oh No!! Blog post due. What shall I write about? Well, I’m deep into my 11th Thea Kozak mystery, which means from time to time I go back and reread parts of earlier books to be sure I’m still writing the same Thea. It looks like I am, so I thought I’d share a bit from an earlier book so you can hear Thea’s voice and her attitude and why even though I’m the writer and supposedly in charge, I keep coming back to Thea to see what she’s up to next. Hope you enjoy it.
My immediate crisis was a humongous black Suburban driving too fast in the slow lane by a driver obviously too young, and too stupid, to have been allowed out on a day like this. She’d gone whipping past me moments earlier, cell phone to her ear, and now, having come upon a driver driving slowly and carefully in the slow and careful lane, had discovered she couldn’t shove herself into my lane because it was already occupied by a truck. She’d stomped on her brakes and the resulting chaos was ensuing.
Ah. ABS brakes. The responsive shudder, the car’s pulsing attempts to stop. Good, but not miraculous. The black babe-mobile fishtailed, swung into the breakdown lane, caught a wheel in a wave of slush, and flew back across the lane, heading straight toward me.
Luckily the lane to my left was open, and I steered carefully over the slush ridge and into it, while she squiggled and swirled, missing me by inches and sending drivers careening in all directions. It happened with stunning speed and passed just as quickly when the SUV flew across two lanes and spun out in the snow beyond. The rest of us, grateful to be alive and undamaged, were not minded to stop and help.
There was a rest area ahead. I pulled in and stopped to let my heart rate slow and to unclench my poor burned hands from the steering wheel, thinking I’d sooth myself with a nice café mocha. I noticed other cars from the same almost pile-up pulling in to decompress. I was getting out to get my coffee when the black SUV pulled into the parking space beside me. The stupid young driver got out of the car, still on her phone, laughing as she said, “And I like, spun out and almost ran into like six cars. It was so funny!”
It wasn’t funny. She’d caused fear and misery and put a blight on many people’s days. I very ostentatiously pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of her—yoga pants, Uggs, elaborate model hair that she must have gotten up at four a.m. to style, and a wholly impractical puffy white jacket—and then of her license plate. To the person on the other end, she said, “Hold on,” and to me, “Hey, like what do you think you’re doing?”
She couldn’t, like, tell?
“Taking a picture of your license, and of you. To go with my report to the state police about your reckless driving.”
“Oh, right. Sure you will. Like you really think they’ll care?”
She said into her bejeweled pink phone, “Hey, Shy, I gotta go. Some old bitch is giving me a hard time about my driving.”
Old bitch? I knew this job was aging me, but was it really that bad?
She shoved the phone into an oversized red purse. “Look, lady,” she said, all chin-jutting, butt-twitching attitude, “what’s your problem?”
“My problem? I like people to pay attention when they’re driving. You could have killed someone. You should be ashamed and apologetic, not proud of yourself.”
She waggled her yoga-panted butt and tossed her hair. “You’re like not really going to tell the police, are you?”
“I absolutely am.” I like, really already had.
People had gotten out of their cars and were standing behind me. One said, “Honey, you nearly ran me off the road, and I’ve got a baby in the back.” There was a tremble in her voice. The terror of the experience hadn’t left her. “And I did call the police.”
An older man said, “Girlie, don’t you get it? You can’t drive like that on winter roads.”
“Honestly.” She drew the word out to about six syllables. “It’s no big deal.” A flounce of her hips. Another toss of her hair. “The cops aren’t going to care.”
“I think they might,” I said. “My husband is a state trooper.”
But that wasn’t why I thought the police might take an interest. I’d spotted one of those stealth unmarkeds the police were using. A gray Camaro. The staties were already here.
I gave up on coffee. I walked away from her sputtering, got in my car, and headed back to the turnpike, my fog lights painting the tunnel made by my headlights an eerie yellow. Proving what an old fart I was becoming by wondering how we could turn the world over to her generation, to a kid without the decency to apologize to the woman who’d experienced terrible fear for her baby’s life. Before I got to the exit, the ignorant babe sped by me like she was being chased. And behind her, poised for the right moment to stop her, was a state trooper in a mean gray muscle car.
Sometimes the gods are good.