Pet Peeves

The two men stood talking, one of them casually leaning against the door frame. His right hand was in his pocket, elbow akimbo; his left hand held coffee in a generic cup, both the stylized cardboard label and the genuine article steaming away. Both men laughed - no, guffawed - and I heard a fragment of dialogue, "...I don't know what they think they're doing..."

Inside the dark corners of my mind, nails began a slow, inexorable trip down a moss green chalkboard. A shiver shot up my spine. I took my keys out of my jacket pocket, making sure they didn't jingle. I reversed my grip on them, so that the big one - the car key - was protruding from the bottom of my fist like a stiff, silver tail.

I walked up behind but slightly to the right of the first guy, coffee guy, like I wanted to join in the laugh. The second guy looked at me, and I noticed he was wearing an argyle sweater. It was incredibly tasteful, but bored to tears; he was J. Crew by way of Wal-Mart, and I could tell by the wrinkles that he had worn it at least once since the last wash. As the laugh melted from his open mouth, I backhanded my key into coffee guy's right eye.

The eye is bigger that most people realize. We see a little slit of a thing, but the genuine article is a bag of jelly the size of a ping pong ball. Given its aqueous nature, the eye tends to move around when it meets a foreign object. That keeps us from casually poking our eyes out, and is the reason most folks aren't wandering the world in eye patches. The orbit - the bony circle surrounding and seating the eye in place - also does a wonderful job of deflecting most of those foreign objects.

This wasn't my first rodeo, however - my key hit dead, pupil center, and I was sure coffee guy was going to have to take a driving test on an annual basis.

Predictably, comically, the first thing to go was the coffee. It hurtled into the air, an incendiary brown geyser. I wondered what I would call the man now that his identity had been ripped from him, but then it hit me - screaming guy. His hands clutched the red ruin of his right eye, and sweater vest sprang from his chair to help.

By the time anyone thought to look for me, I was gone. The key is to confidently walk, not run, but take as many turns in as little time as you can. Instinctively memorizing exits helps too, but it's not the sort of thing you can cram for right before the exam; it takes practice and repetition.

I wiped my key clean on the inside of my jacket pocket - too bad, I liked this one - and shut my car door. I tossed the bag into the passenger seat as I turned the still somewhat gooey key in the ignition. It looked like I wouldn't be delivering that package today, which was frustrating. I had a schedule to keep, but I’m nothing if not adaptable.

As I pulled out of the parking lot, I decided that pizza sounded good for an early lunch. I imagined I could hear sirens in the distance, but dismissed their caterwauls as something like phantom limb syndrome, only of the tympanic membrane.

Beneath my feet, the car's suspension rode as smoothly as a fresh shave. I checked my rear-view mirror more from habit than concern, and never found anything more than the workaday traffic I expected. My fingers tapped a little jig on the steering wheel, and my mind honed in with razor like intensity on one thought alone:

Mmm, pepperoni!