Driving with Fire Sauce

[flash fiction]

The color red possesses terrific power. Take a pair of scissors and cut something open: a pillow. Even though pillow stuffing is usually white, if you cut with a certain style and vigor, you will see red. Put this into a political context. Assuming you’re dealing with people who aren’t color blind, senile, or impotent, you can make quite a statement simply by donning a ruby red tie. If you speak with the right amount of zest, any tie you like can turn red right before their eyes. Meanwhile, in the bedroom, everything is slightly tinged red during passionate moments, even in the dark.

Nicodemus K. Bhatt bought his first red car when he turned 18. This purchase was altogether innocent. It involved his parents’ money and he didn’t even want a red car. He just wanted a convertible. When he found a used Volkswagen Cabrio, it fit the bill: it was cheap. It was also dazzlingly, brilliantly, bloodily red. His mom was suspicious but his dad conceded approval, vaguely laying the matter to rest in stating that Volkswagens have good engines.

One day, while waiting at a red light, Nicodemus caught the eye of the driver in front of him when she glanced into her rear view mirror. Over the next fifteen seconds, he caught her eye three more times. At first, he wondered uncomfortably if he had instigated this little exchange. Thinking for a moment, he realized that, in fact, she had started it. Still, was he the perpetuator?—Again, no! Every time, her eyes jumped up first!

And so he decided to follow her. Why the hell not? Maybe that’s what she wanted. Alternatively, maybe it’s what he wanted. Even better!

For the rest of the afternoon, he dedicated himself to following anyone who looked at him funny. This turned out to be quite an extraordinary number of people. They weren’t just women, either. Queer looks came from everyone: men, children, whole families, police officers, dogs … and he followed all of them, one after the other until the chase became boring or unbearably awkward.

Calling it quits after a few hours, he was sitting in the drive-thru line at Taco Bell when the driver behind him caught his eye. This time, the role was reversed: he was the clear instigator. It took him three glances into his rear view mirror to realize and appreciate: the car behind him, a newer model Honda Civic … was red.

“Any sauce?” asked the girl at the fast-food window.

“Yes, please.”

“Mild, Hot, or Fire?”

“Fire, thank you.”

During his drive home, he couldn’t help checking his mirrors frequently and with unusual concern. Red cars kept appearing out of nowhere. He spilled hot sauce all over his jeans and wiped it up and down the steering wheel. Fully aware of the irony of the situation, and totally against his better judgment, he swore he was being followed at every turn.

Peter ClarkePeter Clarke studied psychology and philosophy at Western Washington University and recently completed his law degree at the University of the Pacific. He currently plays in rock bands and writes while trying to not be a lawyer. His short fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Curbside Splendor, Western Press Books, Hobart, Elimae, The Legendary, Zygote in My Coffee, and elsewhere. Native to Port Angeles, Washington, he presently resides in Sacramento, California.