After fifty odd years of reckless living, things finally came to a head for Elroy Pontchartrain late on the afternoon of August 9th– a Tuesday. The sun was blazing down upon all men equally that day, like a walk-in furnace advertisement, but this equanimity was hardly any consolation to Elroy whose access to reason was temporarily suspended for the duration of his personal apocalypse. That was when the cycles aligned, when he finally rounded the corner to see the future into which he was careening in three dimensions, when he finally confronted the only decision that really mattered in all its glorious simplicity.
The final unraveling began with an unexpected call from his recently-ex ex-wife Patricia, which he received while proceeding southbound on I-something-ninety-5 in the travel lane at roughly one and a half times the posted maximum speed. She rang just as he was commanding his cell phone to locate a proximal establishment that served cold beer and didn’t ask questions. His first mistake was taking the call. He had thought he was saying yes to his cell phone’s polite, loop-closing request for confirmation as to whether or not it should begin navigating to the nearest watering hole, when in fact, due to his phone’s inability to set boundaries, that question had been voided from memory forever in favor of requesting a ruling about the incoming call. As a result, Elroy had inadvertently commanded the blasted device to patch him through. By the time the connection was made she was already three sentences into a tirade about their son’s failer mentality and his unconscionable disinterest in pursuing a summer internship, which, as Elroy surely knew, was the next and thus ass-numbingly vital milestone on the course to the enduring and successful lifestyle she had in mind for the lad.
Archie was just too much like his father, however. Was it not obvious?
That was the segue Elroy had known was coming, the one for which his unconscious mind had been silently prepping him for the last three tenths of a mile by parading a highlight reel of past, similar harangues across his mental screen. And since you can’t focus on your mental screen and make any sort of honest attempt at keeping an eye peeled for state troopers lurking in the median, he’d streaked past Officer Forsyth’s idling Ford Mustang without so much as a courtesy brake slamming.
Officer Forsyth might have nabbed his man that day if he had fired for effect with his strobes from the get-go, signaling clearly his intention to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law and breaking Elroy free of the mental pile driver in which he was gripped, but instead he had opted for stealth by bringing the police cruiser up to speed before deploying his arsenal of canned light and sound. He may as well have been trying to catch Secretariat in the Belmont. The first pulse of electric blue light from Officer Forsyth’s panel-mounted peace-keeping apparatus finally caught up with Elroy’s rear view mirror at precisely the same instant that Elroy realized the next exit, then only a few hundred feet ahead, had his name all over it. Simultaneously, Elroy noticed a wall of produce-laden tractor trailers four lanes wide steadily approaching from the north like a darkening sky, as if on cue to sweep up the mess.
Elroy’s unraveling took a massive step forward when, having just a split second prior established a visual with Officer Forsyth’s rapidly approaching Interceptor, Elroy checked his mirrors out of instinct, cleared his mind entirely, closed his eyes for a half second, decided to trust the Force, and then clenched his guts up into his rib cage as he banked his gray sedan onto new heading two-two-five, slicing the highway like a cake. Forsyth, now just eight lengths back and hurtling down the asphalt at nearly twice the posted maximum speed, couldn’t believe his perp’s blind luck, as the braking that Forsyth would have to deploy in order to match Elroy’s perilous maneuver, though technically feasible, would no doubt wreak broad and unpredictable havoc with the incoming cucumber trucks. He cursed his luck and resigned himself to drift lazily with the corpuscular current towards the county line.
Elroy meanwhile, who was pinching his cell phone between his right cheek and his right shoulder in an effort to maintain a semblance of decorum with Patricia, was not entirely aware of his behavior by this time, and was pouring years of pent up resentment into his phone’s receiver at the top of his lungs while nearly correcting his steering for the tilt of his head. It sounded like the holy trifecta of release: monosyllabic bursts of screaming, wild laughter, and unconsolable weeping all superimposed, which was doing nothing but fueling Patricia’s assessment that her ex-husband’s allotment of atmospheric oxygen was being poorly invested, indeed.
Could he call her later when he felt like using his words?
Physics being sublimely immune to circumstance, roughly four seconds after placing his trust in the Force, Elroy and his vehicle flew off the McFarland Boulevard exit ramp with minimal attenuation of their previous speed. Years later, Elroy would marvel at the inexplicably vacant intersection through which he slid, but astute readers will recognize the accumulated effects of whole generations of positive thinkers in the region. Elroy and his vehicle slid through the intersection of McFarland and seventy-third street unscathed, but found themselves barreling down upon a startled house cat.
Elroy instinctively voted for life and straightened up, letting his cell phone follow a centripetal path into the passenger side door. He attempted to swing around to new heading one-three-five. This proved too much for his economical all-season radials, which shrieked in dismay and bled upon the road in thick black bands. Like a hulking mechanical figure skater, Elroy and his car whirled across four empty lanes of urban corridor, burning off energy and rubber at a prodigious rate. When Elroy’s right rear fender finally bottomed out on a lamp post, the pole wiggled back and forth like one of those old spring-type doorstops, repeatedly bashing his defenseless fender into a smooth volute, but not much else really happened.
Entirely pleased, and having jettisoned the need to conform with social norms somewhere between the travel lane and the lamp post, Elroy patted the dash, unbuckled his seat belt, and stepped out of the vehicle feeling like a million bucks. He hunched over and took the plates off the car, grabbed the registration papers out of the glove box, and walked away on heading zero-nine-four. His unraveling was nearly complete. Halfway up the street he chanced upon an interesting establishment with an elephant painted on the window, and the words “Yoga Shala” in arched letters over the door. The door was purple, with moons and stars on it. When Elroy opened the door he was greeted by a man who said, “Namma stay.”
“No, thanks,” Elroy replied congenially, crossing his arms on top of the counter and looking around the studio like a carpenter thinking of bidding on the job. Something about it seemed just right. “I need to leave my steaming wreck of a history behind and probably get a line on some community service. Can you folks help with that?”
“Uhh, maybe… yeah.”
“Good, good. Sign me up, then, son,” he said, slapping the counter.
Two hours later a nearly crippled and buzzing all over Elroy took a bus to a rental car establishment, and drove a strange car home. He decided to wait and see how long it would take the local fuzz to haul him in for questioning rather than call it in. Miraculously, his cell phone still worked, so he sat down on the front stoop to dial up that Archie boy and give him some fatherly advice about what could happen if you keep stuff pent up inside for too long.
Off in the darkness, just out of sight where he couldn’t see them, there stood two angels scanning the block up and down like hawks. Now that he had finally unraveled, they weren’t going to let him out of their sight for even an instant.