Gabe Plays Chicken – and Survives
— Reading time: 3 minutes:
It’s called the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for memory, particularly the transference of short-term to long-term memory. Mine is defective enough that I have selective recall. I only remember good things. So in a couple days, when Gabe says to me, remember how close that pickup truck came to ending our lives on Manchester Road, I’ll be able to look him in the eye and say, “what pickup truck?”
A defective brain can be a very good thing.
It’s anybody’s guess why Gabe would pull up to Manchester Road – a busy four-lane street – look to his right, look to his left, see a pickup truck barreling toward us a few ticks beyond the 40 mph speed limit … and choose to make a left turn anyway.
Realizing what he’d done, he brakes – in the lane where the truck is hurtling toward us!
“GO GO GO GO,” I scream. He slides his foot. Brake pedal to gas. Feeds the engine. We lurch forward. Somehow the pickup avoids us. The next lane is vacant. Gabe glides into it. We escape. As if this whole event was choreographed for a chase scene in the next Jason Bourne movie.
This, I discover, presents yet another benefit of a convertible. If one of us has peed our pants – I haven’t checked either of us yet – the wind is whooshing in and canceling out the smell of urine. For a half-mile, neither of us says a word.
Eventually, Gabe flicks on his appendix to turn left. I ask him where he’s going, and he says he needs to park for a minute and take a break.
“Are you kidding me? That was the greatest comeback since the Buffalo Bills beat Houston in the ’93 playoffs. You don’t need a break. We’ll turn off in a bit and cruise some side streets. You’re fine.”
“Did you see that truck?” He stammers out every syllable.
“I saw the dead mosquitoes in that truck’s grille. Of course, I saw it. But the thing to remember here is you didn’t panic. You took control and got us out of that mess. Next time it’ll be better to avoid the mess in the first place, but we won’t worry about that right now. This is a good point to introduce today’s rule of the road: Don’t panic. You’ve mastered that one already.”
“I don’t want to practice that one anymore.”
At length, we pull into a Phillips 66. I pry his hands off the steering wheel, where he has deposited a large sample of DNA. We go inside to get a beverage. He’s earned one. I’ve earned something stiffer than a Mountain Dew, but he follows me through the liquor section where I pretend I’m looking for Kleenex and circle back to the fountain soda. He tosses me the keys. “You’re driving home.”
I toss the keys back. “I didn’t bring my license,” I lie. “Get back on the horse.”
We return to the car, Gabe in the driver’s seat, immensely more relaxed than ten minutes earlier, and he turns to look at me. A smile slowly comes to him. “Okay, one thing,” he says. “Mom doesn’t hear about the pickup truck.”
I furrow my brow. Tilt my head like a dog. “What pickup truck?” I say. He laughs, thinking I’m in cahoots with him and not realizing his father has a defective hippocampus.
If Gabe knew I was blogging, he’d be thinking: Hope Mom doesn’t read the blog tomorrow.