“What do you want to hear?” “Jerimiah was a bullfrog!” “Haha, you know I get more requests for it by that name than its actual name, ‘Joy to the World’.” “Oh that’s right!” “Well, it’s coming up now, enjoy.” Familiar chords begin to play. “Jerimiah was a bullfrog was a good friend of mine…” The light ahead of me turns yellow and I step on the brakes. The frosted street denies me traction. The light ahead turns red. The ABS keeps skipping and my body is fully erect with my full weight pressing down on the pedal. Seeing no cars crossing, I take my foot off the brake and run the red. A deputy sheriff sits in his car facing the opposite direction and watches my unlawful slide. I continue down the road, a bit shaken. I check my rearview for flashing lights and find none. Fuck, it was stupid to go out in this weather just for cigarettes. “Joy to the world, all the boys and girls…”
Sudden loss of control tends to put things in perspective. I was angry before, but I don’t even know why. I continue downhill with a heightened sense of caution. An SUV follows closely behind me, I don’t bother to check my speed. This is why Ayn Rand is wrong, captains of industry have heart attacks, my car can’t grip ice. No one is master of their own fate. Oncoming lights feel brighter than usual and fat flakes of half-melted snow slap my windshield. I park in a gas station and sit in the car for a moment. A commercial for a wind chime emporium comes through the speakers with the sound of forced excitement. A down-clad couple waddles through my headlights, holding each other for stability. Sometimes I really hate couples. I try to imagine what they’re doing, why they’re there, but stop myself. My thoughts tend to be unrealistic about these things.
I open my door and wind and snow flood into the warm compartment. I walk through frozen mush to the doors and push my way through. “Fuck the Steelers, man.” A 45 year old man, underdressed and drunk attempts to start an argument with the cashier. “I’m just saying that they look good this year.” I try to appear impatient, but the effect is lost on the two. I stare at the familiar rack of vice, picking out Camel Blues. They’re no longer called lights, probably for preemptive legal reasons. The underdressed man notices me and steps aside. “What’ll you have?” “Camel Blues and a pack of matches.” I walk back to my car defeated by addiction but triumphant in my purchase. I light up and crack the window. More cold air, the radio is louder than I recall. I exhale burnt particles of paper and tobacco to fight the wind.