I woke earlier than I had to, just to have the extra time to not rush quite as much in the house, getting dressed, waking the kids, breakfast, packing lunches for camp, sunscreen, water bottles, shoes tied. My mother used to say it was her favorite time of day, right as the sun came up, when there was no one else awake and wanting something from her. I used to think it was strange, her getting up that early for no reason. There was a reason.

The house slowly starts to fill with sounds: cartoons on TV, the dog’s nails on the floor, spoons clattering against Corelle cereal bowls, toilets flushing, teeth brushing, little voices floating and darting in the air. Summer day camp today for the kids, we have to be in the car by 7:30AM. The house rattles and shakes as the garbage truck grumbles into the alley and swings our trash cans up with its metal robot arms, dumps, down again.

Off we go. Kids in the back seat of the car, belts bucked, windows opened, I wait at the stop sign, then merge into the flowing pulse of traffic. The air feels still a little cool and soft, but the warmth from the sun on my arm resting on the window as I drive tells me the day will become hot. I smile. I like the hot weather, the only one in my family who does.

Drop off at camp, sign permission slips and sunscreen forms and write a check for the week. Kiss kiss hug hug bye bye have fun. My wheels crunch on the gravel as I leave the camp, thinking of the day ahead. Iced coffee stop next. I lean back into my car seat, and turn up the radio. The song playing is by some band obviously trying to sound like Weezer. Who would want to copy Weezer? Ah, well.

As I cross over the freeway and stop at a red light, in my peripheral vision I see a huge shiny black pickup truck quickly pull up next to me on the right, its front end dipping as brakes are applied hard. I don’t look over. I know that the driver will be a young man who likely works in construction, already very late for work today. He will be drinking a coffee and talking on his cell phone. He will look over at me, because he looks at any woman.

Further ahead on the road I can see a bunch of orange cones and utility trucks peeking around a curve, and that the right lane closes. The guy in the truck is gunning his engine, rocking the chassis. Chicken. He wants to play chicken. He wants to play chicken with me, a mom in an SUV at 8AM on a Monday morning on a freeway overpass. He wants to pull out from the green light and smoke ahead of me before he loses his lane, and he is letting me know he is going to do just that.

OK. I change channels on the radio. “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club. No. Change. “My Guy,” Mary Wells. No. “Love Game,” Lady Gaga. Ack. “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” The Dead Weather. OK.

I feel very calm and normal as I look over to the turn light at the intersection. I have crossed over this light a million times. I know the timing. I know the timing well enough to know when I can punch down on my gas pedal while my light is still red and – safely -- jump forward, the light turning green as I exhale, little fractions of a second. He won’t expect it, the truck guy. I will keep my left lane. He won’t even get a chance to play chicken with me.

I check for any cars coming late through the yellow. None.

I press down on the accelerator and smoothly move ahead, car lengths ahead of the truck in just a couple of seconds. Ah. He’s not having it. I hear him to my left, roaring behind me. He is catching up quickly with that big engine. Well well well. That really isn’t a good idea, sir. I press down harder on the gas, despite some feeling that this is stupid. I think about what I need to get at the grocery store and if I will get a pump of vanilla in my latte today or skip it.

He is next to me now, but his lane is getting smaller and he doesn’t really have the time or space to move ahead of me, but he is still trying. He is too close to my car. I never look over, just keep driving along, mouthing the words to the song:

Who’s got it figured out
Left right, left right, got it figured out
Who’s got it figured out, play straight

Stand up like a man
You better learn to shake hands
Look me in the eye now
Treat me like your mother.

As we round the curve, I stand on the gas and barrel through the cone zone. Suddenly, the truck drops from my side view and I hear a boom, smashing metal and glass. He cut it too close and clipped a concrete abutment at the end of the right lane. I look in my mirror. He’s still spinning. I hear the screech of tires and horns and the sound of my engine, smooth and clean.

I don’t feel shocked. I don’t feel stunned. I don’t feel scared or sad or freaked out. I don’t feel anything at all.

I don’t stop. The day is getting warmer, and I open my sunroof.

Oh, now I remember. We need paper towels.

You blink when you breathe and you breathe when you lie
You blink when you lie
Who’s got it figured out, play straight.