Murder & Loathing in Dallas
Fair warning. This is going to be a long post. I've tried to break it up into smaller pieces, but somehow the story just makes sense in its full glory as one post. So grab a coffee (or whatever life juice you prefer), sit back, and relax.
I recently spent 8 hours in the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport delayed because my plane broke down. That's not an exaggeration. All flight control tests failed just as we were about to take off. Thank G-d the plane had the foresight to break down on the ground.
When you're delayed for so long, trapped in a terminal the size of your apartment, inevitably people get to know each other. I sat down next to a beast of a man, mainly because it was the only seat available at the gate. I'm no shrinking violet, but even with my 5'8"-ness, he towered over me, spilling over into my seat.
The man's name was Tom, and he was desperate to get on the this flight. You see, he was traveling from Dallas to Tucson, AZ (via LA) to see his wife. In fact, he lives in Tucson, but works in the Dallas area overseeing truckers for a transport company. Every four months he gets to head home to spend one week with his wife, before heading back to Dallas for another four months.
He was supposed to meet his wife at a couples resort near Tucson, but because he was delayed, it looked more and more like he’d be missing his connecting flight in LA, and therefore missing most of the weekend with his wife. In fact, given the 8hr delay, he actually missed three connecting flights, leaving him overnight in LA. Needless to say, he was pissed.
In between yelling at the helpless gate agent and munching on the free snacks provided by the helpless airline, Tom told me the following story:
His parents divorced when he was young. His father remarried and had three more sons with the new wife. Tom's new stepmother pissed away the little money the family had on coke (not the soft drink kind). Tom hated her, hated his father for marrying her, and hated his half-brothers for existing at all. Tom's hate reached a crescendo at some point. He to kill one of the brothers when they were kids. That's right, attempted murder.
The boys were playing with dirt bikes on ramps. My new friend decided it would be a good idea to move one of the ramps out of the way just as his youngest stepbrother’s bike hit that ramp. He wanted him dead. The bike and the brother flew into the air together, and landed to everyone’s horror with a loud thud on the dirt road. Gravity worked. The bike split apart in total loss; the brother was lucky and survived. Strike one against life, Tom lamented to me.
As Tom grew into a strapping young hulk of a man, he joined the air force. Stationed in CO, Tom dreamed of owning a mustang. The muscle car embodied everything Tom thought life should be. Against personal reservations, Tom sent his army pay back home, entrusting his stepmother to deposit the funds for him in a savings account at the local bank. He carefully kept a ledger, recording all deposits and tracking the balance. The car would soon be his.
When his next leave came, Tom rushed to the bank to retrieve his funds from his hometown's local bank. And, here where strike two against life happens. At the bank, Tom was told that he has a princely sum of $25 left to his name, the minimum number required to keep the savings account active. As you can imagine, the stepmother quietly spent his money on coke, withdrawing all but the minimum. This is approximately the point where he resolved to kill his stepmother.
Tom storms the house where the stepmother and his dad live, demanding the money. With no money forthcoming, he demands their car, a classic muscle car in mint condition. Not a mustang, but better than nothing nonetheless. After a tumultuous night where he takes turns threatening everyone but the dog, the father finally agrees. My trusting friend goes back to CO to serve our country with no car, but a bagful of promises that title will be transferred soon. Perhaps, my new friend should have clarified what "soon" means.
A few weeks after the car debacle, Tom finds out that his stepmother sold the promised car to cover some bills, legal and illegal. He is livid at the injustice of being sidestepped by this woman twice. On his second leave, Tom get wise to the world. There is a second family car that's up for grabs. And, who needs legal formalities, when your name is the same as your father's and neither of you use Sr. or Jr. to identify? So, on the last night of his leave, he simply steals this car and heads back to the army base in CO.
Tom feels justified. He is the rightful owner of this vehicle, having missed out on two others. So when the 8 state troopers finally catch up to him along a remote, unidentified highway and the police helicopter pulls its spotlight away from the overhead, my new handcuffed friend vehemently lays claim to the vehicle he so rightfully owns. He ever so loudly explains that his stepmother should be arrested for theft and slander, and don’t you cops have something better to do than prevent an army man from defending his own country?
It seems the police officers agree. Indeed they have something better to do than go to family court, or maybe they thought better of getting entangled with this Norman Rockwell family. Or, maybe it was just really late that night. My friend Tom was granted a three police-car escort back to the army base. Safe & sound.