Suddenly, the light turned red and the tires in dire need of replacement screeched to a halt. Todd sighed as he readjusted so his left hand rested limply at 12 o’clock on the leather wheel. His other hand fiddled with the radio knob until finding, surprisingly, a wonderful symphonic orchestra playing at the local hall. The dynamics, the tonality, the excitement...it was undoubtedly Beethoven. A quick glance upward confirmed that the traffic light remained a glaring red. The civil engineers used to be competent, but now it was those goddamn suspension bridges they fussed over.
Marcia knew she should have taken Thompson Avenue; the newfangled GPS always took her into the worst of traffic. Actually, the traffic was unbearable everywhere and it was merely bad luck that placed her on the way to the busiest intersection: Liberty and Main. The intersection was initially planned to be a roundabout, yet the civil engineers assigned to the project had inadvertently received the blueprints for Thompson Avenue located on the outskirts of the city. Therefore, the roundabout was never built, while Thompson Avenue now has a roundabout that really isn’t needed.
He probably wouldn’t have minded so much if it wasn’t Monday. Mondays meant little sleep due to a late-night rehearsal. How he ended up in his alma mater when his primary education ended nearly thirty years ago was still a mystery to him. Todd’s dirt-brown hair hadn’t been washed in more than a week, in fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he had showered. Between pining for Jeanie’s love and evaluating the incoming freshman class for next year, he simply hadn’t had the time. No one could blame him though as the August humidity hung over the city like a blanket and it certainly did not help that Todd wasn’t sure he had paid the water bill last month.
She was positive that the raspberry sorbet was melting. Marcia blamed it on the four o’clock forecaster who informed her of the weather at precisely four o’clock. She presumed he has been dating that awful news anchor again, the one that she suspects is secretly a witch. Then, she assured herself that Little Tommy, her grandson, was waiting for her. His little nose, his little chin, and of course, his big smile was enough to brighten any gloomy day. For better or worse, Little Tommy also reminded Marcia of the years passing by.
He cracked open the driver’s side window but immediately regretted the decision. The intersection stank of exhaust fumes and desperate spirits. If only Jeanie hadn’t married, he thought, then maybe life wouldn’t be so miserable. Maybe if this light would turn green, he thought, then I could get on with this life of mine. Sadly, it didn’t.
Marcia reminisced that the city, once a melting pot of culture where no one dared to stay in at night for fear of missing out, had grown dull. Now, it seemed that the residents had become weary. The car in front of her inched forward but she didn’t bother to hit the accelerator. Since she picked up Little Tommy’s favorite dessert, she really should have taken Thompson Avenue. Marcia finally reached the intersection and a much desired green light beamed at her. Todd, whose light had just turned green as well, eagerly pressed the pedal. In the endless moment that he had spent pondering life’s dilemmas, he had failed to notice that the left turn was not protected. This was another mistake on the part of the civil engineers who had believed that a protected left turn was unnecessary at Thompson Avenue. However, this intersection wasn’t at Thompson Avenue and a protected left was most needed at Liberty and Main. Others at the intersection watched it unfold to the sound of Beethoven’s masterpiece. Marcia would have been pleased to know that the raspberry sorbet had not melted, despite the sweltering heat. Todd would have been pleased to know that in his email inbox was an invitation to conduct the city’s symphonic orchestra. The city took to correcting the unpropitious error at Liberty and Main. Yet, this intersection is only one of many in the bustling city. Somewhere not far from there is another light: a light turning red.
Artist Statement The place where I wrote this story is not very interesting - at a table in Pioneer High School. The time of day when I wrote this story is not very interesting - the third hour of my 10th-grade English class. Yet, I still return to this story whenever I find myself with writer's block or in need of inspiration for creative writing. I remember that during my second hour of the day, when I wrote this story, I had been sitting in chemistry and a senior had come rushing in. His face was red from the winter chill and he shared with the class his near-death experience with another student driver at the intersection of Stadium and Seventh. Of course, that story was not as theatrical or the true story of "Red Light;" however, I became fascinated by the setting and the idea. I elaborated on the event and tied my story specifically to the most boring aspect of driving I could think of: sitting at a red light. At the time I wrote this story, I was in the middle of Segment 1 and had not yet received my driver's permit. For those of you who haven't reached that wondrous age of 14 and 9 months, Segment 1 covers the basics of driving: types of roads, signs, and - the heart of this story - left turns. I hope that this tale serves as a reminder that while driving can often appear simple and, for experienced drivers, carefree, it only takes one moment. Drive safe everyone.