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American Graffiti

Had my runner’s high become a hallucination?

Turning quickly, I almost twisted my ankle, but I had to get a better look at the black and white image taped to the inside of the car’s back windshield, the car parked in the lot of my neighborhood restaurant. I ran, in place, staring at what looked like a photocopy. It showed George W. Bush, his arm extended upward, obviously, waving. He seemed to be waving to me. I scrutinized the silly grin and frightened look in his eyes–you know, the body language he wears that fits like uncomfortable underwear.

I’m continually shocked when I see an adoration display of one of the worst presidents in history. But, then, I’m, also, surprised that people aren’t scraping Obama stickers from their bumpers and other locations on their cars.

Interlude: Years ago, I was waiting for a parking space at one of those shopping areas where you line up and watch for someone to leave. I saw a man approach his automobile, get in, and back out. Suddenly, a new, shiny white Cadillac sped around me and zipped into the spot that was MINE. On the front of the car was a huge red bow as in, “For you on your birthday.” Or, “Happy anniversary.” A tall blond, who resembled Barbie, emerged from the driver’s seat. She was dressed in a teensy white tennis skirt and a white shirt.

I pulled forward, rolled down my window, and yelled, “Excuse me, that’s my space.”

“I am in a hurry,” she said with a French accent.

“Yes, most of us are,” I said. She performed one of those head motions—an indication that she felt superior—and, then, went into a shop. Unlike George W., she wore her body language well.

Within a few minutes I had parked. I made my way to the dairy section of a market and bought a dozen eggs. I rushed out and examined my surroundings. Then, I reached into the carton, withdrew two eggs, and smashed them into the handle of the Cadillac’s door. The driver’s side, of course. Then, I grabbed a couple more and slammed the handle again, noting the vibrant yellow, running down a white canvas. Feeling like a criminal, I glanced this way and that, and, then, made a dash for my car. I wanted to hang around and watch French Barbie’s reaction to my egg graffiti. I wanted to see yolk drip from her hand and transfer to her perfect white tennis outfit, but I decided to leave the scene.

When I got home, I called my husband at his office and told him what I’d done. He said, “Honey, you are so mature.”

Okay, back to the photo of Bush. Beneath his image were these words: “He Kept Us Safe.”

I’m no longer a vandal, so I didn’t mark the vehicle with the questions I wanted to etch into the paint: What about 9/11? On WHOSE watch did this occur? How many warnings did Bush ignore that Osama bin Laden was “determined to strike within the United States?”

And this: Did the people of New Orleans feel safe as Katrina assaulted their lives? When Bush flew over to survey the damage? When everything he did and said was a detachment from tragedy?

If I’d acted on impulse, scratching the reasons George Bush made us unsafe into the car’s finish, certainly, I’d have been apprehended, at the scene, while yelling, “No, no, there’s so much more.”

MISSY BEATTIE lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her email address is missybeat@gmail.com.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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