I didn't stop running when I heard it.
"Nice stroller, tubby!"
My knuckles whitened and the ample hair on my neck came to attention. I was tubby, and the stroller in question carried my 6-month-old son, who chewed happily on an impossibly overpriced rubber giraffe, innocently shielded from the insult hurled at his father. My wife didn't say anything, which was probably an appropriate spousal response when a teenager behind the wheel of a fresh-off-the-lot Subaru Outback denigrates the father of your child.
I only caught sight of him for a second, but he had dark brown hair, short on the sides and sculpted on top. If you asked a Supercuts trainee for "The Macklemore," this is how you'd look. A junior in high school, if I had to bet. And he was smiling when he said it. There was a kid in the passenger seat, assumedly the audience for whom this high-minded piece of performance art had been delivered.
I let my wife take the stroller and she didn't break stride. I said I'd catch up, and she just nodded as I darted to a well-manicured front yard and gathered about a half-dozen roundish rocks, the largest the size of a golf ball. I caught up to my wife and placed the rocks in the stroller's cup holder. I warmed up the rotator cuff on my seldomly used throwing arm.
"They're going to have to come back this way," I told my wife, who still had yet to comment.
"Why?" she asked.
I didn't know, so I didn't answer, but they'd come back. They had to at some point, and when they did, I guess that I — an otherwise well-adjusted husband, father, 1993 Presidential Physical Fitness Award winner and affable community member — was going to throw a rock through their rear window. Or side window. Any side window. Just not the windshield. Jesus, I'm not a monster.
It all seemed so matter-of-fact in my mind. They deserved it, right? It was the obvious thing to do. Yes, I'm a big guy — 212 pounds at last formal inspection. But I'm out there running most days, hoping to shave a few digits off of that formidable number, and this guy has to point out that I'm kind of fat. Oh, and that I'm pushing a stroller, because to kids whose dads gift them expensive cars, strollers are super-lame, apparently. Running is my sanctuary and this guy had entered without an invitation.
It wasn't a "kids these days" sort of thing. This was savage assholery, the sorts of which can't be allowed to fester, I justified. There had to be a punishment.
Here's how I saw it going down. That Subaru would come barreling down the road and I'd peg it with a rock. Or better, I'd just jump out into the road and command the vehicle to stop with one outstretched hand. Then I'd start systematically kicking out the headlights and taillights, maybe a window or two.
These two malcontents would likely be out of the vehicle by then, protesting mightily and remarking that their dad was going to kill them. Call your dad, I'd say. Call your buddy's dad, too. We'll just be a bunch of dads sharing ideas about raising asshole kids.
Then I'd wait for the cops to arrive, because someone would have called the cops by then. I'd sit nonchalantly on a guardrail, I envisioned. When the officers arrived, I'd explain what happened. They'd take a look at these delinquents and figure I'd done society a favor. I might even get a medal, which upon being awarded I'd say, "I just did what anyone would do. I'm no hero." I'd probably be on the news. "Mike Bookey, Vigilante," the title below my glowing face would read.
They never came back. I kept an eye out, and in the waning mile of the run I regretted not memorizing the license plate, because there's gotta be something you can do with that. I should have at least yelled back. In my haste I neglected to even flip them the bird. Because of me, there's probably some other tubby guy pushing his kid for exercise about to fall victim to verbal harassment.
My wife never once told me that any of this — at least the part of the planned vengeance I made verbal — was a bad idea. Maybe she was just letting me blow off some steam. More likely, she found the entire affair highly entertaining.
We got home and I went to fold up the stroller. The rocks fell out of the cup holder and I was immediately embarrassed. Really, really embarrassed. I picked up the rocks, one by one, and tossed them into the shrubs, realizing that I'm a tubby guy with a stroller, but at least I'm not a tubby guy with a stroller who throws rocks at teenagers in front of his infant son. ♦