Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Side of the Road

Suddenly, out the front window Joanne catches a glimpse of a small red car beginning to swerve on the road. It spins out of control and crashes against the railing on the left side. Then the grey hummer directly behind the red car slams on its brakes and flips to its side. It begins to roll on the highway.
“Holy shit! Jeff!” She looks at Jeff. He isn’t even watching the road. He is turned towards the backseat busy saying something to Fortune. “Jeff! There is an accident right in front of us! Slow down!”

Fortune drops the earrings into his palm and as Jeff turns back around to grab the wheel, he sees a Hummer flip over once. Then twice. Then a third time just feet in front of the van. He pushes his entire foot down onto the brake. He says “fuck” out loud. He says “fuck” again. He grabs the wheel hard and he can feel the earrings forming indentations in his skin. His palms are sweaty and slide a little on the steering wheel. He cuts the van to the right and dodges the back end of a red car spun out on the side of the road.
The Hummer rolls off the highway and down the embankment. Jeff watches it flip twice more until it finally comes to a stop. It is right side up on its wheels. A large cloud of smoke pours out from its trunk. The cab light is on and Jeff can see the driver moving his arms slowly inside. It’s front window is shattered and the doors on the left side are crushed and pushed inwards.
“Oh my god. Joanne get your cell phone and call 911. Tell them that there is an accident near mile marker 205.”
Jeff drives the van slowly past the wreck. He pulls over to the side of the road and stops. He lets the van idle and considers getting out but there are already people running towards the wreckage. He wants to keep driving. He wants to head far away from the cars, the smoke, the people hurt on the side of the road, the people running to help them, the white walls, the empty bed, white walls. He pulls away from the side of the road and keeps driving.
Joanne is staring out the window, holding her cell phone up against her ear.
He takes his hand and stuffs it into the pocket of his pants. He lets go of the earrings and stuffs them deep into his jeans so they won’t fall out. She never saw a thing. The Hummer had just saved his ass.
“Jeff! We need to stop as soon as we can. We aren’t going any further tonight. The tone in her voice makes Jeff’s stomach drop inside him. Did she see the earrings in his hands?
“Why?” He asks nervously.
“It’s Fortune…” Jeff lets out a long sigh and looks up into the rear view mirror. Fortune has his head in his hands and his entire body is shaking. Jeff can hear the jagged quick breaths that Fortune always makes when he cries. “…I think the crash scared him a lot.” “Hey, buddy? You ok back there?” he says.
Fortune keeps crying because he is worried for the people in the Hummer. And worried about their families and if someone might lose their dad tonight. Why isn’t she as worried now? About everyone? Not just him. Why haven’t they stopped? Why can’t they be the ones running towards the wreckage? Why don’t people stop on the side of the road to help others?
Fortune continues to cry into his hand and even though he is safe, and his mom is safe, and his dad is safe, and he still has his pillow in his arm; he still feels sad and alone.
“Don’t worry buddy. It’s going to be ok. Help is on it’s way.” Jeff turns to Joanne. “Ok. I will pull off soon. I think we all need a break from the road. How are you doing? He asks her. Are you doing ok?”
But Joanne just sits there. And Jeff just drives.

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