1. Easy to CrashA Chapter by Dennis Shanaberg
Hopefully, this grabs your attention
The knuckles grew more and more massive as those quick moments passed. The wrinkles around his joints became jagged valleys dividing his fingers into hundreds of fleshy mesas. There were small hairs that resided on those raised bits of skin. I was repulsed by them the closer that they got.
As the fisted hand grew in detail, everything beyond it simply blurred. I don’t know if that was the alcohol, or simply the velocity of this man’s hand toward my face.
The impact, I didn’t feel. That was definitely the alcohol. The only way I knew the blow had finally hit home was that his fist filled my entire field of vision, and subsequently my head was thrust violently backward.
I reeled, vaguely aware of my hands fumbling for something to hold onto, to stop my inevitable plunge to the hard floor. There was the feel of wood underneath my fingers, and I held on for what I was sure was dear life. The chair wobbled under my weight but steadied. I looked back upon my assailant.
Well, technically, I had assailed him first, but at the moment that didn’t matter too much. Because it was a bad idea to begin with. There was definitely too much beer and liquor running through my veins, and for that matter, I was just getting too old for this. What was I thinking? Last time that I get this drunk, a voice whispered somewhere in my head. This is the last time.
My feet were now planted as firmly on the ground as I think they could get, and the chair was no longer forced to bare my weight. The whole earth swayed around me as I struck out at this man with my fists. I was convinced that my blows were striking him just as significantly as his had been with me, when in reality, I was barely bruising his skin.
Unexpectedly, he stepped back from my flailing arms. The sudden disparity in my field of vision made my head spin. I winced. The world tilted harder. Everything was buffeted about. We were sailing on treacherous water, and he was the only person whose legs were strong enough to hold him upright. I blinked my eyes shut. The world steadied ever so slightly on it’s axis.
He struck out with a cuff to my shoulder. I tilted around, moving with the spinning room. Another hit to my stomach. That one I felt. Air rushed out my mouth as his fist replaced the flesh around what had once been quite a well-toned stomach. And finally, another blow to the face.
There was a crack. It sounded so loud. Could everyone else hear that? It didn’t sound good. I stepped back unsteadily. The green lampshades above me dimmed. The round, oak tables were suddenly being painted a darker shade than they’d been for years. My nose felt cold.
My hand felt for it, but what what my finger touched couldn’t be right. My nose bent in a way that it shouldn’t have. My upper lip was drenched in something syrupy. It felt disgusting. There was a red wine on my knuckles when I pulled them away. I grimaced in an awful way as the salty taste of my own blood dripped into my mouth.
His arm was raised again-elbow high in the air-his fist ready to careen toward my face one last time. He took a step forward. The second the sole of his shoe met the floor, his arm began to coil out. He was a machine, fluidly moving and ready to exact my due punishment. I simply tried to brace myself.
Then, I heard a fragile cry. It was her. She entered the space before my eyes again. I’d almost forgotten about her. Why did she have to come here? Today? Today of all days? Just as his whole body swung toward me, she grabbed hold of his elbow. The instant her fingers touched the flannel on his arm, he froze.
“Please, can we leave?” she pleaded with him. “Please.”
I’d forgotten she was in the bar.
This was all because of her. And him. And everything. Oh...it’s always just nothing.
My mind settled slightly, and the blurry room cleared. It was just the three of us now, and the bar tender Drew. The few people who were still there at that hour, had cleared out when he and I had started in. I had hardly noticed at the time. All I could see was her then. And then him.
His arm was still raised, held in the exact place where she had frozen it. She gently brought it to his side. I noticed a blaze in his eyes that had not been there before.
“Let’s go,” she said again --more firmly this time. His body rotated towards her, but his stare was still fixed on me.
The only sound emanated from the buzzing fluorescent bulbs that glowed beneath the green lampshades above us. There was nothing else. Nothing moved. Hours passed inside my head before a foreign voice finally shattered the stillness.
“I think you should listen to the girl. We’re closin’ up soon anyway,” Drew said, giving his first words since everything had begun. His relaxed drawl had some sound of authority between the hot bolts of energy that were sparking about the bar.
She rested a hand on his arm again. He shook her off harshly. My fist clenched, but I knew I could do nothing about it now. With that, he grabbed his jacket from a table and stormed out into the brisk night. His shout was cut off as the door slammed behind him. Nonetheless, she heard the beginning of “WE’RE LEAVING!!!” and dutifully chased after him, leaving several bills for Drew on a table before pushing her way out the door.
A rush of air hit my back as Drew breathed what could best be described as a sigh of relief. I turned slowly around, easing myself onto the slick leather barstool in front of him. “I’m really sorry, Drew. I-”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ve had worse, and ya didn’t break anything.”
“I said, ‘Don’t worry ‘bout it.’ Plus, you got your a*s beat worse than anything I could punish ya.” He paused. “You gonna be alright?”
“Yeah. I’m fine,” I breathed.
“You look like Hell. I think I’m gonna call Jeff to come take ya home.”
I squinted an eye at him. “Really?”
“You know, he won’t say nuthin’. But you really shouldn’t be driving tonight, I think,” he said as he started to wipe down the bar.
My fingers rubbed at my eyes before I looked at him again. “How about one more for the road then, Drew? Since, I don’t have to take myself anywhere.”
He sighed. “D****t, Alec. You really need to just calm the Hell down.”
I pouted and slumped down on the bar stool, almost sliding off the leather, before I caught myself. But my point had been made.
“Fine.” He rolled his eyes, and poured me a glass of something. I’m still not sure what exactly. He promptly turned to call Jeff. He was the cop who on most Friday nights could also be found here at Drew’s.
I inhaled several gulping sips, when my pocket came to life. Almost slipping clean off the seat again, I dug in my pocket to grab the vibrating phone. I flipped the black plastic open and the screen lit ablaze with the name of the caller. Oh...great.
“Hi, Honey.” My voice was weak and sheepish as the words spilled out of my mouth. I hated myself for it. Why couldn’t I be stronger than that?
“Where are you at?” She knew. She always knew. Because it was always here.
“You know. Umm...Out with the guys.” Drew, having finished talking to Jeff, looked at me and shook his head.
“I don’t hear them.” Her voice changed somehow during those four words. It wasn’t just an accusation, like how these late night calls usually sounded. No. It sounded like concern.
“They must have just gone home,” I said groggily. Some fogginess was forcing it’s way back into my brain. I rubbed my brow, and shook my head. This is the last time.
The words stung, but I couldn’t understand why for a moment. The fatal misspeak on my part proved what she had feared. I was there alone. I was always there alone. But there were friends there. Like Drew, and --some others.
I gritted my teeth into the stale purr between our two phones. The word “what?” was the only thing that I could think to respond with. As if I hadn’t heard.
She didn’t speak for several seconds. I could just hear her breathing in and out. I held my breath.
“Just get home as soon as you can.” Click. She sounded empty. So hollow inside.
I stood up from the barstool, catching one of its legs with my toe. It clattered loudly to the floor as I stumbled toward the door. Drew looked up from the counter at my wobbly figure, and ran around the bar. His hands were raised as he reached me.
“And where the Hell ya think you’re goin’?”
“Need to get home,” I said, pressing against his outstretched hands.
“Jeff’s about to be here and he’ll take ya on home as soon as ya can think.”
“No. She’s angry. She’s empty. I need to go.” I pushed against him again, and he gave way. He turned as I burst through the door, and followed me through it. He stopped just outside as I made my way across the parking lot.
I turned to look at him bathed in the sputtering neon of the entrance sign shaking his head in some sort of disapproval. Ignoring him, I continued to kick the gravel as I pressed on toward my car. Once I reached it, I had to lean against the back door to keep from collapsing as I opened the front. Maybe, this is kind of a bad idea. I gave another look at that neon entrance. He must’ve gone back inside.
Sinking into the front seat of the small grey Kia, my fingers fumbled over my keys. After dropping them twice to the floor, I got the correct one in the ignition, and revved the engine. It groaned with the strain, and the car lurched into action. A quick reverse from its spot in the pebbled parking lot, a touch of the gear shift, and a jamming down of the accelerator, and I was on my way to seeing my most likely angry wife.
The second the Kia’s tires turned onto the pavement of the road, just how much alcohol was coursing through me became gravely apparent. Not only did I have the worst need in the world to take a leak, but the road curved out in front of me in all the wrong ways. Each turn of the car sloshed my insides around like a pair of old jeans in a washer, and the way home became muddled up inside my head. I couldn’t think in lefts and rights; it was moreso just turning the car in the way that seemed natural, praying that what was making sense to me right now was close to accurate.
My foot was leaden on the accelerator, and it was too much effort to raise it. I noticed one stop sign too late, and then two lights turned to cherry before I passed through them. At a third light, seeing the yellow, I moved my foot to the brake in time. I used that moment to close my eyes and rub some of the fogginess from them.
Just before the light switched back over to green, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket again. I’m coming, honey. I’ll be there soon. There was no need to answer it.
With the light green, my foot fell hard again on the accelerator. I sped now through the streets, moving without regard for further signs and lights, turning sharply around corners. There were no cars out now. There never were.
Plus, my foot just felt so heavy. And I needed to get home. She was so empty. She was so hollow. I was bent on the idea of getting home to her, she needed to know it was all alright.
A straightaway now. This part was the easy part. There was no sloshing, the blurriness did not matter anymore. After this, we were out of these bricked storefronts. There were only a few streets of houses and then I would pull up in my driveway and tell her that everything was okay.
I mashed down the accelerator even further, the speedometer rising far beyond where it should have been. The buildings and street lights beside me blended together. It was like water pouring down an undried canvas, blending the mingling paints. For a second, I found that beautiful.
Then, the light before me yellowed. It was still in the distance. I had time to stop. I tried moving my foot to the brake, but it only twitched. It was so heavy. And she was so hollow. Oh well. It’s not like there’s a cop around. The thin hand on the speedometer continued to climb, glowing in triumph as it reached higher and higher on the dial.
I looked up as the light turned red, and when I looked back down, I saw it --rather him. Ironically, it was a cop car. More ironically, it was Jeff. He was supposed to pick me up. And now my car was hurtling towards the side of his as he crossed the intersection in front of me.
My mind just could not figure it out. Part of me almost felt like waving a hello, but some other part, and almost luckily the stronger part, realized the danger we were both in. In the last moments before my Kia would have torn through the cop car, my hands grappled with the wheel. My car lurched to the right, sailing toward the aft portion of Jeff’s car.
He lost a tail light, and some part of his car grinded its black paint onto mine. The sound of that reverberated horridly within both cars, as mine hurtled onward. The sound caused me to wince, my eyes closing momentarily as it shrieked inside my skull. My eyes opened again in time to see the building that had been on the opposite corner of the intersection growing more and more massive in my windshield. As those quick moments passed, the small bricks became abominable buildings of their own, each one ready to gruesomely halt my car’s momentum.
I tried turning the steering wheel, but it couldn’t shift my tires in time. I think I may have started a prayer, but I stopped --repulsed by my slovenly self the closer that the wall got.
They often say that your life flashes before your eyes right before you die, they say that there is a light at the end of a tunnel, they say that everything moves in slow motion. If I was about to die, then this last one was true.
I felt my body go slack, the terror that had gripped me moments before faded. I became nothing more than the intoxicated shell that by rights I should have been. I heard the metal grinding first. There were sparks. For a second, I found it beautiful. The metal groaned further and then the windshield shattered. I felt myself moving now. I hit the wheel. My head flew back and slammed into the seat. There was glass in the air. It was everywhere, almost floating-suspended-as my limp frame sliced through.
The cacophony of the hood against the brick intensified, and then I felt myself sailing once more for the steering wheel. My head hit. There was a crack. It sounded loud.
Then, everything was black.
© 2012 Dennis Shanaberg
Added on May 31, 2010
Last Updated on August 11, 2012
AboutAbout my Life… It’s a preface far too long For anyone to read. It’s growing longer everyday. Filled with love and laughter, life and greed. I am a writer, for what it's worth.. more..
People who liked this story also liked..