Gwynn V. Fulcher
Skip hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in 12 days. The last two days, he’d had no sleep at all. Instead he had endured waking dreams filled with anxiety-ridden situations: infants running into traffic, loved ones falling from great heights, a pet brutally attacking a child in the midst of a birthday party–shaking the little one like a doll while guests looked on curiously without concern.
After pulling another double shift at the local convenience store, he hit the lights and double-checked the sliding door from the inside around 1:46 in the morning. With a grateful sigh he exited out the back toward his brown 1994 Dodge Spirit parked in the far corner of the back lot. He looked straight up above him as he ambled to the car. It was a clear night over Chesterton, Indiana, and the big dipper was so obvious it near hit him on the head with its brilliance.
“’Nother empty day” Skip muttered to himself. Taking his eyes from the sky only to spit next to his driver’s side wheel then look back up, “Nobuddy cares…” He floated the words aloft to the endless sky. Mars, unusually close in its orbit for the next few days, scintillated red back at him.
Skip grunted dismissively, climbed into the Dodge and sat there for a few minutes, the engine thrumming, telegraphing its poor muffler maintenance through his seat and vibrating in his lungs as he tattooed the pads of his feet on the chrome-decorated pedals. Eventually he pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the blue-lit main road, empty of travelers.
He flicked his brights on as he turned off Calumet and onto Route 1050, away from the anemic downtown area, heading into the unlit farmland. He needed to clear his head.
“Nobuddy cares,” he repeated to himself. “Nobuddy gives a good got-damn.”
He yawned so big that he wandered onto the left side of the road a bit. Not that it mattered. Out here, and this late, the only worry was deer or raccoons, and they don’t pay much attention to traffic laws, why should he?
A spark of defiance rose in him. “Half the world drives on the left.” He argued at the windshield. Annoyance bubbled up with the nightly heartburn he hadn’t been able to shake these three weeks. A useless hand went to his breast.
He began to massage the little concave dip in the center of his chest. He’d had several open-heart surgeries as a very young boy and his sternum ended up a bit misshapen from being shoved off to the side so often. Left a dent in his chest big enough to pour a whiskey shot into if he were lying down.
“Half the world drives on the left, got-dammit, and they’re fine.”
Skip whipped the car back onto the left side of the road and accelerated down the straight-away, the darkened farmhouses and tumble-down barns just collections of dark matter gliding past him. He chuckled softly to himself.
“Yeah, this is just what it’s like for the other half. Drivin’ on the left all the time. Weird as shit.”
In Skip’s periphery, both sides of the country road crashed from open fields into thickly wooded land, snapping the stars from sight and gobbling up Skip’s headlights in a way that made him squint and lean forward in his seat. Up ahead was a small crest in the road and he made for it with gusto, the speedometer seeming to tremble along with the thrumming in Skip’s ears.
A yellow 2002 Mazda Protégé crested the hill at the exact time as Skip’s Dodge Spirit. Didn’t take but a moment.
Skip knew the passenger in the Protégé was a brunette, because she made it clear through the Mazda windshield–and got into his up to her shoulders—kissin’ distance. Her eyes, wide open and shot through with glass, glittered a little. His thighs grew warm and wet as the brunette leaked blood from her mouth and from deep cuts in her scalp, neck and chest.
Skip noticed the engine block from his car was where his knees used to be. And his right arm looked a little funny. Kinda bendy.
He couldn’t quite tell whose headlights were still working, there was some light shooting from between the cars, but at a weird angle…none of it helpful.
“I can’t get out and check on you,” Skip called out to the other car “I…got no legs and my arm’s all funny. I’m gonna start hurtin’ in a second or two…” He heard the words coming out of his mouth. But couldn’t remember thinking or making them. Did he really have no legs? They’re there, he just can’t feel them yet is all. It’s that shock thing.
He didn’t hear anything from the other car.
Not really having anywhere else to look, Skip settled back on the brunette. Her head and shoulders seemed right, but the dark shadow of the rest of her body wasn’t lying on the hood, it was bent straight up onto the roof of the car.
“A body can’t bend like that unless the spine’s broke…” Skip assessed quietly.
Out of nowhere, he bubbled up laughing. Laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach with his good arm. He laughed and coughed and laughed again, then called out Wooooo-eeeeee! Because he wasn’t quite sure whether the whole situation didn’t deserve a laugh, considering the way life had been going for him.
He got found about four hours later when Barbara Cass was heading into town early to open up the offices of the little Chesterton Tribune.
By then, Skip knew the other driver was a blonde woman because he’d had a couple hours of sitting there to recognize the brunette. They’d come into the store yesterday afternoon to get some clay masks and girlie stuff. They were staying in town at a B&B, having a girls’ weekend. He remembered stuttering over how tired he was, making small talk with them at the register. He remembered how he couldn’t shut up, kept babbling, because he was so beat. They laughed, either at a joke, or at him as they’d left through the sliding door.
He thought he overheard the paramedics saying something like how the blonde’s airbag had triggered, but it made no difference since the steering column went straight into her chest.
He’s waiting for them to get the jaw-things to pry him out of the car. In the meantime they took the brunette out of his windshield, broke his driver’s side window in so they could reach in, give him some water, put a blanket on him—which was good because it covered up his lap so he couldn’t see his legs, or all that girl’s blood.
Nothing to do but wait at this point.
The stars were all gone now that the sun was coming up.
Sounds began to soften for Skip. Sirens, police radios and agitated paramedics started to take a backseat in his consciousness.
Skip realized he didn’t know the girls’ names and felt heavy for it. His head felt heavy, too.
And his eyes.
It’s about time he got some sleep.
Gwynn V. Fulcher is a writer/performer from Maryland who has made Chicago her home. An ardent lover of the live lit community that is thriving in the city, Gwynn has been invited to read her essays and stories live on stage for shows such as WRITE CLUB, Guts & Glory, The Paper Machete, Collector’s Edition, Miss Spoken and Live Lit Showdown. Her blog and some of her writing can be found at http://gwynnoutloud.weebly.com/.