The Halloween Project Day 2: Textual Evidence
Texting while driving can certainly get one in trouble. All kinds of trouble. I see people do it all the time. People swerve in and out, crossing the line. But perhaps there’s even more trouble waiting right around the bend or maybe even in your rear view mirror. This one, written today, is dedicated to all those folks who refuse to text and drive. Good for them.
Both right side tires of the late model Ford Fiesta dropped five inches from pavement to shoulder at the same time. Simon looked up from his new Samsung phone and his just completed text and shouted, “Flying Fuck!” Tires scrabbled on the slowly leaning and jutting trap rock. Stones rattled off the undercarriage and sprayed outside the passenger window. His mother jostled in that same seat.
Dropping his cell to the floor, Simon’s brain flashed to “What if’s” in the panicked moment as he grabbed the steering wheel in a futile attempt to straighten the now swerving car. What if I had gotten a new set of tires like I meant to instead of these bald pieces of shit? What if I was not doing 70 miles per hour down this back woods country lane? What if I had just taken the highway instead? What if I had a four wheel drive car like that second hand Subaru I was looking at? What if it was day time? What if I wasn’t just a little drunk, how many was it, four screwdrivers? Finally, Simon’s brain turned itself around and stared straight into his consciousness. What if I wasn’t texting?
The first tap against the heavy metal guardrail seemed like a warning knock on the door when the landlord came to collect the rent. Simon thought the car might just bounce off, do a little spin and end up back on the pavement. That was when the second grinding, sparks erupting, crash propelled the car into an automobile launching pad. 2000 pounds of metal and speed spat the right hand side of the car onto the top of the guard rail. A millisecond later inertial energy pulled the rest of the metal carcass onto the rail. Tires blew as the car balanced and ran down the rail and then jumped again. Air and fifteen feet of nothing watched as the Ford flew, a broken metal bird dying toward the ground.
When it hit the sharply angled slope the axle snapped like dry pasta, and the car began to careen trunk over transmission. Simon’s air bag expanded, his seat belt held. His mother went through the windshield in one graceful arc of head, limbs, torso, heels. Simon watched, curiously amazed and actually impressed at the smoothness and fluidity of her body.
The windshield exploded in his face and for some odd reason he remembered being at a local bar some years ago when one of his so-called “friends” smashed a Miller Lite bottle against his forehead. It did cost him 23 stitches but the court awarded him $15,000. Would have been more if he hadn’t hit that son of a mother with a pool cue over his back first. Some of the glass shards only cut him, some stuck to his face, sharp souvenirs like the glass beaks of an old lady’s collection of decorative birds.
Both Simon’s arms broke neatly in exactly the same place three inches above his wrists while he still futilely tried to death grip the steering wheel. Several vertebrae in his back went next, a perfect straight flush of the lumbar region, with all five exploding into a 100 piece puzzle of gristle and powdered bone. He couldn’t feel a thing below his waist as the gas pedal and brake drove through his right shinbone as neatly as a butcher’s craftwork.
Two, three, five rolls and then a jarring stop, an amusement park ride with its brake thrust too quickly. There was noise and there was blood. A good measure of both. But no fire. Thank god, no fire.
The ambulance, fire truck and police arrived sooner than he would have expected. Later he’d find out that a late night motorist, even on this lonely old road, had actually seen him toss the car over the guardrail. That motorist called 911 but was too old to go down and help. Jaws of Life were used to extricate him from the car. Jaws of Life, hell. His mother’s body was found a ways off. A long ways off.
Griffin Hospital was where he woke up three days later. He noticed his broken and cast right arm was handcuffed to his bed. Two policemen were waiting for him. One in uniform, one not.
“Simon Duffy?” the plainclothes cop asked in a question as if he didn’t already know. Simon was seeing a little double, not sure if there weren’t four cops in the room. He garbled a word, but his mouth felt unfamiliar. Perhaps it belonged to someone else. The cop extended a plastic cup of water with a straw at a weird angle. Simon tried to move his head but his neck didn’t seem to be working too well either. He glanced down at the body beneath the sheet below him. There were a damn lot of tubes going this way and that. Lots of different colors of liquids were being either forced in or sucked out.
“Mr. Duffy, you’re in bad shape, sir. You’ve got a broken back, a broken leg and two broken arms. And that’s just for starters. Your internal injuries are very severe as well; ribs, spleen, collapsed lung. I guess someone might say you’re lucky to be alive, but that’s not quite the truth either. You see that you’re handcuffed here as well. You’re arrest warrant reads vehicular manslaughter.”
Simon sat and pondered this announcement for a long minute. He looked around the room. Clean, antiseptic, cold. Shit, he was a broken mess. He simply exhaled a long, slow sigh.
“Vehicular manslaughter,” he corrected, “I don’t think so.”
“Excuse me?” the officer asked, taking a quick shot look at the standing policeman at his shoulder.
“That didn’t happen,” Simon said.
“Oh yes sir, I’m afraid it right as rain did. Your mother was in that car with you. You were traveling at 70 miles an hour give or take. You were texting at the time of the accident. You were actually ordering a pizza when you went off the road. We have the order. You dropped the phone and they heard everything. And the exact time. Mushrooms and sausage with extra garlic,” he added as if that was the final verdict proof fact. “She was in much worse shape that you are. Dozens of broken bones, even her neck. You did kill your mother, Mr. Duffy.”
“Well, now you’ve got it right,” Simon said flatly and with no emotion, “I strangled that bitch a week ago Tuesday.”