Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy unblinking eyes. Deep and haunting. Surrounded by the blood pouring down her forehead. Her left hand reaching for my forearm as I work feverishly to undo her seat belt. Her breathing is laboring, a gargling sound with each heave of her chest. My mind races with the endless possibilities I am currently facing. I find myself in this perilous situation alone on a long stretch of south Louisiana country road in near total darkness. Her phone, still in her right hand, provides me with the only light inside the car. It lights up with every text received from someone who is a total stranger to me. “911!” I think as I pull myself from inside her window and reach in my pocket for my phone. I run my finger across the screen to unlock it. The light now reveals my home screen streaked with her blood and the zero coverage sign on the top bar. “Shit, what do I do?” I say out loud. I look both directions on the highway and see the beautiful stars among the large oak trees towering above us. “The heavens” I think briefly. The sound of movement inside the car reminds me of the grave situation I find myself in. I stick my body inside and feel her chest rise against my ear as I reach for the seat belt a second time. I hear that deep gargle sound again and a faint “I don’t want to die.” She she is aware of the situation. “How do the hell I help her?” I think as I wrestle with the seat belt. I am just a 16 year old farm boy returning home from my grandmothers house when I stumbled into this awful situation. Now, in what seems like only seconds since I arrived, a life before me is slipping away in front my very eyes. I take a deep breath as the seat belt finally unfastens. My brain finally registers the smell of burned rubber, gasoline and alcohol. “What do I do?” I yell as I again pull myself from inside the window. I attempt to open the door to the car to no avail. “Miss! Miss!” I say in a panicked voice. “Can you hear me?” The only response I receive is yet another laboring breath. My mind goes blank. Suddenly I hear a man telling me to get in my car and drive to the next house for help. I oblige and race to a farm house about two miles south of the accident. I quickly exit my car and run to the front door. I knock vigorously. “I need help!” I yell into the door. I hear footsteps between my gasping breath. I look at my feet as the door opens and the light from within shines upon me. As my eyes slowly work their way from my feet to my shirt and dangling arms I notice I am covered in blood. I hurriedly tell the man of the situation as he hurriedly pulls me inside the foyer. He yells to his wife, still out of sight to me, to call 911 while he quickly puts his boots on. “You stay here with my wife while I head to the scene.” My body trembles as I notice the injured lady’s handprint on my blood covered forearm. The farmer’s wife calls me into the living room where she ask for the number to call my parents. I stood in silence waiting for their arrival.
Now, two days later I stand next to this painting in the hallway of the town funeral home. I am staring at it intensely oblivious to my current surroundings. I am here at the request of the parents of Shelia Dowling, the young lady I tried to assist on that dark country road. The funeral home employee has gone to tell them of my arrival. I am scared beyond belief. I don’t know anything about her injuries or eventual passing. I didn’t read about the accident though my mother told me it was on page two of the daily paper and the internet. I feel just as helpless as I did that night. If I leave these men in the painting and walk down the hallway I will certainly see the body of the lady I struggled alone to help. I have never seen a dead body before. “What do I say to them?” I think to myself. I was absolutely NO help to their daughter. And I know no one here. I am alone. My mind not able to erase the vision Shelia’s eyes accompanied by the sounds of her struggling for air. I am shaking as the parents approach me. The employee quietly introduces us. “Micheal, meet Evelyn and Sterling Dowling. They are Shelia’s parents and are very happy that you came today.”
Mr. Dowling is the first to extend his hand for mine. As we shake hands I look at the face of Mrs. Evelyn and notice the red cheeks and swollen eyes. After my hand is freed, I reach out and hug her. In a trembling voice I say “I am so sorry.” I then let out a river of tears accompanied by my loud wailing as if it was my own family member loss that evening. I feel the father’s hand on my back and here his words “We are so proud how brave you were to offer help to our daughter. I am sure your presence gave her much comfort and for that we are forever grateful.” Mrs. Eveyln held me tightly and stroked my back. “Wipe your tears Michael,” she says calmly. “You are a wonderful young man and I wish you nothing but the best in your future. You will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.” I wiped my face with a kleenex offered by the funeral home worker. The visit is brief. The mother kisses me on the cheek and says thank you once again. I promptly turn around and walk out into the hot and humid Louisiana air. As i walk to my car, I understand that I was forever changed. I will be forever connected to Sheila Dowling though we only came into contact for five minutes of my sixteen plus years on this planet. I will never forget her. I hope to meet her again.
This work of fiction was written for The Speak Easy #162 at Yeah Write
As a young kid, Marty and his mama spent weekend nights in rural southern bars listening to dad play with his band. As a teen he learned to play under countless hours of alcohol-induced instruction and degrading comments from his dad.
The family went through financial hardship. There was no playing catch in the back yard. No family nights huddled by the radio. Divorce left young Marty alone with his dad in a run down shack on the edge of town. Through it all, music bonded the two of them like chords and lyrics do a song.
Marty went on to become a successful musician. He played on stages around the world. It brought him financial stability. However, his greatest joy was playing alongside his dad in the smokey bars back home.
Eventually Avery understood why he never invited to play at the home of his friend Johnny. It was a simple reason that has been a part out the deep south since men first settled there. For Avery, not allowing his best friend to know that he knew the reason was the color of his skin was tougher on him than the reality of not being allowed there in the first place.
The mother and young daughter reached the alley behind the restaurant. The girl stretched her arms toward the sun for warmth and noticed the beautiful dress hanging from the balcony.
“Mama, you tink we ever be able to buy me a dress like dat?” she said pointing upward.
“Naw! Don’t be silly child. You know we aint gonna be able to afford anything like dat. Dats for rich folks. Be happy for what you got. Now turn a’round and take dis from mama, ya hear me,” she said holding bread still in its plastic wrapper.
Molly turned away from the bright-colored dress with tears in her eyes. “Yes ma’am,” she said.
I went over the word limit. Just couldn’t cut anymore and make this work. Hopefully it does.
Peter lived a lonely life. A young soul conceived not through love but through lust. A one night stand caused by alcohol. High schoolers whose life would become all hard work with minimal reward. A life of constant unhappiness and loneliness. Add the stress of raising an unwanted child in a catholic dominated town that shuns out-of-wedlock conception. Peter never had a chance.
He understood his lot in life. He was a loner. A pimpled faced teen with very few friends in a small town that lauds macho high school players and prom queens and cast out those who are different. He grew into a man all alone.
Peter longed for the voice of Freddie or Stevie. The ability to capture an audience and give them a feeling of escape if only for three minutes. The talent to use his fingers on a guitar or piano and sooth the pain of those who look to music to escape the brutal reality of their own life. He longed for the talent to write words that inspire readers searching for healing. Words that he could express for those who understood yet never are able to write themselves.
An unloved soul searching for acceptance in life. He searched the end of the rainbow only to discover a deep, empty cauldron. His only reward was the brief view of the optical phenomenon of droplets reflecting their light. An illusion which parallels his life.
His smile hides the tracks on his skin. His escape from the brutal truth. One conceived without love can’t be loved. His pedantic life is followed by a single set of footprints on a sandy beach. Only to be swept away by the tide into the vastness of the ocean. Never to be seen again.
Yet Peter was a great actor. He walked the streets of his southern town with a beautiful smile. Content to those who knew him. A superficial expression of happiness to those who didn’t. His life a slow and painful death.
He stared at the pay phone. A relic from a time long ago. Now silent. A reminder of a call from a stranger. A female voice. Still as clear as the day he lifted the receiver from the pay phone and listened to her words. The voice hauntingly peaceful yet filled with trepidation. A one sided conversation about an unimportant life mixed with a tearful apology.
Why did he answer? Was it authentic? He searched the papers the day after. Nothing.
Sleepless nights followed. More self abuse. A new path of destruction. Now he lifts the phone. Will anyone answer?