Man on the Run
They gave me an hour for lunch. This much, even if only this much, I could talk about. The path to my desk took me past my boss. I tried to glide by, but he looked up and said, “You’re late.” Then he asked if I’d seen the accident.
I’d seen it, but I couldn’t relive it. Not so soon after. So I answered with the verbal economy I use with most everyone, but he wanted details. He didn’t get them. “Tragic,” I said, and nothing else. It would’ve been too risky to say more. What happened was this-I can talk about it now, no one’s lurking: she’d been thrown from the car, through the windshield to a crumpled mound in the street, but no one looked at her; they looked at the car. Whelmed with flames, yes, but was it screaming, was the car screaming? They wished it had been, but it wasn’t the car. Trapped inside a small boy let loose the wails of one being burned alive. And then they stopped. And there I stood on the corner, scoffing at my attackers. I could sense them lurking, I knew they’d try something.
After work I walked home, but fatigue forced me to rest on a park bench. Again I was under attack. This time they hid behind trees, crouched in bushes, but I knew they were there, so I sat still and veiled myself in a memory, the safest I could find: I went back to when I was eleven. I’d built a ramp from some bricks and an old piece of plywood. I squeezed my eyes into slits, peddled hard, and hoped my aim would hold. I felt a thud, then nothing but beautiful silence. So much more than just the absence of sound, it was the absence of everything. Then I the ground and all the bad things I escaped were there waiting. Even safe memories have an edge.
Later that night my grandmother called. She raised me. She heard about the wreck and it stoked her memory, so she called to stoke mine. “It wasn’t your fault,” she said, but she was talking about a different accident. When I turned ten, I wanted a red bike. It had to be red, but my dad wheeled in a green bike. Minutes later I heard the trunk close, then two car doors; they’d gone to make the exchange. And I never saw them again. The accident wasn’t their fault, and it wasn’t the other driver who killed them, either. It was me. They found a red bike in the back.
“No one blames you.”
No one but her. She wasn’t my grandmother anymore, just an old woman who wanted to fight, but I didn’t feel like fighting, so I changed the subject. It was the safe thing to do. “What you doing this weekend?”
She eased back to my grandmother. “There’s the ball game on Sunday, I guess I’ll watch it.”
That’s all she said, but it was enough. An ambush disguised as a lonely old lady using sports to resurrect her husband. My emotions, they’re getting clever, and this time they got the best of me. Sometimes I win, sometimes they win. It was so much easier on my bike. Time stood still. Now at best, it just slows down.
Foster Trecost writes stories that are mostly made up. They tend to follow his attention span: sometimes short, and sometimes very short. He lives in New Orleans.