DRIVER- a short story by HD Wilde, part 1 of 3

There isn’t much left to say:  I’ve burned out on attempting to dose heavy on downers and stop my brain from breathing. I don’t have a pool or a garage in the apartment complex, and I read electrocution is painful, so I just want to do it the quickest, easiest way. And I’m scared as hell when it comes to heights. I don’t know, I just figured a good running start out into the pavement’s clouds with my eyes closed and the thought of my mother’s beautiful brown eyes blinking…

Rain, more a misty mountain fog than full frontal rainforest deluge, was coming down and the humidity was forcing an itch onto my wrist, which crawled underneath my watch, and after a couple of tomcat scratches I forced my wipers into an acid patterned frenzy of whoosh and swoop. Overkill, but it was enough to clear my lines of sight to the yellow hash marks and pedestrian crosswalks and reflecting Caution: Deaf Children signs ahead. I slid my driving hand across the wheel towards the middle cup holder for a pack of Marlboro Reds. I was an hour and ten minutes into my evening commute, a journey from the farmlands to the edge of the city, too late for the sunsets but just right for lunar risings.

 Fat, fleeting spots, blobs from the sky, ran sideways and highways across my windshield; a mechanical sweat brought on by the dripping moonlight. The road ahead was clean and nubile below but above it had been draped over by an in-between-the-worlds shamanic kind of mist, being revealed and hidden between the sliding steel worn blades. There was not another set of fluorescents in sight. Planted steady in my seat I flipped my hat backwards and cranked clockwise the handle of the passenger side window jack. I lit a cigarette. My eyes stayed elevated as my hand cranked back at the handle, fluid from palm to plastic, and I noticed a delicate faced mother bopping towards me cloaked by an urban chic burning yellow rain poncho. She was excavating the glazed sidewalk with thoughtful digs of her heels and her grace reflected back at me thanks to my frontal illuminators. With her, slightly ahead, rolled a plastic domed space pod she bought from Walmart that had been price marked as a child’s carriage.

Smoke singed around my bushy eyelashes and I exhaled and squinted and she was cute enough so I wanted her to see me ripping a very cowboy-ish drag in hopes of molding my third eye’s projection of myself seem daring and foreign and worth leaving her husband over. I kept the window down just enough, and then I realized the situation, one of those subconscious come conscious sort of decisions where you are handcuffed in the silliness of what you are doing once you come to and begin psychoanalyzing the act, but all while the act is in effect. A sort of limbo twisted sexually driven weirdness of embarrassment. The kind of stuff everyone feels in high school, all the time.

The interior of the car cabin was beginning to boil and sweat and resemble the elements colliding outside so I kept cranking the driver’s window down. I yawned and itched at my wrist.

Illinois 45 dips like a half crescent moon onto Illinois 21 and the turn southbound is silky and hugs the wheels like a teenage tweener bra, terse and tight yet comfortable enough to lull any driver into a quiet, self assured confidence. The centrifugal force awakens flashbacks of fetal womb movements and Tiny Tot swimming lessons and the days when people rose you in the morning and put you to sleep at night with “I Love You’s.”

 I was taking a drag off the Red, tired, while I re-enacted an exchange in my rearview window that had taken place earlier in the workday, a back and forth outside Conference Room T31-101 between himself and some pasty skinned and beady eyed product line supervisor. There was an important blunder I had uncovered in his argument over why I needed to submit my Service Error Reports (SERs) in an email even though it already got logged into the Service Monitoring Systems (SMSs)…you’re sensing the frivolity of it all, but at the time I was enraptured and excited to get back into the bloody fray for a second go.

An invisible opponent is sometimes a more meaningful one and I was winning this argument. It’s incredible how easy the upper hand is found after a couple moments in an isolated and enclosed analysis, self stewing and recreating the wrinkles in one’s face . Man truly is the master of the four door universe. But here comes the ad nauseam psychoanalysis again so back to the organic virtue of it all…

I flicked the Number 6 preset on FM2 so I could catch the tail end of 97.1’s The Mid Night Drive’s Live Night Time Ride; my free hand scurried through the pre-sets and my other clenched the steering wheel as The Who’s My Generation came pouring through my makeshift dashboard radio. I had to rig it after my prior model was pinched. I was whiskey drunk at a Southside street fest, taco stains on my shirt and pissing down a back alley with my car unlocked out front on a crowded and corrupt Blue Island Ave. It was and will forever be my last Southside street fest, ever.

I navigated my hand away from the nipple hair sensitive dial and back to the wheel. After eleven or twelve pats of my thumb on the faded leather cover, right as I began to lose Moony on the snare, my peripherals identified a specter’s trail hurling onto the street and past the safety of the curb, jaunting from behind a car or tree or both, some mass. I remember it streaming like a drunken wasp or a shooting star and blending into the whipping steam clouds of cooling asphalt that buoyed around the vehicle’s path. Vapor and sweat and carcinogenic tars abound and a strange amorphous mass crossing into my path; I had turned down a street that would change a thousand lives forever and there was a musk like you’d find in the coke room of a Kentucky whorehouse.

Everything was universal and allegorical and alive and all the music had stopped.

I turned my head towards the passenger side window, blinking, my amygdala gripping hold of the system’s motor cortex controls, all before the worst kind of –Honey, the wedding china’s been smashed by the Carpathian shepherds- sonic boom filled my once road-tested-sound-proofed cabin. My vision periscope’d back just as the deafening skull thud whomped but it was a short glance and I was unable to catch sight of the figure’s face before it blackened out across the windshield. Before I closed my eyes for good and turned to the door and slammed on the breaks.

Its head ricocheted off its body shortly after meeting the vehicle’s industrial strength hood and then windshield of tapered glass. Rain coat running mother couldn’t have missed the hairy dome bounding and clicking like a horse hoof out into the middle of the street, and she probably lost her breath just as the mantelpiece moseyed under the front left tire of a Jeep sputtering, but not soon enough, to a halt in the westbound lane. Mommy’s scream pierced my ears and was a singular sensory compass as my wheels bounced over the curb and tore through the city grass and through the side of a willow sapling that had been planted as part of a local highway rejuvenation project the previous spring.

My eyes were shut and the bulk of my neurochemical resources had mobilized down the fight or flight pathways. Left for dead were the ‘stop and calmly attempt to make some sense out of this shit’ molecules.

A tree collided, or I ran into a tree and the halt of motion and I struck me solid and the next noise I heard was the driver’s side airbag pistol whipping across my brow, talcum powdered and quicker than any undersized and over-ego’d Puerto Rican fist lurking in East Harlem. Then black went to blank. Time had fuzzed into space and situation and the running sink of cause and effect wasn’t clear like it was supposed to be. Sunspots of blood stained the windshield. Mommy was still wailing. I immediately checked my forehead. I felt no red on my fingertips and concluded the molasses was on the outside of the spider web cracking glass so I pushed the deflating canvas chute out of my way and flung open the door.

Birds were running their mouths in the distance and I panicked and visualized my stash of pot and wrestled it from the center console and flung it into the Forest Preserve woods across the street, shifty eyed and I’m really sweating and I had to do it before any sort of mob scene could erupt or police evidence could be procured. I inhaled, for the first time in a while, and brought my focus to this lifeless hump of a being, decapitated and snow angeling indelible red stains all over an asphalt, still salty from winter’s blizzards and weekend long ice sleets.

Like I said it wasn’t raining enough to really be rain, let alone a rain strong enough to wash the blood off this porous and phosphate cracked suburban thoroughfare. Everything pooled and collected and I had difficult discerning solid from liquid from gas.

Gazing towards the tongues of my weathered brown stained loafers and I slouched down on a strip of sod stripped grass that had been unearthed by the burning tires. The cool ground came up and moistened my bottom chakra, the coiled serpent, and I grabbed at an ID badge hanging from a belt loop on my hip. The man in the picture was smiling, and for a brief tick, with my head in my elbows, I smiled back at him and was glad I had discarded the paraphernalia and incriminating evidence.

But then came tock and I began to think about the last occasion I had insufflated any sort of speed analogues. Vehicular homicide meant a drug test and this now controllable scene could easily transform into a crippled dynamite fisherman’s gin soaked last stand. I scratched at my head and lost my smile and guessed it had been at least a month since any of those sort of particles had vacuum accelerated up my nasal cavities and spray-painted themselves onto my frontal cortices.

My smile did not return so I decided to return my fuzziness to the body in the street for a second take.


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