Thursday was out to get me. That much was apparent. On the verge of the most important day of my life, and I was stuck on the side of 71 highway with smoke pouring out from under the hood. Now, I’m pretty much the opposite of a mechanical genius. My knowledge of cars is that gas goes in the tank, the wheel steers, one pedal goes and one pedal stops. I can’t even drive a stick, so by my best assessment the car was fucked. Apparently, screaming obscenities through poorly contained tears and punching various parts of the interior wasn’t the proper solution for fixing it either. It took a bit for that all to wear out before it occurred to me that I might be better off calling someone else for help. That’s when I realized that I’d left my cellphone sitting on the kitchen counter ten miles away.
So that’s basically how I found myself walking down the side of the highway in a 100 degree heat wearing a suit. That’s about the worst thing you can ever have happen to you, aside from probably being disemboweled with a sharpened manhole cover, but it’d be a close second. As I walked along the chalk-dust covered shoulder, sweat seeping through my shirt and jacket, I began to imagine the coming conversation in my head. I was sure it would be an uphill battle, starting with a collect call to someone I was basically begging for money. Yeah, who makes a collect call anymore? Of course, I was dominated by the thought that there was absolutely no way this guy was going to even reschedule the meeting, let alone give me fifty grand.
It was about the thirtieth run through along those lines when I heard the crash. Some jackass had been hauling wooden pallets on a flat bed trailer without straps. 71 highway isn’t exactly in great shape, and as soon as the dick-face hit one of those metal plates that almost covers a giant pothole the whole damn load came crashing down across all four lanes. The first car to hit the pallets made a heavy crunch as it smashed into the concrete barricade about twenty yards behind me.
I’m not going to lie. I shat myself. There might have been a bit of pee, too, but I have a visceral memory of shit running down my legs, melting together with the sweat. That’s the big memory. I was standing on the side of the highway with shit sliding around inside my slacks and thinking, “I’m going to die now. I’m going to die covered in my own shit.”
It was one of those moments that you see on TV where everything just seems to go into slow motion and all the sounds are drowned out by your own heart beat. I watched another dozen cars hit those pallets and go spiraling off in every direction as I just stood there, frozen to the spot. It was beautiful in it’s own way, like some sort of choreographed dance. I can remember specifically thinking about how disappointing it was that nothing was exploding. There are always explosions in the movies.
Then it stopped, and I was alive. I was surrounded by smashed cars and broken glass. Everywhere I looked I could see the people inside their cars with bleeding cuts and swollen bruises. There was this same shocked, confused expression on each person. I knew I was probably wearing the exact same expression, although I was covered in dust, sweat and my own feces instead of blood. That expression was a question, one we were asking each other as we looked around, “How the hell am I still alive?”
I was vaguely aware of someone asking me if I was okay. The question didn’t really register as words to me at the time. My mind had stopped processing language. It was too busy dealing with the fact that I was still standing there. All it could seem to bring back out was, “I’m gonna miss my meeting.” Whoever it was must have decided that meant I wasn’t hurt because they didn’t ask me again.
The whole thing made me suddenly very tired, and I just sat down there on the side of the highway. I guess I shut down, because I don’t really remember anything between when I sat down and when the cop dropped me off at home. He recommended I get a shower pretty soon. I could smell me. He had a point, so I took his advice then passed out on couch.
The next morning, my entire body was hurting, probably as much from the walking as the accident. I got a ride back up to the highway to see if I could get my car started enough to limp it home, but it wasn’t there.
After all that, I didn’t just miss my meeting. My damn car got towed.
It wasn’t looking like Friday would be any better.
This piece was written as part of the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge.