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Momentum is Mass and Velocity




A two thousand, seventy-five-pound vehicle moving at a rate of forty miles per hour comes into contact with an immovable object. The momentum is strong enough to bend iron. The force of the impact, so severe, steel rips like paper, bone rips like skin.



Momentum is Mass and Velocity



Christopher Benedict blasted his music as he cruised down curvy West Peachtree. He cranked it up and sang along—the life ahead of him filled with those rose scented curls of Charlene Clementine whose lips were still moist from their first kiss. Christopher cranked the radio again and his joyous voice boomed along Peachtree. The half-moon sparkled over the darkened Atlanta streets and Christopher smiled. The road turned forty-nine degrees to the right in a slow uphill arc. Christopher didn't follow it. He zoomed zero degrees north by northeast and the curb jolted him to attention. Along the straightest path he could manage he leapt over the sidewalk and destroyed his yellow Honda Civic on the grandest telephone pole in Fulton County.

            The frayed and green seatbelt hugged his left shoulder and his right hip. It burned his shirt and tore his skin. Unbridled, he twisted. Christopher torqued. He bowed. He kissed his cold steering wheel. His zygomatic bone took the brunt of the contact. His cheek shattered as the radiator absorbed the same impetus. Bone and steel are strong, but the momentum brought his nose in contact with the horn. His septum mirrored his oil tank, which deviated to the left. The tank and his nose busted and ripped sending warm, viscous flows of petroleum and blood. Then the windshield, as fragile as brain tissue, cracked and jostled inside its protective frame. The engine folded and ripped, but the Honda halted before the windshield was shattered—any additional velocity and Christopher’s eye would have been pushed into his brain. He would have been obliterated beyond repair.

He kissed the steering wheel and sat upright in his seat and a copious flow of hot hemoglobin and iron collected on the smooth cotton of his favorite black t-shirt. He unbuckled his seatbelt and peeled it back, disengaged it from the dermis.

            “Oh shit,” he said.

The door was stuck.

“Oh, shit,” he said.

He crawled over the emergency brake, collapsed on the grass, and backed onto the car to use it as leverage to lift himself. Blood poured from his face and puddled at his feet.

“Oh shit,” he said.

The purple Publix sign glowed across the plaza. Christopher left a trail of dark dollops behind him as he walked toward the payphone, he knew to be bracing the front of the store next to the pumpkins and firewood.

           

Charlene Clementine sat by the sliding glass doors of her apartment remembering the sweet kisses of the previous hour. She played with her curls and enjoyed the memory of the cinnamon flavor of Christopher’s lips. She felt the residual warmth of Christopher’s embrace. Her phone rang.

“Hello?”

            “I think I fucked myself up.”

            “Christopher?”

            “I just hit a telephone pole outside Publix.”

            “Where are you now?”

            “At the corner of Peachtree and Peachtree.”

            “Don't go anywhere.”

            Fifteen minutes and thirty-eight seconds later a red Mercedes convertible pulled across the intersection.

            “There’s blood on your upholstery,” he said.

            “Get in, I don’t care about that,” Charlene took off her shirt and handed it to him, “put that on your handsome face.” He buckled in, she peeled out, and they raced south by southeast down Peachtree.

            Fourteen minutes and seventeen seconds later Charlene had Christopher on a gurney. Sirens wailed. Together they traveled past lesser emergencies: a kid with alcohol poisoning; a baby with flu symptoms; a regular with a walker and a cough.

            Their hands locked. He remembered her wet lips and soft tongue; her long curls tickled his left cheek. Their hands squeezed. Her affection folded over him.

            But that didn't stop the bleeding.

            Christopher’s adrenaline drained and he lost the ability to move his neck.

            Thirty-seven minutes earlier Christopher had listened to the radio. He'd zipped away from her apartment, high on life and whiskey, her sweet breath still fresh on him, the smell of roses permeated his everything. One minute and seventeen seconds after that he had pushed fate straight through a pole on the corner of Peachtree and Peachtree at exactly zero degrees, north by northwest.



The gurney rolled down the white-ceilinged, fluorescent hall and Christopher thought first of Charlene, but the impact of the crash was inescapable and his body stiffened: fear gripped his muscles; his tendons lost their elasticity; his toes tightened as he white-knuckled his way down the corridor escorted by the prettiest woman in Georgia, his hand wrapped around her hand, his Honda wrapped around the pole on Peachtree and Peachtree.

            He’d had one and a three quarters of a second to learn everything he knew about physics as Atlanta’s finest pole had approached him with the aggression of a tiger. He had understood momentum is mass and velocity—to swerve was to die. If he had chosen to spin, he wouldn't have kissed his nostril goodbye, instead it would have been his head. If Christopher hadn't raced straight in at zero degrees the Civic would have bounced, the impetus would have made it careen. The car would have hit the front then the side then the back, jerking Christopher's head in three directions. The steering wheel would have knocked him out as he hit the top-right quadrant of his forehead and cracked his frontal bone. The car's momentum would have continued and his body would have been pulled across his seat, the belt would have held him as his head bent sideways. His neck would have snapped once on the second hit and again on the third. The third hit would have flung him into the driver-side window, his head would be broken, the window would be broken. Shards of hard glass would have entered his ear and cheek as his jaw turned to mush. Christopher would be dead.

            But he'd held strong. He'd moved his right foot three and two-thirds inches to the left and applied his brake. He'd smashed straight into the pole. He'd sat up and looked ahead. He'd thought there was a good chance the car would explode.

           

The center of his steering wheel had peeled back his right nostril when his car bounced across the sidewalk and his face was flung into the horn. This small fact was all the doctor's assistant seemed to notice.

            "The first thing we'll have to do is sew his nose up," she said.

            "What do you mean?" Christopher asked, "what's happened to my nose?"

            "What hasn't happened to your nose?" Charlene asked.

            "It seems I've ripped it clean off!"

            The assistant said, "This is going to hurt."

            Christopher hollered as she folded his nostril back into place and inserted the needle through and back. She repeated this move eleven times, each time eliciting a wail.

            "Could you please keep it down, you’re disturbing the other patients."

            Christopher hollered again.

            The assistant reached for a syringe and pumped him with two hundred and fifty milligrams of dilaudid. Charlene reached for him as his body relaxed and he fell deep into an opiated dream.



            Fulton’s finest telephone pole had been as well-lit as a rock star. It was even brighter in memory. It was frozen in time. The telephone pole, so unlike a deer in the headlights, awaited the inevitable.

            Christopher woke up several hours later. A plastic collar held his head in place and tepid sweat coated him from his mangled face to his distant legs. The white walls wobbled and stretched across the floor at thirty-eight degrees. The room was dark and empty. Christopher blinked.

            “Charlene?”

            His face in the full-length mirror at the end of the wall was bruised and black. Welts and bumps covered his cheek and mouth. A black ring traced the circumference of his right eye. His olfactory nerves were turned off to the agony of being rendered to elimination. His loose teeth were so numb he didn't yet realize they had been involved. His eyeball was beyond repair, the lens bent, but saved from obliteration by the broken protrusion of his brow. Machines gurgled and beeped. He was altered. For Charlene he had been spared. For Charlene he lay in his bed, splintered and sewn.

            “Christopher?”

            Charlene made her way across the room. Her hard-soled shoes announced each step on the wooden floor. He opened his good eye and there she was: her pearl skin and deep brown eyes; her odd little freckled nose; her long curly hair that hung over him as she stooped to be close. Christopher opened his blanket to her. She eased onto the bed and snuggled him, placed her head on his chest and stretched her small hand across his stomach.

            “Are you comfortable?” he asked.






Ariel Basom






Ariel Basom lives in Seattle. He is an avid reader who believes reading precedes writing. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. His work has appeared in Pif Magazine, The Pitkin Review, Monkey Bicycle, and more. Some of his favorite pastimes include cooking, baking, thrifting, and traveling

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