The Car Crash


The Car Crash


Stunned is what I was, a backseat passenger head-bumped into the back of the red Mustang driver’s seat. Her parent’s car. Mother would apparently be so angry. So very angry. She was going to be in big trouble. Neck slightly sideways to the right, a weird soft pain sensation, new to me at sixteen. Maybe just stiffness.


The driver a friend of a friend I would never get to know, not now anyway, not now that the movie we were to see together would be replaced by listening to drivers and witnesses and cops discuss the boring details of the low speed crash at the intersection of Bane and Spring streets.


New signal, used to be a two-way stop. She didn’t know, didn’t see, didn’t notice the change. Said that over and over and over again. To the cop, the other driver, the witness. To the other people in the car. My friend, her friends. Who was I? A friend of Mason’s, along for the ride. For the movie.


Who was Mason? Two seats over from me. My friend from school since third grade. Invited me along to the movie with these girls. His friends. Bedroom wall caved in when a beehive grew too heavy in between the wood paneling and the exterior wall of his parent’s house, in seventh grade I think. How is that relevant? Most significant memory of hanging out with Mason, that’s how. Yellow jackets flooded into the room. We ran out. You asked who Mason was. That’s who Mason is. A great guy, good friend. Knows lots of girls. Fun guy.


Where was Mason now? Good question. Look around. Mason? Look the other way. Mason? Nowhere. Vanished into thin air. Mason lived four blocks from the scene, and had probably wandered off silently, wisely avoiding the dull on-the-scene investigation questioning idiocy. And oh what a scene it was!


A crowd gathered for the town’s event of the day. New fire engine red Mustang. Parent’s car. Scandalously borrowed by seventeen-year-old for date with sixteen-year-old and her friends and his friends. Smushed by an old Pinto. Big trouble. Old people, young people, teen people, traffic directing cop, questioning cop, corner house people, kitty-corner apartment building people. Talking together like crows. Like they knew what happened.


Was alcohol consumed? A fair question given the repeating “didn’t know, didn’t see, didn’t notice” thing. And the slightly stunned stumbling, a result of being dazed no doubt.


No, no alcohol that I knew of, but then again, I was only in the car for half a mile at most. My house was just across the field. Over there. Down the street, left and left again. Like that. I had no idea about alcohol, really. No interest in it either. Tasted bad, all of it. Ugh. Tried it when I was eight. Dad gave it to me. A beer. In the tavern on Old Germantown Road. Had my first and last puff of a cigarette that day too, out back of the tavern. Coughed and coughed. Tasted good though. Not really. It’s what I told the woman standing by me asking questions, whose eyes went wide, whose arms gestured in the air toward her husband or brother, who turned and turned as if searching for sense in a tiny invisible turnstile, arms flapping aimlessly. Irresponsible father, she said. As if I didn’t know, eight years before. Champ he was now though, always there when I needed him. With a joint or a shot of whiskey, I told her. Joking. Not really.


How easily steel is rumpled, I noted. How little it does to protect the people inside. Then again, if it wasn’t there, the people would have been crushed. Then again, the people wouldn’t have run into each other. At ten or thirty miles an hour. More like two or three. Maybe it would have been a near miss, but surely the reaction time of independent bodies walking would have been more direct, I told her, than the extended reaction time imposed by mind to body to foot to brake pedal to brake rotors to tires to pavement. Whole contraption—and the situation—ridiculous. Ridiculous! The woman ambled away, wisely, clutching her husband’s or brother’s arm.


I would rather have been out hiking than listening to boring people collect boring details of a boring car crash with said boring people interested only in exchanging insurance information to get their boring cars fixed for free. Unrumple the steel. Paint it, clearcoat it, like toenails.


The details were simple. Driver one and driver two weren’t paying attention and ran into each other. Or driver one wasn’t paying attention and ran into driver two. Or vice versa. Steel was crushed. All drivers and passengers were basically OK. Witness didn’t know who had run what. Drivers couldn’t or wouldn’t say who had done what. Drivers fine, girls fine, no injuries.


Driver, you might want to sit down a second, get your legs under you. Hold my hand a second? Sure, that’s fine. Glad you’re OK.


Mason split. Crowd disbanded. Cops gone. Much folly, no favorite. Can everyone walk? Think? Move? Yes. Great! Let’s walk to the late showing.


Me? Didn’t know the signal had been installed. Head turned right, didn’t see the crash. Looking into the pretty symmetrical eyes of the petite female stranger sitting next to me who had placed her hand on my inner thigh sixty seconds after I sat down. Where is she now? Probably with Mason. Didn’t notice if the light had changed. Not a credible or useful witness. Just a dumb guy sitting in a dumb car. Not a driver. A movie goer, usually walked to the theater. In fact, doing that now. Neck’s a little stiff, sure to be alright. The walk will help.


You’re better now? Ok, good. Nice to meet you. Sorry for your trouble. Goodbye and good luck.

Kelly Ian


Kelly Ian writes literary fiction and poetry. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and was a recipient of the Eloise Klein Healey scholarship. His works have appeared in Alternate Route, Paragraph Planet, KNOCK, and Lunch Ticket. Kelly is the senior editor of Short Beasts. He is currently writing his third novel.

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