by Shane Waldo
Mike thought it was a pretty nice night to be walking. The road felt slightly warm beneath his sneakers from the mid afternoon sunlight that had peeked out on an otherwise gloomy fall day. Dead leaves clotted the sides of the road. Mike walked at a slow pace taking all this in, breathing in the cool black air. He always loved the air this time of year. Not quite cold enough to be chilly but just enough so it wasn’t choked with gnats and other flying buzzing insects. It was nights like this that the fog lifted from a man’s brain. A man could sit right here on the side of this road looking at those foreboding skeletal trees and write a book full of poems. But somehow that unfurling of the brain was double edged this evening. Something Mike could not quite put his finger on. He looked at the road ahead, a black stripe lined with a segmented yellow spine, twisting through acres of trees. Mike suddenly got a sharp pain beneath the sole of his right foot. He looked down and saw he had stepped on a broken bottle. What an odd thing, he thought in that washed Oxford slightly English voice that served as his inner narrator, I am missing my shoe. An image pierced his mind and ,honey slow down, then was forgotten before a lasting image could be made.
Sam and Mike had first made love on a night quite like this, he had suddenly recalled. In the cabin his father had kept for skiing in Boulder. They had spent their honey moon there and had actually waited till then to share themselves with each other. What he remembered most about it was not how great that final pent up release of warm ecstasy was but instead how well the air hit his lungs when he went out on the porch afterwards. So did this kind of weather always remind him of that time. A chill suddenly racked his body from seemingly nowhere. Like an icy hand shaking at his spine. He grasped the edges of his sweater vest with hands that seemed numb for some reason and slightly sticky. All well, he thought I will be getting home soon and can wash up then. Home for Mike was a small Mansion looking over the local man made lake. He had made a small fortune like his father, in stocks and bonds. Never had a hard day’s work in his life you could say. Unless hard is the stress of making important decision deals like whether to make ten thousand on this sale or bite it and only make eight. We all wish life could so fortunate. Not to short change the man, he is a genius at the shit. HONEY SLOW DOWN!!
A swimmy feeling suddenly came over him and he fell painfully to his knees. The gravel bedside the road puffed up white powder. His stomach clenched and he wretched. The warm puke made a wet smacking sound as it hit the ground and he wretched again in disgust. Bend over his knees he clearly saw blood mixed in with tonight’s dinner. He could not figure why there would be blood. Was he sick? He did not know for sure. Mike gathered his strength and came to his feet. The hot water balloon that had replaced his head almost overbalanced him again but he regained his center. He again was worried by what he saw in that vile excrement. I have never done that, he thought. This came as quite a surprise. In his blue collar button down world things like this were not discussed, hence did not happen. Why would a person puke up blood. Colon cancer, he thought. Then dismissed it as nonsense. He wasn’t thinking clearly. He took a few steps forward on leaden feet. He looked down at his feet again amazed by the slowness of his reflexes and motor skills. Again he saw only one shoe, honeyslowdown. What did that mean he wondered. A cold sweat broke out across his body and he started to walk as fast as he could in the opposite direction. A growing dark cloud was growing in his brain.
Two hundred feet or so down the road back the way he came. Along this slow walk he had a recurring question he could not answer. Why am I here? Not the kind of question we sometimes ask ourselves after a lover has just broken off a relationship or when confronted by a life defining moment but a simple question of bearing. Where the fuck am I, might have been more appropriate but a man like Mike would never use such a word thinking those who do ignorant. Mike could not grasp where he was, or even how he had gotten on this road. A twinkle of light off chrome caught his eye. He squinted his eyes to see where it came from. Squinting, he thought, where are my glasses? He trotted closer to where he had seen the reflection.
Mike stopped dead in the road. His heart trip hammered in his chest. A copper taste squirted from his salivary glands, filling his mouth. He knew with deadly certainty exactly where he was and what the fuck he was doing here.
I was driving home after a cocktail party, one of James cocktail parties. I had gotten myself a little drunk and Sam had offered to drive but I told her I could handle it, she gave me a flash of her blue eyes and I still didn’t given in so she did. We were on our way home…. we shared some of the gossip of the party as I came around that turn up there, she said “Honey slow down.” In that tone of hers that meant she wasn’t kidding around. So I let off the gas and looked over to her…. a brown blur came to my left, I looked forward and slammed on the breaks. The horrible squealing of the tiers, the pressure of the belts. I heard the soft thud of what ever it had been roll under the car. I saw the wheel twist and turn as we went off the road as we careened into the ditch and the trees…
He saw the deer he had hit now, bloodied and mangled but still alive. It’s legs twitched in feeble effort to escape it’s dying pains. Dark tears fell from it’s eyes in a pool below it’s head. The car lay at a forty five degree angle, the front end wrapped around a tree. The driver’s door stood ajar. Sam lay dead, flesh torn to ribbons on the hood one hand on her stomach in a half fist the other in an unnatural posture crooked behind her head. She looked like a broken doll. Disbelief filled Mike’s mind. He slumbered over to the car. The leaves tumbled around his feet. The smell of rubber was still in the air along with the arid smell of blood. As he got closer to Sam he saw more of the horror that she now is. The cuts the windshield made of her face reveal small tendons and muscles of her face. A face that once smiled when he touched the small of her back when entering doors. He came to the hood of the car and asked if she was OK. She gave no response. The gorge in Mike’s throat came up and he doubled over dry heaving. He saw his shoe, a expensive sneaker he always wore to casual occasions. Ones he would probably never attend again. At least not with company. He huddled himself by the drivers door finally noticing the red stain on his sweater and the clotting blood in his hair. He wretched blood again in the drying leaves, knowing he had internal injuries and not caring. He wanted so badly to get up and look at Sam again, then remembered how she looked on the hood of his new Lincoln and decided against it. If he were to die now he would not have that as his last thought. His mind was filled with thoughts that seemed alien. Why cant I just be back in my house, in my bed with the expensive sheets and down comforter. But the last thought to run through his mind before he passed out was one he had never had before. One a button down collage graduate like himself is faced with on a very rare basis. Why am I here? He wondered as he clenched his mid section.