Red Light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is a collection of my memories surrounding a pivotal moment in my life.

Submitted: June 08, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 08, 2016



 I'm crouching behind the deck to our house with my stepsister Heather, on our fourth or fifth round of hide-and-go-seek with the neighborhood kids. We’re bidding our time before we take off for the base when a loud "BANG" reverberates throughout the ravine that runs behind the house.  We look at each other and start to giggle, thinking that Heather's boyfriend Jonathan has hit the garage door while trying to get to the base, which on a previous round had been changed to our mailbox for fear of knocking over our normal base, a wobbly old lamppost stationed in the middle of the front yard.  We're so engrossed in our game that we don't remember the garage door is up; and there's no way Jonathan could have hit it.

Coming around the house, someone yells to call 9-1-1.  Heather takes off inside, but my eyes are drawn toward the road, where an SUV is stopped by the mailbox.  Its headlights are shining on a crumpled body lying in the street about twenty feet from the front of it.  I walk towards it, thinking that the body is my brother's best friend, Stephan.  As I get closer, I notice that a familiar tennis shoe is lying behind the truck.  It's white and blue.  A size 11 1/2.  Pretty large for a fourteen-year-old. And there's only one person I know who wears a size 11 1/2 at fourteen.


A flash of red lights, then darkness.


I stand on the side of the road and step out of my body to watch myself scream at the top of my lungs.  The body doesn’t belong to Stephan after all.  It belongs to my brother.  It's his shoe sitting behind the truck, which had struck him so hard, he flew out of them.  A trickle of blood is on the side of his mouth, and he's not moving.

My mother is running out of the house in her nightgown screaming, "My baby! My baby!" over and over again.  She runs straight into the street, while I have been trying to force my body to move, but can't seem to make it past the grass that separates the street from our front yard.

I look to my left where a man sits, hunched over the edge of where our driveway dips down to meet the street.  He has his head in his hands, refusing to look up, and he's rocking back and forth while a woman tries to comfort him.  I can only guess that he was the one driving the SUV.


A flash of red lights, then darkness.


Police and ambulance sirens pierce the night.  Even though the sun set not more than ten minutes ago, it seems as if it's been dark for ages; time seems to be acting in a suspended state. The flashing lights from the ambulance light up the faces in the crowd that has formed on the sides of the street.  They only become clear in flashes of red light before they are thrown into darkness.  But in those few minutes, I can make out familiar faces from the neighborhood.  Accidents always seem to draw crowds.

My stepfather pulls me to where my stepbrother, stepsister, and a few friends who were part of our game, are sitting under the dogwood tree that serves as a background for pictures in our front yard.  I'm told to sit there to calm down.  But, all I can see are the paramedics trying to put my brother in the ambulance, and my stepfather trying to get my hysterical mother to go inside and change into her clothes so that she can ride in the ambulance with him, and the police questioning people and marking where the SUV was, and where my brother landed after being thrown from its hood, and where that lonely shoe sat behind the truck, it’s counterpart having ended up underneath the truck’s body.  I’ll never be able to look at that street the same again.


And it's all in a flash of red lights then darkness.


Our babysitter is called in to stay with my step siblings and me, and my grandparents, aunts and uncles drive the hour from Ashtabula to sit with my mother and stepfather at the hospital.  It’s amazing how orderly chaos can feel.

The next day I was scheduled to take a trip to Sea World with the cheerleading squad, which I had made for the first time.  My brother had been so excited for me when I had told him I had made it. But I go back and forth about whether or not I should go. 

Everyone insists I go ahead on the trip, and my stepsister tells me that when my mother and stepfather came home in the night to get a change of clothes, she heard them say that my brother was talking, so that must be a sign that he’s getting better.  So, I  decide to go, believing that my brother is getting better and is going to be okay with nothing more than some broken bones to show for his ordeal.  Because, really, who ever believes that anything truly bad can happen to a fourteen-year-old child? 

When I come back from the trip, my mother and stepfather are there to pick me up.  And as soon as my mother gets into the back seat with me, I know. 


The casket sits against the back wall.  The stream of people simply keeps coming.  I unfortunately know the routine.  I put on my brave face, and don't cry,  and haven’t since right after I found out, even though I feel as if I should.  Like it's expected or something.  Instead, I shake the hands and accept the hugs and say my "Thank you"s.


But there's no flash of red light this time.  Only darkness.

© Copyright 2018 Bridget Palumbo. All rights reserved.

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