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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man experiences inner turmoil as he watches the events of a car crash unfold before him.

Submitted: June 06, 2017

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Submitted: June 06, 2017





They had this girl on life support now and it really put people in a tizzyseeing pictures ofthe crunched up tinfoil car already plasteredacross the internet. It had only been a few hours and my wife, who was more emotionally invested in this than I was, had been reading media posts like they were newspaper headlines. From what I heard, the girlwasn’t getting any better. They’d taken her out on a helicopter. They were probably setting bones back into place, drenching her blood in Ativan..things like that. I don’t know much about modern medicine or it’s ability to raise the dead, but their effortsseemed like a show. The doctors were trying to turn a scrambled egg back into a yolk.

 My wife and I were sitting on thecouch, her legs thrown across mine. I was devoted to a bowl of cereal that would have made my father proud. He always mixed three different kinds of cereal into a bowl that a normal person would use to mix cake batter and other big ticket items. I was a gourmet chef when it came to cereal. It was a branch of culinary arts that didn’t require much talent. So I had been in the kitchen “riding the bus to Flavortown” with my generic oat combinations. My wife was buried in her phone, still scrolling through these posts.


“You need to prep yourself for this”, I said.

“Prep myself for what?”

“You do it every time something tragic like this happens. Some kid gets shot, a tree branch falls on a toddler, things like that, and you get it in your head that everything is going to untangle itself. Then the kid bleeds out, the toddler gets brain damage, and you, wrapped up in your positivity, get blue balls.”  


She’s ignoring me now.


“They’re calling for prayer.”, she said

“Who’s they?”

“The internet people. Like a mass prayer. That’s all I know.”  


I’m not religious, and she barely dips her toes in the holy water either. Though I think sometimes she liked to pretend that she was.


“Maybe if enough people pray all at the same time, God will have to work some kind of miracle. Like a petition prayer,” I said.


I’m teasing her now. She doesn’t care enough to notice.


“It doesn’t work like that,” she explained. “When you pray you’re supposed to say something like: thy kingdom come, thy will be done. You’re giving it to God.”


I didn’t quite understand. I was gathering all of my Bible school knowledge, voiding the parts where I took money from the offering and pretending thatthe space between pews was a trench on the Western Front. Sheand Irarely ever got aroundto talking about God, but when we did, I at least wanted to seem like I had some kind of understanding. Neither one of us were scholars, but we knew the difference between Jesus and the other bearded fellows.We just weren’t on the same page with what they were saying halfthe time.


“What’s the point then?”I said. You really want something, right? Be it a comatose girl to wake up or a pony or whatever, then you say: ‘God, I really want this dead girl to be alive, but hey, you do you, God. You call the shots.’ You’re giving God permission to ‘do his will’ at this point, right?”


“You’re awful at explaining it, but yes. That’s the motive here. Submission. You’re laying it out for God to decide.”


“Wouldn’t this whole situation be thrown on God’s lap regardless of whether we wrapped it up and put a bow on it?I said. Doesn’t everything come across his desk anyway?”

“Your whole ‘God-is-a-businessman-with-a-big-cozy-office’analogy is very confusing,” she said. “If you’re going to rant, at least be kind enough to speak standard english.”  



“Look, what I’m saying is that if no one prayed, if everyonejust sat quietly and observed behind their screens on the couch like us right now, and we all just waited, this girl would be at the mercy of God, if He’snot busy with someone else?”


“Yes,” she said. “God decides who He wants to die and who He doesn’t. He has divine reasoning for things like this.”


“Right,”I said. “So if we do decide to stand in a circle and hold hands and say the Lord's Prayer and dowhatever else people do, God still becomes the decider?”



 She didn’t say anything. I looked down at my big boy cereal that was now practically oatmeal, and as the minutes went by I was slowly sinking into our shabby little couch. In the silence all I could hear was my wife’s fingers thud against her little screen and the rattling of the air conditioner. I got to thinking about this girl being thrown around in her little tin foil car. She probably didn’t even have time to be afraid. She didn’t get the opportunity to contemplate whether God would take her case seriously. She was probably thinkingabout how badly she resented her calculus teacher, or eyeing herself in the mirror, wondering if people saw her flaws the same way she did. I got to thinking about pain and whether or not she felt it, or whether I was comfortable trying to imagine it.

 I wondered if she felt the burst inside of her as her femur shattered. I wanted to know if she was conscious to see her fingers pulled back like the hammer of a gun, and the way it felt. I thought about how it must have hurt her on that first impact, the first flip, to hear her ribs crack the same way her knuckles did when she was nervous. The pressure of the broken bones pushing against the very organs they were meant to protect.

 I tried to imagine her parents. How they must have felton the inside, and whether their ribs hurt too.I couldn’t. I’ve never seen trauma like that. The chaos that they must beliving in as their daughter had artificial breathpumped into her. I couldn’t see it. Ididn’t want to.

 I began to crawl inside of myself,my thoughts. I was so deeply submerged in this empatheticstate that I started to lose my ownbreath. I had suddenly felt as though something was pulling my fingers back, trying to touch my nails to the top of my hand. A cobra wrapped around my abdomen, squeezing tighter and tighter until I could feel each individual crack of my ribs pulsingthroughout my body.It bit me on the leg and spit venom straight down into my bones,burning like hot coals inmy veins.

 Then I saw Him.

I saw God there in his big comfy chair. He probably got some angel to buy it for him at the Ikea in heaven. I saw his desk. It was much too small. He had a cigar in his mouth and was wearing a pinstripe suit with gold rings lined up across his fingers. I wanted to lunge at him and tell him he wasn’t fair. He wasn’t the decider. He wasn’t the boss. I got so furious deep down inside myself like that. Furious because it was taking him so long to make this big decision. I got so mad I think I passed out. It was like I couldn’t even find enough energy to keep hating and hating.I hadn’t even thought God existed, yet here he was inside my head wearing me out.


   . . .


“The girl woke up,”she said.

 “Huh?” My wife had broken the spell I was under.

 “They’re posting about it right now,”she said. “She's up. Saying things. Asking questions.Her body is in bad shape but the doctors say she’ll live.”


I was crawling back out of myself. Swimming to the surface of a pool filled with syrup after diving to the bottom. Even if my wife had been lying to me, I would have believed it. Just to escape that place I fell into. I never wanted to be in that position again; feeling the whole weight of that car on my shoulders. I had gone all this time thinking that the girl was going to be a potato, baked to mush inside of her tin foil car. After we got that news, I put my spongy cereal on the floor, and passed out on my wife’s lap. We were done. Emotionally worn. We never finished that conversation about prayer and its effectiveness. I guess we just wanted to pretend from then on that it worked.


© Copyright 2018 Everett H. McGarthy. All rights reserved.

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