dontravis.com blog post #550
Image courtesy of en.bideax.info
Thanks to Don Morgan for last week’s guest post. Good luck with your novel, Miasma, Don.
This week, a short story that’s too long for flash fiction and too short for a genuine short story. Hope you like it.
It promised to be a lazy Sunday afternoon with high, thin clouds cutting the worst of the sun’s heat, until I changed from church duds to overalls and hauled out the toolbox to tackle my ’59 Ford Galaxie coupe. Needed a minor tune-up, and now was as good as ever. Except, I wish I hadn’t eaten that extra piece of fried chicken from dinner. Or maybe it was the second gob of peach cobbler. But whatever it was, it sure made leaning over the fender to reach the engine compartment uncomfortable.
I’d probably been at it for an hour before I glanced up to see a young fella staggering down the street, his left arm hanging straight down in an unnatural sort of way. Hurt, he was. That was plain.
“Pa,” I yelled as I swiped my hands on a rag, “Come runnin’!”
“What is it?” my dad said, barreling out the front door in a rush.
I nodded to where the stranger stood at the gate. He was younger’n me, and I’m nineteen. His white shirt was smeared with blood, as was his hair.
“You need help, young fellow?” my dad called. Folks considered him a standoffish kinda guy, but I knew that wasn’t the case. If somebody needed help, he’d break his back to lend a hand, and it looked like this fella needed help.
“Wreck,” the kid said in a voice that didn’t have any wind behind it.
I stood at my old man’s side. “What’s the matter with him?”
“Probably in shock.” My dad lifted his voice. “What’s your name, son?”
“Dilby.” Just a cold echo of a word.
“You hurt? You need help?”
The kid looked back down the road. “My mother… sister. Deer ran in front. Car crashed. Turned over. They need help.”
Dilby nodded south down the road. “Where the bridge crosses the stream.”
My dad nodded at me. “Collin’s Branch.” He yelled over his shoulder. “Mama, call the sheriff and tell him there’s a bad wreck at Collin’s Branch where it crosses the highway. Need ambulance.”
He turned back to the figure swaying before our gate. “Son… Dilby, you need help. Come on and let us fix you up.”
The youth backed into the highway and turned south. “Mother. Sister. Need help.”
“So do you, son. Come let….”
He gave up as Dilby staggered on down the road. “We gotta catch him. We’ll use your car—”
“It’s all torn apart. We’ll have to use yours.”
“Damnation,” he grunted. “Go get the biggest pry bar you can find in the garage. If that car rolled, might have to pry them out. I gotta put air in the back tire before I can move the truck.”
I rummaged around in the barn and came up with two sizeable levers, one for each of us. Also grabbed the first aid kit we keep out there, although it was only good for treating cuts and bruises, not car wrecks. Still….
Eventually, we maneuvered around my Ford in the driveway and turned out onto the highway.
“Damn!” Dad exclaimed. “Where’d the kid go?”
“Dunno. Maybe he took off running.”
“If he did, he won’t get far. Keep an eye on the barrow ditch in case he fell. He looked to be on his last legs to me.”
“Yeah,” I agreed.
But as the bridge approached, there was no sign of Dilby. As soon as we saw the deep gouges in the earth where the car had left the highway, we forgot about finding the kid and baled out to go help the two he’d said were trapped in the car.
The blue Dodge four-door we found at the bottom of the creek bank, resting halfway in the water, had rolled at least twice and came to rest right-side-up. The roof was crushed in, so it was obvious we’d need the pry bars we’d brought. I reached the wrecked car first.
“A woman, Dad. I don’t know if she’s alive or—” I about jumped outa my skin when she groaned and moved.”
“Check the other side for the girl,” Dad said, putting the bigger of the two levers to the crumpled door.
I went around the front of the car and waded cold creek water to reach the passenger’s side. Sure enough, there was a girl passed out in the seat with a bloody gash on her forehead. Thank goodness she’d been strapped in by a seat belt. Lucky they all were, I guess. Else they’d have been toast.
I felt the girl’s wrist and found a strong pulse, so Dad had me help him wrestle with the car door. We’d just gotten it open when I heard sirens.
“My son… my girl?’ a weak voice asked. It took me a second to figure out it was the woman speaking. “Are… are they all right?”
“Daughter’s unconscious, but Daryl… that’s my boy… he says she has a strong pulse.”
“He’s the one who came got us. She’s around somewhere. Now you just lay back and try to relax. We don’t dare move you until the medics get here, and they’re pulling up now.”
We acknowledged the sheriff when he half slid down the incline. Thirty seconds later, the place was swarming with deputies and paramedics. We backed away to let them do their thing, watching as they used boards to slide the woman and the girl out of the car. From the talk going back and forth among the medics and the deputies, we gathered the injuries were nothing to sneeze at but not life threatening.
The sheriff stopped beside us to watch as they were loaded into an ambulance.
“Lucky you guys chanced on them. You know what happened?”
“Deer ran across the road,” I said.
Sheriff Denton glanced back up the road toward our house at the edge of town. “You see it from there?”
“Naw,” Dad said. “We wouldn’t a known nothing about it if the kid hadn’t come asking for help.”
“Kid? What kid?”
“Dilby,” he said his name was,” I volunteered. “He was the son. Kid about seventeen-eighteen.”
“He came to your house and knocked on your door?
“No. I was in the driveway working on my car when I saw him staggering up the road. I called my dad, and he had Mom call you while we got in the truck and drove down to where Dilby said it happened.”
“He told you a deer ran across the road?”
I nodded. “Yeah, why?”
“And he rode back with you to the wreck?”
“No,” my dad said. “Funny thing, we tried to get him to come in and let us treat his wounds, but he ran off to his mom and sister.”
“Wilbur,” the sheriff said to my dad. “Come here.”
He led us a short distance upstream to where two EMTs hovered over something. My gut fell away when they stood. That kid… Dilby… lay on the creek bank.
“That’s him! That’s Dilby,” I gasped. “He’s the kid who came and told us his mom and sister were hurt.”
Sam Jenkins, one of the two EMTs, turned and looked me square in the eye. “This kid didn’t walk anywhere. He was dead the minute he got thrown from the car. Neck’s broken. One knee’s shattered. Arm’s broken. I’m willing to be he’s the only one in the car who wasn’t wearing a seat belt. And he paid for it.”
I watched the blood drain out of my father’s face. I’m not sure what he saw looking at me, but without a word from either of us, we walked straight to Dad’s truck, crawled in, and drove home. I expected to have nightmares that night.
But I didn’t. I merely saw Dilby standing in front of the house nodding his thanks.