Find a Character Anywhere

This one surprised even me:

The temp on my patio hit 98 degrees; heat index is much higher.  With the weedy grass in the front yard two feet high, I felt compelled to mow, but I got a little trick that I call the Wet Arab.  I don a long sleeve shirt, a pair of long pajama bottoms and dunk myself in the pool.  Then I top off this soppy outfit with Panama hat.  I suppose, I look quite ridiculous.  Who cares?

A neighbor stopped me from my work to discuss a dying tree–more on her property than mine.  While her SUV idled and the chit-chat revved, I was at first chilled in my wet clothes and then began to dry out.  By the end of the conversation I was sweating.  As you may guess, the talk when pass the initial topic of tree.

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The Wreck

I sit on the porch, enjoying the smell of honeysuckle and watching the antics of my dogs.  The highway is two miles to the south.  Usually, I don’t notice it, but sometimes the sound of sirens drift through the pine trees.  Tonight, I can hear three separate wails, and that can’t be good.  I can tell that one is an ambulance and one is a fire truck; the other has to be a police car.  There must be a big wreck up toward Smith’s Station.  And my next thought is how lucky I am that it’s not me—this time.

Years ago, I was in a wreck.  A tractor-trailer truck, fully loaded and busting seventy-miles-per-hour, slammed into the back of my Impala, rolled over the top, and blew three of my tires like they were party balloons.

Was I hurt?  No.  Was I traumatized?  Not really.  The accident struck me like the flare of a match.  Scratch-flare-poof and it was over.  Nothing much left, except a little smoking rubber.

The amazing part was what happened the next day.  My Grandpa, a garrulous man with tall tales and a special way with the ladies, wanted to go see my car in the junk yard.  So, we piled into his antique 1956 Ford pick-up, and off we went.  I was especially glum because my car was not called an Impala anymore; it was now known as, ‘the wreck.’

We stood in the hot field that was a mixture of red clay and four foot weeds, as my Grandpa studied the crumbled Impala.  The sun sizzled through my shirt, but the shade was even worse.  Mosquitoes attached me every time I tried to move into the square blocks of shadow cast by older wrecks.

Dumb, young, and impatient as I was; I still managed to note the wide tire prints from the tractor-trailer on the trunk of the Impala.  The black treads rolled all the way into the back seat.  The windows were mostly gone, and what was left of the glass looked like ragged, crystalline teeth.  The whole thing looked like a dinosaur had stepped on it.

“Were you wearing a seatbelt?” Grandpa asked.

“No,” I admitted.

“Was the gas tank empty?”

“Riding on fumes,” I said.

We strolled around to the front of the twisted metal, and my Grandpa leaned into the driver’s side window, which was about two feet lower than it should be.

“Look at this,” he said and I poked my head into the car.  “From the driver’s seat all the way to the front bumper, there’s nothing wrong with this car.  The glass is gone, but the seat, on this side, is not bent or pushed forward.  The steering wheel is fine.  The roof is curved up, instead of down, on this side.  Now look over at the passenger seat; it’s an accordion, completely flattened.”

“Wow,” I said, not really understanding what he was trying to tell me.

“Don’t you get it?  You should be dead, but it’s like someone wrapped you—you and this quarter of the car—in a protective bubble.  You’ve definitely got an angle on your shoulder.”

“God loves me,” I said, suddenly happy.

“Amen to that,” Grandpa said and readjusted his straw hat.

“Can I borrow the truck?”


The End




C.M. Marcum

I took my turn at the cash register and offered up my credit card.

“Would you care to make a donation to Haiti?” the cashier asked.  I could tell that she had repeated this line a hundred times today.

“I’ve all ready have made a donation,” I said.  “I sent them my son.  He’s on board the USS Comfort, and he tells me that he’s working sixteen hours a day.  I saw the ship on Headline News today.”

Seeing the ship gave me some comfort.  I was happy to see it anchored off shore.  The water appeared very calm.  Good, very good.

He called me one day—was it only last week—and said that the Navy was asking for volunteers.  And what did I think of that.”

I said, “My son, our biggest regrets in life always turn out to be the things that we did not do.”