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My left hand chokes the steering wheel while my right sticks to my phone. I flip it open, push ‘send’ for Loretta, then wait. Voicemail. I ring again. I speed along the roadway. I’m not far from home, and I’ll see that white van coming a mile away.
“God, protect my family. God almighty, for the love of God protect my family.”
I don’t breathe. I’m locked on the road. I enter my neighborhood doing 50 plus. When I see him, it’s too late. Charlie – wearing the red-shirt, playing with chalk.
Now he’s drawing in middle of my street.
I press the brake pedal down, but I’m way too late. I rip back the parking brake – fumes from burnt rubber swarm my pick-up. I’ve veered right, straight for my neighbor’s oak tree. Charlie flees blind – and heads the same direction.
I punch my horn and hold it down.
He watches me barrel toward him like a dumbfounded deer.
Airbag deploys. Everything’s hazy. Blood and glass are everywhere.
Oak tree splits the front end of my truck. I wobble outside, then search my surroundings.
“Charlie? Charlie, are you okay?”
I’m dizzy; my brain is still bouncing. I don’t see his body anywhere. Then I hear crying. I turn to see –
“Oh my God.”
Hand to my chest. The kid dove into some bushes. If it weren’t for the tree, my Dodge pick-up would have obliterated him. He’s got a few twigs and thorns in his arms, but that’s it.
Charlie screams and goes running inside. I don’t blame him.
Tires screech. I turn around – the white van. It just turned onto my street. I see one roided-out driver, but his comrade from the passenger seat is gone.
“Loretta!” I scream. I pump my arms and race home. “Loretta!”
I reach my driveway. The van skids behind me and stops with a loud ‘bang’ against my garage door. I fly up the front porch and turn the door handle.
Shotgun clicks from the monster holding it the second I shove the door open. He smiles, then stabs my neck with a syringe. A shooting pain enters my neck as I crumble to the floor. The injection comes from the man I saw in the passenger seat of the van – one with the cleft lip. He’s been standing here, waiting for me.
I’m too late.
I slip out of consciousness.
- Thomas M. Watt