Close Call

Sam wore a plum skull cap and a wool sweater but no jacket, standing out in the snow by the fir trees. The moon was up with a “fox tail” around it, predicting worse weather. She knelt and washed the blood off her hands with snow. Then she cleaned the kitchen knife with snow, drying it on her thigh.

When the station wagon rolled to a stop on the gentle slope below her she was all cleaned up. Without turning off the lights Marble got out. You ready? he asked. From the shadows she stepped into the headlight spotlight. Her knife glinted. Here I am, she said with a strange, weak voice and kind of smiled.

Well, get in the car then, Marble said. Go on, get in. She floated over to where he was standing and then moved swiftly with the blade.

Soon she was driving sixty down the icy dirt road back towards town. She inspected her nails as she drove and saw a little blood still, even after a second washing with snow. No one will see that, she said, even though she was alone in the car.

On the highway she worked to overpower an invisible force that wanted her hands to spin the wheel violently. The force would pull at her and pull at her, drawing the car toward the curb but she’d always correct it before she got to the white line.

But after hours of fighting this battle she finally lost strength and her hands jerked the wheel, causing the station wagon to spin and flip, leaving other cars to swerve and crash around it.

She came to in a ravine, barely able to extricate herself from the collapsed steel and shards of blue glass. Dazed and bloody, she walked back across the highway, now a mess of twisted and crushed vehicles, across another ravine and on to a service station and rest stop. She went into the restroom and carefully took some headphones out of her pocket. She was staring deeply into her own eyes in the mirror and listening to music on her smart phone when Marjorie found her. Police are here, Marjorie said. Just wanted to warn you, sugar. Sam ignored her, bobbing her head to some heavy metal on her phone. Marjorie gently took the knife out of Sam’s hand. You don’t want them to see that, said Marjorie. They might think you did it. Marjorie slid one of the floor tiles and dropped the knife into a little hole beneath. Then Sam hit the pause button on her phone and stared at Marjorie. Why are you helping me, Marjorie? she asked, reading the name off the woman’s nametag. But Marjorie disappeared out the door and Sam was alone again in the ladies’ room, wondering if she’d imagined her.

When the adrenaline began to ebb, Sam’s consciousness was flooded with the myriad consequences of her actions. She started to sweat and her skin got clammy. If I get out of this, I will begin a totally vegan diet, she told herself. I will quit drinking coffee and I will meditate every day. If I get out of this I will wake up every morning with a huge smile. I’ll call my mother. And I’ll get a tattoo on the back of my hand that reads, CLOSE CALL, to remind me of this day.



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