Bob woke up early. In the shower, he rehearsed his ten o’clock presentation, a one-page map in his mind, a landscape he would negotiate for an hour and a half — Haines’ Iceberg Theory, the way he had been planning his life since graduate school.
He shaved and dressed in the grey suit that Claire had bought for him at Brooks Brothers. It was his Christmas present, and Claire had taken great satisfaction in the gift. He would have preferred a charcoal suit, a point that he had made clear to his wife and one that she most likely had forgotten ins Christmas rush. He walked into the bedroom and looked at his wife and son on the bed. They were sleeping in the safety of untroubled dreams, a serenity that almost overwhelmed him. It is my job to protect them, he thought, provide for them and the children that would soon have to follow. What Claire wanted Claire had to have. I try so hard, he said to himself. He kissed his wife on the cheek and whispered, “Goodbye.”
Entering the first of the three lanes of slow moving cars and trucks, he began to rehearse his opening. In the late January dark of morning, he watched the cars weaving in and out of lanes in the attempt to get ahead, a sea of metal waves that swan through every Monday through Friday. The day was cold, the road dry, and highway’s shoulders held the last of the snow from the mid-December blizzard.
Ten miles from the city, the sun began to rise in a cloudless sky, and, finally, the Corolla’s heater was spewing forth warm air. The car was on its last legs, but the Kelly Blue Book value was two thousand and three hundred and ninety dollars. He wanted a new car. In his reverie, he almost did not see the Silverado that cut in front of him in a sudden swerve and forced him to hit his brakes. It was another son-of-a-bitch driver, an inconsiderate moron who would get his due someday. The Silverado cut back into the middle lane, and, then, just as Bob began to accelerate to fill the space in front of him, the Silverado drove back into the first lane. He hit the gas pedal and smashed into the passenger’s side of the Silverado.
When he came back to the living, his first thought was the crushing pain in the front of his skull. Tubes snaked from his right arm. A doctor and nurse stood at the right side at the end of the bed. The doctor introduced himself, Doctor Navickus, and said that Claire was “on her way and should be here soon.” He told Bill that she had to take Robert junior to her mother’s house. “You’ve had a severe concussion,” the doctor said, “and your right rib cage is bruised, but there are no broken bones.” He assured Bill that he would be “just fine” — all he needed was rest.
When the doctor and nurse began to leave the room, the nurse turned, smiled, and said, “Press the blue button on that tube in front of you if you need anything.” She smiled again and waved at him, her fingers fluttering up and down.
He was sore but, surprisingly, happy. He would make sure that the Toyota was classified as totaled and use the insurance money as a down payment on the Escalade that he had wanted to buy for a long time. It was in him now, that backlash at an insufferable two years of giving way to the traffic of his life. He remembered the poems that he had studied in high school, an odd thought, he realized, to have at this moment. Poets were dreamers. They wrote about snow and metaphorical roads. He was a commuter on an actual road. The feeling of revenge flushed through his body and it gave him pleasure. He was happy, but he didn’t know why — and he was certain that he never wanted to know why.
J.F. Connolly has published 100+ poems; the latest work is Picking Up The Bodies, 2014. J.F. has published only three short stories, but did win the 1990 Hemingway Days competition and has recently returned to writing fiction.
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