SMUDGE • by Danielle Thorne

Leftover from the rain, a flock of water beads turned in unison and scooted across the windshield. Free in the wind, they probably spattered onto the speeding car coming up behind me.

The red sports car flashed its lights on and off then came around. The driver gave me the finger and I gave him a blank stare. He sped off and I dug my nails into the vinyl steering wheel.

Seconds later, brake lights up ahead forced me to slow down. A tumbleweed of debris puffed over the horizon. The sports car was not moving when it came into view again, but everything around it was: people, tires, air.

The man who flipped me off had veered into the grass median, missed oncoming traffic, and catapulted off the opposite shoulder of the road. A burly pine tree proved stronger and more resilient than his automobile. I’d seen nothing more than a flash of mirrored sunglasses when he raced by. How he measured me, I’ll never know.

I rolled by the accident at a creep but didn’t look. I knew that he was gone; just a smudge on the road that he’d been in such a hurry to travel.

If he had landed on my side of the highway, I would have gotten out. It’s doubtful he would have been in any state to apologize, but there really wouldn’t have been any reason to. Things don’t seem to matter once they spatter all over what’s behind us.

Danielle Thorne writes novels and short fiction from south of Atlanta, Georgia. Visit her at or

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