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Time to Leave

Paul Weidknecht | Monique Laffite

Timing was bad. Terrible, in fact. I shouldn’t have brought up the subject while we were in the truck, and for sure, telling her I was leaving while we were rounding a curve wasn’t bright. A straight stretch of road wouldn’t have made my intention any more acceptable, however, it might have made its delivery safer.

So I said I was leaving, and after the first few words had emerged, found the sudden stream of complaints and justifications startling even to my own ears.

Her punch didn’t strike as she had intended, landing on my temple instead of my jaw, with the heel of her palm rather than the knuckles of her fist, but it worked more effectively than either of us could’ve imagined.

Now my world is upside down. The sky is not up anymore, the trees point down, my F-150 is on its roof and she is gone.

Even though she had to worm from a seatbelt and corkscrew through a window, she’d gotten out quickly, not letting anything hold her back. I’m mildly insulted by her escape, but I let that go for now.

My head hurts. The dense throb on my forehead tells me an egg must be rising, and as I look up, the spider-webbed windshield offers the explanation. I can’t move, my side of the car more crushed than the passenger’s, with the seat, steering wheel, and console folded around me. It’s clear I’ll need a hand getting out.

Experts say that in an accident one should first turn off the engine to avoid a fire—just a simple back turn of the ignition, is all. But I must’ve forgotten. I can’t see the fire, and more thankfully, can’t feel it, but the smoke billowing from the rear of the truck is black and thick and inside. I try to move again. Nothing.

I can’t see, breathing is not the easiest, and I silently agree to a flash promise never to smirk at that line ‘treated for smoke inhalation’ if I get the chance to hear it again on the news.

The breeze shifts and I see her. She’s standing on the reversed grass—appears glued to it, really—and except for the upside down part, this could be a snapshot taken from during a picnic in a park. She’s watching the show.

The wind circles back, smoke blinds me again. I work toward what seems to be the passenger’s side window, twisting my body, propping up myself on an elbow. My left leg just won’t move.

I feel hands. She’s holding my face in her hands. I want to think we are staring at each other, but it’s not really staring because of the smoke. She moves her hands downward, first over my cheeks, then jaw, and finally the chin, as if trying to create some deep memory. She runs her thumb over the lump, tracing it, and we both realize, just like that, no one’s going anywhere.

About Paul Weidknecht

Paul Weidknecht's work has appeared in Rosebud, Shenandoah, and The Los Angeles Review, among others. He has been awarded a scholarship to The Norman Mailer Writers Colony and is a member of the Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC. He has recently completed a collection of short stories.

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