#96 Christmas CoolPix 9100
The oncoming headlights on the wrong side of the road blinded Joe. Because of the four Miller Lites he had swallowed when his mother started the same old nag his mental processes acted like molasses, and the glare forced him to close his eyes. With shut eyes her words filled his head.
“I could never understand why you agreed to allow your ex-wife to move to California with my grandkids.”
He replied, “You know damn well the kids would have been better off being with their mother than with a drunk like me. I just wish you’d shut up and quit reminding me of my kids. How could I know their mother was suicidal? It never occurred to me until after she drove off Pikes Peak with the kids. If the crash hadn’t killed her, I would have.”
The oncoming car sped closer by the second. Joe would not let it force him off the road. If the other driver didn’t turn off, they’d both die, and Joe didn’t give a shit. After spending Christmas Day with his nagging mother, he’d be happy to see his life end. At least he’d be with his kids.
Joe floored the gas pedal and got close enough to see the other driver’s eyes open in surprise when he saw Joe wouldn’t give way. A millionth of a second later the crashing sound of metal echoed all around them as the vehicles crashed, crushed, and broken bodies flew to the road.
A week later, Joe came out of a coma. Doctor Michael told him his parents and the other driver had died and was already buried. Something to be thankful for because Joe knew he wouldn’t have handled his parent’s funeral well after his wish that they’d shut up and never remind him of his kids. Well, they wouldn’t be doing that anymore. As for the other driver being dead, the asshole deserved to die.
“It’s your entire fault, and you crashed on purpose, just to shut me up,” his mother’s voice echoed over and over inside his head. After a few days, Joe discovered if he drank enough beer with shots of peppermint schnapps, the voice would quiet down. It was always there, but not as insistent.
Six months flew by, and Joe had acquired the habit of getting drunk every day after work and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. He’d often drive on the same road where his parents had died, and he relived the accident in his mind and wished he was dead. He’d cross the center line and go as fast as his car could go.
As he sped down the highway, his mind traveled to the past and every night became the night he had killed his parents. It occurred to him that the reason he did this was because he subconsciously hunted the other driver. If he could find him before the crash and run him off the road, Joe’s parents wouldn’t die.
He knew this was illogical but at the same time he had a feeling that he could somehow jump through space- time on this particular road if he went fast enough.
He argued with himself, but his feelings told him it was true. He stopped arguing and agreed with his intuition and souped up his Audi so he could almost reach 200 MPH on the clear desert nights.
The driver who had crashed into Joe’s car was never identified. The two cars were so mangled after the accident it was nearly impossible to tell which car part belonged to which, as both were Audis, the same year, same model. Joe had been thrown clear as the two vehicles burned to rubble and three sets of ashes had been dispersed or buried. Joe knew it was a miracle he was alive, but often wished he wasn’t. Deep down, he knew that was the only reason he drove that road at excessive speed night after night. Every car turned off and gave way to him when he approached on the wrong side of the road. He wondered if he’d ever meet anyone with enough nerve to meet him head on.
Christmas Day rolled around again. Joe found himself on the same highway with his parents in the car. His mother was nagging him the same as last year, but this time when he saw the headlights coming at him, he tried to steer onto the shoulder, but the other car followed him and they met head on. The last thing Joe remembered was his mother snapping a picture of the oncoming car with the Nikon CoolPix camera she had given him for Christmas.
Once again, he woke up in the hospital and received the same report as before. His parents were dead as was the driver of the other car. But this time the camera was thrown clear along with Joe. When released from the hospital, Joe got drunk on the way home. He knew he’d be hunting that other driver for the rest of his life. He remembered his mother snapping a picture just before the collision, and he hooked the camera up to his computer.
There was only one picture on the memory card. It showed the face of the other driver as the two cars collided. He saw something familiar about him, and when he enlarged the picture, Joe fell out of his chair. Were his eyes playing tricks on him?
He knelt in front of the computer screen and saw the image so clear, he knew there was no mistake. He was driving the other car.
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flash fiction > short stories