Roadside Assistance

I am not sure how old I was when it happened. But I do know my feet didn’t reach the floor of the car and I could only just see out the window to the rain-soaked world beyond. I don’t recall where we were going, but my brother Charlie wasn’t with us. My parents were talking about nothing that concerned me at all, and I was content to watch the scenery float past.

“Watch! Watch!” My mother let out a pleading scream. I can still feel the weight of the car, which moments before had been an unobtrusive companion, forcibly make itself known.

The other car slid in front of us, like a bigger kid cutting into the lunch line. Its red lights filled the window as breaks screamed out. There was an instant of contact. Then the world was spinning. My belly was thrown from side to side as my seatbelt tightened its grip around my waist. It felt like the Tilt-a-whirl ride at South Beach. My fear seemed to rise and fall with each gasp of my mother’s tortured cry. But another part of me was very calm, curious to see what was going to happen. As if in slow motion, I looked out the window at the other car as it spun. Together we must have looked like a pair of dancers spinning on a very wet stage.

And then it was over. I could hear the heavy breaths as my mother repeatedly thanked Jesus. My father was as still as stone. His head slowly turned and I followed his gaze back to the other car, which had come to rest on the side of the road, a speed limit sign knocked askew beside it. My father pulled his car off the road and then backed up to where the other car had come to rest. He leaped out with great urgency.

“Where are you going?” my mother asked, panic in her voice. He seemed to vanish into the rain and then with a click, the back hatch of the car opened. I took off my seatbelt and stood on the seat.

“Christopher sit down!” my mother said, concern starting to register in her voice.

The chill of the rain poured in. My father’s mouth was sealed closed as he opened his rusted toolbox. Then he walked towards the other car.

My mother rolled down the window. “What are you doing Jack!”

“He is going to help them, mom!” My small fingers clung to the headrest as I watched through the still open back hatch. The hammer rose up and came down on the stranded car’s passenger side window, shattering the glass. Then the hammer fell to the ground. My father’s arm reached into the car. And then he pulled it out. He reached in and pulled out. By the third time, it dawned on me that he was punching.

My mother was out of the car now, standing a few steps beside him, screaming and pulling at the dark roots of her golden hair.

“Get back in the car!” he roared at her as he picked up the hammer from the ground.

My gaze searched for his face, somehow needing to look into his eyes, but the brim of his rain-soaked Jets hat shielded him. The hatch slammed closed. Whimpering, my mother was back in her seat. He walked around to the driver’s side of the car. And then he stood as still as a statue. He was a shadow in the rain, his face hidden as the water poured off his hat. He slowly lifted his hand and looked at his fist. He opened the door, sat in the seat, adjusted his mirror and turned the key.

My mother filled the car with more screaming, but he drove undeterred. His massive knuckles were scratched and bleeding as he gripped the wheel.

“Was that right?” she asked him. “Was that right?”

“Cocksucker could have killed my family. Yes. It was right.”

We drove in silence through the rain as the warm liquid poured out of me, soaking the seat beneath me.

Next: Hide and Seek

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