Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crash

The following is what I wrote for my first assignment for a creative writing course. The guidelines for the assignment were "Write a story about your life, between 3 and 5 minutes long when read aloud."

I am not really looking for feedback or anything, I just did not have anything to post this week and figured I could cut and paste the original text. I tried to make the assignment interesting, not only for the reader but also for me. By putting this piece on the blog I get a chance to add some links, which on paper would just look like bold print or when read aloud would be, well, I don't know. Is there some kind of symbol that could be used for a link when doing an oral presentation of a writing. Like air finger quotes..but only different..like an air finger links? I need to trademark this finger link thing.

********

“Holy shit!” I yelled as I slammed on the brakes, probably 6 seconds and 10 feet too late. I watched from the corner of my eye as the driver in the fire engine red pick-up realized he blew the stop light and he too hit the brakes. Charcoal grey smoke spit from beneath the trucks rear tires as they desperately tried to grasp more macadam. The red pick-up was heading right for me when the physical world seemed to slow down 100 fold. My brain’s activity, with all the synapses firing seemed to increase 1000 fold. It was a matter of seconds. It was a matter of a life time.

Images from my past flooded the forefront of my mind. I glanced into the rearview mirror and saw two of my three sons, frozen in time, bracing for impact. I relived their births in reverse order. The memory of the birth of my youngest, Jackson, (who was not in the car) was the most vivid as he is only 4 weeks old. The image of him laying in the orange glow of a baby warmer quickly transformed to Wyatt, my two year old, lying in the same type of contraption but only in a different city and a different state. Maxfield’s birth, the first birth I ever witnessed, invaded my mind. My 5- year-olds first high pitched cry is a sound I equate to one of my most proud moments. I remember squealing for joy as he entered the world.

I heard the squeal of my tires, crying under the duress of the hard stop. My heart beating faster reminded me of when I first met my wife. Was it 10 years ago? No. It was 11. She told me her name was Lauren and I smiled because her first initial was an L. She did not realize the impact of having her name start with the letter L meant so much to a comic book fan. Superman was one of my favorite heroes and his main girl was Lois Lane. The letter L, for me, was love at first sound. As if someone hit the scene-forward button on the remote control to my brain, much like a DVD, images from my wedding engulfed me.

“Do you William take Lauren to be your wife?” the priest asked as we stood in the shadows of an enormous oak tree.

“Yes. I do.” I answered through tears of joy and over the giggles of my seven brothers who were standing behind me.

I felt proud that our wedding reception is still talked about by family and friends as the best wedding anyone ever attended. The perfect 80 degree sunny weather combined with the serene picnic setting made for a perfect romantic event, only to be out done by the laughter caused by my brothers dressing up as super heroes for the toast.

I jerked the steering wheel hard to the left hoping to turn away from the inevitable collision. I became amazed at how many turns my life had taken. I started working when I was thirteen, stocking various tan metallic shelves with tampons, cold medicine and snacks in the local pharmacy. Right after graduating high school I became a desk jockey at a major insurance company, pushing paper in the dim fluorescent lights of a cubicle farm. I left the confines of the office to explore the opportunities of acting at a shore side dinner theater where I performed on stage and served elderly patrons lukewarm coffee during intermission. I drifted from playing characters to greeting characters in a major nightclub in Philadelphia. The clientele ranged from bus boys and chefs, arriving after their shifts at the local restaurants, still dressed in their food stained whites and checkered pants, to athletes, gangsters and movie stars all decked out in their finest attire. The dark, fog-fumed dance floor, heavy doses of alcohol and drugs kept the crowds dancing to thump, thump, thump, of a heavy bass driven beat of popular songs.

My adrenaline kicked in and I could feel the thump, thump, thump of blood pulsing in my ears as I watched the car behind me, to avoid the accident, careen off the side of the road and splinter a mailbox. The driver leaned on her horn in frustration. She looked like my only sister Sharon. Sharon is oldest child the leader in our family. I remembered how she would walk the eight of her younger brothers to the playground in our middle class suburban neighborhood to play baseball. Each one of us fielding a position on the dirt diamond as my dad would hit pop-ups and grounders to us. The oldest had first dibs on their position of choice and since I was number six I usually ended up in the outfield. We would all scurry in the direction of the ball after hearing the pop of the bat.

Pop! My front left tire hissed and I could feel the tire rim grind into the street top surely creating a huge divot. I adjusted my grip on the wheel to compensate for a sudden lurch and turn, just like I adjusted my grip on my life, my family and my God when my father passed away. Feelings of happiness overwhelmed me as I recalled afternoons at the beach with my dad. I could see his face always smiling, enjoying the moment in the stands at my high school football games. I pictured him singing, off key, to the Beach Boys on lazy Sunday afternoons. I was grateful that he and my mom always taught me that I should do the right thing. I chuckled, in spite of my predicament, that I inherited their sense of humor and that I could laugh or make jokes in most situations. I felt in awe of their willingness to allow their children grow without too much of a tight grip.

I relaxed my grip on the steering wheel. Then, I let go.

My mind slowed. I felt at peace. I caught ghost images of my past. I was twelve years old riding my bike on dirt trails through a forest. The splashes of sunlight, fighting through the canopy of tree branches, danced with the shadows below. My ride would end at the stream for a quick skinny dip and a drink from my canteen. I watched the sunset from the dock on Brigantine Bay with a beer in my hand. The red sun reflected off the water and into the windows of Atlantic City hotels making them appear as if they were on fire. I saw my children sleeping. I counted each rise and fall of their little chests.

The world sped up. I held my breath and I braced for the impact. My tires stopped and the body of the car thrust forward with a final groan. The red pick-up ground to a halt just inches from the driver’s side window. Everything became quiet. I watched the smoke from the burning tires engulf the front of the truck giving it the appearance of a fire breathing dragon.

I exhaled a sigh of relief. I looked over my right shoulder to check on the kids. “Are you guys okay?” I asked.

Both were smiling and wide-eyed. I could tell they enjoyed the excitement. What to them was only a flash of a couple of seconds, to me was a flash of a lifetime.

Wyatt nodded.

Max laughed. “Daddy just said a bad word.”

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Bill you are truly talented I felt like I was in
The passenger seat! Kudos!

Anonymous said...

Jesus take the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Dad did let you drive in the driveway.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

That was wonderful. Great job!

Ms Elanious said...

Oh, well done!

mamabrown said...

I would give you an A+. I think I held my breath til Max made me laugh! Great ending.

Melinda said...

A plus, from your writing critic in England.
(had to look up macadam...never heard it before.)

Susie said...

Anonymous took my comment -- Jesus, take the wheel, indeed.

Bad-word that person who said you're not a writer. Told ya so.

I love how you connected the sensory experiences in the moment to scenes from your life. Excellent device.

So thankful for the happy ending. Keep up the good work! (Uh, the writing, not the near-misses. Why do they call it "near-miss?" It's actually a total miss, but a near-hit, you know?)

(Oh, and I still have to go look up macadam.)

SciFi Dad said...

Great work, Bill.

If I had one negative, it would be that the first paragraph felt like you were trying too hard... the rest of the narrative flowed nicely, but the first felt, I don't know... off.

(No offense meant; just trying to be honest.)

Melissa said...

I think I also held my breath. Did you write that in one sitting, or do you revise your writing to turn out like that?

Sharkey said...

I think macadam must be a Pennsylvania word because I never heard it before I moved here. Actually, isn't it a guy's name?

I'm curious about whether you ever submitted any of your blog posts as your assignments? I think this is good, and I can tell you spent some time on it. But I think some of your posts are just as good or better.

Like Susie, I thought the way you used the sensory experiences to connect the present and the past was really cool. Great job!

creative breathing said...

William, You have to let us know your teacher's appraisal of your first assignment. Question? I was so excited for my brother to read my blog. I was hoping for "Great job sis, it looks like you are really have fun with this." What I got was constructive criticism. UGGGH I'm not speaking to him until he appologizes! You began your post with "not looking for feedback", but did your heart hope for all of the kudos? By the way, I love that you used the word macadam - I'm all about nuts! Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

I could only read up to the part about your wedding when I started to tear up. Soooo good!

Little Miss English Teacher said...

This was wonderful! I loved how each second fed into the next second and each screech of the car fed into another screech in your life.

Incredible! Fun! Entertaining! You should tape yourself reading it aloud and post :) I bet you have a GREAT reading voice without that crazy beard in your mouth's way now, hah!

Thanks for the great little insight into your life for a while.

JP said...

As I am a math guy your writing prowess is lost on me. I'd give you a 4.00^2 overall with +/- .02 precision for grammar.

Anonymous said...

Creative Writing project, or "Near Death Experience"???? My God! What a ride! Nice job, but scary! You always know how to get peoples attention. Just what did that teacher say! Was she exhausted as I am now? the drama was a bit too much to handle. Glad it all turned out well. Good ole Max, putting his dad in his place.Don't ever take my grandkids in the car again!

Carmi said...

I love this piece. Having been a passenger in a car that was involved in a significant car accident as a teen, I relate all too well to that life-flashes-before-your-eyes moment that you have between initial onset and conclusion of the event.

I hung on your every word. Absolutely brilliant.

Michelle said...

Clearly you ARE a writer.

kalki said...

Yeah, like what Susie said, I also like how you connected the sensory stuff between your life flashes and the moment. Also some nice descriptions. And the ending was perfect.

Fulton Quads said...

I too felt like I was right there with ya! WOW! & I loved every minute of it!
Love, Cathy & the quads
itsaquadlife.blogspot.com

traci said...

I was holding my breath through the entire thing. Holy...glad you all are ok.

sari said...

That last sentence is what did it, perfect ending.

It's always the swears that the kids remember, isn't it?

kcinnova said...

Susie took my comments.
Max finishes the piece perfectly!

Sheri said...

I agree with the two previous commentors - out of the mouths of babes!

Macadam! Ha! When I used that word after moving to Texas, people looked at me funny. Must be a PA word. My sister still says it.

April said...

I love this post. So much so that I thought of it many times during the day and even came back to read it two more times. Whoever said you were "obviously not a writer" can suck it. That is all.

Heidi said...

I was thinking that Victor Borge would have had a sign for the finger link... I am not sure if you are aware of his quotation shtick??? LOL its to die for... LOL

GREAT STORY!!!

Mainline Mom said...

That was great! Glad you're all ok too.

RzDrms said...

Bill? Are you kidding me? Honest to goodness, one of the best pieces I've ever read; really. Great writing. I hope you realize that.

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Damiko Are said...

That has been happening to me since Christmas up into now.What a gift lol and a way to start off the New Year with boxing balls!