Monday, April 27, 2009

The Finger, Part 6

(When a little girl finds a severed finger on the road, the finger evokes different responses in each person it passes to. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1)

Thank God for late night fast food.

Sam scored a large chili before walking the dark parking lot to his car. Vending machines stopped you from gnawing your arm off, but it left you restless and a little sad.

The city morgue shared space at Our Lady of Victory Hospital. Sam planted the chili between his legs and eased out of the lot onto the empty streets. Once in a while, he passed a guy wandering the half-lit sidewalks. Other times, a homeless guy nestling on a bed of cardboard. Sam thought about what the beat cops said about the middle of the night. Nothing but lions and lambs. When the predators got too hungry, the cops mopped up the mess.

Sam held the chili and steered with one hand, and spooned with the other. He blew before each bite. Damn hot, but delicious. He drifted through several blinking yellow lights, then shoved the spoon back into the cup to free a hand to make a right.

A van lurched out of a blind alley.

Sam's car crunched into the side.

In the blur of impact, he saw light, his feet, the steering wheel, and a no parking sign.

He rocked back, his face feeling leaden and detached. Bad habit not to wear seatbelts in the city. He tasted blood where his ballooning lips hit.

Splattered chili on the windshield dripped down. Kidney beans fanned across the dashboard along with big chunks of meat. Through the mess, he saw his crunched hood venting steam.

"Jesus fucking Christ."

Sam dropped his head back on the steering wheel and closed his eyes. This was the best night ever.

Outside, a door slammed. Footsteps came closer.

Beautiful. Utterly tremendous.

Someone knocked on the window.

"Hey! Hey, bud! Are you alright?"

Sam wondered. If he wished hard enough, would it all go away?

The man outside screeched. "Oh my God! Oh my God! He's dead! This guy is dead! His brains are all over the windshield!"

Sam snapped up. The guy ran, smashed into a mailbox, and spun to the ground.

"Whoa! Wait!" Sam said. "It's just chili, man!"

The guy scrambled up and pounded on the dark store fronts. "Help! Help!"

Sam wiped the blood with his sleeve.

He checked his swollen face in the rearview mirror.

He reached to open the door.

Back to Part 5.


Aniket said...

I never pictured Sam to be the one to forget rules like wearing a seat-belt. But then again, he's having one heck of a day!

Loved the smashed brain part. lol

Next part please. :) (We are very demanding customers, aren't we?)

the walking man said...

Nice bridge piece, an interlude to show that Sam is a working cop.

I used to repair police cars on a daily basis and I know there would have been a lot of bitching going on when the car showed up at the shop with crusty chili over the dash.

Most cops are of the "Do as I say and not as I do" persuasion when it comes to seat belts.

Sarah Hina said...

Even though I was really feeling Sam's bleakness and isolation in this one, I couldn't help but have a genuine, laugh-out-loud moment at the van guy's reaction to that windshield. It was the cherry on top of the chili sundae. :P

You're weaving a compelling story here about a man obsessed with his job, but not really living. I hope things change soon for Sam. He seems like such a good guy.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Um, OK. This one needs a bit more time than I have now. But I am intrigued by the severed digit. I shall return.

Anonymous said...

Poor old Sam - he needs to get a life. Perhaps this will be his opportunity. Has the finger been lost?

Karen said...

You describe that eating and driving just a little too well, Jason...a little autobiography here? LOL

Poor Sam. He's having a bad --life! I think he's publishable!

This is a really cute bridge and a good setup for Sam's next adventure. I actually put off reading this one until I had time to savor.


K.Lawson Gilbert said...

He IS having a bad night!

"Sam thought about what the beat cops said about the middle of the night. Nothing but lions and lambs. When the predators got too hungry, the cops mopped up the mess."

Great lines, Jason. You always add those little touches of realism that give validity to scenes.

Anonymous said...

Aniket, it's weird in the city. I never wear a seatbelt in taxis, and yet, that's probably the place I should wear one the most.

Walking Man, you have firsthand experience! I wouldn't blame you for a few choice words for Sam.

Sarah H., I was having some Wendy's chili on the way back from the mountains last trip, and this scene hit me (I wonder why). Thanks for caring about Sam! He really does need to catch a break. :) He's a together guy. He just needs to meet more people.

Sarah L., you're welcome anytime!

Aggie, Sam's young and doesn't quite have his priorities in order. I do get the sense, though, that he hasn't had much choice. It's not like people are beating down his door.

Karen, I'm guilty of multi-tasking on occasion when it comes to eating and driving. Like Sam, my hand never leaves the steering wheel. ;) I'm glad you liked the scene!

Kaye, I'm not an expert on the city, but I have spent 12 years working in Philadelphia now. If you count law school, that goes up to 17 (minus 2 spent in the burbs). Many of those were late nights. It's a fascinating place with just the lights and the (near) emptiness.

Little Girl Lost said...

poor, poor sam.
but you brought out the lonelyness and dejection of the night so deliciously.
and the brain over the windshield bit is a very funny touch. :)

SzélsőFa said...

I laughed again :)
The famous Drink or Drive rule should be accompanied with an Eat or Drive rule, too ;)

the walking man said...

Jason...when they were in my territory wanting it done "right now"...deference changed with the authority.

Anonymous said...

Little Girl Lost, you nailed the essence of this scene. The humor and the desire to help is about all he's got.

Szelsofa, very cool! I was hoping for a good laugh.

Walking Man, yes, that's a wise move. Having friends in those ranks is way better than enemies.

Margaret said...

Poor, poor Sam! Things just don't seem to go his way, do they?

But I had to laugh as I pictured the scene of the chili splattered all over the windshield & dashboard and the other driver screaming "Oh my God! Oh my God! He's dead!"

Dying to know what's going to happen to poor Sam next....

Catvibe said...

Wow! I love the way he saw his feet in the accident. Aren't feet the wrong place to be looking when you are crashing? That happened to me once, so I was fascinated to discover that you had thought of it. Poor guy. I'm guessing things aren't going to get much better for him soon...