Early Hour Gray

Suddenly, I wake up. It’s after midnight. I’m conscious enough to remember that my family and I are visiting friends in a nearby town, and I’m sleeping in a bedroom with my brother. He’s unsettled. Sitting up, he whispers urgently, “Did you hear that?”

Tired and disoriented, I grumble and curl down into my sleeping bag. He gets up to leave and, not wanting to miss anything important, I reluctantly decide to join him. We go down the narrow staircase into the open air.

A cool night mist drizzles over the yard; the air tastes musty, sour. Glowing flares shimmer off the wet road like hazy moonlight reflections over a lake. I see the tread marks on the road, smell the burnt rubber, and walk past the flares to where a handful of people are huddled around the car as if at a grave site ceremony.

The Mustang is tangled around a tree, its left side heaved deep into wet bark. Cheerless spots of dew sparkle from weeds and tiny chunks of glass. A student from the local university (I later learn) hangs awkwardly from an open door, his friend resting his head on his shoulder, his blood soaking through his hair, smearing down into his shirt and onto his chest and belly.

Pieces of his brain and skull are tossed onto his friend’s lap. Beer cans are scattered in the back seat.

I look up into the restless shadows. Perhaps the spirits of these two fragile men are swimming around up there in the branches, watching voicelessly. I wonder if perhaps they see me looking up into the leaves, up toward the wide night clouds.

I leave when the ambulance comes.

While I sleep, a cleansing rain drenches the ground near the tree. The men’s blood soaks into the turf, being drawn into the tree by woody tentacles. Minutes, hours pass as the blood and water work their way back into the earth.

While I sleep big trucks haul away the wreck, leaving behind scattered splinters of bluish glass. A wide patch on the tree’s trunk shows where soggy bark had been slammed off in sheets.

Night recedes into early-hour gray.

In the morning, my brother and I walk to the crash site. A fleshy pink blob glistens in the dewy grass. Later in the day one of the men’s friends will have covered it, gently, respectfully, with soil.

The early morning drizzle continues. The water turns from red to pink to clear.

From the BoundlessLine blog.
Copyright 2008, Focus on the Family.
Used by permission.

About Author

Ted Slater

Ted Slater is part webgeek and part wordsmith; he feels equally comfortable massaging code and editing prose. He gets plenty of opportunity to explore both interests as senior website developer with Liberty Alliance. Ted is a follower of Christ, husband to Ashleigh, and papa to Olivia and Ava and Savannah and Noah and Dorothy.