Cheating

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On collisions.

Published October 25, 2016 by mandileighbean

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #31: Ben Jackson, husband and father of three, is killed on a car accident. Write about this event and how it affects the lives of the following characters:

  • Ben’s wife
  • Ben’s business partner
  • a police officer who was at the scene of the accident
  • Ben’s youngest child

 

By all accounts, Ben Jackson was a good man. He loved his family very much, and he showed up to work with a smile everyday. Ben never complained; he had nothing to complain about, really, and he knew it was all wasted breath. Ben Jackson had never intended to waste any breath as he fully understood how precious such breaths were. So when Ben breathed his last, when his breaths were brutally cut short, it was certainly not of his own volition.

He never even saw the other car coming.

But why would he? No one ever really looks for the car speeding through a red light; the car just comes, as careless and reckless as any harbinger of death would be. That might be melodramatic – it was no sullen, hooded figure gliding just above the pavement  with a sickle clutched in a bony hand. It had been a kid; a simple, pimply kid who was too busy sending text messages in the group chat and making plans for a Friday night he was certain would come to look up. So confident in his immortality as only the young are, he assumed the car in front of him had disappeared from his stolen glances at the road because the traffic light had changed color from red to green. In reality, the car had made a legal right on red, but the teen driver wasn’t really paying attention. He accelerated forward the way young, inexperienced drivers are apt to do – in sudden, scary bursts – and in just a moment more, he slammed into the side of Ben Jackson’s car, right into the driver’s door.

Ben’s affordable Kia Rio folded like a cheap suit and a jagged piece of metal from the poorly constructed door (later, no one would mention the recall at the service because to do so would be impertinent) severed his femoral artery. He bled out in just four minutes, just before the paramedics arrived.

Officer Bobby Gillis, responding to the scene, was unnerved by the lack of carnage for a crash with a fatality. The teen’s car had managed to travel unscathed to the far side of the relatively busy intersection before he collided with the deceased, a Mr. Ben Jackson. Officer Bobby Gillis was slightly bent at the waist, looking in through an open window at Ben Jackson’s face. The face was peaceful, like the man could be sleeping instead of being dead. Office Bobby Gillis released a deep breath and straightened up, looking across the way for his partner. Once he showed up, the pair would travel to the deceased’s home and notify the next of kin. Officer Bobby Gillis swallowed hard and ran a trembling hand across the back of his neck a few times. He needed to get his mind right, to focus on the task at hand, which in essence was to break someone’s heart, some undeserving stranger who as of yet had no idea a loved one was gone, dead and gone. His face felt tingly and he knew he must be pale, and he shut his eyes tight against the vision of the peaceful dead man that would haunt him at night for months to come.

Imagine if Officer Bobby Gillis knew what a great guy Ben Jackson was. How harder would the tragedy have landed on the officer if he knew Ben Jackson was on the road during the workday to pick up lunch for his colleagues, his treat? No good deed goes unpunished, and for a generous lunch, Ben Jackson had paid with his life. What a sick joke.

But neither Officer Bobby Gillis nor his partner knew the intimate details of Ben Jackson’s life and as such, both were better composed as they climbed wooden, creaking steps to a front door of a home that looked like every other home in the neighborhood. There was nothing remarkable about it, nothing to alert anyone to the fact that someone inside had been marked for death. Officer Bobby Gillis continued to grapple with his existential crisis until he noticed the toys in the yard and the small bikes in the driveway. His stomach flipped over and for a moment, just a moment, he debated running back to the cruiser and locking the doors. He’d rather avoid the whole, ugly mess.

But his partner had already knocked.

When the door opened, a gorgeous blonde with legs for miles answered the door. She was smiling, but it didn’t quite meet her big, baby doll eyes. Officer Bobby Gillis chalked it up to being uncomfortable and confused, which was how most pedestrians felt when the law came knocking on their door. Officer Bobby Gillis’ partner asked if the children were home.

“Just my youngest,” said the beautiful woman. “Jimmy and Josie are at school.” Her face paled considerably but somehow remained radiant. Officer Bobby Gillis credited contoured makeup. “Is everything okay? Did something happen to my children?”

The partner answered that no, nothing happened to the children and that they were safe. Then he asked if they could come in. Though the woman gave no response, she opened the front door wider and stepped back, which was as good an invitation as any. The officers crossed the threshold, softly shutting the door behind them, and followed the beautiful woman into the kitchen. She shakily sat in a chair, watching with impossibly wide eyes as the officers seated themselves opposite her.

Officer Bobby Gillis let his partner do all the talking.

And as the partner explained the tragedy, the beautiful woman didn’t make a sound. She blinked those big, baby doll eyes a lot, blinked them until a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Officer Bobby Gillis credited shock for the muted reaction, and considered that quite possibly, this woman was doing her best to keep it together for the little one that was somewhere inside the home. Officer Bobby Gillis and his partner offered expected but genuine condolences and then excused themselves. Once outside, Officer Bobby Gillis said, “Well, that sucked.” His partner agreed and Officer Bobby Gillis said, “That’s the absolute worst part of this job, man.”

Inside, the beautiful woman was still sitting at the table. Her name was Lisa and she had been married to Ben Jackson for ten years. They had known each other in high school, but waited a few years after they graduated college to get serious. It was a safe bet for Lisa, a sure thing; he was making money as a financial adviser and Lisa had never been any good at anything, not skilled enough to have a career. She also was never any good with money, so she had been content to be taken care of (financially, at the very least). That is, she had been content.

Phil Evans, Ben’s business partner, came walking out of the bedroom from down the hallway, tucking his expensive button-down shirt into his equally expensive pants. “Who was that?” he asked.

“The police,” Lisa said. Her voice was flat. “Ben’s dead. There was a car accident.” She blinked. “He didn’t make it. He’s dead.” She blinked again. In a moment more, those big, baby doll eyes landed on Phil.

Phil collapsed into the chair recently vacated by Officer Bobby Gillis. His eyebrows were scrunched up, like he was confused and trying to solve some exceedingly frustrating problem. “What?” he asked, even though he had heard Lisa perfectly. He didn’t know what else to say – what was there to say? – and he was buying time, time to think and figure it out.

“Ben’s dead,” Lisa repeated. Her voice cracked and tears came easier now. “Ben’s dead.”

Phil covered his face with his hands. “Shit,” he breathed. His breath was tremulous, speeding up and slowing down in a jerky kind of pattern that typically signaled tears. He didn’t want to cry in front of Lisa, didn’t feel he had the right to mourn Ben’s passing in Ben’s house. Phil’s recent sense of decency was odd and ill-timed, as he had just slept with Ben’s wife and had been doing so for months. “Lisa, I-”

Down the hall, Jeremy was softly crying. He was just waking up from his afternoon nap and rather than sit across from Phil and face the physical manifestation of everything that was wrong with her, Lisa hurried down the hall.

In her absence, Phil found himself able to cry.

death_in_the_hood

On archetypes and assumptions.

Published September 4, 2012 by mandileighbean

I have to be at the high school around 7:30AM tomorrow.  I really am excited for the school year and to be teaching full-time.  The only aspect I’m currently apprehensive about is waking up before 9:30AM, as has been my habit the last month.  Also, I’ve been suffering from insomnia lately, tossing and turning for at least an hour before falling asleep that is restless and broken.  More often than not, I pop an irritated open to see the neon green lights of my alarm clock glowing an absurdly early time.  I know I will be exhausted, but I’ll just have to power through it; no big deal.

Well, I say it’s no big deal but that is easier said than done.  I know my anxiety comes from the upcoming academic year and I have yet to figure out how to master my own emotions.  Does that come with age, or does that elude us all for forever and ever, amen?

I finished reading Divergent by Veronica Roth today.  It was highly entertaining and there were times where I had to physically force myself to put it down.  The characters were well-developed and I admired the allegorical aspect of the novel, as well as the adult themes that were presented and successfully tackled, despite the novel’s Young Adult label.  I’m not sure if I’ll read the others in the series, and I’m not sure if that fact detracts from my glowing review.

I started running again.  My goal is to be able to go to where the pavement ends, and then back again.  I was able to do it about a year ago, and I remember how amazing it felt to be sore, to try on clothes and have them fit, and to feel pretty.  I did gain back some of the weight I lost, but the trick is to not let it get me down, and to stop the bleeding; start losing instead of continuing to gain.  My mantra this time around is “I want to look the way I want to feel when the man I love takes me in his arms.”  I know my friends will say that I shouldn’t lose weight to impress the opposite sex, and that it is a personal decision I should make for myself, and they are right.  But I am also a realist; how will anyone find me attractive if I don’t even find myself attractive?  There is a certain kind of confidence and appeal that goes along with looking good and feeling good.  That is what I’m truly after.

I haven’t heard anything about the editing process for my novel, so I sent an e-mail politely asking for an updated.  In turn, I will keep you all updated.  I’m anxious to hold a copy in my hand, to begin marketing myself and my dream and my passion.

I love when I walk into my bedroom and “Thunder Road” is playing.

PROMPT: “I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage.  And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

PIECE: I watched the man in the paint-splattered jeans mosey on up to the counter, his flannel shirt stretched tight across a pronounced belly.  His trucker hat sported greasy thumbprints along the brim, and he could use a good shave.  I smiled brightly enough, always keeping tips in mind, even though I had dismissed him as a vagrant, as just another truck driver passing through.  Their faces seldom repeated, though their stories were eerily similar.  They’d been on the road for months and were either running back home, or running from their loneliness.  The trick to handling such customers, and how to get awesome tips, was to listen patiently with a sad, but understanding smile.  These guys ate it up every time.  Oozing confidence in my pheromones – or at least, I felt like I was – I walked in front of the man who had just entered the diner, immediately pouring him a cup of coffee.  Not yet meeting his eyes, I smiled wide and asked, “What can I get for you today, buddy?”  Buddy was an excellent moniker; truckers used it among themselves regularly, so it helped me give the impression that I was an insider, almost one of them.

“I’ll have an egg-white omelet and a side of sausage.  And a beer, if you’ve got one.”

I stopped pouring, even though the cup was nowhere near full.  Wide-eyed and bearing an incredulous smile, I met the trucker’s eyes and let a small laugh escape me.  He had to be kidding.  It wasn’t even nine o’clock yet.  “A beer?” I asked, repeating his order so he could hear it back and recognize the insanity within.

“Yeah, if you’ve got one,” he said, cool as could be, like it was the most normal thing in the world to order at the breakfast counter in a diner in a small town before the hour of nine.

“Um,” I say, trying to be careful with my words and being unable to stop myself, “it’s not even nine o’clock, yet.”

The trucker smiled and dropped his gaze.  It wasn’t an act of submission; it seemed to me like he was feigning humility, like he was finally acknowledging the social taboo he was committing.  “Darling, if you knew the night I’d had, you wouldn’t begrudge me a beer.”  His eyes rose to meet mine, and at the utter sadness that tinged the edges, I felt my heart ache.  Whatever had happened to this man was terrible, and he believed it warranted a beer.  Who was I to argue?  Besides, I was looking to cash in on the tip and the first rule of customer service is that the customer is always right.

“Let me see what I can do,” I offered.  Before I hurried to the back, I finished pouring his coffee, set out the creamers and sugar, and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.  I asked Rick, the manager, if it’d be okay and Rick poked his head out from the swinging doors of the kitchen, scanning the counter.  His assessment of the man must have been that he seemed harmless enough, because Rick nodded and then promptly continued shouting at the kitchen staff.  I left to the sanctuary that was the fridge and grabbed an amber bottle.  Lucky for me, we only carried one brand.  I returned before the customer with the odd request, opened the bottle using the hem of my uniform and handed it to him.  “Here you are,” I smiled.

“Thanks, darling; this is greatly appreciated.”  The man drank from the bottle like he had never done so before and never would again; like that beer in that diner was all that mattered.  I watched him with growing fascination and growing curiosity.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that gave you such a thirst so early in the morning?”  I lean against the counter casually, so it looks like I’m talking to a friend with genuine concern, rather than humoring a customer.

His eyes roam over me, but not in a creepy, perverted way.  He was measuring me up, trying to make sense of me.  His brows furrowed for a moment before he said, “How about you run and put my order in and then I’ll tell you all about it?”

I blush deeply – what a rookie mistake – and quickly scrawl a ticket, running it back to the line.  When I return, the customer who has so consumed me is drinking again, drinking deeply from the beer bottle.  The coffee remains untouched.  I grin, perhaps admittedly somewhat impressed by such a display of manly tolerance, and resume my lean.  “Okay; I’m all ears.”

He set the bottle down and preferred to tear at the already peeling label, soaked from condensation, rather than make eye contact.  “Well, darling, if I am to be perfectly honest – and that is something I pride myself on – then I was on a romantic date with a pretty young thing, not unlike yourself.”  I smiled and bowed my head in recognition, just like I was expected to.  I’m not sure if he saw it because he was so preoccupied with getting the entire label off cleanly, in one long, exaggerated rip.  “I got myself all dolled up.  I bought new cologne and everything, had the flowers and the candy all ready and raring to go, and would you believe it?  She never showed.”

I gasped dramatically.  “You’re kidding,” I said.

“I wish I was, darling; I wish I was.”  He paused a moment, maybe to collect his thoughts or to let the weight of his sentiment settle properly over the conversation.  “I was hurt, like any man would be.  I felt I deserved an explanation.  So I drive over there and I’m going to knock on her door when I notice the curtains for the front window are wide open and that I can see into her living room.  I look – I couldn’t help it – and there she is, sucking on the neck of some guy I had never seen before.”

I frowned, offering up my sympathies.  I asked, “Had you been together long?”

“We had been closing in on a year.  I thought I was going to marry that woman and have a beautiful family.  But she had other plans, and boy, did I feel like a fool.  I needed to give her and him a piece of my mind, so I banged on the door.”  The label came off in a loud, aggressive tear and I jumped, startled by the sound.  He didn’t look to me.  He kept staring at the bottle and when he spoke next, it was in a dead sounding tone.  “She let me in and I was screaming loud enough to wake the dead- I mean, loud enough to wake the neighbors.  I grabbed her shoulders but I didn’t do it hard, just so I knew I had her full attention, and that’s when the guy came up behind me and started choking me, pulling me back.”  He looked to me and he must have seen something in my eyes and in my expression that verified the authenticity of my attention.  He leaned forward.  “Do you know what I did next, darling?”

I shook my head.

“I killed them both.”

I leaned back from him, terrified.  Rationale and logic returned soon, and I smiled, though it was most certainly skeptical and didn’t quite meet my eyes.  “You’re putting me on,” I accused, though I did my best to keep my tone playful.  His expression didn’t change – it was still intense and terrifying – but I threw my head back and laughed.  There was no way he was a murderer.  There was no way I was in any danger.  Those things only happened in melodramas created for the television, cinema and literary scene.  “Oh boy,” I said, laughter subsiding, “you had me going there.”  I slapped the counter with my palm.  “I’ll go check on your omelet and sausage.  I’ll be right back.”  I offered him a wink and departed.

As soon as I was out of his sight, my knees buckled and I had to grip the nearest counter edge for support.  Rick heard the metallic clatter and turned.  He nearly ran to my side and grabbed my elbows, raising me to my feet and offering support.  “What happened, Angel?  Are you okay?”

“That guy,” I said, suddenly breathless and feeling like I could wail, “that guy who ordered the beer, just confessed to killing two people.”

I expected Rick to do what I did; to laugh and dismiss it as insanity, but something about my appearance must have scared him.  “Where is he?” he asked.

“He’s sitting at the counter – he’s the only one there.”

Rick left me momentarily and when he returned, he looked confused.  I could understand – the guy looked like any other driver, weary from the road and looking for a meal.  He slipped his fingers under my chin and raised it, ensuring we were making full eye contact.  He licked his lips, like his mouth had suddenly gone dry, and he said, “Angel, there isn’t anyone at the counter.”

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