on writing, Personal Journey

The Most Dangerous Thing We Do

Once this kid—my passenger—grabbed the steering wheel and jerked it hard over while I was driving. Not just a little tug, mind you, but a full-on we-gonna-die! yank. The kind that elicited a blood-curdling scream and a shouted sermon. A 19-year old preaching car safety to a 15-year-old. This kid was all charm and immortality and sass. The car fetched and yawed but it didn’t crash into a telephone pole. He thought my fear was funny.

At age nineteen I hadn’t become comfortable yelling at people. That’s why the moment sticks. Now I yell at people for a living. Pro bono. Homeschool mom.

It wasn’t a year after the steering wheel incident I found myself looking at a car, at a half-unwrapped McDonald’s egg McMuffin. The driver’s seat was crushed, crenulated like those paper fans we made in elementary school. The sandwich was in the foot well. He must have had it in his hand when he threw the wheel too hard over. Must’ve dropped between his feet as the car began its flip.

An object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by another force.

This kid, he lay in a hospital bed on life support, monumentally acted upon. His hands were warm from the machines pumping his blood around. All the damage was on the inside where we couldn’t see. This is true for us, too.

Apparently, his brain was dead. I didn’t buy it. Too warm. Too much like sleep. Were I his mother, you’d have to pare me from that beautiful boy with a hacksaw. I’d cling like apple peel. I still do.

I still hold to him. Still yell at him. See him in my own 17-year-old son who drives like telephone poles don’t exist. He thinks my fear is funny too.

My friend began telling this post as if it really happened before remembering it was an entry for a flash fiction contest. I remember her waving it away and saying “…it didn’t really happen.” But it did. Not exactly as I told it, but it did happen, and it happens every day. For most people, getting in our cars is the most dangerous thing we do.

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5 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Thing We Do”

  1. Well said. Thanks.

    We have 5 kids and the youngest is now 17. So far we have survived all the driving but not without our fair share of accidents. Our next to youngest has totaled 4 cars. Yikes!

    It certainly has increased my prayer life. 🙂

  2. This leaves me breathless for three reasons. One, I worry about my children driving. Two, my friend’s 19 year old niece is still in a coma on life support a week later. That was story I was being told when I remembered your story. Three, at how very much of fiction holds truth in it.

  3. You are right. It happens every day and the outcome is sad for everyone. You have written the hospital scene beautifully – it is very hard for relatives to understand brain death when there are no other marks on the person. As an intensive care nurse it was something we had to deal with often. This was a powerful piece and the small detail (such as the macdonalds) added to the impact.

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