By: Josh Hutchins
(2017 OWFI Flash Fiction award winner)
All the mistakes in my life…I thought about them at that very moment. I thought about how they had shaped me and refined me. I weighed them against my current situation. All the potential my life once had, I saw it slipping away. Bile formed in the back of my throat and pooled beneath my tongue. My stomach retched, making me again conscious of the seatbelt holding tight against my lap. My coffee was splattered all over the central console. I even felt some in my shoe. It was hot, but I ignored it. In that moment, I remembered to breathe. Gasping in a bolt of air, I sensed my wits snap into place, replacing the quiet numbness before. I wish I could trade back.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The air was crisp, with a gentle breeze. I even had the window down to enjoy it. Dew blanketed the fading green grass on every yard I drove by. The air smelled clean. My car smelled like coffee…and regret. Aside from the coffee on my pants and in my shoe, I was smartly dressed…ready for a new business adventure. I had such high hopes that morning. I squeezed my lips and held back tears. The lump in my throat kept growing and pulsing. It became painful, and it exacerbated the taste of the bile in my mouth. I felt my chest tighten.
I sat there, stupefied…dumbfounded. My vision was focused past the windshield, but slowly my eyes drew themselves to look upon my hands. They were firmly gripping the tan leather steering wheel. I swallowed and forced them to let go. The radio was still playing the morning sports news, so I turned it off…watching my hand quiver and shake as it moved. Once the radio was off, I pressed my hands to my face and ran them through my hair. What the hell have I done?
The noise outside my black sedan started with the quizzical and worried calls of a woman. Then, with the addition of neighbors and even an over-interested dog, the sound…the noise…it grew into a din. The rising cacophony acknowledged the bitter truth of what I’d just done. I couldn’t sneak away and hide my shame. I had to face it. The terrified voices I heard…I knew they’d haunt me. People were running towards me. They had panic on their faces. They didn’t look at me, but I was unable to turn my gaze aside from them. I watched them as they clumsily and frantically worked their way across their yards and into the quiet street.
I swallowed again, and cleared my throat. All I could see in front of the car was the broken remnants of a small pink bicycle with training wheels, and a bloody smear on the hood of my car, with bits of hair and skin ripped off by the hood ornament.
I took a deep breath, opened the door, and stepped out to meet my future.