It was about twenty past nine o’clock at night. There was a light condensation on the windshield of Edwards Corolla. It had been raining all through the day but had mostly stopped by this point. He did not even see the car coming at first.
Edward had been driving home from work at the assisted living facility he worked at, treating patients with mental handicaps resulting from brain injuries, strokes, or just sheer bad luck like plowing into a semi-truck while riding a motorcycle or getting their head bashed in with a pipe wrench by their wife who caught them in bed with some twenty-something-year-old from the office. Edward could not help but feel that this was an incredibly special kind of hell for the poor souls that wound up in his care. Not dead but not exactly alive. The patients were sometimes not able to perform even the most basic of functions such as brushing their own teeth or wiping their own ass. Families rarely visited and Edward could only imagine that the reason was a sense of guilt and selfishness for not wanting to have the burdens of another thrust upon their own lives. This was not exactly work he enjoyed but a noble profession nonetheless that put food on his, his wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Abigail’s dinner table.
He was almost at said dinner table, pulling off of I-35 onto the feeder road, stopped at the last light before he was to reach his home when he noticed the ‘93 Ford Ranger hurling toward the intersection at a blistering pace.
The driver of the truck must have realized he was heading toward a light that had abruptly switched to red and the unmistakable sound of breaks squealing cut through the night. Due to the rain that had been falling throughout the day, the truck failed to gain any traction on the slick road and skidded through the intersection, up over the curb, and into a light pole at the opposite corner of the intersection, at about forty-five miles per hour.
Edward watched the crash with a sort of bemusement. He had always rubbernecked on the freeway when he had seen a bad crash but had never seen one occur directly in front of him before. He had not even realized that he had gotten out of the car to approach the crash until he was already on foot halfway through the intersection.
When Edward composed himself, he noticed the strong smell of burnt rubber on the pavement and the unmistakable smell of gasoline that was now leaking onto the pavement from the gas tank of the twisted pile of metal that was once a Ford Ranger. Now, however, it resembled more that of a beer can that you step on after you have finished it to throw it into the recycling bin.
He also noticed one other thing. The light pole that the truck had lost the encounter to had begun to spark and was strobing off and on, swaying in the light breeze that was coursing through the night. At first, he tried to open the driver’s side door of the truck, but it seemed to be locked or stuck. The driver’s side window of the truck had cracked in the collision but not shattered, so Edward finished the job and threw his elbow into the window of the truck to supply his aid to the unfortunate soul who had to have had better days than this one.
There were two people in the car. A man and a woman, the man in the driver’s seat, and the woman riding shotgun. The man appeared to have been in better shape than the woman, at least, as far as Edward could tell, for the woman’s face was facing toward the passenger window. Though there was something familiar about her. Something about the way her hair was colored bleach blonde with dark roots showing and the floral patterned blouse that she wore caused Edward to do a double take. It took him more than a moment to realize that his wife, Sarah, was the one in the passenger seat of the truck.
Edward could not understand the sight that he was seeing at first then noticed something else both equally confusing and troubling. The driver of the truck had his pants halfway down, exposing his penis, which was still moderately erect, despite being in a head-on collision. He couldn’t tell if the red marks on it were blood, the source of which had yet to be determined but there was plenty of spattered across the dash, or leftover remnants of the lipstick his wife wore, though the shade of the stains seemed to imply the latter.
“Please help me,” said the man, who had gained moderate consciousness, startling Edward back into his lucidity.
“Please get me out of here. My arms are broken. I can’t undo my seatbelt. I can’t breathe. Help.” The man seemed to gasp these words and Edward guessed that the force of the crash had crushed his chest, probably breaking a few ribs.
“Sarah?” Edward said, startling himself with how shaky and foreign his voice sounded. There was no response to his inquisition.
“Please” begged the man. “Get me out of here.”
Edward looked intensely at his face but came away with no recognition as to the identity of the man who had taken part in defiling his marriage with his, thought to be, ever loving and faithful wife. He decided to call her again.
“Sarah?” No response.
Edward moved to the passenger side of the truck to try and get to her. The passenger side door opened easily, and Edward was able to get to his wife. Upon looking at her closely, he was able to ascertain the source of the bleeding. Her face was mangled, most likely due to the blunt force of bashing her head into the dash, and her arms were in an awkward ‘S’ shape from bracing herself against the sudden impact of the crash. There was also blood coming from her right ear. Her eyes were closed and the only sign of life from his wife was the sort of gurgling sound coming from her fractured mouth.
The smell of gasoline was palpable, and the light pole swayed ever more vigorously in the moist air of the night, threatening to fall right on top of the newly formed pile of scrap metal that had once been the shape of a truck. It was at this moment that Edward realized that he had not dialed 911 or tried to find any help. He reached into his pocket for his cell phone, punched in the number, and just as he was ready to hit dial, he stopped himself.
His hesitation bewildered Edward at first. This was, not only his wife of five years but also the mother of his four-year-old daughter. But he also could not forget who else this was. This was the woman who had defiled their sacred marital oaths to one another and imploded his family with her sexual proclivities. Then a horrible thought crossed his mind:
Why should he save her?
It took him more than a minute to produce an answer, and that answer was his daughter. No matter how Edward felt about the situation, no matter how angry and betrayed and sad he felt, he could not let the mother of his daughter succumb to her fate without doing something about it. It would not be fair to her.
“Please. My seatbelt. I can’t get it off. Help me. Please.”
The voice of his wife’s lover caught Edward off guard and snapped him back to reality. He glanced back up and the light pole that was ready to fall, unbuckled his wife’s seatbelt and dragged her into the grassy shoulder of the road. He laid her down face up on the ground and tried to rouse her awake to no avail. She was not responsive to his attempts and convulsed on the ground lightly, resembling a fish that had been out of water for far too long and was about to meet its demise.
Edward got back to his feet and started to head back to the truck but stopped dead in his tracks. He stared through the open passenger door at the man with his now soft, stained penis freely exposed to the world and found himself planted in place. He could not move. Or maybe he didn’t want to move. Edward was not sure himself. He looked up to the man’s eyes, which were fixated on him with fleeting desperation. He was not sure whether the man had recognized him as the husband of his lover or not, but with what little air he had left, He uttered a final “please” before the light pole that had been precariously perched above came crashing down on top of him.
The pole landed with a loud crash on the roof of the truck and knocked his wife’s lover unconscious. Sparks flew from the pole and bright lights illuminated the surrounding area like a morbid fireworks display. However, the gasoline that had pooled around the truck did not ignite. It was at this moment that Edward, coming back to his senses from the distressing events that had just occurred, decided to have a cigarette. He pulled a half-filled pack of Camel Crushes from his jacket pocket and a matchbook, lit the cigarette, and threw the lit match into the pool of gasoline. The truck was engulfed in flames almost at once and eventually, the truck exploded, sending debris and shrapnel into the night air, surely killing his wife’s lover.
Edward sat down next to his bleeding, unconscious wife, took a long drag of his cigarette, and dialed 911.
“Your wife is in a semi-lucid state,” said the doctor at Princeton Plainsboro. “She went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was oxygen deprived for well over ten minutes before her heart could be restarted. There has been severe neurological damage resulting from lack of oxygen and complications from the accident from which she may never regain full motor functions and will need round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.”
Edward was standing in the waiting room with the doctor the morning after the crash with his daughter's hand in his, listening half-heartedly to the doctor explain his wife’s prognosis.
“We have several outpatient care facilities that we can recommend to aid in your wife’s recovery,” said the doctor.
It was at this moment that Edward's work called him to inquire where he was. He had the morning shift and did not show up due to his exciting night on the side of the road. He did not answer the call.
“Daddy is mommy going to be okay,” asked Abigail, tearfully.
“Yes baby,” said Edward. “I know just the place to put her.”