Preserve Thyself

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Grade D meat. Where does it come from? A lesser-quality cow? Maybe instead of grass, this cow was fed Astroturf. Ok, that’s a bit ridiculous, but I’ve been told that the Chihuahua is a dirty little mutt poisoning this great country with bad quality meat. Yet everyday during my lunch break, I find myself walking to that great golden bell in the distance to enjoy a scrumpdidlyumptious Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme. Bring it on, E Coli.

I have a problem. I do many things that are, as my doting mother would put it, “Not in the best interest of self-preservation.” I have jumped off twenty foot embankments without checking the depth of the water below. I have run across the sloping roof of my rickety old farm house. I have argued with my mom, which is comparable to the story of David, my mother being Goliath (figuratively, of course). I have eaten Taco Bell. And I have been a hero.

I achieved the status of hero on a hot day of summer, the kind of dog day that kind that old people reminisce about. I had a job as a cemetery groundskeeper. I was 14. Our old Ford AeroStar minivan still sat in the driveway, already started, ready for Mom to drive me into work. The maroon paint had long ago lost its shine and the rust was eating away at parts of the body. The sliding door only opened from the outside. It reminded me of a sick old man.

Abby, Alex, and Timmy were sitting in the very back seat, dutifully sitting, ready and waiting to go. I walked to the right side of the van, yanked on the sliding door, which slid open with a squeal of protest. I sat down in the middle seat, and my older brother sat the lawnmower on the seat next to me, with the handlebars pinning my chest to the seat behind me.

“Geez! These handlebars make it impossible to breath!” Nat shot me the typical older brother “shut-up-you-whiny-little-brat” look. It was only a short drive, anyway. He slid the door shut. The familiar grind of metal-on-metal scraped across my ears.
I suddenly became aware of something strange happening in the world around me. Why was my house moving forward? Why was everything moving forward? My head swung around and my stomach turned inside out. The van was rolling backward, towards the LP gas tank! Nat jumped in the driver’s seat, pumped the brakes so hard I thought they would break, but to no avail. He jumped out and ran. In the interest of self preservation. My mom ran out of the house. I’ve never heard a scream like that, a scream beyond terror.

I wrenched my body around, trying to free myself from underneath the handlebars of the lawnmower. My little brother was pulling on the sliding door with all his might, but the old man was too sick. If you ever want nightmares, listen to three children scream for their lives. Finally, just as the van struck the gas tank that supplied our house with heat and fire, I twisted out. I squeezed around the mower and jumped out the passenger-side door. I saw the gas tank roll, once, twice, three times. I ran two steps before I turned around. Forget self- preservation. I ran back, threw open the sliding door with a strength I’d never felt before. My siblings shot out of the van like mice from a cat. Then I ran.

In the end, the gas tank somehow did not explode. We called the fire department and they took care of everything. I was never thanked. I still have dreams about my little siblings screaming. But I did the right thing. Sometimes you can’t worry about self-preservation. Besides, the government doesn’t even use letters to judge the quality of meat. That’s just a rumor.





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