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Windex Under the Passenger's Seat
Jim’s breath flowed in an even pattern as he waited for the ambulance.
It was just before midnight: he’d be home early tonight. His iPod hung loosely from his ear as he turned the key. The lock nodded into place.
He allowed himself a deep sigh. This seat of his car was the most comforting part of his day. It was ripped slightly, and the duct tape did little to stop the fluff from spilling out. Merciless, he thought. His eyes closed. He allowed his finger to find its way into the bleeding seat cushion. He fidgeted lazily with the stuffing.
The window in front of him was recently cleaned. He chuckled slightly as he recalled wiping egg from it that morning: It was before the sun had risen, so he had had to get a flashlight to clean it off. The landlord kept one outside his room just in case he “might needa get some of them fools whens a sucka can’t see…” It sometimes calmed him to clean his windshield. There was a reason Jim kept Windex under the passenger’s seat.
The car knew the roads better than anyone. Not many people could truly say they trust their cars to drive, but there was no one on the road- there never was past 11:30. His fingers loosened on the wheel.
His head lights caught a spew of glass on the street in front of him. The light reflected off the Windex circles from that morning. He eased his foot on the gas. The car rolled to a stop.
His headlights were the only light on the street. Jim could see two disfigured outlines. Their bodies, broken, were placed like speed bumps in the middle of the road. He brought himself down from full height. His fingers reached for his phone, but they couldn’t figure their way around inside his pocket. Cautiously, Jim brought his hand to the first victim’s chin. The skin was firm; Jim felt small stubbles of hair standing proudly beneath his fingers. The boy seemed oddly familiar. It was a stupid thought, of course. Jim worked at a high school, every boy with the ability would grow facial hair. Jim moved his hand to the boy’s jaw. It made a soft curve: nothing that would help him identify any further.
He fell back onto his butt, the cold evening high way bit its cold teeth right on through his pants.
“There’s been an accident. Two boys, near the high school.” He roughed the phone back into his pocket. The hair on his arms was raised.
He hopped onto the hood of his trunk. Jim helped a flaking piece of paint fall from its place; a little tug did the trick. Jim’s breath flowed in an even pattern as he waited for the ambulance.
Won’t have to worry about cleaning floors for four hours in the middle of the night, that one won’t… Jim reasoned. There was something slightly uplifting about that thought. He found the paper towels in the back of his car. Might come in handy, he thought, they normally do.
Jim tried to numb his mind. With a shiver he thought of how dreadful it would be for this boys’ father to find out. He noticed that he was still holding the piece of rust. It hung loosely from his fingers.
Jim never wanted to get that call: “We’re sorry to inform you, sir, but…” No, that wasn’t for Jim. He’d gotten that call three times already: one for his father, one for his mother, and one for his son who was killed in Afghanistan last October. At least they thought he was dead. No body was found. His son’s whole mission had gone missing. But that wasn’t what Jim was thinking about right now.
Maybe these were college boys. Maybe they were home for the week, skipping class: all that good stuff those college boys do. They were probably talking about the weed they jacked last weekend, the stuff that got them in bed with “that…that girl… what was her name?” You know the kind of thing that gets them good jobs where they wear suits and shower before they go to work. They were probably the college boys that get girls who won’t walk out on them after three months. They were probably laughing at how lucky… but that wasn’t what Jim was thinking about right now.
They probably both had cleaning ladies to pick up after them when their mommies were too lazy. Well, Jim felt that was fair. They probably both had mommies who worked seven-hour days. Jim might have winced to think about those mothers: the ones who wear low shirts and high heels and run six miles before they start their mornings. He might have been disheartened to think that those mothers, the ones who popped Ritalin pills at night, had lost their babies. But that wasn’t what Jim was thinking about right now.
Jim might have wanted to pull out that Windex, if he had thought about it, to clean bugs from the glass on his windshield. It might have disturbed him to get back in his car, whenever that may be, to find even more lifeless things in front of him. Jim wasn’t much for lifeless things. And besides, it sometimes calmed him to clean his windshield.
No, that wasn’t what Jim was thinking about at all. Jim tried to numb his mind because he felt, for the smallest moment, thankful that he found these boys. They weren’t around to out-shine him anymore.
Jim tried to numb his mind: make the happiness go away. He ripped off a sheet of paper from the roll that still rested in his hands. He ran it across his brow.