A Cache of Words Writer's Group Prompt for July 6:
A Meteorite has hit the earth very close to you. What do you see?
It was Friday the 13th, a day my Grandma told me to stay off the road.
“Mijo,” she said as I left her house. “I know you drive a truck, but you must call in sick on Friday. I have a feeling down deep it will be a bad day.”
“Ah, Grandma, I gotta work.”
“No,” she shook her head with such force that the braids at the back of her head shook like the reigns of a horse. “Call in sick, Jose.”
I couldn't say no to my Grandma, so I told her I would call in sick. I had no intention of missing work; I had taken a good job that paid good money. I was scheduled to bring a load of portable toilets to Burning Man and I was pretty stoked to do it - it was really good money. I had no intention of listening to my Grandma’s superstitious warnings.
Friday morning, as I brushed my teeth, I remembered what Grandma said. I laughed at her perception of what I did. I was an independent contractor with my own truck; she suggested that I call in sick. I guess I can call in sick to myself, huh?
The roads were so clear at four a.m.; I always liked the early start. My bullet thermos was filled with coffee, and I had two leftover tamales from the night before. Jane agreed to manage without me for the weekend; soccer tournaments and activities with the kids would have to all be done without me there -again.
I was changing the radio station when I saw it: A flash of light zipped in front of me – like a plane on fire, crash-landing right in front of me. I slowed down, startled. Then (Ba-BOOM!) an explosion lifted my cab up and slammed it down again. My ears stopped working; thank God I had my eyes shut tight because my side window imploded. Glass flew everywhere and I felt it, like sand in my face. I breathed in smoke and coughed, which popped my ears. What were those fumes? I cautiously opened my eyes and saw the road: a horizon in front of me. My truck had miraculously stayed upright. I was stalled, but upright. I looked over my left shoulder to see the field on fire; a ball of fire, as if the sun met the earth.
“What in the hell…?”
I heard horns; people honking behind me. I looked over my left shoulder to see a row of incongruous cars, all upright, but most knocked off the road. Black smoke billowed from two vehicles in the fast lane; one was on top of the other.
I quickly did a quick inventory of my rig. Everything seemed to be in order; should I go out? No cars were moving and I needed to check to see if my tires were popped or….
I cautiously opened my door and stepped on to the road. The field was hypnotic. Everyone was staring at it. It was ablaze - a flaming rock, buried in the dirt at its center. In front of it, a burnt path was smoking from where it skidded to a halt.
“A meteorite?” I whispered.
I looked around. The impact caused several explosions of windshields; broken glass covered the highway like confetti. In addition to the glass, mirrors and plates were on the street; a few, like me had left their vehicles. We all seemed dumbstruck; my ears were ringing. In the distance I heard a low roar, the sound of flames.
Above me, a helicopter appeared and circled above us. I looked up, observing a machine with greater power than the burning rock. It hovered, clever and careful, watching us all below; observing the meteorite and all of the victims below it. The great fuming rock hissed and sputtered, but wasn’t moving. It nearly killed me. Now it was stuck in that field, smoking and reminding us all that we weren’t so safe from the greater space that surrounded us.
I guess Grandma was right.
After the highway was cleared I called my buddy, Jerry, to meet me at the I-5 truck-stop where we used to have coffee. I asked him if he would consider trading vehicles for the weekend. He could take the truck to Burning Man for me; I could take his car to use until he returned. He seemed pretty stoked about taking the job; it paid really good money.
Jane was surprised to see me when I showed up at soccer. “What are you doing here?” she asked, coyly.
When she hugged me, I didn’t want to let go. I was so happy to be alive; so scared of losing her and the kids. In a few seconds she realized something had happened.
I told her the story, but it occurred to me that it wasn’t a long one. Even now, as I tell it in words it goes like this: I was driving and then I saw a flash of light. It turned out to be a meteorite that caused a great explosion and even lifted the cab up off the ground; it broke my window. Jerry took the truck and I took his car, realizing that I couldn’t drive. I’m pretty sure I’m okay now.
That’s the story. It really doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Grandma was right; I shouldn’t have gone. I should have offered the job to Jerry in the first place. Now when I drive, I feel edgy and hyper-alert. I wish things would get back to how it was before. The whole experience left me empty and afraid; I want to know why.