At the Dead Mother's Bend
Mark Steven Long
Some say certain moments define our lives... and perhaps it's our lives which define the moments.
Peeto stared at the line of twisted steel bordering the outer edge of Ottawa River Road, which veered left without warning to avoid the gentle, treacherous river beyond. The more he looked at the hideous steel, the more he saw the river.
Only two weeks ago, a woman in her early twenties had driven the car into the guardrail and was killed instantly. Her little boy, safely strapped into his car seat, suffered only a bruise and instant orphanage. To spare the next of kin, it was decided the woman had lost control of her car trying to round the sharp curve in the road. By that time, the local kids were already calling it the Dead Mother's Bend.
The city repair crews went on strike the very next day, leaving the guardrail unrepaired. The next car to miss the curve would go through the rail and into the river. Peeto was certain of it, and he had to see it happen.
He rubbed his crotch and looked up the road, where it came away from a quiet intersection and skirted quickly past the school playground. From that direction, the road took its abrupt turn into a sudden glut of trees, ensuring no driver could see around the bend.
Peeto looked over to the playground and fixed on a sagging, rusted mass of pipes that were the monkey bars. They were the same bars he'd climbed and fallen off of when he was seven. He remembered leaning over to look at the ground, then losing his balance. It was his most vivid memory: that split second in the air when the trees whisked past and the sky fled as the ground charged at him. The impact broke his arm. He was always reliving it in his mind. To fly, to fall.
The years built up inside him as he leaped down stairways, rode his bicycle over the tops of earthen dikes, contemplated the high dive at the city swimming pool. Once, Brian and Jeeter Dowell had grabbed him after school and dangled him by his feet out of a second-floor classroom window. Peeto couldn't cry with fear like they'd wanted, even though he was afraid they would beat him up.
Sometimes, his upper arm still ached where it had been broken, even though he was now in his teens. He'd started spending nights sitting on the bed and hitting his arm to make it hurt. Closing his eyes, he would see the blurred trees, the uprising ground. Grabbing, hitting, twisting his arm could revive only the vaguest tinglings of crunched bone.
Peeto couldn't imagine wanting anything else from his life, though he knew he was supposed to. He wore long sleeves to hide the marks.
Tires squealed in the distance. He looked up the road, bouncing on the balls of his feet in anticipation. First he saw a blob of moving color that quickly refined itself into a battered blue Chevy Nova. The motor howled in a hideous bass voice. This was the one -- he knew it was. It was going like a bat out of hell. Or a bat into hell. It was magnificent.
The car raged past him. Peeto barely glimpsed the driver, who turned the wheel too late. The car smashed easily through the twisted and bent guardrail and hurtled over the edge of the earth and into space. Peeto felt his entire life within him in the few seconds the car hung in the air. The evening sun reflected off the driver's window, exalted the car's polished surface. The Nova spun slowly to one side before drifting downward, as if almost looking back, before it splashed into the river and sank.
Peeto fell to his knees and couldn't get up, he was quivering so much. The police would simply assume the boy was shaken by what he'd witnessed, and he would let them think it. Now he knew beyond all doubt that he would do this himself some day: he would fly, and fall, and die.
Mark Steven Long (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and editor from New York City. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 1993 for his short story "The Nutbob Stories." His work has appeared in National Lampoon, Reed, Paragraph, Wax, Fiction Forum, and the online zine THOTH. This is his second appearance in InterText. The first chapter from his novel-in-progress, "Punchy Fights For His Country," can be found on the PureFiction web site at <http://www.purefiction.com/>.
InterText stories written by Mark Steven Long: "At the Dead Mother's Bend" (v6n1), "Temporary Town" (v7n1).
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 6, Number 1 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1996 Mark Steven Long.