General Flash Fiction posted May 4, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
Flash fiction story (752 words)

Collision Course

by Natalie Walker

For my first visitation with my mother, I sat on a plastic chair in a noisy hall of talking prisoners. I didn't expect her face to change so much in such few weeks. Her disheveled hair only highlighted the lines on her forehead that weren't there before. That's when I realized my mistakes had changed both our lives.

Picking up the phone on my side of the glass partition, I expected her to do the same. Instead, she continued to stare at me, studying my face with a blank expression on hers. I longed to know what she was thinking.

After winning the staring contest, my mother finally picked up the phone on her side of the partition. From the silence, I realized I would have to be the first to speak. I swallowed the lump in my throat.

“Hey, mom,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady. “How are you?”

She laughed, not quite the reaction I expected.

“How am I?” she said. “My son is a murderer, James. How do you think I am?”

Her words were filled with venom, each one stung like a poison dart. I tried to find the right combination to ease her pain, but all I could muster was an apology.

“I'm sorry,” I said, “It was an accident. I wouldn't have done it if I knew people would get hurt. Mom, I'm so sorry.”

Tears clouded my vision, and getting out that last “I'm sorry” was like talking with a mouthful of sand.

“Tell me everything,” she said.

“Mom, you've seen it all on the news. You know what happened.”

“I want to hear it from you, in your own words. Tell me what you were thinking that night.”

Debating whether or not to steer the conversation in a different direction, I settled on telling her the truth. She deserved it.

So, I started at the beginning.

“It was Friday night. I'd been drinking at Halligan's Pub with Johnny and the guys since we got off work. It was late, the bartender told us to leave. We stumbled our way to Johnny's car. He dropped his keys, I picked them up. I offered to drive because he was too drunk.”

“You were drunk, too,” she added.

“Yes,” I said, “But in my mind I felt sober.”

“Why didn't you just call a cab?”

“I don't know, mom, I wish I had.”

“This could've been avoided, you could've just called me,” she said, looking away.

A few minutes later, “Keep going," she said, "Tell me about the crash.”

I took a deep breath.

“Johnny was in the passenger's seat, the guys were in the back. Everyone was shouting, trying to talk over the radio. Johnny elbowed me in the face trying to get to the back seat. It was a little chaotic. All of a sudden, I heard the sound of crunching metal and the car started moving sideways instead of forward. I knew I wasn't in control, but I didn't know what happened. Every bone in my body ached and I couldn't see straight, my head felt numb. That's when I passed out. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital, seeing you crying in the corner while I was handcuffed to the bed.”

She took a moment to digest my story, struggling to keep her composure.

“You didn't know Johnny's side felt most of the impact of the truck?”

“Until the cops arrested me,” I said, “I didn't even know the truck hit us.”

“Let's be clear, James, the truck didn't hit you. It was your fault for not stopping at the intersection. Are you telling me you really didn't notice that red light?”

“No, mom, I just kept my foot on the gas. I didn't even notice it was an intersection.”

Shaking her head silently, the disappointment and grief was written on her face.

“How could you do this?” she sobbed. “How could you do this to Johnny, his family? His mother wouldn't even look at me at the funeral.”

Clearing her throat and wiping her tears, she regained her composure.

“Thank you,” she said, “I needed to know.”

She slammed the phone against the wall. Standing, she turned her back and walked away.

“Mom!” I called out, banging my fist against the glass.

She was gone.

A guard grabbed me by the arm, ripping the phone out of my hand, and led me back to my cell. I wondered if I would ever see my mother again.

Sudden Flash Fiction contest entry

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