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September 1, 2007 Fiction


Margaret Bentley

Lobo photo

I rest my head on a pillow, falling in and out of sleep. Outside the windshield, locusts reflect light like shooting stars as they catch in the car's turbulence. I rouse slowly, watching them.

"Funny how none of them hit the windshield."

My husband's hands rest lightly on the steering wheel. He answers, "Some do."

Just then, he shouts, swerves and tries to brake. There's the sickening impact of a body at the bumper, the crack and warm tumble of breaking bones underneath the wheels.

I right myself. Look out, but it is gone; it is done.

In the back, our son groans in his sleep. Next to him, our daughter is alert. Defend this.

We allow the car to creep forward, as what happened becomes distinct. Our spines are involuntarily erect. A word. A word is all it would take and we would stop, go back. Our daughter waits, but we don't say it. We let the wheels grow round again. We force the moment down. It passes. We are intact. We are whole. We touch each other's arms. We do not go back. We imagine and it is inside the car with us. We stay inside, discrete, staring past the window for something to overcome the thinness around us.

Once home, the children sleep while we inspect the damage. We see the dent, the grill gone from the front of the car. On the bumper, stray coarse hairs, luminescent gray with black tips. Coyote loping along the highway night hunting: jack rabbits, grass hoppers. Train in the distance.

The moon, unblinking, has followed us.

image: Sean Carman