The Boy opened his eyes. He hadn’t realized they were shut. What happened, he wondered? He had been watching the road, a four lane highway with a large meridian, between the north and south lanes.
He had been watching the sun setting over the high hills. It was nearly dark now, and he still didn’t know why his eyes had been shut. He wasn’t tired, it was only five o’clock and bed time wouldn’t be until eight thirty, or nine if there was a good show on the t.v.
The scenery in front of him didn’t make any sense. Why was he sitting on the side of the highway? He was on the shoulder of the roadway. Small pebbles were poking him in the butt, and he shifted position to be more comfortable.
Karol, his older sister was on his left, to the north and Kevin, his younger brother was on his right. They both were sitting on the shoulder just as he was, and neither of them seemed to know what was going on either.
Headlights were stacked up behind the 1962 Dodge wagon his dad drove. Where is dad, he wondered? Where is Lynda, his oldest sister? Mom isn’t here either he thought. We were all together in the car, heading to Simons, to get groceries and maybe ice cream too. If we were good, we would get a treat.
A man he had never seen before, walked up, and asked how they were doing. The kids only shrugged and stared down the highway at the family wagon. More headlights were behind it now, and the boy could hear a siren wailing in the distance.
That stranger who had asked how the children were, was placing lit flares alongside the wagon. The man-made a pathway out of the flares. They were about 15 feet apart and the path between them was about 10 feet wide. It snaked this way, around the back of the wagon, and then snaked the other way, around something yet unseen.
The flares were a fiery crimson and sputtered sparks around. They smoked, and the smell was just like eggs that were hard-boiled and shelled. Highway flares the boy told himself. Those are what gets used when there’s an accident. We must have crashed, he thought.
The sirens were closer now, but they were behind the car. The car was blocking almost all of the black top and it blocked everything from view. The boy wondered if he and his siblings had been set where they were on purpose. Maybe the children weren’t supposed to see, what was hidden beyond the station wagon.
The flares were much brighter now. They were placed in a funny way, the boy thought. He knew, they were put there so people could drive around the obstruction. He just didn’t understand why the pathway for the other cars was laid out the way it was. It reminded him of a big fat gophersnake.
The siren noise turned itself off, as an ambulance swerved around the vehicles impeding it’s progress. It was just coming to a stop behind the station wagon when that strange man, walked up to the still sitting kids on the shoulder of the black top. ” You kids should come with me” he said. He seemed like a nice enough person, not like someone the kids should avoid.
The children got up slowly, warily following the man. The girl was 11 or 12 years old and the taller of the boys was maybe 9. The youngest, Kevin was about 8, and he didn’t seem to see any problem with going somewhere with the stranger. The older boy, was not so sure about going anywhere, especially with someone Mom and Dad didn’t know or introduce him to.
The boy had been in trouble not long before, for pretending to hitch hike. He remembered being told not to go anywhere with people he did not know. ” Never get into a car with a stranger” he had been told. the boy remembered because he got a spanking for doing that. The children walked with the strange man to a van parked off of the roadway. It was a pretty new van, with 3 rows of seats in it, and had been parked in the median strip between the lanes of the highway.
As the children were getting into the stranger’s van, the oldest boy looked back to where the family wagon was. From the elevated position the boy could see what had been hidden, while he was sitting on the ground. The station wagon didn’t look right. The front end was smashed, and it looked like the roof was bent upward. Only the color was right. The station wagon was nearly unrecognizable, and in the near dark, looked like someone had put a demolition derby car there.
The damage didn’t look all that bad, the boy thought. The front drivers door was opened all of the way back to the fender. It looked to the boy, like the hinges were broken, at least on the bottom. There didn’t appear to be a front seat in the wagon, and the boy wondered how that could be so. The car wasn’t all that old, only a couple of years.
The kids were seated in the back seat of the van, and the strange man said, ” kids, I will be taking you to visit a neighbor of your’s”. He then started up the van and pulled it onto the highway. The driver had to follow another path, lined with sputtering bright red flares, around another obstruction.
There were two obstructions. one was a large deer, dead and bloody, with cuts and gashes all over its body, laying in a pool of congealing blood. The body of the animal was twisted in a unnatral pose, not like other dead deer, the boy had seen in his life. This one looked like someone crumpled it up, as you might do with a wad of paper, and then dropped it from a high place. There was blood everywhere.
As the van weaved its way through the flare lit lane, the boy saw the front seat, just the bottom part, laying alongside the roadway. It had to be 150 feet from the wagon, the boy judged. Along side the seat there was a body laying in another puddle of dark ooze. ” That’s my dad ” the boy said, and craned his neck farther to the rear, to see more.
The van had finished negotiating the flare path and was gaining speed, leaving the scene of the accident. It was getting dark, and becoming hard to make out what was now behind the van. The boy had seen his dad laying there in his jacket, a white leather one, and there was blood on it also. It looked as though someone had finger painted the jacket, as there wasn’t much of the white color left. Just a reddish, brown finger painting.
The van was heading back toward Concord, another 24 miles away. The man driving didn’t pay very much attention to the kids in the back seat. He kept his eyes on the road, and only made a comment or two, during the ride away from the crash. It was too dark, and too far back to see what was happening at the place where the accident had happened. The boy stopped looking back there and looked out of the front of the van. He could see the stranger’s eyes, studying, the children through the rear view mirror as they drove in silence toward home…..