Broken Glass

(Short Story)

 

John pressed the pedal to the floor, using so much pressure that the seams on his sneaker nearly exploded. Even his toes were flexing. He let off the gas suddenly and then stomped on it again as if he were trying to kill his Toyota. The car pulsed along the road in tune with his rage; tires screeching and begging for mercy.

His knuckles were as white as the pillow he wanted to smother his wife’s face with for spending all his money and sleeping with other men and the tips of his fingers pounded with blood. Every few seconds he took one hand off the wheel and pounded it on the dashboard. On his shoulders sat his angry head, spitting obscenities and saliva all over the window shield.

He sped along the main road, passed the liquor store and the Quick Check. People turned their heads to see who was driving so fast, like a goddamn maniac. He saw them look. He felt their stares on the back of his neck. Pesky mosquitoes. He flipped them the bird and told them all they could rot in a fiery Hell were they belonged.

He shook his head violently back and forth, flinging dandruff and loose hair around the car. He could feel the car rock with his bodies’ jerks and gyrations.

I’m being an asshole. That’s what he thought even though he barely knew he thought it. It was like a tiny quiver in the spaghetti bowl of his brain. All he was conscious of was the red steaming anger that boiled under his skin. All those bills, all that pressure. And he was the only one that cared. He’d had enough. He was gone. Done.

The light ahead turned red but he didn’t notice. He kept on flying. An eighteen-wheeler came through from the other side, itself speeding. Glass went into John’s eyes. His head cracked the side window and then swung to the other side. The seatbelt lacerated his neck and chest. The frame of the car crumpled like a cardboard box as the people John had just verbally assaulted stood with their mouths agape.

The eighteen-wheeler and the sedan screeched across the sidewalk into a light post. The metal post teetered for a second and then came crashing with all its weight onto the top of the truck. Ronnie jumped out with his fat belly exposed by a ripped shirt. He took off his mesh baseball hat to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. That’s when he saw the flames come out of that bastard’s hood.

“Stupid son of bitch,” he yelled. “You dumb motherfucker.”

He wanted to pummel John, and had every right to, but first he had to pull him from the wreckage before he burned alive. Like it or not, he had to do something or this prick and his crying family would be visiting him in his dreams for the rest of his life and he didn’t need more guilt weighing him down, not after his recent adventures at the rest area over in PA. He waddled quickly to the driver’s side door of the sedan.

“Oh Hell,” he spat.

The car was bent so obscenely that none of the doors would budge. Ronnie looked at broken window and the shards of glass. He took his shirt off and lined the rim of the door with it. He reached into the vehicle. John was out; didn’t respond. The metal of the crumpled car was starting to cook.

He picked up a piece of broken glass and used it to cut off the seatbelt. His hand was drenched in red. He grabbed John under the armpits and pulled as the plastic of the dashboard started to sizzle. The old T-shirt that Ronnie had draped over the door was little protection against the jagged sharp edges of the old window as he pulled John’s limp body over it. Deeps cuts were being carved into his flesh.

“Better than being roasted alive you asshole,” said Ronnie, exasperated.

He dragged John a good distance away from the burning metal, but not so far he couldn’t feel the heat. Despite that heat and the wounds he endured, Ronnie felt a little better than he had in days. He just saved somebody’s life. He probably saved somebody’s family too. That was good, because a few days ago he had taken somebody’s life and probably shattered their family too.

He was on the road that night about a week ago, as always. He wanted more coke. Shit, he needed it. Snorting that white candy was the only thing that kept him alive, even as it was killing him. He knew a dealer right outside of Easton but he had no cash. He spent it all on shit food and junk he didn’t need.

He was going to stick somebody up at knife point and shake them down for their wallet or purse.  That was it. He didn’t plan on killing anybody. But when that bitch called him a looser and laughed at him, he lost it. It was grade school all over again, like when the kids hiked up his underwear and called him fatty and spat in his lunch.

It was late, dark. He sat and waited in the truck when this girl, white and blonde, pulled up in her little Jetta and got out to take a pee. He crossed in front of her and held out his blade. He hand was shaking so bad. He hadn’t done something like this in years and even then he was with other guys, more experienced guys.

“You’re a loser,” said the girl in a sharp tone that made her words even more condescending. She was drunk and probably had experience being a cunt. “What is that a butter knife?”

“Just gimme your purse,” said Ronnie in a pathetic whisper.

“Go fuck yourself you fat worthless prick.” She looked up at his hat and then back down to his face. “Maybe when you learn how to be a little intimidating you can hold someone up, get some money, and buy yourself a better hat.”

She stepped around him and continued on to the bathroom.

“Fucking redneck,” she muttered while opening the bathroom door.

The fear and the wanting of the nose candy left Ronnie. All he felt was heat. The heat that made you do bad things and wake up with regrets.

He followed her into the ladies bathroom. When he came in she was bent over the sink and looking into a mirror, applying lipstick. Her thong hung out the back of her jeans. He walked so fast she didn’t even notice him come in. He had never walked so fast in his whole life because he was always so goddamn fat, but his anger and humiliation propelled him through his sickening fatness.

He put one hand on her back and grabbed her hair with the other. She dropped the lipstick onto the floor and reached back in a panic. She started to claw at his neck the second he started to slam her head into the mirror. Twenty-two times he smashed her into it. That sounds like a lot, but to Ronnie, who didn’t feel like he was in his own body at the moment, it wasn’t. He felt like he could keep going. He enjoyed watching the broken glass cut her pretty face.

He didn’t fully regret it until he sat on the sidewalk next to the car wreck with John laid out on a stretcher in an ambulance across the street. The cop that asked him what happened said he was a hero. The bystanders said the same thing. He didn’t feel like a hero. He felt like a redneck piece of trash.

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