Lauren’s legs shone pearly against the highway’s passing headlights. I kept my eyes trained on them, my beacons. My heavy body stumbled after them. “Shut up, you drunk asshole!” Mark cackled from somewhere ahead, scaling the ditch. Sam and Muff flanked him; Muff still singing, and Sam silent, trying to see in the dark.

“Mark, I thought you said there was a creek down here!” Lauren shouted as she disappeared at the curve of the ditch. I willed my feet to move faster to keep her in view. In the same moment, I propelled forward, smacking knees-first into gravel. Cars whished passed me. “Fuuuuuucckk,” I groaned, a put-on voice, like a valley girl, for humor, and loud enough for the others to hear.

“What’s up?” Sam called up in concern.

I didn’t answer, maybe for effect. Cicadas hummed oppressively. I collected myself and stood, feeling the warm oozing from my right knee. Time leapt ahead and when I looked down, the stream of blood had already stained the tongue of my white Keds.

By then they had resurfaced. Their eyes bounced light at me. I stared for an unknowable length of time at the breastbone of Sam’s red flannel shirt, missing so many buttons that it was held together by safety pins. I loved that. “I’m fine,” I told them all, making an overstated waving motion, like an idiot.

“We should head out anyway,” said Sam, and they scampered back down the shoulder to the car.

I flopped into the passenger seat. I loved how Sam’s car smelled like a sepia tone, probably from cigarettes. The three chattered in the backseat, dank with sweat.

Remembering that my leg was bloody, I reacted, wiping the dark line with my index and middle fingers from the bottom up. Soiled hand suspended in air, I felt around the floorboard with the other for a napkin or discarded receipt. I opened the glove box, pushing things around, feeling Sam’s eyes on me. When no paper presented itself, I thrust my fingers into my mouth. As though willed by someone else, I scrubbed the front of my teeth with them, like when you are at a sleepover and have no toothbrush. Understanding what I just did, picturing the bloodstained teeth, I burst out laughing. Sam turned his head to me, and I smiled broadly at him, showing it.

“You look creepy,” said Sam.

“Good!” I retorted, not thinking of any better response.

He turned his gaze back to the road, quiet.

I am creepy though, I thought.

I was creepy. Anytime I sat beside Sam in his passenger seat, I imagined us getting in an accident. I morbidly played it out, detail by detail. I thought of the car flipping, us hanging upside down by our seat belts. I cry out to him, asking if he is all right. He is alive, of course. We fumble for each other’s hands amidst the broken glass, pressing the heat of our palms together in fear. I unbuckle and crawl over to him, pushing his hair back to suppress his head wound, feeling his breath against my cheeks. I kiss him and kiss him and kiss him, we kiss, and I tell him to Hold On, The Ambulance Is Coming.

“The corn is fucking tall for July,” Muff bellowed, and I stared at it, pressing my forehead against the window glass.


About the Author: Brittany Pyle lives and works in Chicago. She's usually a visual artist, but everything she makes chases the same mood. You can visit her at www.brittanypyle.com.

Story Song: "Jackyl" by True Widow