Hedgehogs in the Fog, Part IX

This story was published as a part of the Only fools die of heartbreak collection by Equus Press.

We had just got presents for Lianne and Geezer and were revving in the car a couple blocks above Náměstí Míru. The frozen rain was coming down, and this dark gray Fiat Uno comes screaming out of a black hole. Dee was two, three feet into the intersection, momentarily paused, waiting for an opening. Three seconds, four . . .

The Uno roared out of the black hole, smashing into our left front headlight. Driver didn’t even hit the brake. We skidded across the icy cobbles, my head smacking against the side window.

We got out, shaken but O.K. Shattered glass from one headlight on each car was scattered on the street. Front fender grillwork mangled as well – but everybody from the two cars standing in the rain.

The girl who had come out of the black hole was graveyard-rail skinny – dyed-black hair with streaks of silvery-white. Yeah, a hell of a look. Eyes ghastly black beads. Face of leprous, sallowy skin pulled tight over protruding cheeks and jaw.

Dee walked a few steps off, started crying. I rubbed her arms and said, Don’t cry baby, take deep breaths, it’s nothing.

I looped around and grabbed a glance inside the Fiat. A little skull-and-crossbones deal hanging from the rearview mirror. Marijuana leaf sticker on the glove box.

Hey, no judgments. That’s right. Hear no evil, see no evil. Keep it to yourself – don’t want to hear about it. Freedom is freedom and a sticker is just a sticker.

The cops finally showed. Dee told them it was her fault – intruding into the right of way. The cops wrote it up that way – and Dee’s insurance did have to cover.

Cops didn’t bother giving anybody a breath-test or pupil scan. Nobody had died and it was just more paperwork, I supposed.

Dee cried. I said, Don’t cry baby – it wasn’t your fault. That chick was death. Another foot or two and it might’ve been your leg and my ass. Listen, hey – we’re standing in the frozen rain. It’s all O.K.

The light dims, sometimes it is nearly totally muffed – but they have failed to knock it out entirely. It is so very hard, I know – there are moments when blubbering is the only correct course. The machine strips and polishes you down. Before long, you’ve turned into a picker of someone else’s potato patch. They will record your every move, film you as you walk down the streets and market aisles. Make you run the greased electric pole, offer you praying space before their god. Then, when it gets inconvenient, they’ll cut you back down and toss you out as if it none of it had happened.

But the dim shaft of slight hope endures, it is there – flickering, green and wondrous, visible despite the killing mud and murk.

Reject their gods, reject yours, just give up – you might just yet have a chance to breathe.

published: 14. 7. 2013