Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Break (02/06/06)
TITLE: Winter Incident
By Sandra Petersen
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My mother and father had been bickering even before we piled into the car to go to church. Who knows what the argument was about? Who cares? They seemed to always be in turmoil over something. I believe that if that they had not been arguing my father may have been a more attentive driver and averted the crash. They were seated side by side in the front bench seat. I filled in a narrow space by the window. Trying to shut out their combative voices, I ran my tongue along my teeth and stared out at the snowy farm fields. I wished my younger brother David had not scrambled into the back seat before me. I would have welcomed the distance between myself and their argument.
As my parents squabbled, my father drove faster until we almost flew over the last hill. Ahead of us, a Bonneville was turning into a driveway. My father stomped on the brakes, but the icy road did not offer traction. Our car T-boned the other vehicle.
From his panicked cries, I could tell my brother was stunned but uninjured, although his seat had jarred forward. My father had a cut lower lip from his impact with the steering wheel.
My mother...if I remember nothing else from that accident I will never forget my first sight of my mother. None of us were wearing seat belts. Seat belt use was not mandatory at that time. The windshield did a poor job of protecting her. Blood and glass were everywhere. Crimson streams coursed down her face and spilled onto her nubby winter coat. Her eyes were closed and she was unresponsive. That was the last memory I had of my mother at the scene of the accident.
My father urged my brother and I to scramble through my open window onto the snowbank that blocked my door and go to the nearby farmhouse. My right leg ached with each step. Hours seemed to pass as we waited at the house. Finally a deputy sheriff came to carry me to the waiting ambulance. I felt sorry for him; I was a rather hefty nine-year-old, and he puffed as he carried me. I demanded to accompany my mother in the back, but the ambulance driver insisted I sit in the front with him. Later I learned that my mother had lost so much blood that she almost went into shock and died.
My father and brother visited me in my hospital room. I wondered a little where my mother was, but I was rather selfish and was savoring the special treatment I was receiving from the nurses.
Then one afternoon a nurse told me that my mother wanted to see me. After much maneuvering, the nurse wheeled me, plaster-casted leg and all, into her room. My mother's forehead was marred by a jagged black line of sutures. She gave a weak smile when she saw me. My response, I am ashamed to say, was one of revulsion. My breakfast and lunch rose at the same time into my throat, and I vomited onto my bedclothes and the floor.
“I’m sorry,” I sputtered to my mother before I was returned to my room.
My mother spent a long time in the hospital, a lot longer than I did. Upon her release, she told me that even though the staff and my father told her that I wasn’t dead, she thought they were lying. She had to see for herself that I was alive.
I would have liked to report that this accident drew all of us closer together, but I can't. The blowups between my parents became more heated and frequent. My mother suffered severe headaches. She experienced tingling when the severed nerves in her forehead finally healed. Glass fragments continually worked their way to the surface. She was so difficult at times to be around that I feared our family would break apart from the strain. Years later, I realized at my father's deathbed that he and my mother would never have separated. They needed each other.
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