Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hard and Soft (04/23/09)
TITLE: The Steel Inside My Pillow
By Emily Gibson
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Finally remembering where I had parked my car in pre-dawn dark the day before, I start the ignition, putting the windshield wipers on full speed. I merge onto the freeway, pinching myself to stay awake long enough to reach my apartment and my down pillow.
The freeway is a flowing river of steel: a current of head and tail lights. Semitrucks toss up tsunami waves cleared briefly by my wipers frantically whacking back and forth.
Ahead in the lane to my right, a car looks oddly familiar and I blink to be sure, trying to see the license plate. I switch lanes to get behind, confirming it is indeed my Dad’s new Buick, oddly 100 miles from home in the middle of the week. Smiling to myself but too weary to be truly appreciative, I realize he and Mom were likely heading directly to my apartment, and have probably planned to surprise me by taking me out for dinner. It is a nice thought, but they will simply have to understand my falling asleep in my soup.
In a small burst of energy, I decide to surprise them first, switching lanes to their left and accelerating up alongside. As our cars travel side by side, I glance over to my right to see if I can catch my Dad’s eye through streaming side windows. He is looking away to the right at that moment, obviously in conversation. It is then I realize something is amiss. When my Dad looks back at the road, he is smiling broadly in a way I have never seen before. There are arms wrapped around his neck and shoulder, and a woman’s auburn head snuggled into his chest.
My mother’s hair is mousy gray.
My initial confusion turns instantly to fury, my mind now a storm of rage. Despite the rivers of rain obscuring their view, I desperately want them to see me. I think about honking, I think about pulling in front of them so my Dad would know I have seen and I know. I think about ramming them with my car so that we’d perish, unrecognizable, in an explosive rain-soaked mangle.
At that moment, my father glances over at me and our eyes meet in startled acknowledgement. His face is a mask of betrayal, bewilderment and then shock. She straightens up, probably feeling his body tense, follows his gaze and looks at me quizzically. So I wound her with my glare, hating her in an instant.
I leave them behind, speeding beyond, splashing them with my wake. Every breath burns my lungs and pierces my heart. I can not distinguish whether the rivers obscuring my view are from my eyes or my windshield.
When I walk into my apartment, the phone is ringing. I steel myself to answer, my hand poised over the receiver, my face reduced to a trickle. Instead, I turn away from the storm, throwing myself on my bed. Burying my wet face in my absorbent pillow, I pray for resilient sleep, without noticing the sharp edges buried deep within the down.
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