One Page Stories

Red Station-Wagon

A car and truck drove down the embankment from the highway and turned onto the frontage road.

Madeline watched them from her kitchen window and clucked her tongue. She hated it when cars did that, especially in the twilight like this. Just because they didn’t want to wait for an accident to be cleared away! – and they could very easily cause a new accident by being so reckless.

She pulled a pan out of the drawer under the stove and put it on the burner. “Bill,” she called into the living room. Bill was watching the game, with the volume up too loud like always. He didn’t even turn around in his recliner. “Bill!” she said more loudly. “There’s a wreck on the highway! A bunch of idiots driving down to the frontage road! They’re gonna get somebody killed doing that, one of these days!”

The game on the television erupted in cheers and boos, and Bill shouted at it. He didn’t say anything to Madeline, but that was typical when he was watching a game. When the game was on, he just sat and watched and ignored everything, like a zombie.

“Someday you’re gonna die in that chair,” Madeline predicted. “And I won’t even notice!”

Her daughter Dana walked into the living room from her room, and leaned over the couch to look out the window. “There’s a wreck on the highway,” she said. She turned and smiled at her dad. “I’m gonna run up and look!”

Bill grunted, and his head made a slight movement that Dana interpreted as a nod. Dana grabbed her jacket and ran out the door, leaving it open.

“Dana!” Madeline yelled after her. “Don’t be so morbid!” But Dana was already long gone.

Madeline spun the faucet to turn on the hot water. Nothing happened. She stared at it, puzzled, and spun the cold water faucet. Nothing. “Bill,” she said. “The water’s off.” Maybe the accident had run into something, she mused. She turned to the table where she had put the bag with the pork chops. “Bill?” she called. “Didn’t I bring in the pork chops?”

Bill jumped up from his chair. “Don’t you have eyes!” he shouted at the ref, and sat back down, shaking his head in apparent disbelief.

Madeline looked around the kitchen for the grocery bag with the pork chops. She had just brought it in, for heaven’s sake! Surely she didn’t put it in the freezer when she was using it right away … did she? Prepared to laugh at herself, she opened the freezer door and looked inside. No pork chops there. Hm. Where on earth did she put the bag?

Bill turned down the volume on the television and turned around in his chair. He stared into the kitchen with an expression of total confusion, as though Madeline had spoken in some strange language.

Dana reappeared in the doorway, breathing heavy from running. She looked upset. “Dad!” she cried, her voice shaking. “The wreck – it’s a red station-wagon!”

Bill turned to look at her. “Now, don’t panic,” he admonished. “There’re a lot of red station-wagons.”

Madeline frowned at her daughter. Why would it matter about the car?

Behind Dana, a police car pulled up to the house, it’s red and blue lights spinning. Sam climbed out and approached the house, his hat in his hand.

Bill stepped to the door, putting his arm around Dana. “Sam,” he greeted the officer. “What’s goin’ on?”

“Bill,” Sam said. He paused, and looked down at his shoes. “Bill,” he repeated, looking up again with pain-filled eyes. “There’s been an accident. It was Madeline, Bill.”

Dana burst into tears and flung her arms around her father, burying her face in his shirt. Bill just stared at Sam, and hugged his daughter mechanically.

In the kitchen, Madeline stood and stared at the three of them. What on earth were they talking about? She hadn’t been in an accident. She was right here. “Guys,” she called out, but they didn’t seem to hear her.

“I’m right here.”

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