“My night for drunks in pickups.”

[from “Wreck Rights,” a Kate Shugak short story]

Jim sighed. “My night for drunks in pickups.”

“Every night’s a night for drunks in pickups,” Hazen said. “The woman driving the Ford Escort is dead. So’s the eleven-year old riding in back of her. The teenager riding next to her has at least a broken arm. The baby was in a car seat in the back, for a miracle buckled in correctly; it seems okay. The pickup driver’s stuck, can’t get either door open. The fire truck and the ambulance are coming from Ahtna, I—”

The rest of what he had been about to say was drowned out by the sound of shrieking brakes and skidding chains coming at them fast from up the hill and around the curve. Jim didn’t wait, he dove for the ditch, and he’d barely hit snow when Hazen’s massive figure hurtled over him and landed two feet west with a solid thud and a grunt. Jim had maybe a second to admire Hazen’s 10.0 form before the semi currently screeching sideways down the hill slammed into the snow berm above their heads.

For another very long second it seemed as if the berm would hold, but no. The double trailer, already jackknifing, broke apart. The rear trailer rolled right over the berm and the tops of their heads, the ditch providing the minimum required amount of shelter. It rolled downhill twice more until a grove of pines slammed it to a halt. Its sides tore like paper and pallets broke open and cases of canned goods went everywhere, a box of mandarin oranges nearly braining Jim when he stuck his head up to take a look. The front trailer teetered on the edge of the road about fifty feet down the hill from where the rear one went over.

Jim thought it might have had a chance if the snow berm had been higher. As it was, inertia and momentum took charge and over it went, rolling at least half a dozen times, the doors bursting open and more pallets breaking apart and more boxes flying everywhere to explode upon impact. Cans of soup and green beans and tomato paste, bags of pasta and popcorn and potato chips, sacks of rice and sugar and flour, six-packs of juice and pop, bottles of vanilla and soy sauce and red wine vinegar, boxes of Ziploc bags and Equal, packages of toilet paper and paper towels, it all tumbled down in a runaway landslide of commercial goods.

Jim, watching from the safety of the ditch, said in an awed voice, “I’ve never really appreciated the phrase ‘bombs bursting in air’ before.”

“It is kinda like Da Nang,” Hazen agreed.

the third Eye of Isis novel publishes on November 3, 2022

Chatter Eye of Isis Kate Shugak

Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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