This story is by Clay Huston and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
What the hell happened?
I remember driving. I was at the wheel. Christina was sitting next to me and the kids were in the back. I remember coming up on the bridge, but I don’t remember crossing it. I think it’s Saturday?
Maybe, if I start at the beginning of the day, it’ll jog my memory.
I’m pretty sure I woke up at 6 like normal, had breakfast, and then I started packing? Oh yeah, we were packing for a trip to the beach, I remember that. I packed the bags and food while Christina got the kids around. Where were we going? If it was a beach trip, it’s gotta be to the beach house. Yeah, I remember Christina fighting me about it all last week. I can’t understand why she hates that house so much. I guess It’s not in as good of shape as it could be, but it’s not like mom could care for it after dad passed. And now mom’s gone so what does she expect, there’s no one to visit it regularly.
God, it breaks my heart how run down it’s gotten. I have so many memories of that beach house. All the cookouts on the sand with mom and dad and all the fishing we used to do. Until dad lost control. Life was good until what, 9th grade? Then it was like he couldn’t function without his morning handle of Jack.
Those pre-sloppy-drunk-dad memories are so great. I can’t wait to give Charlotte and David the same ones. They’ll love to see the reef I found that one summer in Jr. High, with all the little schools of fish. As soon as they’re old enough to snorkel. Maybe next year. That would be some serious quality time which I’m horribly slacking on lately. I hate that work has sucked up so much of my time, but the family business isn’t going to run itself.
I remember Christina and I loading up Charlotte, David, and the beach gear into the Jeep. I finished my beer. Christina gave me the normal cold shoulder, and we hit the road.
I’m sick of how tense things between us have been lately. I guess it’s all the late nights at work that bug her. And she always gives me a hard time about winding down with a few beers. It’s not a big deal, I’ll be home more when the busy season is over. Telling her that never works. I always get the deep sigh and eye roll. It’s so annoying.
I remember we drove through town and stopped at the gas station to stock up on drinks for the trip.
Ok, then we got on the highway. I remember taking the on ramp because that idiot cut me off. I had to slam on the brakes and my Coors spilled all over the console and in Christina’s lap. She was not happy about that.
That reminds me of our first date. God, that was a disaster. I can’t believe I spilled all over her and she still didn’t bail. Must have liked me, I guess… I’ve been in love with her from the moment I laid eyes on her. From the moment she told me her favorite movies are Lord of the Rings. I love that we can nerd out together. And we’ve always been able to make each other laugh and have great conversations.
I’m so grateful to her for giving me the most beautiful kids. And she’s the perfect mother. How is Charlotte already six! Our little miracle. And David is just like me. I’m so pumped for my chance to be the over enthusiastic dad at football games. It’s crazy how things have worked out since the diagnosis. We went from never going to have kids to two munchkins running around. Not sure what I would do without them. Seriously, I’d probably drink myself to death. Ugh that’d be ironic. I can just hear Christina saying, “I told you so”.
Damn, why is it so hard to remember the rest of the drive? Think Clay! Did we make it to the beach house?
I remember being annoyed at my phone. That’s not new. Weekends or weekdays, it never stops. Marketing needs me, accounting needs me, everyone seems to need me to make decisions for them. What the hell do I pay them for? God, I need a drink just thinking about it.
Someone called me! I remember that because the vibration shook it off the dash and onto the floorboard. Did I reach for it?
Why did Christina yell my name?
Why do I remember a weightless feeling? And something hitting my face?
…The air bags deployed.
Oh my god… I drove off the bridge.
I know that bridge. No water, just rocks. God, no no no.
“His heart rate is skyrocketing.”
Am I dead?!
No… no, I think I’m unconscious. Where am I, the hospital? But I don’t remember any ambulance sirens. There… there was a loud droning buzz… and lots of wind in my face. Was I MedEvaced??
“Clay… Clay, open your eyes for me.”
I have to get out of here! I’ve gotta find the kids. I’ve gotta find Christina. God, what is… I… I can’t move my arms. Or my legs. Oh my god, what is wrong with me? Am I paralyzed?!
“Clay, can you hear me?”
I can hear you! Where’s my family?! Where’s Christina! Open your eyes Clay! You have to open your eyes…
“Get in here, he’s conscious!”
Please! Tell me where my family is. I need to see them! One of you doctors has to know where they are. Wait… I… that didn’t come out… Why can’t I talk?!
“Officer, please, he just woke up and is likely very confused.”
The Police? Why’s he handcuffing me to the bed?
“I’m sorry, but we have a warrant for his arrest. And were going to need his bloodwork as soon as possible.”
Oh my God…
“Mr. Taylor, you’re under arrest for the vehicular manslaughter of Christina, Charlotte, and David Taylor.”
NO NO NO PLEASE NO