Thursday, 16 December 2010

Friday Flash: Driving Home for Christmas


It’s my favourite journey of the year. I travel down the motorway singing along to Christmas Carols that are playing on the radio, and anticipate going through the front door of my family home and seeing the whole family gathered together again.

The car is packed full of gifts and food and my suitcase, as I’m staying for a few days as I always do. I look forward to the sight and smells of a log fire glowing in the hearth, and my family gathered around it. I hope that this year, Uncle Bernard will keep his fierce opinions to himself. I involuntarily raise my eyebrows as I think of him and the arguments that he has caused.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of white. Before I know what is happening, my car is struck from the side, and propelled forward. It ends up in front of the lorry that hit it, being pushed along sideways. I can no longer hear the radio. All I can hear is the sound of a blood-curdling scream that goes on and on. It takes me a few seconds to realise that the sound is coming from within me.

As the sideways motion continues, images fly through my mind. A table set for Christmas dinner with all of my family seated and a space where my seat should have been. A baby seat in the back of my car: not the current car but an unknown car from a future that may never happen. My boyfriends face.
I cling to the steering wheel as a drowning man would cling to a life raft. Everything feels like it is happening in slow motion.

Finally the movement stops. It takes me a while to realise that I am going to be ok, and as the car remains motionless facing the edge of the motorway, it is as if silence has descended on the world. Then reality hits me as I see the traffic racing past me and my ears start working again. I have to get off the road.

The lorry driver helps to push my car onto the hard shoulder. He apologises, in broken English, for not seeing my car. The police arrive and take down our details and I then get back into the car and drive slowly home. Later the car will be declared a write-off, yet I am completely unharmed apart from shock.

After everyone has heard all the details at least once, and stopped flapping around me, I sit by the roaring fire, warming my hands on a mug of hot chocolate. I listen to Uncle Bernard giving the room his opinion on the latest news bulletin, and smile. As I gaze at my family one by one, absorbing the details of their faces in a completely new way, I know that for me, this will be the best Christmas ever.

21 comments:

  1. Vivid details. I think a lot of us take our lives for granted. This was a timely reminder, and a good story.

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  2. Great voice to this piece. It would be easy to believe this was part of a memoir. And I agree with Laurita, a beautiful message as well.

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  3. I loved this. I'm surprised I'm not reading more car crash stories (oh, that's right, I have read another this morning from Rachel Blackbirding!) with the snowy roads etc that we hear about up in the other hemisphere! I was expecting her to die, but I'm glad she lived to appreciate her Uncle Bernard! Don't we all have one of him??

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  4. Excellent story! Nothing like a near tragedy to make one appreciate life all the more.

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  5. I really liked the ending paragraph, the sense of appreciation and family. I also liked the images flashing by the narrator. That was good and gave it some urgency. As a reader, I wanted the crash to be more dramatic and sudden, if you want to take any feedback from it. What sounds are heard? What does the flash of white look like?

    I did love the honesty of the last paragraph.

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  6. Lucky the speaker even made it to have the hot chocolate. It sounds like that's appreciated, which is appreciated by this smiling audience member.

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  7. Nicely put together, Rebecca. And I Know about this kind of thing. I've been there.

    December 14th, 1975. Hit an overturned tanker in thick fog. To this day I don't know how I got out of that truck alive. 35 years on, I still remember every detail.

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  8. Thank you all for the comments. With very limited time, I have had to draw from experience so the crash part actually is effectively what happened to me.

    Julio, I totally understand your comments and they are valid. I can see what you mean completely but I wrote the crash *exactly* as it happened. The flash of white was only that (it all happened so quickly) and I didn't hear anything as the shock basically effects your hearing I think. I didn't even hear the screaming for a second or two, it is weird how it happens.

    David... I know what you mean, you never forget do you. I still can't bear it when I see a vehicle to the left of my car...

    Thanks again for all of the feedback.

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  9. Beautifully written. For me you captured perfectly that moment where evrything happens so fast it all seems to be in slow motion (does that even make sense?)...you're scooting along sideways yet your brain flips to other thoughts.

    A similar, though not so dramatic thing happened to me years ago, I remember coming to rest, totally unhurt but not being able to understand why I was looking at the bonnet of the car sticking straight up in front of me. I remember wondering if I could knock the dents out before my parents saw it, it was their car.

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  10. It's strange, the details that the mind takes in when you are in an accident as opposed to when you see one. I, too, liked how you wrapped up the story with your last paragraph. Very nice piece!

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  11. That was beautiful. Read mine?
    http://tinyurl.com/23zymrz

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  12. Wow! Wonderfully vivid writing, Rebecca, and a great reminder to appreciate what we have.

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  13. The crash decscription worked really well for me, very vivid I thought.
    I am glad she lived to hear another of Uncle's rants :-)

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  14. nicely done, very real, glad she got the chocolate :)

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  15. I really like Uncle Bernard and his 'fierce opinions'. I also like the fact that something nasty doesn't happen in the lull of the crash. It was a relief that she pushed the car to the side and got on home. Somehow, that was more surprising. And as this is at least, in part, from experience, I'm glad nothing bad happened to you too. I enjoyed this a lot. Thanks Rebecca.

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  16. It brush with death certainly makes one appreciate all the more what one has in this life. Nicely written Rebecca.

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  17. Very nicely done Rebecca, and I too thought your description was spot on. I have never been in a bad wreck, (thankfully), but I was awakened by the blast of the horn of an 18-wheeler once, in a snow storm, when I had fallen asleep at the wheel. I was directly in front of him. Fortunately the sound of his horn caused me to jerk the car out of harm's way, though I did end up in the ditch. Better the ditch than...splat!

    I too like the uncle, he sounds quite eccentric.

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  18. What a rush! I could *hear* the silence after everything stopped moving.

    Glad there wasn't an empty seat at the table that Christmas - and the missing future baby seat was poignant.

    Well done.

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  19. Nice work relating the accident as well as the message. Hope you and Uncle Bernard share hot chocolate for many many Christmases to come!

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  20. Very vivid description of the crash, Rebecca. I love the simple details, like the hot chocolate, which help to make such a big impression. At the end, you allow the reader to join you in gazing at the family 'one by one'. Best of all is the change of attitude towards Uncle Bernard.

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