“There it is,” he said.
The Volvo SUV had gone off the road nose first into a creek. Its lights were still on.
He saw them try to move the car, heard the kids’ screams from inside. He tried his best not to look, though out of the corner of his eye he saw the red of blood.
He walked to the old lady’s cottage, getting there before the old lady did. When she arrived her face was blank. She wasn’t smiling, but she also didn’t seem tormented by what she’d just done.
She unlocked the door and went inside. He followed her in and sat on the couch. She stayed standing and chewed on a fingernail.
“What happened?” he asked.
She didn’t answer. He repeated the question. She ignored it again.
The father entered, wet from standing knee-deep in the creek trying to get his kids out of the overturned car. He looked at the reporter with disdain.
“You waste no time, do you?”
“I didn’t know what to do,” he found himself saying.
“Are you a cop? Are you press?”
“Press, I guess.”
“I see,” the father said, confirming some suspicion. He walked back out. Something inside him stirred and he rose to his feet, following him out.
“I’ll help,” he told the father.
He followed him outside and for the first time saw the accident scene. One of the kids, the boy, was already out. The girl was still inside. The car was upside down and the girl had made her way to the driver’s side window.
They had been able to push the car onto its side. A bit more and they’d be able to pull her out.
Then the car slipped, falling back into its old position with a crunch. The girl screamed once and then lay still. The silence seemed eternal.
“She’s dead!” screamed her brother.
“I’m not dead,” whispered the girl.
He saw a way to get her out. He ran to her and busted out the rest of the driver’s side window, and pulled her out as gently as he could. One of her hands was nearly severed. He thought that was the worst of it, until he saw she’d also been almost sliced in two.
She was free of the car and in his arms, but screamed in pain when he held her vertically. He shifted her horizontally, like a baby, and asked if that was better. She closed her eyes and said yes.
He carried her to the hospital just a few blocks away. Her mother came with her. When they reached the ER, the words said themselves. He didn’t know if they were right.
“Car accident, traumatic injury, lacerations in the abdomen and right hand.”
The nurse led him to an operating room and he put the girl down on the bed as gently as he could. The room filled with emergency personnel and he stood back by the door, with the girl’s mother.
They saw to her. She wasn’t out of the woods, but they did what they could. Then the room emptied as quickly as it had filled, leaving only the beeps of the machinery and the two people still standing by the door.
They walked to her bedside. She was sleeping, a smile on her face. If it weren’t for the setting, there’d be nothing amiss.
The girl whispered to her mother. She asked for the lights to be dimmed to almost darkness. She asked for silence. Then she asked another thing.
“Just let me sleep, okay, mom? Whatever happens, don’t wake me up. Okay?”
Her mother said yes. She stroked the girl’s hair and adjusted her blankets, tears rolling down her face.
He saw her as his little girl, as she’d been when she was three. She liked to sleep naked then, said she liked the feel of the sheets on her skin. In his mind, he wrapped the sheets around her little naked body one last time.
He wondered how he’d tell her brother that his sister was dead. He imagined how he’d cry. How much he’s miss his constant playmate. His best friend.