“Juxtaposition” Writer’s Digest Award Winner

sunglassesA car flew off the road above our house and landed in my garden.   It inspired the following story.  Writer’s Digest liked it.  I hope you do too!  (Author’s note: After posting this piece it was brought to my attention that I’d traumatized some of the readers who are used to my happy go lucky stories.  I apologize!  Also this story is fiction…except for the part about the car and the garden.  No one died…except for the poor plants.)



It’s not every day that a car falls from the sky and kills not only your favorite banana tree, but also a rather nice lawn table and several chairs.  I don’t mind so much about the table and chairs, but the banana tree?  Well it was precious to me.  The driver of the car was unharmed yet slightly hysterical, and from what I could gather, not worried one bit about murdering my tree.

The car still lay on my lawn and half in my garden, tires reaching toward the sky.  It reminded me a bit of a dead cockroach, gone belly up.  The glass from its windshield littered the grass shining like diamonds on brown straw.  Yes the grass was dead too.  Little rain and hot sunny days will do that you know.  It had only been through diligent watering and care that my garden was still living.  I wondered how they would extract the carcass of the car from my yard, and yes, pessimistically I wondered how many more of my babies would be murdered in the extraction process.

It’s like this.  I feel the life of my plants acutely.  They are living breathing entities that “talk” to me.  I know this sounds strange but it’s true and so there you have it.  I love touching their trembling leaves and thanking them for what they give me.  I have found that plants love to give, especially to the grateful ones who reap their fruit and let the plants know they are grateful.

My 9-year-old son seemed to realize this as well and I have on more than one occasion heard him speaking softly to the plants in my garden, caressing the leaves and vines as he walked through them.  I have seen him gently kiss my plants.  While this may seem odd to you, it seems heartwarming to me to know with an absolute certainty that my son was gifted with whatever vibrations that allow him to feel life beyond himself.  He is a gentle and kind soul and handsome beyond belief with his auburn hair that actually matches his auburn eyes.

Okay, so back to the cockroach, I mean car that landed in my yard.  It is a silver Lexus.  The woman driving the car was wearing a designer dress I am sure, probably tailored just for her. I am positive her shoes were of the Jimmy Choo variety.  I am afraid of this type of woman for in life I have found that those who have too much care too little for the things that sustain me in my life.

My first lesson in this type of perverse and profound selfishness came while I worked as a Patient Advocate in a very busy level III trauma emergency room.  An extremely elite and socially privileged couple had been in a horrendous accident.  The husband of said couple lay dying (or circling the drain as we hardened E.R. professionals called it) on a gurney covered in vinyl.  I had learned that we had vinyl-covered gurneys so that the stink of death could best be washed from them. Vinyl does not absorb the scent near so well as, oh say, the heavy twill that covers most mattresses, and it rarely soaks up water, urine or blood. This meant if another dead or dying somebody came in recently after a rinse off, we could stick the almost cadaver on it immediately without fear that he or she would complain of the smell.  I’m not sure that most mortally injured people would notice much less mind odors on their bed, but am grateful for the fact that due to our vinyl covered gurneys, I’ve never had to find out.

The wife of the unfortunate man on our gurney had suffered a laceration to her eyebrow and a chipped tooth when her head hit the steering wheel.  Given that she was the one steering, I had assumed that she would be worried about whether or not her husband would survive the night.  I was wrong.  She was worried about a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses that had been lost in the resounding crash that had accompanied her car smacking another car head on, on a four-lane highway. Why she was wearing a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses at 8:45 p.m. on a Saturday night was a mystery.  I am sad to say that it was her car that seemed to have lost its way, traveling into innocent incoming traffic.  The driver and the passengers of the other vehicle did not survive.  One of their grieving family members told me that they had been on their way to see the new Star Trek movie.  The father, his son, and his daughter…aged 42, 12 and 8 respectively did not get to hear Kirk ask Scottie to beam him up.  I am hoping they were beamed up somewhere nice nonetheless.

I bring the past into the present only because, as in that fateful crash years ago, the woman who was concerned about her Maui Jims more than her husband, more than the innocent family her car had slain, had something in common with the woman who’d flipped her car onto my lawn.  Apparently, Maui Jims have that effect on people, for on this day, when the tow truck came to retrieve the car that had fallen from the sky, Ms. Jimmy Choo shoes was on hand only because she had lost her Maui Jims.   She hoped to find them after the car was safely stowed on the big rig that had come to scoop it up.  I stood and watched the spectacle only to try and save any of my plants that the rig and its doings might endanger.  I was still marveling at Ms. Jimmy Choo Shoes lack of concern for my dead lawn furniture and my dead banana tree.  I decided she was a heartless, cold bitch.

The acrid scent of gasoline, motor oil and battery acid permeated the air as I stood watching the scene in front of me.  All three had seeped from the car onto my lawn and into my garden.  I realized then that any vigilance that I kept would be for not.  The chemicals the car had bled after its leap from the road above had contaminated the very soil that nourished the plants I sought to protect.  I felt a deep rage and fantasized that I would find Ms. Jimmy Choo shoe’s glasses and slowly crush them beneath my foot in front of her.

Instead I watched silently as the tow-truck driver connected the cable from the winch in his truck to the car.  I looked vacantly on as I heard the dying gasps of my plants in my mind.  Miss. Jimmy Choo shoes looked on expectantly, practically salivating at the thought of finding her Maui Jims.  I looked away from her and studied the clouds of vog in the Hawaiian sky, wondering at the selfishness of the material rich.

As the winch engaged the car began to lift to its nose, and debris…water bottles, a fashion magazine, an umbrella, spewed from the cars depths through the shattered windows on to the ground. I heard a moan emit from the car and was startled from my reverie.  It was the sound of my son in anguish.  Immediately after the moan I heard frantic thrashing sound and then a snap that reverberated to the depth of my soul.  The tow truck driver kept lifting the car unaware of what I’d heard and I screamed and ran toward the car, the cockroach, but it was too late.  My son was inside the hulk of twisted metal that had once been a Lexus and had been thrown from the back to the front when the car was lifted.

I was so riveted on my obsession, my plants, that I had not given a thought as to where an inquisitive 9 year old might be on this early Sunday morning.  What fun for a 9 year old to explore the car that had fallen from the sky.

An ambulance was called, and my son was lifted aboard, on a vinyl gurney.  I ducked into the ambulance bay behind the gurney and my son and I were whisked away amidst sirens and lights to the nearest hospital.

We live next to a highway, the same one that is a direct course to our local hospital.  Everyday I have heard the sirens of ambulances rushing by and each time the dogs nearby would howl.  I often have wondered if their howls were for the anguish of the person inside the ambulance, or merely because the siren made the dog’s ears hurt.  I am convinced now, that the dogs howl for the anguish of the person or people inside the ambulance because holding onto my gentle boys fingers and feeling no life, I howled in anguish with the dogs we passed.

Today I have no son.  I have no banana trees.  I do have a ridiculous amount of money due to settlements made by Ms. Jimmy Choo shoes and the tow-truck company.  I can buy all the bananas I want, but I don’t.  All the bananas in the world cannot bring back my son, my sun.  I do have a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, which I saw and grabbed as they took my son onto the vinyl gurney. As I look through the lenses the sky seems bluer, the ocean greener.  I now know why the women I’ve met cherish their glasses.  The glasses do not turn things the color of rose, but they mask the colors of gray and black with more brilliant hues.  I am now the proud owner of a pair of Maui Jims, and I may never take them off.

2 thoughts on ““Juxtaposition” Writer’s Digest Award Winner”

  1. Wow !! Just WOW!! That was great , and shocking! Glad it was fiction , but you would totally rock in Maui Jim’s !

  2. Powerful and exquisite writing. I can even smell that horrible car. I will be haunted by this story for a long time.


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