It was a dark and moonless night as Loretta and Mick made their way down a lonely stretch of highway 102, their only guide the mile marker reflective posts looking like tiny eyes along the side of the road. The car smelled like stale beer having just spent that evening at a friends watching football, drinking and eating way too many greasy nachos and wings. Now they were just tired, Mick’s eyes looked heavy as he tried to keep them open, that long, dark highway, the reflective posts all made the landscape surreal and mesmerizing. Loretta nervously played with her purse as they drove on, in her mind she knew that Mick had had just that one beer too many, the point where he crossed the bridge from being mildly high and entering into that dangerous area of being just drunk.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang and the car shuddered. Mick grasped the steering wheel tightly as he fought to maintain control of the car. Had he dozed, he wondered, what did they hit? Quickly he pulled the car into the breakdown lane and turned on the hazards. In the dark the silence broken only by the clicking sounds coming from the dashboard while outside the windshield the flashing lights lit up the road covered with broken bottles and the debris left by hundreds of previous commuters.
“I told you, you were drunk. I told you not to drive, but no you wouldn’t hear of it, I’m fine, you said. Well, what was that?” Loretta cried.
Mick was upset, “I’m not drunk! I’m just tired and all I want is to get home and crash”
Suddenly they both realized that they were shaking. What was that bang, did they hit something or someone? Mick shut the car off and tentatively opened his door, “I’ll take a look”, he said, “You just stay in the car, okay?”
Loretta wasn’t sure but she agreed while Mick went out to look down the roadway. He peered into the darkness, lit only by the constant flashing of the hazards. In their light he could see the winter trees stripped of leaves the branches looking like long fingers pointing accusingly at him. Try as he might he could see nothing that would have caused such a loud bang.
Loretta, nervously got out of the car, she went to where he was standing, “Do you see anything?” she asked, as they both looked into the gloomy night.
Try as they might, their eyes could not pierce the deep darkness, all the while the only sound they could hear came from the constant clicking of the hazards. Loretta reached out and found Mick’s hand and together they stood there holding one another.