That Makes Two by Heather Van Deest

cement driveway with fence and plantsYou cannot see the spots of blood on my mother’s driveway, the wet trail of red, like paint splattered on the ground, forgotten. Her neighbors scrubbed the cement clean later that night with bleach and a push broom, after the police took photos, after they interviewed the neighbors and searched the scene for clues as to what went wrong, after they towed the minivan out of my mother’s yard.

My mother calls me via Skype with the news. A young woman, just twenty-seven years old, careened off Route 37 in her Chrysler minivan, flattened my nephew’s bike moments after he leaped off it and slammed into my mother’s side porch. A Friday evening at April’s end. The steps leading to the porch, four large slabs of limestone, were tossed like toys from the van’s impact.

“Is she OK?” I ask my mother, trying to activate the video screen on my computer.

“No.” She paused.

“She died?” I asked. After a few seconds’ delay, a video image of my mother appears on the laptop screen. Her face is pale, her eyes tired.

“Yes, Heather, she died.” I sink into my office chair.

“In the driveway?”

My mother pauses again. “She died at the hospital, but she was in bad shape when the paramedics arrived at the house.”

My mother keeps calling her that woman, as she recounts the accident. She will continue to call her that even after we learn the woman’s name, after we learn that she graduated from high school with my younger sister in 2001. In the days to follow, my mother will call her that woman, as if saying her name aloud might cause more harm, more damage, more tears.

Before I think to ask how my eight-year-old nephew managed to jump off his bike and run when he saw the van coming toward him, how he walked away from the accident with scratches on his legs and arms, while his bike was crushed under the car; before I learn that my brother spoke to the woman moments after the crash and told her help was on the way; before I learn that the woman’s two daughters, three and six, screamed from the back of the van for their mother, slumped bloody over the wheel; before I learn that my brother got the two girls out of the van and brought them into my mother’s kitchen, asked them if they wanted something to drink and where did they go to school; before I realize how lucky it was that the woman’s daughters were wearing seat belts and before I even thank the gods that my nephew did not die, I remember two years before, when my father collapsed in the March snow from a heart attack, feet from where the woman died.

I watch my mother on the laptop screen. The video image is grainy, her movements choppy, but I see the lines of exhaustion, of despair, of knowing, under her eyes.

“The driveway,” I am thinking, I am trying to say, but she says it before I do.

“That makes two.”

heather van deestHeather Van Deest received an MA in creative writing from Antioch University. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Jelly Bucket, The Battered Suitcase, and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Bangkok, Thailand and blogs about her experiences as an expat at www.bigmangojournal.com.
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  • suzfarrellsmith

    Oh my. An arresting piece. One that could only be put together in this way, with these words in this order. Awe.

  • nreber

    I appreciate your brevity and the uniqueness of the story. It leaves us feeling uncomfortable then doubly so when we recall that it’s a true story. Cheers, my fellow expat! @NicholeLReber