This is my (only a few days) late story for The Scheherazade Project. The theme was "a pane of glass is broken". And, while I think that theme makes a great title for a poem, it proved a difficult theme for a short story. I guess I just suck at thinking of themes...
Regardless of my theme suckage, a new theme is up, so head on over and get inspired (and doesn't that just sound inspiring itself?).
A Hairnet, A Bowl
The windshield was the most disturbing thing about the car, he decided. He had worried that there would be blood on the seats and that that would send him over the edge. And there was blood on the seats, but it was the windshield that made his vision blur and darken at the edges; the windshield with its inverse impact sites that he wished he hadn’t seen.
A line from a poem memorized and forgotten long ago kept winding and unwinding around his brain. I will hold my awkward bowl with all its cracked stars shining like a complicated lie and fashion a new skin around it. The bowl as metaphor for the speaker’s own battered head cradled and held up as lesson or warning or offering. And the place where her head had whipped its way into the glass did look like a bowl starred and shining, and certainly that was a prettier, more poetic image than the one which thrust itself most insistently in his direction.
He thought the windshield, at least the part that had held her head, looked most like a hairnet. One of those large ones worn by lunch ladies every where. One that she would never be caught dead in. Something innocuous and a bit laughable as it was improbable. There were even strands of hair clinging to it to add verisimilitude. And since his eyes were so dry as to be a bit blurred, he could tell himself that he didn’t really see the bits of scalp clinging to the ends of some of the clumps of hair. After all, there was a lot of debris in the car and not all of it was of human origin. Her car was always totaled, even when it wasn’t totaled. It was easy for him to believe that during the tow to the wrecking yard some of her papers or potato chips had blown around and stuck to drying blood on the clumps of hair. Rather that than the other. Rather that than the other and he pulled his eyes away and looked at less damaging damage.
He had been putting this task off for too long. The insurance papers were folded up small in his pocket. He had just wanted to see the car before signing it away. And now he’d seen it, so he might as well sign. Get on to the next step. He’d put it off too long already. But he’d been waiting, waiting, hoping that she could be there with him. She’d be weak, maybe in a wheelchair, and she would cling to whatever part of him she could reach as they looked together at the remains of her car. How the crumple zones had crumpled. How the contents of her trunk had rushed into the back seat. How it was a good thing she had been driving without him and not sitting in the passenger seat. How it was shocking what damage a PVC pipe could do to a windshield, to a passenger seat. How he would squeeze her hand or shoulder (but gently, gently) and they would both think about how lucky they were and then they would sign the papers and bitch about how they were being cheated out of full value. And then they would leave, bickering over which new car to buy.
No point in waiting any more. No point. No point even in wishing that he had been in the car with her. At least someone else would be making these decisions now. At least someone else would be conscious of the liminal. He pulled the folded-small papers out of his pocket and a pen from behind his ear and signed the settlement against the rear passenger side window. It was starred, but for this task just sound enough.