She had only noticed how little light there was inside the car when two headlights appeared down the road and illuminated the entire front seat. Stray beams of light made it all the way to where she was strapped into the back seat.
“Look at this clown,” her dad said. She looked around but didn’t see any clowns. Surely all the clowns were still back at the fair.
Grace had never driven a car or paid much attention to the motion of cars other than the ones being confidently coaxed along by her father. For this reason the headlights of the oncoming car didn’t appear left of centre and even if they had it wouldn’t have struck her as odd.
“Honey!” came a shrill scream that could only belong to her mother but it was hard to tell over the terrible shriek of rubber grinding on wet asphalt.
The beams of light that had found their way to the back seat now ran away in an unnatural manner and there was a long moment of calm that Grace would never be able to forget. It was a calm that spanned generations and transcended all linear perceptions of time. It was a black hole of silence and still that absorbed all energy before regurgitating it back in the form of a loud percussive smashing thud on the side of the car.
The whole car lurched sideways and Grace became aware that the tires were no longer humming on the road. All momentum pulled her body to the left and then she felt the same weightlessness she had experienced on the swinging pirate ship earlier in the afternoon after her second orange soda. Her third orange soda was splashing in her face but she didn’t know why.
She felt her weight pulling on her seatbelt as the can of soda slipped from her grip. The entire car groaned. She could see a tree out the windshield but it was upside down and that didn’t make sense to her.
After the sight of the tree there was only dark.
It wasn’t so much a jump that was required – more of a slip. A fall, really. A perfectly timed fall and he would be on the tracks just as the train pulled into the station.
He could think of a dozen reasons to execute such a manoeuvre. Yet she was the only reason that had him testing the traction of his shoes on the edge of the platform.
She is sex incarnate and the whole room turns toward her to draw that conclusion for themselves. A long silk dress with a floral print navigates the curves of her body and clings to her legs as she descends the stairs. A belt balances this whole elegant show of grace, drawing dozens of eyes belonging to both men and women upward toward slender shoulders that support a neck down which drops of sweat can be seen to be running. It is sweat that ignites a fire and it can be traced backward up her neck to the base of long blonde hair that frames a face of youth and lust.
For a long moment the room is transfixed but eventually the toe-to-head examination arrives at her fedora and the bustle resumes without missing a beat, as though it had never been disrupted.
Now he was being trusted to give an opinion. He felt a strange amount of responsibility to offer sage advice that would steer her down the correct fork of the crossroads to choose. He could see that she was talented, but it was also true that…
“You’re right, Lyle. I get it. Thank you.”
She stood quickly and tore out the page of her notebook that contained her poem before handing him the notebook itself.
“Maybe now it’ll help you.”
He took it with unsettled bewilderment and watched her dart out the door, nearly bowling over another bohemian walking his dog.
He was still in a bit of shock and began to flip through the pages of the notebook. He stopped when he found a page toward the front with a sketch of a man in a tailored suit carrying a takeaway coffee cup and a bag not unlike his own. Behind the man were more men in suits that featured fewer and fewer details as the queue extended until they were little more than stick figures. At the top of the page were scratched the words “The Last March of the Lyles”.