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Today's Story by Jim Meirose

A red car ran the light at the corner and was t-boned by a great green semi.


Florida’s in the upstairs bedroom, green dust rag in her hand.    The top of his dresser’s so different than it used to be when all that awful clutter covered it.   There had been cardboard boxes with god knew what in them, old broken knickknacks he’d promised to fix with his crazy glue, all gone now.

We were walking along Ryder’s lane and I kicked a stone out ahead of me  repeatedly as I walked.    Jonah and I were best of friends.  We were on our way back from Broxmeyer’s farm stand and were about a quarter mile from Ryder’s lane and  Washington  Avenue when it happened.   A red car ran the light at the corner and was t-boned by a great green semi roaring up Ryder’s lane from Route One and the car broke in half, and the halves spun around, and the truck cab was all crushed back, and it came to a stop jackknifed in front of the Seven Eleven, and Jonah dropped his cucumber and  I dropped my tomatoes, and we stood there.

Florida’s in the little bathroom upstairs next to the bedroom washing out  the toilet with a long white-handled brush.   The toilet’s easy to clean but that tub; that tub; the damned hard water makes the tub impossible to clean.

We ran up to the semi.  The driver was all right.   He sat on the ground next to the the smashed-in cab stunned by what had happened.   He had blood on his arm but he was all right.   The man from the seven eleven came out and got down on one knee and looked the driver over.  The driver had on a cap that said FLO on it.   What did FLO mean, I thought; it suddenly became very important to know what FLO meant;  funny the thoughts you get.

Florida’s in the toy room now.  She remembers sitting in the rocker giving the sleepy little one their bottle; she remembers standing at the changing table changing diapers.   But children have a way of growing up.  She dusts over the toys.  A tear comes to her eye, but she wipes it away.   It is quiet.

The years have marched on.

They’ve marched on.

We saw the car down the road, cut in half.  The front set on the shoulder on one side and the back set on the other.   The roof sagged down over the driver.   We were afraid to go up, for fear of what we’d see, but we had to check the driver.   The driver might need help.   Then I thought what a stupid thought that was;   the driver most certainly needed help.  How foolish.    The car suddenly began to look familiar.   An old red Plymouth.   Who drives an old red Plymouth?

He does.

Oh, my God.

He does.

Florida’s vacuuming now,   wreathed in the rushing sound of the old machine he’d repaired so many times.  She vacuums the small landing at the top of the stairs, and the carpet in the toy room, and then she clicks on the silence again.

We approached the car, and we saw him there slumped over in the seat belt with the airbag sagging down before him, and it was all just blood—blood everywhere.   It was him though, it was him, and my stomach sank hard to the soles of my feet, and I saw that the back of his head was taken off, violently, violently, and I was certain that he was dead.

What do we do, said  Jonah.

The vacuum’s following Florida as she vacuumed down the steps,  and she thought I shouldn’t have to be doing this part;  this is the part he always does, and she did what he always used to do;  she held the vacuum by the handle and the hose snaked around her as she did the steps.    And as she always did when vacuuming the steps, she saw the beautiful crimson sweeping staircase in the fine Hotel  they always stayed  at on their vacations down south, to Florida, her namesake, and she imagined what a job it must be to vacuum that big staircase and she was glad to have just her few steps to do.

Jonah pulled his cell phone and called 911 and they told him they already knew about the accident, that they had already got a call, and he told me as he flipped the phone shut and I said Why are they taking so long to get here, why are they taking so long,  and the body in the car just slumped there all sodden with blood, it seemed like every part of him was bleeding, especially the back of the head, where you could look inside and see the  grey brain and the brain fluid soaked the car seat and blended with the blood and it was strangely beautiful, the shining clear liquid streaked with bright crimson, and then I thought what a sick thing to think;  there was nothing beautiful about this.

It was their friend.

Then they thought of Florida, at home.

Someone needs to get to Florida, at home.

To tell her.

Florida’s in  the kitchen now dusting the countertops. The green walls and the wallpaper border around the top of the walls were things he had painted and put up.  And she remembered how he used to curse fuck, fuck, fuck fuck fuck when putting up the border because it was a struggle for him. She loves him.   As she dusts the kitchen, she thinks how much she loves him.


I pressed my fingers against his neck on the long shot chance that there was still life in him, but there was no pulse there. There was nothing left to pulse;  all the blood was gone out the head and soaked into the seats and rug and even dripped from the door to the ground, making a sticky puddle there, and the flies were already coming around.  At last in the distance, sirens sounded.  My hand was covered with blood, and I wiped it on his shirt.   Jonah said what are you doing, that’s not right.   I kept on wiping it on his shirt.   The sirens came closer. Two cop cars and an ambulance came over the rise, in a mighty rush.

Florida moves the dog dish and cat litter box out of  the kitchen and the garbage can and the rugs,  and it’s just a bare tile floor now ready for scrubbing.   She bends over mopping and her back hurts still, the back pain that made her lame once already, she had to use a cane for a couple of days.  And while she was lame he took care of her and helped her to the bathroom and made all the meals, and took off from work to be with her, and then one day she was not lame and he went back to his ways, he was there when she needed him, but only ever then.  It was odd, it was odd;   it was only ever then.   And this probably will never change, because he is a man.

The policeman had a paunch and wore his cap low and had thick fleshy cheeks.   He came around the side of the car and saw the dead man.

Oh shit, he said, taking off his cap and slapping it against his thigh—what a mess.  Did either of you guys see what happened?

We saw the crash, said Jonah.

Right—and we know the guy.

You do.


Well, said the Cop—step back now.  Let them work.

The paramedics came up and took one look and knew their job was already over and they stood there and knew the coroner would be coming next to remove the body.    The policeman took out a notebook and said to us Okay—tell me what happened.  We started telling the story and as we told it we thought of Florida—we told the policeman we knew his wife and we would tell her because we wanted her to hear about it from us, not the police.

Are you sure, said the policeman.   We’re trained to do it—

No.  We’ll do it.

We will.

We’ll go do it now.

Florida waits for the kitchen floor to dry and while she waits she dusts the dining room.  Florida’s not one to waste time doing nothing waiting for a floor to dry.

The coroner came and took out the body, working with an assistant and they both wore rubber aprons, and the body was folded into a clean sheet and bagged in a black body bag and they took it on a gurney and put it in the back of their black station  wagon.   Jonah told the policeman the whole story of the accident and  the policeman took our names and addresses and phone numbers in case we’d be needed later as witnesses.   A big red tow truck came to take the semi and we couldn’t imagine how they would take away the Plymouth but we knew one thing—it would not be easy to tell Florida.  I’d never told anyone anything like this before, and neither had Jonah.  We started off on foot toward Florida’s, and decided to cut up though the woods.

The toilet in the powder room down in the foyer’s dirtier than the one upstairs, and Florida guesses its because he uses it;  brown spatters are on the rim of the bowl and there is a lot of hair.   Deftly she twirls the brush around and uses the Bon Ami.   It’ll all be ready for him again. Indeed he is lucky to have her,

Once more, she smiles and warmth comes in her cheeks.

We went up the slope behind the Seven Eleven and saw the huge traffic jam the accident had caused, impatient people each one the center of their own universe oblivious and unknowing of the drama that is happening.   We topped the rise and started off through  the waist high Indian grass making for the tree line;  a mile through the scrub brush and two miles up that tracks and we’d be there.   I rehearsed what I would say to her.

There’s been an accident.   George is dead.

No.  No good.

George is dead, Florida.  A car accident.


Florida goes from the foyer into the TV room and switches on the set and there’s a heavy man in a loose grey suit telling the weather.  She stops and watches for a while.

It’s going to rain.

After midnight tonight, there are going to be sprinkles.

Midnight rain;   the kind of rain that when you know it’s out there and it’s after midnight and you’re lying in bed it’ll put a shiver through you, make you pull the covers closer;  rain, sprinkles, showers, God; things have so many names, she thinks. She turns off the TV.

We hit the tracks and move along quickly.    The ties are new; the trap rock of the roadbed is new.  I walked along outside the tracks.  Jonah walked between the rails.

What are we going to say to her?  asked Jonah.

Whatever comes out, I said.

What do you mean, whatever comes out?

It’ll mean that he’s dead, whatever the words are.

We cut off the tracks in sight of the house.   She’s in there.  We come up

Ray Streetand approach  the house.

There’s been an accident, I will say.   Keep it simple; then deal with whatever follows.  They stand at the threshold and knock.  She opens the door.

The three stand there a moment.

Florida—hello—there’s been an accident—

Everything rushes away in all directions as he speaks; her thoughts drown out the unthinkable and he continues and everything’s wreathed in white, clean fresh white.  The light is so piercing; his words are so bright and hot. She cannot hear this; she cannot hear such a thing now, especially now that her work is over and done.  And look—look—here he comes now, up the walk; what are you talking about anyway, boy? George comes up, walks through them and past them and into the house.  See, there, George is home now. What you say can’t be, because George is home with me to stay. She backs up and closes the door in their faces. They stand there not knowing what to do next.


Jim Meirose’s work has appeared in journals including the Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly review, and Xavier Review, and has been  nominated for several awards. Two collections of his short work have been published and his novel, “Claire”, is available from Amazon.


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