by Tyler J. Petty
At 5:07 PM, an Impala’s brake line ruptured as it approached the Sexton-Lily intersection. The Impala was headed west on Sexton and had the right-of-way, but was forced to slam its brakes when the Camry approaching the intersection from the south failed to stop; the driver of the Camry was blotting a spilled fountain drink and did not notice the red light. The Impala and its failed brakes clipped the Camry’s rear bumper, sending it skidding into a parked Durango. The Impala’s driver maintained control of the car until its momentum petered out a quarter of a mile down the road. Neither driver sustained any injuries. This was the third accident the Sexton-Lily intersection had hosted in two weeks, and the ninth in the previous two months. Todd Morton arrived at the intersection at 5:10 PM, a few minutes late because of a customer service call from an entitled teenager.
Morton could only watch as the Camry’s driver, a dark-haired young woman, fought with her door, and Geronimo, the owner of the corner’s soup cart, heroically rushed in to help her escape. One cigarette could have ignited the smoking engine. When officials arrived to pry apart the Camry and Durango with a wrecker’s winch, the metal groaned like an elephant in labor. The police closed the block to traffic and distributed placards warning pedestrians of broken glass. Morton snatched a shard as he walked past the accident site, coaxing a bead of blood from under his fingernail with the jagged point, and entered the church on the next block.
Inside, Morton lit a candle on the altar and blew out the tapered lighter. Then, after a brief pause, he reignited the device and lit two more candles before taking a seat in the third-row pew. The sanctuary was empty save for a couple kneeling in the front row. Morton knew they were praying for their son, a troubled young man. The three of them occasionally discussed the absent members of one another’s families. Morton leaned forward and inclined his ear toward them, trying to catch a snippet of prayer, but all he heard was the whoosh of the building’s air conditioning system as it sucked their words into the ventilation ducts.
The couple concluded their supplications, stretched protesting knees, and left. Morton nodded to them on their way up the aisle. Alone in the sanctuary, he considered the stained-glass scenes on the wall. One depicted Jesus carrying the cross along the Via Dolorosa, and another showed Daniel and his friends emerging unbroiled from the fiery furnace. Both images were on the east wall and looked more impressive in the morning sunlight, with dancing flames and glittering haloes. In the afternoon, they still appeared holy, but not magical. A scene on the west wall, toward the back, revealed the spectacle of Samson’s death after God gave him the strength to tear down the temple of Dagon. No one called Samson a suicide.
The driver of the Camry wobbled down the sanctuary aisle. She steadied herself on the arm of Morton’s pew.
‘You okay?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, I’m good. Great, I mean.’ She nodded toward the street.
‘I was just in an accident, but I’m okay. Just a little woozy. I saw this place while I was talking to the police and I figured, give credit where it’s due, you know?’
‘Sounds like a plan.’
‘This is a cool building. I’ve never been inside before.’
‘I come here every day,’ Morton said. ‘But I’m on my way out now. If you’ll excuse me.’
Three days later, Morton arrived on time. A Prius driver talking on his cell phone throttled west on Sexton, accelerating as he neared the Lily intersection. Geronimo dragged his soup cart across the street, oblivious to the humming oncoming vehicle.
A second before the Prius would have hit Geronimo, Morton slammed into the man’s shoulder. Knocked off his balance, Geronimo’s palms scraped across the sidewalk, but otherwise he was unhurt. His cart rolled to the curb. Flipping over, he saw Morton squealing in the street. The unfortunate man’s hands crept down his right leg, feeling for the source of his agony. He stopped at the knee. Everything below it was unrecognizable.
‘My God! Are you okay?’ Geronimo asked.
‘I’ll live,’ Morton said. Another wave of pain seized him. ‘Probably forever.’
– Tyler J. Petty graduated from Ball State University in May 2012 with an MA in Creative Writing. His work has previously appeared in The Broken Plate, and he once gave a presentation about a British alien invasion movie at a literature conference in Canada.