I wonder who it was that said “right before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes”. Frankly, that was not my experience. I was too busy screaming like a little girl and trying to stop the car from spinning like a roulette wheel, and trying to remember, was it turn in the direction of the spin, or counter clock-wise?
Just two hours earlier, as I had been dragging a heavy suitcase and my mother’s little urn through the sliding glass door of the rental car place, the counter-girl in the yellow vest shouted, “Be careful out there. The black ice is really bad this evening.” Now, I’m from Florida. What in the world do I know about black ice? In hindsight, maybe asking what in the hell she was going on about would’ve been a good idea.
The car finally stopped spinning only because a guardrail interceded; it flipped over and plunged, top-down, into the Allegheny River. There is a bit of irony to that. I was born on the Apalachicola River about a mile south of the Georgia state line. My mom loved to fish and her favorite fishing hole was under the Victory Bridge. She was not going to let a little thing like a baby on the way — any minute — interrupt the peak days of Crappie season. I was told they tied up my cord with ten-pound test and mom kept right on fishing. Thirty-three years later, I end up drowning upside down in a fire red Pontiac, in a freezing Pennsylvania river.
Ain’t death a bitch?
“You know when I told you to pour my ashes in the Allegheny, I didn’t mean you had to come along with them!”
“Who were you expecting — Jacques Cousteau?”
She was sitting on that guardrail smoking a cigarette, watching me climb the riverbank. This was pretty weird because she had quit smoking right after they diagnosed her lung cancer. A little too late, but at least she quit.
“What are you doing here?” I quizzed.
In typical mom fashion, she answered my question with one of her own. “What were you thinking driving on these icy Pennsylvania roads on New Year’s Eve?”
“I promised I would pour your ashes into this river and figured, New Year’s Eve, under a blue moon, would be the perfect time to do it. Big magic, you know?”
She cackled like a witch and mused, “It wasn’t magic enough to teach you how to drive on ice, now was it?”
I stopped beside her and we watched the commotion unfolding at the scene of the crash; local residents with cell phones and flares stood around pointing at four tires sticking out of the river. A red-headed soccer mom wearing bunny boots and a fur coat shouted into her phone, “Whoever it was passed me going way too fast. I knew she’d never make the curve!”
I tried to punch the bitch, but my fist went right through the cell phone to the opposite ear. The only thing she did was sneeze and keep right on talking. “I’ll wait right here, but I’m sure the idiot has drowned by now and I’m not jumping in there to find out.”
“I told you your driving was going to kill you some day. Always too fast — always in a hurry.”
“And I told you to get off those cigarettes twenty years before you croaked, but you didn’t listen to me either.”
My mother sat there puffing on her cigarette, going on and on about my bad driving and how she knew I was going to end up dead before my time. She drifted into a personal attack on my choices of men, clothes, how I spend my money, the dirty dishes in my sink and the light left on in the bathroom. The reality of my current situation really began to sink in.
I’m dead. My dead mom is here and probably always has been. She doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the near future. I’m destined to spend eternity with my mother! Can God be that cruel?
“Have you heard a word I said?” Her words cut through me like a sword and I sat on the guardrail beside her and began to cry.
“Oh, don’t cry, honey,” she said and put her ghostly arm around me. “It’s not all bad.”
She raised her head skyward and shouted “Key West!”
The cold guardrail instantly became a bright orange picnic table at the south end of Duval Street. The bitter cold gave way to a comfortable Caribbean breeze and the blue moon cast a bright flare across the gulf. She snapped her fingers and two cherry-colored fruit drinks complete with pineapple and paper umbrellas took form between us. She picked one up and sucked a taste through the red plastic straw.
“It has its perks,” she smiled.
Mickey Mills has been writing over twenty years as a motor-sports freelancer. His recently completed first novel, HAUNTING INJUSTICE, a fast-paced paranormal suspense/ghost story, was published at CreateSpace and is available on Amazon. Currently, he is elbow deep in the second book of the series. He hosts a writer’s group at Multiply.com. When not writing, Mickey can be found exploring the country on PEARL, his Harley Davidson Electra-glide, or researching his next project. An engineer by education — a writer by passion.