Scott McClanahan – The Firestarter
I went through this weird period about ten years ago where every time I went outside, I saw somebody get hit by a car. Now I know the first time it ever happened I was just sitting around my apartment and listening to the drunks shouting from the bar next door. It was Labor Day weekend and I was sitting on the couch watching television. And I was just about ready to go to bed when all the sudden—BAM—I heard this big thud outside. So I looked out the window and opened the door, but I didn't see anything. There were just the cars in the bar parking lot and this flashing light.
But then my girlfriend Kim woke up and walked into the room and said, "What the hell was that?"
"I don't know," I said.
So she pushed me out the door and said all disgusted, "Well go outside and see."
So I did.
I went outside to see, and as soon as I did, I realized it was a mistake.
There was this white van in the middle of the road with its blinkers on and there was a guy sitting on his knees over in the grass. He was dressed in painter pants and he was crying. So I walked slow out into the street and saw this dead looking girl just sprawled there in the middle of the street.
Her mouth was open and her eyes were too.
She didn't even look like she was breathing and there was this dead look on her face.
The guy who hit her was sitting there, looking up at me and crying like, "What are you going to do?"
So I looked down at the girl and guess what? She still looked dead to me. Her mouth was still open and there was blood coming out of the corner of her mouth.
And since I'd never taken a CPR class before, I just looked down at her and thought to myself, "What the hell am I going to do?"
So I just started backing up, real slow like, so I wouldn't have to help her.
Back. Back. Back.
And then I turned around and started walking away even faster like I didn't even know who she was.
But then here came her boyfriend and another guy running back from across the bar. They were these big, J-Crew catalogue looking guys—so I didn't get away (they were with her when she was hit and went to call for help). They bent down on their knees and started giving her CPR.
1 one thousand...2 one thousand....3 one thousand.
Then they just looked up at me and gave me a look like—"Were you trying to sneak away from helping a person?"
I walked back and acted like I was directing traffic around the girl.
I took my arm and waved the traffic on Route 60-to the left and to the left.
Then the ambulance came and I slowly backed away to the sidewalk and watched them take over the CPR. They put her onto a stretcher and put her into the back of the ambulance and drove away.
Was I wrong?
Of course, a couple of weeks went by and I didn't hear anything about whether she died or not. And then one day I was walking down the street with Kim when I asked, "I wonder what happened to that girl who got hit by the car? I wonder if she's alright? You know I haven't heard anything about what happened."
So we just walked on down the street and Kim was holding a newspaper and then she opened it up.
And then I heard her shout, "O shit. Here it is. She's alive. She's alive." She showed it to me. There was a picture of the girl and a headline that said, WOMAN HIT BY VAN RECOVERS.
And as I checked it out, there were a couple Gideon's standing around and they were trying to pass out Bibles to people who were walking down the street.
Want a bible?
Want a bible?
Then Kim read this newspaper article to me about the girl who got hit.
She read the—who—what—when—where and why—opening of the story: "Last Sunday night a 23 year old woman, trying to cross the street was hit by a car on Route 60."
And then she read about how the girl had been in a coma in intensive care for the past week and had almost died, and how her family had kept a prayer vigil beside her bed.
And then one day.
She woke up.
Then the article explained how the poor guy who hit her was drunk too.
"Ah shit," I said and chuckled. "Poor bastard got busted and he wasn't even the one who was jaywalking."
And then there was this quote where she said, "I just want to thank everybody for their prayers and cards. There wasn't anything I could have done. It wasn't my fault."
And then I laughed out loud because it was absolutely, positively her fault
And then all of the sudden I heard the brakes shriek eeek.
I looked into the street and then—BAM—I saw another girl get hit by a car.
She was knocked to the ground and then she popped back up and took off like she was embarrassed or something.
Now let me tell you, I'm sure you may have been embarrassed before, but you haven't ever really been embarrassed until you get hit by a car in front of a bunch of people.
What was funny though was the guy in the car didn't even get out of the car, but tried helping her up by putting his arm out the window.
But she was already gone and didn't want help.
And what's even funnier is that the Gideon's didn't even go over and help her out, but they just kept passing out bibles like nothing had even happened.
Want a bible?
Want a bible?
So I kept walking up the street and I started thinking to myself—this is the second time this month I've been around when somebody was hit by a car.
What if I'm the one who caused it?
I even started telling my friends halfway joking, "Yeah I might be like Drew Barrymore in that movie Firestarter. You know the one where all she has to do is think about it and starts a fire? And maybe that's me. All I have to do is be around and it happens. See if there's one thing that connect these people getting hit by cars—it's me."
And then everyone just laughed at me thinking I was joking and then they told me nobody can change things like that.
And then they laughed again and told me that the world was just chance and didn't work that way.
Everybody just laughed at me, but I didn't.
I didn't laugh at all because I knew what I could do.
I didn't laugh at all because just a month later, I was walking down the street.
And I saw it all.
I saw this red looking car zipping down the street with these old people inside.
I saw this tall, lanky guy walking across the street as the stoplight turned red. He was carrying some books in his arms and he was trying to get where he was going.
I saw the red looking car keep going and not even notice that that the light was turning.
It went GREEN and then it went YELLOW and then it went RED. And instead of screaming STOP-STOP, I didn't do anything.
I just stood and watched it all, knowing what I could do.
I just stood and saw how everything would happen. And then I said—BAM.
And BAM it was. The car plowed though the intersection and didn't even hit the brakes. And I saw it all.
I saw the red looking car.
And the guy getting hit by the car...
The windshield shattering from a big leg busting against it...
The body flying through the air like an old sock...
Back down onto the hood of the red looking car.
And then there were people running around.
They were screaming.
The headline in the newspaper a couple of days later: MAN NEAR DEATH CROSSING THE STREET.
And I didn't even stop because I was the one who probably caused it. I didn't even stop and just kept walking beneath the sound of the people screaming for help.
I went right back to my apartment and shut the door. I locked the lock and closed the blinds and told myself I would never go outside again. I turned on the television and turned the volume up real loud so I wouldn't have to listen to the sounds of the couple having sex upstairs. I just sat and listened to the sound of the television drowning out everything and for a second it didn't even seem like daytime anymore, but night. And then I told myself that I'd never even tell anyone about it because I was the one who caused it. I tried shaking away the images of my friends and cars and telling them about the fires I started.
I told myself I'd tell no one, because if I did then I was probably putting their lives in danger.
And now after reading this who knows what car is coming for you tomorrow.
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