SmokeLong Quarterly

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Emily Avenue

Story by Jeff Landon June 15, 2006

It was an accident. That’s the first thing I need to say. I’m a fuckup, not a killer, but that doesn’t change what happened that night.

This is what happened: I was driving home in my mother’s car. It was late and I was high. I had the radio going loud enough to wake up all the dark houses. I always drive fast. Not crazy fast, but fast.

Out my window, on somebody’s lawn, I saw this giant inflated Snoopy lit up from the inside. It was this big white blur. I was driving too fast—I already admitted that. I made mistakes. At the bottom of the hill, there’s a stop sign. I didn’t see any car lights; I didn’t hear anything but my music. When I got close to the stop sign, I punched the gas—it’s this game I play with myself when I’m coming home late and fucked up. I get some speed, and when I don’t see any headlights, I fly past that stop sign at the bottom of the hill. There’s a bump there, and when I get a little momentum going, I can get a little air.

I didn’t see any lights coming up or down Emily Avenue. I hit that bump, hard, and flew past that stop sign, and that’s when I slammed into that guy’s car.

His car just appeared like a ghost car. He didn’t have the headlights on. I killed him. It wasn’t the dude’s fault, I’m not saying that, but he didn’t have the headlights on. His girl was staring at me. I saw her eyes right before it happened. Her eyes were wide open, watching me, and then she was crying and holding on to that dead guy. Henry. I killed him. I know that. But he didn’t have his headlights on. I would’ve slowed down. I would’ve waited for him to drive by.

I left. I put my mother’s car into reverse, and I drove away. I was stoned and scared. I had some warrants and weed in the car. I drove home and took all the money from my mother’s purse. It wasn’t much. I drove to Lynchburg in her car until the engine gave out, and then I left it there, smoking, behind a 7-Eleven store.
My cousin used to live in Lynchburg, but I guess he must have moved because when I went to his apartment this Japanese guy lived there and he said he’d never heard of my cousin.

I walked around all night—I didn’t know what else to do. In the morning, I went to this mall. I had to cross this four-lane highway and part of me wanted to just step in front of a truck. You know that feeling? But I ran instead. I ran into the mall parking lot. It was Saturday. Inside, I got warmed up and ate a steak sandwich. These girls were looking at me, laughing. I don’t blame them for looking at me. I was dirty and eating so fast. These girls, they were nibbling on chicken fingers and French fries. All my life, I’ve seen girls like these girls, but I’ve never talked to one of them. They were just here to shop, and then they’d go home. They’d sleep in a nice bed, and never feel like me or remember me. That’s the way it is with most people. You only think about the people you love or hate, and everyone else is just scenery. They’re just people eating food in a mall or walking out of the movies.

That’s what I did, that night. I watched people walk out of the movies at this multiplex theatre in the mall. Some of the couples held hands. I thought about my brother and my mother. I thought about that guy I killed. I thought about that exact moment when he turned his head and noticed, for the first and last time, my car, about to crash into him. I wonder if he knew, in that second, that his life was almost over. I wonder who he thought about, what he might have said. His girl was beside him. Maybe he said her name out loud and maybe she said, I’m right here. That wouldn’t be such a bad way to go, if you think about it all the time, like I do.

About the Author

Jeff Landon has been published in numerous places, print and online, including Crazyhorse, Wigleaf, FRiGG, Another Chicago Magazine, F(r)iction, and others. He is also a contributor to New Micro, an anthology of flash fiction published by W.W. Norton in 2018. Lately, he’s been doing some chair yoga.

This story appeared in Issue Thirteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirteen

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