Have Fun, Be Safe
By Chris Sharp
When I left with my friends for the evening my wife kissed me and then looked at me with that 1% off Secret Garden look in her eyes, and she said “Have fun. Be safe,” which is what I always had said to the kids years ago when they went out with their high-school friends. But what she meant was “Your life insurance is paid up, the house is almost paid off, the kids are in college, and I hope you die in a drunken high-speed car crash into a full fuel tanker truck and explode as your car flies off a high bridge so high that even if you do survive the crash and explosion your airbags will have deployed once already so when your car hits the ground upside down and the roof and all roof pillars collapse there’s nothing left to save you and so I can cash out of this marriage.
Yeah, that secret garden look in her eyes wasn’t always there but when it was I never knew what that 1% off bit was about. Then the next morning she’d be back, 100% her and me, trusting, sharing, and never holding anything from each other. But that night when I left, I started thinking “Why did she say exactly that?” That’s what I used to say to the kids so she must have been thinking about a time back then when I’d said that to one of our kids and then they did something stupid. All night I couldn’t put my finger on it and didn’t enjoy drinking and watching football with my buddies. In fact, I’d only sipped half a bottle of beer the whole night.
Later, after we left and I was going down the highway racing that fuel truck at insanely unsafe speeds, I realized what she was talking about as the truck and I collided on the bridge and the explosion of the first fuel trailer (it had two of them), blew me and my classic Ford Raptor, with the pinstriping removed, and a red bed cover on it so my tools and fishing gear wouldn’t fly out, three stories into the air cartwheeling off the bridge and falling probably ten or twenty stories to the river ravine in the forest far below. Well, the airbags had never deployed in the explosion, but they sure as hell popped when the nose of my Raptor hit the ground like the earth had hit us instead.
I don’t remember any details of the hit, but I was alive with airbags deployed and deflated all around me, so I knew they’d saved my butt. And I smelled smoke so I got my seat belt off and got the hell out of the truck as fast as I could. It wasn’t easy because after the nosedive the truck had ended up on its side and I was on the bottom and had to climb up out of the passenger side window on the high side. But I got the hell out of there. And it’s a good thing I did.
My truck and I’d landed in a river ravine on the only rocky beach section that wasn’t in the river. If I’d landed in the river Id’ have drowned. I looked around me at the wide river running through the mountain forest and my little beach and thought it was actually a beautiful place to die had I gone.
I sat on the ground about a couple hundred feet from the truck just in case it blew but it didn’t. I realized the smoke I’d smelled was from the shotgun blasts setting off the airbags (it was an older Raptor). I heard a strange, loud scraping SCREECHING sound high above and looked up.
The fuel truck, with both the remains of the exploded trailer and the unexploded second trailer were slipping off the bridge and falling right at my truck.
I was far enough away that I wasn’t afraid as the strange flipping train of a truck and trailers tumbled down through the air. It probably took only about five seconds or so to fall but as I watched it coming down, I marveled at the acrobatic movement and in my memory, it felt like it fell for several minutes. Anyway, while it was falling, I was on my feet and backing up without thinking of it. I should have been running like hell to get as far away as I could because of the second unexploded fuel trailer. But I didn’t have my wits about me, and it was just amazing to watch it fall. I was captivated 100% until my mind said, “HEY! Only one of the tanks exploded. And the other one is about to—
CRASH the second unexploded trailer hit first and didn’t explode.
But fuel splashed everywhere as the trailer collapsed like an aluminum can your stamping on with your foot before putting it into a recycle bin. It was funny to me that the fuel sprayed everywhere in a huge display like some kind of fountain at Las Vegas, and drops of fuel splattered like rain about ten feet in front of me, in a nearly perfect circle, all around the trucks. No fuel drops got on me, but they did land on my fishing tackle box and fishing my favorite fishing pole, which like some kind of divine message had landed – I shit you not – right at my feet.
I was now really, really in shock and the only things I can remember of that exact moment is thinking about how in slow motion the unexploded tank had landed squarely on my Ford causing it to roll over so it was upside down and the cab was on the bottom… like a pancake. If I’d been in there, I’d be so flat nobody would know anyone had been in the cab. And that–
BABOOOOM the second trailer exploded like one of those bombs you see going off in war videos online. And the explosion really was a ball of fire, an ever-expanding ball of fire growing and coming toward me eating up all the sprayed fuel from the landing. Right at me and my tackle box and my favorite fishing pole which appeared to be missing the top eyelet now.
I know I said I’d watched all the earlier stuff like it had happened over several minutes so I could see so many details in what was probably only a few seconds. This time though father time cheated. I remember the beginning of the explosion and fireball, and I remember my mind screaming “RUN JAKE RUN MOTHER FUCKER RUN!”
But I didn’t move. Somehow, I couldn’t. It was beautiful and I was stuck in a way I can’t explain. I should have moved because even though there were only droplets a few feet away the explosion was so hot it singed my eyebrows and all the hair on my forearms. My ball cap protected most of the head on my hair. I say most because about half of the hair that wasn’t under the cap was singed enough that I had a strange wiry looking afro bottom half of my head. Had I been a brother I probably could have hid it. And it might even be a cool look for a kid. But when I saw it the next morning, I laughed my ass off at me. But that’s not the important part of this story.
What changed everything was father time stepping away while the truck and trailers broke loose from the bridge and fell. What I didn’t tell you as I watched that vehicular gymnastics show was that I instantly saw my freedom from her secret garden lies as the trailer hit my truck, flipped it upside down and flattened the whole thing. I thought “If this thing explodes now, they’ll never be able to identify my body or see that it had even been in there. Then at the–
…the freedom bells had rung.
The only shame was she’d get all the insurance money and the house.
I stood up and fell down for some reason; maybe shock. I stood up again and looked at the biggest party bonfire I’d ever seen. Then I picked up my tackle box and fishing pole and began hiking into the woods along the river far away from where I’d died.