At last, Jim thought, a quiet Saturday to myself. The last few months had been nothing but stress at work and to-do lists at home. But with the big proposal submitted and Diane and the kids at her parents' house (but having left before the work week ended), he suddenly found himself with a quiet respite. As he slowly rolled the car out of the driveway, he exhaled slowly and felt the stress exit his body.
He couldn't even remember the last time he'd just gone to the movies. As he waited at the light to turn onto the main road, his mind loosely working on deciding between Ant-Man and the newest Mission Impossible flick, he became dimly aware of a car approaching the intersection from the opposite direction, moving way too fast to stop before entering the roadway, which still had a steady stream of cars in all four lanes going 50 mph.
Time came to a near stop through his eyes, as he watched, powerless, while the minivan slid past the stoplight, careened into the intersection and got t-boned -- hard. The sedan hit the rear corner of the van, which sent it into a spin in Jim's direction. He watched in horror as the van spun a full 720 degrees, through three other lanes of traffic (which it miraculously cleared) and came to a rest right in front of his car.
This all took place in less than five seconds from the moment he had first noticed the van, and as his heart finally started to beat and his senses took stock, he managed to release his vice grip on the steering wheel, throw the car into park, and bolt out to check on the occupants of the van.
* * * * *
She couldn't have been more than six years old, he thought to himself as the cop finished taking his witness statement. The ambulance long since gone, now the wrecked vehicles were being towed away and the police were about to re-open the lanes to traffic. They said she'd be better than she looked, he thought, but the blood...
The officer shook him out of his reverie -- "You did everything right, sir, and I know that was hard to see, but she'll be fine. Now we really need to get this intersection clear."
He was right, of course. There was nothing left to do but try to clear his head. He slowly got into the car, drew a deep breath, and waited for the light to turn green, just as he'd been doing an hour ago.
* * * * *
He pulled in to the movie theater, not even considering the time he'd lost. It became clearer as he walked up to the ticket counter. An apologetic ticket clerk told him that everything was sold out unless he wanted to wait a couple hours for another set of showtimes to cycle through. Everything, that is, except Pixels.
He bounced it back and forth in his head. What was the last good Sandler flick I saw? He and Diane had popped something on Netflix a few months ago, and gone to bed instead of finishing it. Gotta hope it was just a fluke, he thought. He had had his heart set on seeing a movie today, and after everything he'd just witnessed, he needed to take his mind out of the real world more than ever. He couldn't wait for another showtime of something else; he had plans in two hours, and he'd be cutting it close already.
"Alright, one for Pixels," he said.
* * * * *
Jim walked out of the theater in a daze. What the hell was that? Was I even watching a comedy?
He shook his head quietly. Lazy Saturday not going as planned, not even a little bit. He checked his watch -- at least his timing to meet Blaine wasn't completely wrecked. He pondered, somewhat guiltily, how long it had been since they'd seen one another. He didn't think either of them meant to drift apart, not exactly, but their lives had gone different ways as Jim had settled down and Blaine kept living the single life downtown.
They'd picked a little chain place, nothing special, right in the same shopping center as the theater. Jim had parked halfway between the two, and strolled across the parking lot. It was just past dark, and the hot summer day was giving way to a cooler evening. The theater and restaurant were a bit separated, and he had to go around back of the restaurant's part of the center. As he did, he noticed a raccoon that had definitely been struck by a car that day, and then sat in the sun to bake. His stomach turned as he caught the smell of the roadkill, and he couldn't take his eyes off the entrails, covered in flies. He hurried his stride.
Jim made it to the front side of the restaurant, and spotted Blaine out on the patio, meeting him with a quick waveand smile. He sat down just in time to catch the waitress walking up. "Can I get you something to drink?" she asked him.
"Scotch on the rocks," Jim said, immediately noticing Blaine's raised eyebrow. The waitress turned to his friend, who said "Just a beer for me, any kind of pale ale on draft?" And then:
"Oh, and can you put the Orioles game on that TV right there?"
Jim's senses snapped into focus again.
"Actually, if you don't mind, just leave it," he said to the waitress, who froze for a moment, not sure how to address the conflict. Then she shrugged and said, "I'll be right back with the drinks."
"Sorry, man," Jim said. "I've seen a lot today."
"There's no way I'm putting myself through an Orioles game after all that."