The Night It All Changed Forever
Life went on pretty much the same for Nate Scarborough and Deb Dunbar. They’d been together two additional years—starting into their 4th. year living together. The humdrum banality of routines took a deeper hold on their lives, though their private love remained strong and they continued to find relief via sarcasm and denial that they were in any way part of the “lamestream”. Nate had it a little easier than Deb, thanks to ongoing new challenges at work.
It wasn’t a good night to be out, given the unnatural darkness from the dense storm clouds and steady, fresh rainfall—first of the season. Yet the Too Hip Twosome badly needed to bust out of their ever-more-stable routine, and thus were on their way to a flash protest at one location of a strongly disliked religiously conservative fast-food chain.
“Seems pointless to me” said Nate.
“There’ve been protests before, but customers keep on buying and elder Dickerly indicates he won’t change his stance.”
“No noise, no progress.”
Bratty as ever, Deb swerved suddenly towards then back away from a pedestrian who’d just stepped off the curb without looking. The tire squeal sent the ped jumping back up onto the curb. She chuckled evilly.
“What was your fallback plan if you’d hit ’em?”
“I didn’t see her, officer, until it was too late!” she play-acted with ersatz despair. “I’m so upset! How will I go on?!”
He buried his face in his right hand, peeking out over at his trouble-making love, with an equal amount of dismay and respect for her boldness. “Just a suggestion: you might not want to push it so hard, what with the oil on the roads. Juggernaut’s tires don’t seem all that grippy.”
“Thanks Dr. Science” she snarked, before reaching over and pinching him, “or was that Dr. Grippy?”
“Aw freak!” she griped. “We’re headed straight into Homeless Hell, aren’t we?”
At the core of the old downtown along Main St. lay a significant and seemingly permanent homeless people enclave. Driving could be exciting on the best of days, given the propensity of a few individuals with nothing to lose to step out into traffic in hopes of getting hit and collecting insurance money.
One such individual did exactly that, timing her step-off such that it would be difficult for the oncoming car—Juggernaut—to avoid her.
HOONNNK! Deb blew the horn and swerved around the woman, just in time.
Over the next several blocks, several more men and women stepped out, though in those cases they were drugged past reality and not intentionally seeking to get hit.
Nate sensed her getting more and more worked up. He knew all too well that words of caution and reason were not likely to be received favorably, so he gently and slowly stroked her right arm in hopes that doing so would calm her down.
Working herself up into an ever-greater froth in part in preparation for the forthcoming flash protest, Deb’s patience grew ever-thinner. “Out of my way, Old Man!” she yelled as she honked the horn and play-swerved into the latest individual to step off the curb. He was in the crosswalk and in actuality had the right of way, but Deb was so riled up at that moment and the lighting so dark that she was unaware of that fact.
Unable to move any faster on account of significant mobility issues, the genuinely old man turned and looked directly at the driver of the oncoming car.
“DADDIEEEE!” she shrieked as she slammed on the brakes, locking them into a perfect ain’t-gonna-stop skid.
In a few seconds, it was all over. She’d just run over her long-lost father. With lightning speed, right in the middle of the intersection, she slammed Juggernaut into park, killed the ignition and leapt out of the car, barely behind Nate, himself already out the door and at the side of the run-over man.
“DADDY! DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!”
“Don’t move him—you’ll hurt him more” Nate warned. “He’s got lots of broken bones, and from the looks of it, a collapsed lung.”
Amazingly still conscious though obviously in profound pain, Dr. Dunbar looked his daughter in the eye and nodded agreement. Fresh blood began running out his mouth as he grabbed his daughter’s wrist tightly and said in a soft, broken voice, “You look good, Deb.” He turned towards Nate, yet kept looking at her. “This your man?”
“Yes” she said.
“Good.” He focused on Nate, “Take care of her.” Struggling to breathe, his head dropped to the ground. With his last bit of strength, he lifted his head back up and looked back and forth at them both. “Be good to each other.” His words were nearly inaudible due to lack of breath.
With that, his head fell hard back to the ground and his eyes closed and opened and closed as his body convulsed in a death rattle.
“AIEEEEEEEE!” Deb’s blood-curdling scream was heard for blocks, startling many and bringing some of those already nearby to their feet and running over. She dropped to the ground and held her father’s wholly limp, lifeless hand, crying uncontrollably, once in awhile calling out “Daddiiieee!”.
Not half a minute later, two patrol cars pulled up, lights flashing. They seemed to already know that the man was dead before even approaching the point of impact; one officer was already rolling out the yellow tape after calling for additional assistance to reroute traffic away from the scene.
Deb was unable to give a statement to the policewoman: she could only sob. Nate provided a clear, concise, and mostly accurate statement, saying that she didn’t see him in the crosswalk until it was too late due to the rain, and that the brakes locked and she lost control of the vehicle.
“You’ll need to stay on-scene until the coroner arrives to confirm death and start IDing the body.”
“Understood. Though we can help ID this man.”
The policewoman looked at Nate quizzically.
“Apparently this isn’t just any old homeless guy she hit. He’s her long-lost father, whom she hasn’t seen in decades. That’s why she keeps saying ‘Daddy’ now and then. She recognized him immediately and screamed ‘Daddiiee’ when he turned to look at us, when she locked the brakes, seconds before impact.”
The officer’s face turned near-white pale—nearly as pale as Deb’s dead father—as she took down the additional information.
The minutes ticked by. Deb’s sobbing ceased as she withdrew further and further into shock. Unable to speak, seemingly no longer aware of what was going on around her, all she did was keep her hand on Nate’s arm. If he needed to move or go talk to an official or for any reason broke contact, her eyes widened slightly and she took whatever actions were necessary to reestablish tactile contact, at which point she dropped back into her vacant stare. No other stimulus seemed to get through to her, and she had no other discernible response.
Time became a blur, even for Nate. Eventually, the coroner finished his work, carrying away the corpse of Dr. Bertram “Bert” Dunbar. Deb made a couple of unintelligible sounds as they loaded his body into the coroner’s vehicle, seeming to motion that she wanted to go with the remains of her father. Nate actually inquired as to whether such a thing was even possible, with Deb clinging to him, and received the expected response: sorry, no.
“Sir, please clear the vehicle out of the intersection now” a newly shifted-in officer said to Nate. “We’re all done here.”
“Thank you, officer.”
This experience gave Nate a newly deepened respect for local law enforcement that no amount of hipster disdain could dilute. He led Deb by the hand to the passenger side, helped her in, quickly came around and settled into the driver’s seat, and drove Juggernaut home in a safe, cautious manner with no further incident.