by Chase Cline
I sat across from Sarah in the kitchen, her dark brown hair held to one side with a scrunchy. She was wearing a pink robe, faded from years of wear. It was now past twelve on a chilly October night.
“So why can’t you sleep?” she asked. I had been tossing noisily, hoping she might wake up too.
“It’s that couple I told you about. The ones that were in that R.V. accident.”
About a month ago, the paramedic team and I were called to a wreck on Willow Lane. We could already see where the R.V. had driven off the curve. The aluminum side rails had given way. The R.V. was resting down in the woods where it had landed.
“What about them?” she asked.
“The accident made them face reality. They’re getting a divorce.”
“It happens.” Her spoon clinked against the side of her cup. She stirred her coffee constantly even though she drinks it black.
“But fifty years…”
I looked outside the kitchen window to give Sarah a chance to respond. She didn’t. The husband, William, had talked to me when he was laid up in the hospital. I usually don’t check on people I bring in—in fact, I never do—but something was different about these two. He and his wife were in separate beds beside each other—each of them in full body casts with only holes for their eyes and nose. Like in a cartoon. They probably shouldn’t have survived the wreck.
“Do you need more coffee?” I asked.
She drew her robe tighter and crossed her arms.
“But all those years they stayed together. Taking trips to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Niagara Falls. It was supposed to bring them together.”
“Then why are they separating?” she asked.
“He and Judith lost a child back in sixty-four. That’s why they visited all those places. They had wanted to take their son but never got to. The Winnebago was supposed to bring them closer together.”
Sarah straightened up a little. “You never told me that.”
“I haven’t told you a lot of things.” I took a sip of my coffee. The steam rose from the mug. “Just one little mistake changed their life. All those years invested in one another…just gone.”
“What mistake?” she asked as she slid her hand across her belly.
“They had a son. His name was Michael. Or Mark. Something with an M. William got in his car one morning to go to work. But their front door must’ve not closed all the way. The kid followed William outside. He didn’t notice. And when he was backing out of the drive—”
Sarah suddenly stood up from the table. The wooden chair squeaked across the cold tile floor.
“I’ve heard enough.”
“I wanted to tell him that they’ve made it this far. That they could work it out. That it wasn’t his fault. That you and me…”
“But it’s always somebody’s fault,” Sarah said.
Chase Cline earned his MFA in Fiction from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. His work has previously been published in Marathon Literary Review and Torrid Literature Journal.