Part I: Milk and Bread
Alison was daydreaming about springtime when her car started to slide on the ice of Halifax Road.
It had been an incredibly long, hard winter – and still was – and she was thinking of the vegetable garden she wanted to put in, about getting her fingernails into the soft earth. She hadn’t had one the year before – too busy with the baby – but this spring she wanted to put it next to the house, in the back where a corner formed just outside the back of the kitchen and back hallway, instead of out in the middle of the yard, where not much grew except lettuce and yellow squash and zucchini and where the house hardly reached. She wanted to grow beefsteak tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, maybe a few rows of corn. But mostly she just wanted to spend time in the sun with the children, feel the sun on her back, putter among the green plants, pluck cherry tomatoes and pop them in her mouth while the kids did the same.
Jack was going to love walking in the grass. She could just see his little face light up, hear his high pitched giggle, his machine gun laugh, see his little hands waving fast as he ran.
Piper would want to show him each plant, push him down their plastic slide, tickle him in the shade under the big tree.
It would be so nice to have picnic lunches outside in the sun, the bees flying among the yellow blossoms in the garden. She could taste the cherry tomatoes bursting on her tongue.
And then her car started to slide on the icy pavement of Halifax Road, and her sunny daydream dissolved into the white world outside her dirty windshield. She didn’t panic, or slam the brakes (just took her foot off of the gas and gripped the wheel a little tighter), but it didn’t matter. She wasn’t going fast, but fast enough – and the road was just slick enough – that the car kept on sliding and spun around almost completely – gaining speed – until plowing into the rusty guard rail and kept on going.
This particular guard rail was due to be replaced that spring, having been hit by plow trucks more than a few times.
Alison’s car pushed the guard rail over the side of the steep hill and followed it down the snowy embankment. They both landed in the thick branches of a long-dead tree, the nose of her car aimed down at an iced over pond below, the guard rail mere inches from her windshield. Her seat belt had tightened against her with the impact, but her airbag did not deploy. Strangely, the car was still running, heat still on, CD still playing. Windshield wipers, too.
All she could think of was flying down the track of a roller coaster, the wind in her hair, after inching up and up – but this downward slope wasn’t ending. She gripped the wheel tighter, while trying not to move. Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits continued to play through the speakers. She thought her forehead might be bleeding, but she didn’t dare move her hand to check, nor move her head up to look in the rearview mirror. She wondered how long it would take for the ambulance to come, or the police, or the firemen to get her out. Her purse – and her cell phone – lay at the floor by her feet – but she couldn’t move to retrieve it. But she was confident someone must have seen her. Halifax Road was always busy that time of day. All she had to do was wait. Sit still and wait.
Heat still flowed through the vents. The wipers, on delay, startled her when they squealed across the dry windshield. She thought she felt the car shift in the branches of the massive dead tree she had landed in. Panicked, she loosened her grip on the wheel just enough to extend her fingers and turn them off. She returned her hand to the wheel, gripping it tighter. She could feel her heart pumping fast, could hear it even, it seemed, over the music (“Sitting on the dock of the bay” now), over the blowers, still on high, and the wind. The wind was strong, and blowing snow up around her in waves.
The seatbelt was tight on her stomach and chest. She wondered what the shock of the crash had done to her blood sugar. Before leaving the house she had checked it – as she always did before driving – and the digital screen of her glucometer read 81. The low end of normal.
She remembered thinking she should have a snack before leaving – before driving – but then she had gotten distracted – probably because she was on the low end of normal, and according to her insulin pump still had 2.4 units of active insulin on board, having eaten breakfast just an hour earlier.
She was fairly sure she must be low, but wondered if the adrenaline surge from going off the road had instead pushed her blood sugar up to a safer number. Or would it make it lower? She couldn’t seem to remember. No way to check it – her glucometer (her “kit”) was in her purse by her feet. Along with her purse – and cell phone, and kit – the loaf of bread and gallon of milk she had stopped for had also landed at her feet.
Looking at the milk and bread, it hit her that no one knew where she was. She wasn’t where she was supposed to be.