Zeds 2

Zeds 2

Read Time:11 Minute, 57 Second




            5:22 AM

            Those little red numbers taunt me. For the last two hours my alarm clock has been gradually creeping towards five-thirty. I woke early, dry and thirsty and I got up to retrieve a glass of water, which now sets beside the clock, and have been unable to sleep since. It is now too late to sleep and the clock refuses to reach the time I get up. Of course I could get out of bed early, but my body is upset by the mere thought of such an act.


            I wonder if this could have been a form of torture in the past; locked in a room with only a clock and a release date. Tiny red sparkles dance on the back of my eyelids as i close my eyes and try to get comfy. I try to relax a little. Perhaps the time will slip by if I allow my mind to wander a bit.

Birthdays are coming and plans need to be made. Both of the kids have their birthdays in April, just two days apart. I have yet to do my shopping. Marcy has hers complete; she braved the crowds of the March Madness sales  to buy James Junior his game system and a bicycle for Mandy. The thought of them opening those presents on their birth days, the looks of joy and excitement filling their young faces, brings a smile to my lips. I can almost smell Marcy’s cooking; fresh from oven. She always uses extra pudding in her cake recipes. My list is in my phone; a few new games for Junior’s new system and a whole new ecosystem for Mandy’s fish.

Mandy has four fish, all bright and colorful, living in a beginner’s salt-water tank. It’s been seven months now and they are all still alive and healthy, so I am upgrading her to a 50 gallon display tank for the front hall, complete with a gift card loaded with enough for four more fish on the more expensive side. She’ll be delighted.

Junior wants that auto theft- whatever game that all the kids are playing.

Marcy’s been hinting for the last month that the old pots are getting a little worn out and that she noticed a stainless steel set at the store with heat resistant handles and a variety of other interesting features. Maybe I’ll buy her the set and everyone can have a few gifts to unwrap.

I glance at the clock.


Eh – Alright

Begrudgingly, I reach over and click the alarm off. My joints creak as I sit up and bend my knees over the edge of the bed. The slippers are right where they belong and my feet find them effortlessly, slipping in to their comfort. I take my water from the bed stand, sipping it as I stand and head for the bathroom. The shower takes a few minutes to warm, but it’s well worth the wait. The first minutes of my shower are spent waking up; enjoying the warmth of the water before I go about my daily routine of washing up and am out in fifteen minutes. I take my time shaving and grooming to ensure everything about me is as perfect as can be and head into the closet.

I dress in my black slacks, with a light gray dress shirt. Today’s tie is a seasonal black featuring small eggs of numerous colors; the kids got this for me three years ago and i wear it every April. I peek at the clock again on my way out the bedroom door.

6:00 AM, on the dot as always.

Down the stairs and around the corner is the kitchen where a fresh pot of coffee sits, set to automatically turn on at five-fifty-two so it will just be done when I get to it. The coffee machine clicks and the light flicks off as I retrieve my thermo-mug from the cabinet. A little sugar and vanilla creamer, and I head back upstairs.

The first door at the top of the stairs is Mandy’s room. My youngest of two, at seven and three quarters, Mandy is already expressing defiance for the stereotype she has been forced into for being born a girl. She is always trying to convince her brother to let her use his skateboard or go play ball with him and his friends. He rarely allows it; it’s just not cool to hang out with my little sister, he always says. She wants to be the first female player of the NFL. I wouldn’t allow my son to play such a dangerous sport, much less my daughter. But, we bought her the skateboard and she’s getting good with it.

After ensuring her alarm clock is set and ready to wake her, I lean over her bed and stroke her hair back from her face. Mandy, my little angel. Watching her sleep brings me joy; no better way to start the day. I kiss her forehead and exit her room quietly.

The next door is James Junior, thirteen, thinks he knows everything; like what music sounds like. If Mandy is my little angel, then Junior is my little demon. He has moved into a phase of black. I can’t complain, at least his clothes are matching now – a step up from brown sweaters with neon green shorts. But no matter how he behaves, he understands the value of a future and strives for excellence in school – my straight A son. So long as he stays out of trouble and keeps his room clean, I can let the new demeanor slide.

Junior asked me a week ago to stop sneaking into his room and kissing him goodbye, so this a hello kiss. I always sigh when I brush his hair aside; it hasn’t been as soft since he started dying it and straightening it. He used to have golden curls that bounced when he ran around, like a little Greek prince. It’s a sad change, but it seems to make him happy – I think.

The door closes silently as I exit, slipping out backwards to prolong my exposure to my son. As I turn around to head back into my own room, I find Marcy, her arms outstretched and ready to pounce. She wraps herself around me, pressing her head into my chest.

“Good morning, my husband.” Twelve years of marriage, and she has greeted me this way every single morning. If I was out of town, she would call me at exactly six twenty and her first words were always “good morning, my husband.”

I love it.

“Good mrrmrr, mff” I respond between our lips. We’ve been together twenty four years now, and it is still the cutest thing to see her pull herself onto her tiptoes and stretch up to kiss me. I’m almost a full foot taller than her.

“Good morning, my wife,” I repeat as she lowers herself back to her feet. She smiles sweetly and turns, moving back into our bedroom. “I should be home no later than six today,” I inform her. “If traffic permits.”

“Dinner will be ready,” the sheets ruffle as she tucks herself back into bed. “I need to order out, I have an appointment at three for the Wellington place. Someone is actually interested.” She groans, a long, drawn out, satisfied groan as she settles comfortably back under the sheets.

I nod from the doorway and smile. “You’re the best, that’s why they gave it to you.” I blow her a kiss and tell her I love her. She returns the sentiment and I head back downstairs, through the kitchen, and into the garage, only stopping to grab my jacket from the coat closet.

Avoiding boxes and toys, I round the mini-van and climb into my SUV. Next to it is my ruby red Ferarri, a gift for myself the other year. I stare longingly. This weekend – you and me. We’ll take Marcy someplace nice.

I start the engine, revving it up to warm it and get the fluids flowing as the garage door opens. By six-thirty I am on the freeway, Northbound for the city; and by six-fifty I am slowing to a stop behind a line of cars.

This is unusual, I tell myself as I pull up behind a large pickup at the end of the line. The morning rush usually doesn’t begin until seven-ten. I examine the clock, watch the minutes roll by and eventually put my SUV into park. I push my door open and I step out, moving out onto the meridian.

A mile up, the road bends to the west and the line of vehicles disappears around it. I realize I have not seen a car on the southbound since my arrival, and begin to wonder how big an accident would have to be to keep eight lanes closed. There must be some fatalities if authorities are not allowing traffic to move around it.

“Hmm,” I sigh and return to my vehicle, “It’s going to be one of those days, huh?”

My assistant, Leonard Dispil, is number six on my speed dial. I call him and arrange to push all my morning appointments to the afternoon and reschedule the afternoon for tomorrow. I can work a few extra hours on Friday and bring home dessert to make up for my tardiness.

Seems I will be here a while. I turn on the radio, preset to my favorite classical station, and press back into my seat as Mozart fills the cab.

 7:43 AM

It’s hard to say which one catches my attention first – the noise or the shockwave – but the explosion jars me away from my relaxed state of mind. The noise is deafening and all I can hear is a high pitched buzzing. Suddenly my eyes are wide, watching a massive fireball rise from the ground several hundred yards in front of me. My SUV rocks as the ground shakes. I think I see a car in the sky, falling from nowhere, but it disappears behind an overpass and I see nothing more of it. A large plume of dust shoots up from the ground just to the side of the explosion.

The people in the vehicles closest to the disaster abandon their vehicles and flee the explosion, every family for itself; a massive wave of chaos coming my way to escape. People shove and climb over each other, anything to get away. Those in the vehicles around me are either gawking from just outside their car doors or running off with the others. A few select heroes run in the opposite direction, likely off duty firemen or police officers.

My God, what am I doing? I suddenly demand of myself. Go!

I throw my door open, hurry around to the back of the SUV and pull open the back hatch. I pull my first aid kit from the trunk and rush towards the scene. I weave through the vehicles to reach the inside shoulder of the road; most of the crowd is running through the traffic so it’s easier going. I stop to check only a handful of people on my way, eager to get to the source and see how I can assist.

The closer I get, the worse the damage; cars are thrown every which direction, blackened like ash, numerous bodies either inside, under or somewhere near them looking just as burnt. Most of a big-rig truck is on its side, pieces of the trailer scattered about, but only small bits.

Where is the trailer? I question, and I find the answer behind the truck. A long trench crosses from the left lane, through the meridian and across all four lanes of the southbound freeway. It descends into the ground, its length spread with jagged shards of trailer and a number of bodies. Some people are still alive, groping and digging into the dirt in a futile attempt to pull themselves away from the wreckage despite missing limbs and badly burnt flesh. Most are lying motionless. The truck’s trailer rests in two flaming pieces, one piece on either side of the trench, ripped in half. It must have been transporting gasoline, and very likely was the source of the explosion.

My hand comes up to cover my mouth, my mind races as I take in the scene. I feel useless and small as I try to figure out what I am supposed to do. I’m not an emergency doctor, I’ve never dealt with this.

 Help the people, I tell myself.  But… how?

My first aid kit is useless, the smallest injury here will require more bandages than it contains. I find myself wandering along the length of the trench, following its edge across the meridian and across southbound lanes to the end. I lean over the edge and peer inside. Amongst the dust and debris I can just make out a small, round shape at the bottom. Instinctively, I pull my shirt over my mouth to protect from the dust.

Instinct begins to take control and before I know it I’m at the bottom of the trench. I may not have the supplies required, but I do have the knowledge. Approaching the nearest victim, I drop to my knees and begin a quick examination of their injuries. They have serious burns over most of their body and are bleeding profusely from multiple wounds, likely from shrapnel. I get to work, and do what I can.



End Chapter Two

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