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Life is Funny

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									Please contact for author’s name Damage Control Ryan has been getting these headaches lately. Not just a small throbbing pulse on the side of his head, but the type of pain that reverberates up the side of the neck and feels like a jackhammer chipping away at the base of the skull. Stirring in bed, he glances towards the clock. Eleven o’clock at night. He has found little solace in listening to the rain singing its chorus as the drops chime on the ground. The headaches, the ticking of the clock, and the rain beating on the roof of his apartment keep him awake at night. Another glance. One o’clock in the morning. His body is lying in wait for a sign or a phone call or anything that will tell him that it is time to move on with his life. Three o’clock in the morning. The bags under his eyes are a constant reminder of the sleep deprivation. Seven o’clock in the morning. The alarm blared it’s wake-up call, and the young man swung his legs off the edge of the bed and stumbled off to the shower. He barely avoided the sharp corner of the bureau as he left his room. Moving away from Rhode Island should have caused the headaches to cease, but there are so many reminders of the past in this one-bedroom, run-down excuse for a flat on Long Island; car keys resting on the bureau, the golf bag taunting him from under a tarp in the basement, and the constant pain in his head that has become a part of his existence. His home in Rhode Island and the streets of the town haunted Ryan in his dreams. At every blinking red light he was reminded of the accident, the lives of those whom he altered that day after a casual round of golf. Sometimes he would crouch down and slide the putter out from under the tarp, swaying my hips in time with the club as he tapped the imaginary ball towards the hole. It was such a fun game when it did not


involve having to carry the mental burden along with the bag strapped across his chest. He periodically ventured downstairs to run his hands over the rivets in the rubber grip and listen to the whoosh of the putter slashing through the air. He liked to dream of what it would be like if his last day playing golf could have been like all those before it. --The bright summer sun was laying a coat of yellow on everything it touched as Dave and Ryan approached the green on the eighteenth hole. They knew from their meticulous scorekeeping that the winner would be decided in the coming seconds. The guys walked down the fairway dragging their pull-carts the last hundred yards of the course, craning their necks to see whose ball was closest to the hole. The score was tied as they crouched behind their balls to line up the putts. The two boys had placed a bet of ten dollars and a Slurpie on the game, but the ten spot didn’t motivate either as much as the thrill of victory and bragging rights until the next match. They each made a couple hundred dollars a week from their part-time retail jobs, so the money wager only served to make the competition more intense. Dave and Ryan were always competing, whether it was video games, tennis matches, or rounds of golf. They’ve been hitting the course almost every Friday; the boys were seniors in high school with a bad case of senioritis. Dave had gotten into Brown early decision and Ryan had just received an acceptance letter from Brandeis. This was one of the many relaxing afternoons that were anticipated to continue throughout the upcoming summer. Dave played the first shot safe and effortlessly tapped in the second putt. Ryan now knew what he needed to win. He lined up the putt and gave the ball an errant tap that sent it wide right of the hole. Ryan slammed the putter on


the ground but quickly realized the massive dent from the putter’s impact with the green. As Dave laughed hysterically Ryan struggled to pull up the soil and fix the crevice. Obviously nerved, Ryan quickly lined up his next putt and missed wide right. “You made me miss that putt with all your laughing,” Ryan quipped. Dave ran up to him, gave him a rough smack on his back, and taunted, “it’s Slurpie time Ry and you’re buyin’, I’m tryin’.” The guys made a pit stop in the clubhouse to get a quick bite to eat and then loaded the golf bags into the trunk of the Sebring Convertible. It was time to go home and play some pool or lounge around watching TV. They were following Mapquest directions on how to get home but somehow missed a turn. Ryan looked around confused. “These damn online directions are never accurate!” Ryan peered back at Dave and tried to wrestle the directions from his grasp but he wouldn’t relent. The car reached the crest of a steep hill and began to descend. Resigned to their situation they made a deal to stop at the next gas station on the road. “Be on the lookout for Recroft lane,” the boys reminded each other. Patterson Ave. was passed along with Rai Parkway and a hundred other street signs bearing names other than what they needed. Street sign after street sign was passed until the car approached Bear Hill Road. The rocky hills covered with maple trees created a scattered landscape, quickly capturing the attention of the two boys. The wind surrounding the convertible accentuated the drive home. As they passed cute girls walking on the sidewalks they’d give a confident wave and speed off. The long ride home was beginning to wear on the boys, and Ryan was nodding into and out of tunnel vision during the drive. The countryside captured their imagination and Ryan found


himself staring blissfully into the distance. The car picked up speed as it crested the next hill, the driver oblivious to the blinking red warning of the streetlight. Two seconds later the boys found themselves staring at a deployed airbag. Ryan realized what was happening when his car was within two meters of colliding with the gold Saturn. The other car was driving through the yellow light as if the light never existed. He looked up, squinted at the red light above his head, glanced over at a wide-eyed Dave with his hands shielding his face, and slammed his foot on the brakes in a futile attempt to diminish the blow. Metal met metal and the two cars were sent spinning around the intersection. As the Sebring came to a halt Ryan looked up in shock, not knowing whether to jump out and check the other car or start to cry. The cars were at opposite ends of the intersection, but Ryan held his focus on Dave. “Are you alright?” Ryan questioned. Dave nodded and let his head fall back in the headrest. Dave breathed a deep sign of relief. “What are my parents going to think? Dave, what if we have brain damage? Does your head hurt? What is the police officer going to think of me? Were the people in the other car injured?” Dave rambled on in fleeting sentences and was visibly shaken so Dave pinned him to his seat by the arms. “Ry…relax. Everything’ll be all right. Everyone gets into an accident sooner or later. Just relax.” After receiving the pep talk from Dave, Ryan quickly exited the car and tiptoed his way around the broken glass to the other car. “What the hell were you doing?” shouted the driver of the Saturn. Ryan thanked God for the absence of bloody limbs. The mother and father appeared unhurt by the impact. The pending confrontation was abruptly interrupted by a faint whimper from the back seat of the Saturn sounding through the torrent of insults. The words of anger and the furrowed brows became


silence and looks of concern. The rear passenger side door opened and a little girl ran sobbing into her mother’s arms. The moment was short-lived for Ryan as the ambulance and police cars arrived to survey the situation. Everyone else gave their attention to the sobbing child grasping her mother’s leg. Her face became salty from the tears streaming down her soft cheeks. A small cut on her head had stained wisps of her hair red. Her head retreated from her mother’s cushioning skin and she showed her father the look of a girl who had just lost her innocence. Ryan, desperately seeking the forgiveness he knew he could not achieve, took three cautious steps towards the little girl in an effort to calm her fears. The shards of broken glass crumbled under the weight of his foot and the little girl reacted by taking three cautious steps away from Ryan’s extended arm. Searching for safety, she reunited herself with the mother’s warm touch. Ryan stopped five feet from the parents and opened his mouth as if to say something, but nothing could be said. The family, disappointed by his silence, turned their backs away from the frozen figure in the middle of the intersection. They wanted nothing to do with him. They sat and stared, and he felt alone. There was no one there for him. Not the witness who saw him careening into the Saturn. Not Dave, who would never drive in his car again. He could see it in their eyes. What once was this fiery smile became a blank stare. He didn’t believe what was happening. It wasn’t the policeman, who had just painfully stepped out of his car. It was evident from the cop’s cringing face as he scanned the scene that Ryan wasn’t going to be let off easy. The broken shards of glass on the ground and the green, white, and clear fluids surrounding the intersection matched his suspicions of dangerous driving. The entire front end of the


Sebring had been pushed in about a foot and a half. The Saturn’s right passenger side door had been demolished. Ryan didn’t cry at the scene of the accident. He couldn’t. He couldn’t bear them seeing him cry. The policeman took out his pad to write the incident report and periodically glanced in Ryan’s direction to judge his reaction to the crash. The blank, helpless stare on his face didn’t help his intent on getting off with minimal problems. Every movement, motion, and interaction was taken into account when the cop approached the shaking boy and handed him a ticket. Ryan was charged with negligent driving. He was to appear in criminal court in a matter of weeks. “I didn’t deserve this,” Ryan grumbled to his friend. He cringed at the idea of being in the same room with convicted criminals. Ryan’s parents arrived to find the cars towed, ambulance and police gone, and the two boys slumped over a railing on the side of the road. The accusing eyes and frequent stares as Ryan slithered into the back seat were an obvious indication of their disappointment. Ryan sunk his head a little lower into his lap and muttered to himself during the full extent of the silent car ride home. That night he buried his face in his pillow and wept. By the time the tear ducts started to dry up his pillow was already soiled with a ring of salt surrounding the damp cloth of the pillow. Too exhausted to get up and wash his face, Ryan closed his eyes and let his head come to rest on the stained pillow. The next morning Ryan woke up and rolled off the bed. Letting the creases of a smile creep into his lips he wiped the salt off his eyelids. As he walked down the stairs to grab a bowl for cereal, he was greeted at the bottom with a bear hug from his mother.


The world was not coming to an end. She told him that the insurance paid for everything. It paid for collision. It paid for the tow. The only thing Ryan’s family had to pay was any restitution the other family requested. It seemed to Ryan that the other family had not sustained any injuries. The parents walked away without a scratch and their daughter had a minor cut to the head that could have been patched with a small band-aid. The ambulance took the little girl to the hospital for precautionary tests but no one seemed too worried for her health. --Ryan waited outside the North Attleboro Municipal Court late that same summer waiting for the doors to open. Ryan was visibly sweating despite the cool mist floating through the air that morning. Noticing the sweat-stains on Ryan’s shirt, his father sat him down and instructed him to relax. A pair of large hands came down lightly on the young boy’s shoulders, and a reassuring smile put him at ease. Ryan came dressed professionally in a suit on the recommendation of his mother. The guy in the front of the line wore ketchup-stained sweatpants, crooked glasses, and smelled like a sewer. His appearance was not the exception in the crowd outside the courthouse. Swear words and lewd remarks were shouted back and forth from the line and Ryan soon found himself standing between two belligerent men with their eyes planning a brawl. “What, you sayin’ I’m not good enough to talk to you? Fine then…Fuck you…Fuck you man.” The two men started to throw punches and Ryan slid out of the way as one punch sailed by his right ear. He led his father to the back of the line and he looked ahead only when the line began to move. Everyone was led through and x-ray scanner and patted down roughly by a police officer.


Father and son took their seats in court and those on trial were instructed to wait until the judge recognized everyone individually. Ryan took his seat next to the only other person in a suit at court that morning. “Sam Kiley please,” the judge commanded. The man in the suit straightened up and headed to the podium for his indictment. “Mr. Kiley,” the voice thundered, “you have been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.” Ryan’s ears perked up, and realizing the brevity of his surroundings squirmed uncontrollably in his seat. “Dad, is everyone here on trial for crimes like this?” Ryan whimpered into his dad’s ear. From 9am to 4pm the two sat in court waiting for Ryan to be called as they witnessed trials for inmates and indictments of criminals. “Ryan Matherson please,” the judge boomed. “You have been charged with negligent driving at 4:15pm on the 15th of June. How do you plead?” “No contest.” After ten minutes of questioning Ryan walked out of the courthouse with a $500 fine, $300 in court fees, and a 6-month licence suspension. He trudged down the steps of the court, barely noticing the sun had fallen beneath the tree line. --Ryan stepped into the family room of his house and dropped his tired frame onto the couch. His first semester at college had been trying, and he was glad to be home for winter break. The weight of finals was evident by the black craters overshadowing his blue eyes. He slipped out of his shoes and walked into the kitchen to give his mom a hug. As they embraced and the first words out of her mouth were, “the insurance went up $1,000 a year.” Shocked, Ryan pushed away from his mother, and he followed her penetrating glance over to the counter where the bill lay peacefully. Ryan’s face


tightened as he studied the insurance bill. “The insurance company guaranteed us a minimal increase…right mom?” stammered the confused boy. His mother shook her head in disgust and left the room. In an attempt to get the situation resolved Ryan ripped the phone off the hook and punched digits of the customer service hotline for MetLife. Ten automated menus later Ryan was about to hang up the phone when a voice droned, “thank you for waiting sir, how can I assist you today?” “I’d like to find out why I’m being charged an extra $1,000 a year for auto insurance.” “Sir, I see you were in a car crash…Yes, the premium rose because of the car crash.” “Can you tell me why?” “No sir, we cannot disclose our court records to anyone outside of the agency.” *Click* Ryan hung up the phone in disgust and dropped his body on the couch. A few minutes had passed before Ryan jumped to his feet and opened the kitchen drawer, searching frantically through his personal files and walked away with the crash incident report. Picking up the phone he lightly tapped the digits of the number of the family he had hit in the car crash the previous summer. A man with a rough voice answered the phone and bellowed, “hello!” “Mr. Dreyfus?” Ryan questioned. “Yea.” “I was hoping to find out the outcome of the crash this summer. My insurance just skyrocketed $1,000 and I was trying to find out what happened.” A long silence commenced and Ryan was about to apologize for taking up this man’s time and politely end the call when he whispered in a low, yet slightly quivering voice, “come over our house and maybe we can talk about it.” The phone was promptly placed on the receiver. Ryan had the address from the incident report; their house was only twenty minutes by car. He immediately picked up his jacket and headed to the nine-year-old Subaru station wagon car parked in the driveway that his parents gave him when he got his licence reinstated.


--A half step back followed each stride up the long driveway. Eyes closed, Ryan stood silently on the top step and motioned towards the bell next to the front door. He released the doorbell and a ring reverberated through the house. A couple minutes of waiting later he recognized the shape of the man whom he hit that summer day. The father opened the door and motioned Ryan inside. It was so dark in the room the boy stumbled into a walker and it crashed to the ground. Rising again to his feet, he slowly made steps towards the couch. At this point the large man had not spoken a single word. The man returned to what appeared to be the living room. He had brought along his wife. They lowered themselves on the couch opposite the boy and silently debated who would speak first. The father’s head rose and cast a shadow on the table in front of Ryan as he spoke in a soft tone. “We followed our daughter’s ambulance to the hospital and upon conversations with the EMT we discovered that the cut on her head wouldn’t stop bleeding. After four hours in intensive care it stopped. We took x-rays, an MRI, and a CAT scan. The doctor told us that our little baby had brain damage. They…they told us that the head trauma resulted in mild retardation.’ The father gritted his teeth and held back the impending lump in his throat while the mother wept silently next to him. “We wanted to tell you so you’d know. We’re n-n-not mad. There is nothing we can do about this. We can’t replay that day. We simply could not keep her safe.” Ryan was visibly shaken by the piercing reality. The boy blinked to refrain from crying but the tears had already made their way down his cheeks. The next few minutes were spent staring at the morbid facial expressions but his gaze would eventually find the decorations on the walls of the room. Ryan excused

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himself to the bathroom, sat on the toilet and lowered his head into his hands. His fingernails slid along his scalp and met at the back of his head. The boy returned to the room to find the little girl seated in between her parents, both of them stroking her hair softly. Ryan walked out from behind the couch, slid his chair closer to the little girl, sat down, and stared at the intricate patterns of the woven rug on the floor. Two minutes of silence gave Ryan the courage to lift his head and look into the parent’s devastated eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but the only words that would reach the air were, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” The boy reached out his hand to touch the girl’s knee, and she grabbed hold of it with both hands and started playing with his fingers. The little girl grabbed each individual finger and slowly outlined circles in the air. All Ryan could do was stare at her. Ten minutes later, the girl’s hands were taken away from Ryan’s and she was led off to bed. Ryan was led out the door. The parents showed no anger or hostility, only sadness. In an effort to dull the pain, Ryan gripped the sides of his head and curled into a ball in the middle of the bed. He desperately wanted her to recognize him from the car crash. He wanted her to scream and cry and kick him for what he’s done…but he only saw innocence.

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