By Rick Forbess
Jane is texting when the right front tire of the Prius drifts onto the road’s shoulder. She jerks the wheel to correct the error, and the car rolls several times. On the third revolution, her head smashes into the passenger side window frame on the way out, and, at the end of a graceful arc, Jane lands hard among damp rows of earth planted with corn just the day before. She lies on her back, legs twisted at impossible angles and feet buried in the plowed earth. A murder of crows caw with startled urgency, and silence blankets the sun-splashed field.
Carlton’s phone pings as he walks down the hallway. He wonders if it’s Jane. Their norm is to exchange messages frequently throughout the day. “Let’s do sushi for dinner.” “My boss is nuts.” “U wouldn’t believe it.” “Cramp city today.” He’s in a fight to win a promotion and is not to be distracted at work, so they agreed to hold off for a while. Carlton turns the phone off without reading the message and joins three other colleagues around the conference room table.
The VP of Research and Development draws the curtains closed, dims the lights, and begins her presentation on the company’s latest financial planning app. Carlton concentrates on the slides projected on the screen at the far end of the room. There will be intense competition, and his goal is to lead the marketing campaign for this new product.
He has a seven-year plan not yet shared with Jane. If he pulls it off, they will have it all—the home, the cars, the travel, all of it. He’ll need to be frugal for a while and not having kids should be part of the deal. Why should she wreck her body? Why fork out a million bucks or more just to raise a kid who could turn out to be a history major?
He can hear Jane already. “Having kids has always been something you said you wanted. How can you not want kids?”
The truth, that he only went along with the notion to appease her, is buried in layers of self-deception, so his response will be, “Let’s live for each other.”
He imagines Jane will have no option except to embrace him.
By mid-morning, Jane is lifted into an ambulance and driven away. An hour later, the Prius is loaded on the back of a tow truck and hauled in the same direction, leaving the field empty but scarred.
The meeting is interrupted by the Director of Human Resources who requests to speak with Carlton in her office. When she tells him the horrible news, Carlton sneaks out the back door, ashamed to be seen by coworkers in tears.
He unlocks his bike and rides for an hour, perspiring heavily under his tight-fitting blazer. He stops where the Prius left the road and lays the bike down. After taking off his white Pumas and socks, he walks into the field to a spot near where Jane had been.
A yellow lab walks from the yard of a farmhouse adjacent to the field, wagging her tail. Carlton drops to his knees and weeps while the dog licks his ear. “We could have had it all,” he whispers. He scoops a handful of soil into his coat pocket and then reads the text from Jane again.