By Rachel Ann Michael Harris
The wipers of the ’66 Corvette swept the rain from the windshield, but the downpour blurred Duncan’s view of the darkened road, and the headlights didn’t provide much help either. After the day he’d had, he just wanted to get home. Thankfully, the purr of the engine eased the tension in his back.
Leaning over, Duncan turned on the radio. Every station was static except for an oldies station. The only station the Corvette’s radio ever picked up.
“Really, Malone?” Duncan mumbled, drumming his thumb on the steering wheel. “Couldn’t we listen to something else for a change?”
He couldn’t help but glance at the glove box, Malone’s letter still inside. When the radio wouldn’t change or the light reflected off the window just right, it felt like he was there. It was in the glove box the day he’d bought the car. He’d gotten chills when he read it the first time, but it never felt right to take it out. So Duncan just took Malone along for the ride. Over time, Duncan found little quips to say to him.
“Come on, Malone. Let me have a chance at the radio.”
“Couldn’t you have worked out that little pull to the left before you left?”
“Malone, do you regret enlisting and losing everything?”
He even found himself asking aloud on occasion.
The glove box popped open. Another quirk he wished he could ask Malone about. But with the rain and the blurred windshield, he didn’t want to be distracted.
“Not tonight, Malone.” Reaching over, Duncan flipped it shut.
Lights blinded him, and the horn of a semi boomed. Duncan jerked the wheel. The Corvette jumped as it zoomed off the road and leaned dangerously over a sharp ditch. Then the car rolled, glass shards flying like a kaleidoscope reflecting the light from the road. With a jarring rock, the car settled.
With a groan, he opened his eyes. Duncan’s head lay on the steering wheel. Rain drummed on his face. Orange light flickered.
A shadowed figure splashed through the squelching grass. A young man leaned through the window and looked at Duncan. “It’s okay, sir. I got you.” The man opened the car door and started pulling him out. “Does anything hurt?”
Duncan untangled his legs from under the dash, putting his arm around the man’s shoulders. “Head…”
“It’s okay, sir. We’ll get that fixed up.” As the man laid him on the ground, Duncan realized he was dressed in Army green and spattered by mud and blood.
“Sorry,” Duncan whispered.
“Not a problem, sir. It’s what I signed up for.” He gave him a wide smile.
Duncan glanced at the emblems on the man’s coat then tapped the same spots on himself. “Your rank?”
“Private. Now you just stay calm. Help is almost here.” He chuckled. “Maybe we can listen to your radio station on the way.”
Rolling his head to the side, Duncan saw his car. The beautiful ’66 Corvette was smashed and dented like a giant tried to compress it like a pop can. Or an angry ex-girlfriend took out her rage on it. Fire burned under the crinkled hood.
The private laid his hand on Duncan’s shoulder. “It’s just a car.”
Blue and red lights flashed from the road. Duncan’s head lolled to the side, and he felt himself relax as the world faded away.
A rhythmic beeping woke Duncan to a white room and needles sticking out of his arm. A wrist band said St. Michael’s Hospital on it. With a shaking hand, Duncan pressed a button on the side of the bed. A nurse showed up a few minutes later followed by a doctor and cop.
“How are you doing, young man?” The doctor glanced between the monitor and a chart.
“My head feels thick.”
“That’s pretty normal. It’ll lessen in time.”
“Son,” the cop took a step forward, “would you be up to answering a few questions?”
“What do you remember of the crash?”
“I… was fixing something and took my eyes off the road for a second, and next thing I saw was a semi. I jerked the wheel and rolled.”
“How did you get out of the car?”
“The private helped me out.”
“Yeah, Private… I didn’t get his name.”
“Son, the truck driver called it in. There wasn’t any private.”
“But… he pulled me from the car.”
“Sometimes concussions can cause memory lapses or hallucinations,” the doctor said.
Duncan hesitantly shook his head. “No,” he whispered, “he was there.”
A nurse came in and set a box beside his bed. “Some of your personal effects.”
“Unfortunately everything inside the car burned, so that’ll only be what was on you. We’ll let you get some rest, son.” The cop patted Duncan’s shoulder before leaving. The others followed.
Duncan leaned his head back. He couldn’t make sense of what the cop told him. Pulling the box over, he rifled through it. Just a few odds and ends. His jacket was in a plastic bag at the bottom. There was spattered blood all over it, and Duncan thought about how close he had come to dying in that crash. At the very bottom was a folded piece of paper. Duncan removed it and, with his hands shaking, unfolded it.
I am Private Malone. I ship out tomorrow. If you are reading this, well I guess I’m exchanging my boots for angel wings. I hope you enjoy this car and take her on all the adventures I had hoped to take her on. I just ask that you don’t mind if I come along for the ride.