BY TYA COLBY
Copyright is held by the author.
IT WASN’T until Tammy actually leaned over the crest of the hillside that she could hear anything at all — a voice yelling and half screaming. She looked down at the crumpled luxury car, barely clinging to the rocky dirt partway down. The car had seemed to fairly fly off the side of the road before slowly arcing down — totally missing the hairpin turn. As she ran to the hillside edge she heard the car hit, a booming crunching sound that echoed with tinkles of broken glass. The electrical system was still working — she could see the tail lights burning redly in the darkness, trunk popped open. The voice continued yelling and sometime even yelping — whoever was down there must have been hurt real bad.
She closed her eyes tightly — and decided.
Taking a deep breath she shifted the backpack on her shoulders and carefully stepped over the edge onto the grassy dirt of the hillside. Sliding down half sideways, sometimes turning in to face the hill to steady herself. It took a good five minutes to make it to the car. She paused to catch her balance. The driver was still yelling, albeit a bit less boisterously. He couldn’t see her coming with the trunk wide open. She carefully edged over to the driver’s side of the car, holding onto a willow stubborn enough to brave the height and angle.
“Hey! Hey! Stop yelling! I’m here!”
“Oh — THANK GOD! THANK GOD! (groan) I don’t know what happened. One minute I was driving along and then next minute the road just disappeared!”
‘Dangerous curve, that.”
“Curve? Curve! What do you mean curve?!”
“Why the curve that takes you from Clanton’s Corners to Willowbank. Sharp turn there. Gotta take it real slow.”
“Turn?! Curve?! Why —” The man bowed his head, clenched his teeth and groaned loudly.
Tammy craned her neck and peered inside. The car must have come down on its nose as it was crumpled like an accordion angled into the left side — the man’s legs disappearing under a massive fold of plastic and metal. There was blood running down the side of his face, and one of his arms seemed be twisted all wrong. She got a peek into the back seat — a black satchel and a small suitcase lying up against the back of the front seat. Driver’s side. Good that.
The man finally gasped out, “Sign! Signs! There should have been signs there. There were no signs!”
His face clenched and his groan turned into half scream as if something inside had broken free.
“I’ll take care of yah. I’ll help you out mister.”
She reached in the front and started patting the pockets on his jacket — brushed off the small and larger bits of glass and broken plastic.
“What are you doin’?!” he gasped.
“Gotta let people know who you are. How else am I goin’ to do that? Let your family know?”
“Ohhh.” The man seemed to deflate somewhat, like he was leaking through a hole like a punctured tire. His head began to slide sideways
As she reached in and behind to check his back pants pocket, her foot slipped and she almost lost her grip on that willow tree — slippy thing. She steadied, then thrust herself through the driver’s side window, rooted around, and came up with a fat, rather worn, black leather wallet. Sighing with relief she eased herself out of the window, braced herself against the door and reached around to unzip part of her backpack. She carefully eased the wallet into the small side pocket, then quickly zipped it up.
Suddenly, the man began to scream hysterically and startled Tammy so that she almost lost her balance again, grasping the open window rim and flailing for the back handle. He didn’t stop screaming this time – he just kept on and on.
Tammy pulled her backpack around and unzipped the top, she removed a hammer with a pointed tip, turned around and smashed it into the back side window. Two blows later the glass shattered. Bracing herself she reached in and pulled out the black satchel and the suitcase. She managed to jam the satchel into the oversized backpack. Pulling out a small bungee cord she then attached the suitcase to the top of the back pack.
The screaming was beginning to get to her. She replaced the hammer and reached inside her back pack for one last thing.
It was a very long and jittery eight minutes before she reached her hand up over the edge of the hillside. Just as she was hauling herself up a well-used farm truck pulled over and skidded to a stop, showering her with gravel.
A man with working clothes clambered out of the driver’s seat and ran toward her.
“Everything all right?! You all right?!?”
Relief flooded her body as she leaned into him, relaxing in the safety of his arms.
“Pa — that man down there. He’s hurt bad, Pa — real bad!
“Shhhh! Shhhh! I know chicken, I know. It’s hard to see. But yah done good. I can see yah done good.”
All of a sudden there was a deafening explosion and a last primal scream that jolted them both. Bits of things flew out like meteors as the night sky lit up with a fallen sun.
“Fire,” the man said, nodding his head in approval.
The girl smiled then turned and unzipped the side of her backpack, pulled out an old-fashioned lighter tossed it back in, then pulled the overstuffed wallet out, passing it over to her father.
“And this time, I made sure I got the wallet first!”
The father smiled down at the young girl. “You remembered!” he said proudly, ruffling her hair.
He opened the wallet, pulled out a wad of $100 bills. “Whoa!” Replacing the bills, he riffled through the credit cards. Whistled at the rows of gold and platinum.
“Little girl — only 12 years old and you done so good we’ll be eatin’ for the next six months thanks to you!”
The compliment made Tammy tingle all over.
‘Hey! You gonna take all night? We gotta get out of here!”
A young man was hanging out of the driver’s side window of the truck — a younger version of the man.
“We still gotta clean up!”
“Your brother’s right. We have to replace those signs before the law gets here.”
He put his arm around the girl’s shoulders as he hurried her to the truck.
No matter the signs, they still had a 120-minute drive before they finally got home. But that was just good sense.
Grampa said, yah don’t shit where yah eat.
And Grampa always knew best when it came to the family business.