He tromped the pedal to the floor but he couldn't figure out why when the wheels spun faster the car didn't just get up and go, pick up and move nor why the rims spun no faster but the car was in gear nor where the concrete went when it moved quickly, slowly, with speed or inertia or without any such thing when he pressed the pedal to the metal, the gas to the plate, the accelerator to the floor.
"Where are you going? Why are you always going, who do you go with, how do you get there why do you come back only to go to come to go again?"
He looked at her. The sun cast an extreme angle of her, all extreme angles, triangles and squares against the plaster in the wall. He was absurd, scared, stupid, or at least he felt these, arguing with something, an entity that possessed no organic shapes. Yet he continued to talk to her, to communicate with her.
"Because I have to get out. Because a man's place is where he can be with his friends, you know, the guys at the plant. We just like to sit around and have fun, you know, have a few beers, kick a soccer ball, maybe, spin some wheels, drive, play--"
"--A man's place! A man's place! Do you want to say that you can get me pregnant, drag me through nine months of hell!... Don't you even have any idea how much time and care I put into washing your underwear and taking care of your kid while you go running around, romping around, drinking and driving and acting stupid--"
"My kid!! My kid!! He's your kid, too. I mean, you had him, you conceived him, it was your idea to go to bed that night--"
"Don't say it! Don't say it!" Her face crisscrossed into a rivulet of lines and crease marks and glowed red. "You mean fucked me, don't you! Fucked me!" She arched forward, the force of those words enough to push a tear out of the strained skin. "Fucked me. You wanna say that it was my fault you fucked me." The skin pulled tighter around her jaw and she looked like she was almost grinning. "You fucked me, you sonofabitch!" A hand reached for an ashtray. She hurled it against the coffee table, and it smashed, sending angular shards of white glass in all directions. Her hands reached up and buried her face.
He leaned forward, reaching toward her. "Now, babe, I didn't mean--"
"Get out of here!" The shriller her voice grew, the hotter, redder the angular face became. The skin pulled tighter. "Get out of here!"
He stepped backward on one foot. He stepped up and tripped on something, but kept moving toward the door. The door. He reached it, flipped it open, then slammed it behind himself. He stopped just in time to hear something crash against it. Down the steps. The car. In gear, the car. In gear and outta here.
His foot pressed the pedal to the floor, and now that the engine was warmed up, the inertia of acceleration sloshed the whiskey in the bottle between his legs a bit. He reached for it, raised it to his lips, and drank.
His buddies, at the plant. The bar, he thought. He raised the bottle again and steered slightly. She'll be drunk when I get home. Drunk and passed out. And the kid, he'll be asleep.
He raised the bottle once more, and swerved into the other
lane to pass.
© 1992 John Hammink, all rights reserved
appears here by permission
First published June 2003 on www.johnhammink.com
"Shards" illustrates a dysfunctional relationship, both in real-time and shortly after an exchange, in the mind of the protagonist.