The Ride

My father sold Oldsmobiles in 1965, and as a favor to those customers in our immediate community, he would take their car in for service and leave his own ride at home. On this particular day that ride was a 442 which was beautiful and strong. In a time when muscle cars were a reality, this one was a behemoth and when I saw that he left the keys on his dresser, I thought I should take it out for a spin. Never mind that I was only 16 and would not have my driver’s license for another year. I was somewhere between crazy and emotionally challenged, so I grabbed his keys and fired that beast up.

Drifting through our residential neighborhood I decided to pick up my friend David, who was the son of a dentist. I tell you that so you would know that it was a nice neighborhood and I had intelligent friends. Not all of their friends were particularly bright, and on this day David made a bad choice when he agreed to go for a ride with the likes of me. He seemed impressed that I was driving this car and perhaps the cool factor overtook his common sense. He had no idea what was in store for him as I continued to casually cruise our neighborhood, deciding to head back to his narrow street where many children played, and all was safe and well.

His street was very narrow with cars parked on each side. This created a very tight fit for two cars heading in opposite directions. As such, the speed limit was only 15mph. I wanted to do something crazy that day; needed to, because taking my father’s car apparently was not enough. Driving without a license came with little risk, so I decided to up the ante some.

As I turned onto David’s street I wanted to see what this bad ass car could really do. Putting my foot all the way to the floor I heard two distinct screams. The first was the engine opening up and firing all 8 cylinders in unison. The second scream was coming from David…..non stop…..panicked and freaked. I saw the speedometer read 95 mph when, *out of the corner of my eye, something tiny dashed into the street. I know this because I hit that small girl, who was chasing a soccer ball. As she flew into the air, already broken beyond repair, my windshield shattered and David stopped his screaming about the same time his head went right through my windshield. My father’s ruined car continued to travel down the street careening off parked cars until it came to rest with two broken boys inside, and a dead and blood soaked child 100 feet behind us. I was not dead, but already knew enough to wish I were.

I was awakened by angry voices and the sound of sirens. I ached terribly and had a broken skull and several broken ribs. I could not see as I was covered in my own blood, but that did not stop the pummeling I was taking from what turned out to be the murdered girl’s father. David was also in bad shape and in addition to having lost an eye; he lost a good deal of his functioning. Today they call it a traumatic brain injury. Back then they called it manslaughter and it was added to the list of things I was charged with. None of it mattered to me, as I could not crawl past what I had done to that little girl who turned out to be six years old and was named Amy. There was a great uproar to have me charged as an adult, even as I lay in a hospital bed for 3 months healing from my self inflicted wounds. The large scar on my forehead didn’t matter either, as I saw myself as the monster I had now become.

After much legal wrangling, I was charged as a Juvenile and agreed to all charges and was sent to the Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, in the Bronx, until my 18th birthday. The horrors that occurred there are almost beyond description, but I was always aware that I was deserving of whatever evil that might come my way.

Who knows what I may have become, if I had not acted so stupidly that day. David’s parents successfully sued my father and ruined him financially. My father walked out of my life and I never saw him again. When Amy’s parents had their day in civil court there was nothing left for them to seize. I would have gladly given them anything they wanted, but I was lost to the world, and was so depressed that I had little to offer other than my sorrow and incarceration. And all they really wanted was their sweet child alive again.

There is no hate as deep as self hate, and my adult life has been marked by alcohol and drug abuse, broken relationships, lost jobs, constant relocation, and several suicide attempts. I take nine medications, and my best dreams always involve my own death. It is only in these dreams that I feel release and freedom. Once, not long ago, I had a dream about little Amy. In this dream she was telling a monster that she has forgiven him, but when I woke up I was trembling and knew that I was never going to forgive myself. One day I was an attractive and athletic 16 year old, and the next day I was forever broken, hideous, and alone.

* This story is true, up until the point where Amy ran into the street. No child was killed that day, and at the end of David’s dead end street I slammed on the brakes, and slid to a stop. He exited my car in a hurry and ran home. I casually drove back home and left the keys where I had found them on my father’s dresser. Life continued for me as it was, and it took many years before my impulsive and potentially deadly behavior of that day became clear to me. As part of my working life, I once taught employment modules in a prison for youth. They were there for a variety of stupid acts, including theft and vehicular homicide. I always saw part of me in their faces, and would look at them knowing that they were not as lucky as I was that day.

© 2013 Michael Fiveson

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77 thoughts on “The Ride

  1. My life is fillrd with “What could have happened if God had not intervened” events. Sometimes He gives His Grace to fools and drunks for which I was one.

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  2. Wow! Mike, you had my heart racing and mind pondering. I have to have my 12 and 14 year old boys read this…so powerful. A great message. I am so thankful it is fiction because my heart was just breaking for the suffering endured through the adult life of your main character. You totally captured my attention and my heart through your writing. Blessings, Robyn

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  3. Hi. I can’t get onto WordPress from this location except through a back door, so I’m just letting you know that I’m trapped on Cape Cod and seriously considering giving up and going home. Have pictures, no way to post. Sigh. Interesting story. Boys act out in very different way than girls. Interesting the gender based differences. Overall, I think you guys had more fun being bad. But I wasn’t really good at being bad.

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  4. A very powerful story, Mike. The “Amy” part of the story had my mind going, with impulsiveness turning bad very quickly.

    About the Olds 442, I remember that car. Those were the days when 442 likely referred to its horsepower. It was on my “want” list when it came to cars, or at least drive it once. Had to settle for the one-time drive with a friend and his dad.

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  5. You were lucky that day. So many kids are not. The brutal honesty with which you write is a take- no-prisoners style that suits you and the only voice you know. I think that’s why your work is remarkable. The voice is as credible as it would be if we were sitting on a barstool in a Jersey bar, drinking a beer, and listening to the rough-around-the-edges Mike tell the story. It’s an effective voice that works. And works well. The literary convention you used here is very effective too. I like.

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    • The voice is true. I like the word unflinching. I also like that you would take the time to read this and be gracious enough to comment. Thank you very much.

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      • Hey, Mike. I’ve been meaning to get back over here and comment. I’ve been offline for a bit for various reasons. It was my pleasure to read this. I enjoy your writing and photography very much. I also wanted to thank you for checking out and signing up for my other blog (devoted to the cats of the shelter where I volunteer)–that was very kind of you. And just so you know (hope you don’t mind, I took the liberty of changing it in the comment you just posted), I prefer “Lemony” (to Melanie). 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying the weekend!

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  6. As I was reading (and my heart was breaking), all I could think was “how am I going to respond to this man that I have come to think so much of”. I am so thankful that you did not have to carry that burden throughout your life (as so many others have).
    The life you led, whether by choice or circumstance, has made you the man you are, and you write with a stark, frankness that is captivating.
    Oh my (now my heart can settle back down).

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    • Yeah, in an effort to make the story somewhat compelling I did not divulge that part of it was a fabrication. All the awful stuff was just a moment away from happening, so I let it happen.
      Thanks for the read and the comment. I actually contacted the David in the story a few years ago. He publishes a magazine in Washington D.C and he accepted my apology for taking him on that ride.
      Thanks Laurie.

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  7. Okay, I’m gonna kill you! You totally had me convinced.

    I’m actually so glad that you did not kill that child, but you are right, it could have ended so badly. SIgh.

    I actually did hit 2 kids. They ran out in front of me at an uncontrolled intersection on a very busy street. There is nothing worse than knowing as you skid, you’re still about to make impact. Seeing the kids fly through the air and hearing their screams was so traumatic. I was not cited for the accident because the kids were at fault, but juveniles will always be exonerated. Thankfully, they were injured — broken bones — but not permanently.

    We did get served by the parents. Kel contemplated throwing the server off the balcony. Argh. The insurance company settled, and I did not drive for a year without watching the sidewalks more than the road.

    So when is the novel coming out? 🙂 Thankfully, we can have second and third chances because we made it past all our stupid what-ifs.

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    • Gosh Lilly, I’m sorry that I caused you distress, and hope we will work through it 😉
      I’m really sorry to hear you were the victim of two kids running out in front of you. That must have been a big time stresser!
      I guess I have been edgy enough on WP that people might read my story and think ‘that’s why he is so jacked up.’ I definitely got away with one that day and I still give thanks.
      Hope you are feeling a bit better today. Still sending you positive energy.
      Thanks for the read and comment.

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      • Well, it is a sign of a good writer to make a reader believe. 🙂 I was a basket case. The cop drove me in my car to the side of the road to wait for hubby. He said the only question he had was “Where are the parents?” It was a very busy street, and folks at the bus stop said they were up and down off the curb and got tired of waiting. But it was in the middle of a school day, and they were there alone–11 and 6. You really were blessed with that escapade.

        One of these days I’ll find out all the crazy things my kids did that I didn’t know about. I already know enough to make me cringe. But this cringing mother is the stupid chick that hitchhiked from MI to a Jesus Festival in KY. Man, God even watches out for his stupid children!

        So did your dad ever find out?

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      • My father never did find out. I got away clean from that escapade, and was certainly lucky. It was just he and I living together then and he wasn’t around much.
        Your husband’s question of where were the parents was a good one. 11 and 6? I worked some as a social service intake worker investigating abuse and neglect. Denver County. That was a job. It was always where were the parents. I know that rocked your universe and I also know you were not to blame.
        I appreciate you Lilly.

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  8. Very compelling, Mike…I’m glad I spoiled it for myself by following the asterisk early on. I was there, my friend…very well done….and no doubt, Life has informed your words, from a distance maybe, but still…..it’s too real.

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    • Wait, you cheated? Therefore, you are not going to yell at me and tell me not to fuck with your emotions?
      Life has informed my words, as you say. It has also shaped me into whatever this shape might be. It is nice, as always, to hear from you Scott and I am pleased that my story struck you as too real.

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      • You’ve go too much real stuff in there that I had to check it first….my emotions get fucked with enough that I need to be selective and control what I can. 🙂

        Glad to be here, too, Mike….and yes, it was very real.

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  9. Ooh, that hurt. Had me by the throat and wouldn’t let go… But there is a truth there, so many things could have happened, lives changed forever in an instant. So what do we do with our could have did, and what are we doing with our done?

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    • The could have did is filed under didn’t do, and the done is filed under done did.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment John.
      Your header is nice. The daughter standing next to your pretty wife is like her clone, and your other daughter I believe looks just like you. It’s a sweet header.

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      • I have two sons and a married oldest daughter that feel somewhat slighted. I explain that the younger two are still under my wing, so that’s why they are in the photo, but I’m not sure it’s entirely successful. Truth is that the photo was on my phone, taken by a stranger in the NYC Wall St. subway station, and I just liked it. Sometimes the simple truth is better…Wait, at all times the simple truth is better.

        But you’re right, they are all gorgeous people outside and inside, even the ones you can’t see.

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  10. Oh man, you had me in horrified tears there. I’m so glad the dead children are fictional, for you and their families.

    That was a wonderful tale! I love when I have such emotional, visceral reactions to what I read. I would love to drive a 442. Listening to that thing purr like a big cat… mmmmm

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  11. My god, man. I have long had nightmares about hitting a child. Not long after I received my driver’s license, a little girl, pursuing a soccer ball, ran into a street in front of me. I braked in plenty of time. Still the scene haunts me.

    This is a very powerful and effective post. I hope that others benefit from it.

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    • I am always deeply touched when some generous soul such as yourself takes the time to read something I’ve written and responds with something positive.
      Thank you very much.

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  12. Pingback: Wandering Through the Blogosphere | aaron in wanderlust

  13. Ugh! I could just smack you!

    My heart was racing faster with each paragraph and my mind was screaming, no,no,no.no! At the same time, I wanted this to be just a dream or something and I was trying to work out how your work and all of this fit into it. Then, when my emotions were nearing shock and I was still building up the compassion for the point of your dream, I read that damned last paragraph.

    Ho-ly cow – you had me there! I guess, that means you displayed yet another talent in the writing. Damn it, though. Now, I may be afraid of what I might come across next! 😉

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    • Sorry about that, but I wanted to make a dramatic point. Thanks for caring enough to be rattled and since you know a little about me, I can understand the confusion.
      You are one of my better friends Robyn, and I so appreciate that you read that. All of my memoirs are true to fact, with this one exception.

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  14. That was some roller coaster ride you just took me on. My heart skipped a beat, my mind racing trying to conceive what you went through and finally a sigh of relief.

    It’s all about making choices. Great read. Lots to ponder. You had me line and sinker on a great ride. Thanks man.

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  15. It was my New Year’s resolution to take the time to really read through my favorite bloggers’ posts as so often I tend to skim and miss all the background. I started with you this morning and could hardly breathe through this story. So sorry I was and alarmed for you and the agonizing repercussions of youth’s wrong decisions. And even with the clarifying ending, I am still finding it hard to throw off the images you painted (even without your camera).

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  16. This blew me away. I was holding my breath as I read this horror story, and just when I thought I’d pass out, you threw that last paragraph at me; a feather pillow after having been pummeled with large rocks. I had to read it twice to make sure I understood that you and Amy and David were ok. Thanks for jarring me with your words this afternoon.

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