Karl and I were disagreeing about the possibility of catching the flu from an individually wrapped Little Debbie when I rear-ended the Crown Vic at a crossroads halfway between two nothing towns. I knew it was sitting at the four-way between the cornfields, but it never occurred to me that they weren’t going to roll through as we came up behind them.
The bump was at a low enough speed that the airbags didn’t go off, but you could hear pieces of my grill bounce on the loosely-packed country road like a burst of raindrops on a summer day. “I think it might be a cop,” Karl stammered even though the odds were strong in this county that it was more likely to be owned by a want-to-be than an actual one.
“I didn’t do it on purpose,” I uttered and checked the rearview to see if anyone else was coming up behind us: we were the only two cars in sight on an afternoon when the temperature was nearing one hundred. “Go see if he’s ok,” I ordered and popped the glove box to look for my registration half expecting the other driver to jump out with a tire iron in his hand the way I would if the roles were reversed.
“No one’s getting out,” Karl pointed out without giving any indication that he was going to get off his fat ass to go see. “Maybe they’ve had a stroke or something.”
“Why don’t you go check?”
“Because I didn’t hit them – you’re the one that needs to go up there.”
“I had more beers than you,” I pronounced as if that were the answer to any question that could ever be asked.
“So I don’t want that to be the first thing they smell after an accident,” I explained. “You go talk to them while I find some gum or mints or something.”
“Why …” Karl began and then hesitated. “Why don’t we just drive away? Right now, before they get out. Do a U-turn and …”
“I can’t do that!”
“You’ve been drinking …” he confirmed, “…and the accident was definitely your fault. You know the cops will take away your license. You know your insurance will skyrocket …”
“Why do I need insurance if they take away my …”
“Just do it! Just turn around right now before anyone gets out. Just go back the way we came. You’ve only got a few seconds and you need to do it now. Do it! Turn us around! Get us out of here!” His voice was as shrill and annoying as anything I have ever heard.
With adrenaline rushing, I did something I should not have done and then I put the car in reverse and turned the wheel hard as I backed up with rubber squealing. After about fifty yards, I put it in drive without coming to a complete stop and the lurch would have led any normal person to believe that the transmission was going to fall out then and there. Instead, it stuttered and caught. I kept watching the other car and no one ever got out. I said a prayer that included a promise to never drink again so that it might be taken seriously.
That evening, the news on every channel was all about the sniper who had been hiding in the cornfield picking off motorists one by one when they stopped and got out to look at his empty car. Meticulously, that sniper pulled both bodies and vehicles into the field and reset the trap time and time again over a four hour period.
I was thankful that I had gotten out of there when I did and toasted my good fortune with a Little Debbie cupcake washed down with a cold one. I kept trying to call Karl, but he wouldn’t answer his phone. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have tossed him out of the car when I did.