In the split second before impact, Evelyn’s mind zeroed in on a single thought:
I’m not going to be able to stop in time.
The man had been trying to step out in front of the bus across the road and had never even seen her Honda coming from the other direction. But bus or not, a sedan going forty miles an hour was more than enough to kill someone; which had, after all, been his point. Now, Evelyn stood in Wynwood Cemetery, biting her nails as she watched the man whom she’d hit sink into the ground, encased in a varnished redwood coffin.
There had been no trial, no legal complications or fuss. The man, Aidan, had left a suicide note at his apartment. His parents stood by the headstone, holding each other like pieces of cracked glass. They were taking it well. Even invited Evelyn to the funeral; said that it would help all of them get the closure they needed.
The priest clutched a Bible to his chest and threw three clumps of dirt onto the lid of the coffin, one after the other. Evelyn’s teeth ripped off the top of her pinky nail. She swallowed it.
One by one, members of the funeral party drifted forward to pay their final respects. Each had something to say about Aidan; how they would miss his kindness, his smile, his thoughtfulness. How they wished he had come to them in his final days instead of seeking out oblivion. No one spoke to Evelyn or even looked at her, each person too wrapped up in their individual grief to pay much attention to one another, let alone a relative stranger. Each sprinkled a fistful of dirt into the grave.
Evelyn didn’t notice the crowd disband and soon she was alone. A large mechanical digger sat at a respectful distance from the gravesite and a groundskeeper leaned against its mud-caked wheel, smoking. Evelyn blinked at him, realizing that he was waiting for her to leave. Her life had yet to return to normal speed, her mind and body still suspended in the sickening slow motion of the crash.
The tip of her tongue roamed the fresh bumps and ridges of healed cuts in her mouth. She hadn’t been injured that badly, considering. The doctors and nurses kept saying that to her; not that badly, considering. That one word, tacked on to every sentence like a leech you couldn’t pry off. Considering Aidan died, the rest of the sentence that never had to be said, but which consumed Evelyn’s thoughts.
She shuffled up to the edge of the grave, squinting as the afternoon sun hit her face. Bending over, she picked up a handful of dirt from the pile beside the hole and stared into the dark depression.
Three days had passed since the accident and she still woke up in the middle of the night, sheets soaked with sweat, the smell of the crash fresh in her nostrils, clogging her throat like smoke. The smell; like someone had set a bottle of baby powder on fire and was using it to melt down pennies. She could smell it now, as she weighed the earth in her hand. She could see him now, as she closed her eyes; the slackening of his jaw as he turned his head towards her, the widening of his eyes, the silly little hop backwards the moment before impact.
She lobbed the dirt down with a grunt. The clump bashed against the coffin and shattered. Extending her earth-stained middle finger towards the hole, she spat, her saliva turning the brown dirt black.
Turning, she strode back towards her waiting taxi, head hung low.
The groundskeeper watched her go, standing up with a sigh as he dropped his cigarette onto the dying grass. It wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before. Death did some awfully funny things to people.
by Robin Jeffrey
Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds. Both have served her well as she pursues a career in writing. Her work “Season of the Dead” won second place in The Molotov Cocktail’s Flash Phenom Contest and most recently her flash fiction piece “Bittersweet” was published in Issue #5 (Summer 2018) of Sky Island Journal. Her non-fiction work has been published in The Mary Sue. She currently resides in Bremerton, Washington.