Crandon stared out the window of the car. He watched as the trees sped past and houses and farms disappeared behind them
“You have fun tonight, son?” his father asked, nudging him playfully.
“Uh-huh,” Crandon said, nodding and smiling. “Thanks for taking us.”
“Of course,” Crandon’s father replied. He glanced into the review mirror and smiled when his eyes met those of the small boy in the back seat. “What about you, Marc? You have fun too?”
The boy in the back was a couple years younger than Crandon. He beamed up at the two in the front seats and Crandon shook his head before turning back to the window. His younger brother could be so annoying sometimes. It wasn’t necessarily anything he did, either. He just was.
The boy’s father reached up and turned the volume knob on the car’s stereo, bringing the music up to a middling volume. Crandon smiled. His dad had always liked music. As long as he could remember his dad had loved music. Crandon preferred when his father played music on their car rides instead of listening to talk radio. The politics always confused and bored Crandon anyway.
“Did you have fun, Dad?” Marc asked from the back seat.
His father turned the radio down and glanced in the rearview mirror again. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Did you have fun, tonight?” Marc repeated, he used his hands to flatten the wrinkles in his pant legs.
The boys’ father chuckled. “Yeah, I had fun too,” he said. “It’s interesting, I—”
He was interrupted as they approached a four-way junction. It was only a two way stop, and they were driving in the direction that had the right of way. But as they entered the intersection, a large grey truck blundered right past the blatant stop sign and charged through the junction, right for the car Crandon and his brother and father were driving in.
“Hold on, guys,” their father told them in a concerned voice.
All of a sudden the truck collided with the car. It happened so fast, Crandon had no idea what happened and how. It unfolded in an instant. The dashboard seemed to encase his father, the hood crumpled and bent in odd angles, and the stereo wailed out sounding unnatural and ghostly. The windows shattered, spilling glass bits everywhere. A scream erupted from the back seat and Crandon wheeled around in his chair to find his younger brother wailing. Blood trickled from his chin and when he parted his lips, it escaped from the corners of his mouth. He’d bit his tongue and it was bleeding. The sight was horrifying to Crandon, but he was too much lost to shock to say or do anything. His body shook and shivered as if he was freezing.
“You bit your tongue, son. It’s okay. Anything else hurt?” the boys’ father asked. His own body was shaking and his breathing was irregular.
Marc shook his head but continued to cry miserably.
“What about you, son? You alright?”
Crandon just shook his head. “I’m okay,” he said, still shivering. His teeth were chattering now and the pit of his stomach ached. It was as if he’d blinked, and upon reopening his eyes, he found his world flipped upside down.
A man walked up to their car and peered in through the window. His expression was void, like he wasn’t entirely there. “Hey, man, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, alright,” he said. To Crandon it looked like he was speaking to the tires, or the roof, or the hood. He didn’t look at any one of them longer than a brief glance. Then he turned and stumbled away.
Crandon’s father turned to him and laughed. He just laughed, like he’d just heard a funny joke. “He’s drunk. Did you see that? He’s completely drunk. I’m sorry too, buddy. What a drunken idiot.”
Crandon closed his eyes and felt the tears still slip between his eye lids and slide down his cheeks. He was scared and had no idea what would happen to him or his father and brother.
“It’s going to be okay, boys,” Crandon and Marc’s father reassured them, his own teeth chattering as he shook with shock.
In the distance they could hear sirens. And almost in an instant the area was filled with people to help the wreck victims. Crandon’s door was opened and he was lifted out and laid on a hard-backed stretcher. Then they opened the door for his brother and lifted him out as well.
“We’re gonna put your brother with your dad, is that okay?” someone asked Crandon. He just nodded. It would be better if little brother stayed with dad. Crandon could be brave. He wanted to be brave. But as they lifted him up and loaded him in to the ambulance, the tears continued to flow from his eyes and dampen his face and he didn’t feel so brave. He shivered and someone laid another blanket on him.
The ride to the hospital was quick, and the people in the ambulance asked Crandon only a few questions. When they arrived, they carted him out and rushed him to his own hospital room. He was told his brother would be with him soon and asked if he wanted another blanket or two, which he did.
Eventually Marc was wheeled in to share his room and eventually visitors, including his mother, came to check on him. “How’s dad, mom? Is he okay?” Crandon asked.
“He’s just down the hall, Crandon. He’s in a lot of pain, but the doctors say he’ll be alright,” she said, taking his small hand in her own. “He hurt his shoulder pretty bad.” She rose and stepped towards the door. “I’m going to wait in his room. You two should try to get some sleep.”
Hopefully my tie in doesn’t make this all sound like a public service announcement, but here ‘goes. I’m that little boy. I’m Crandon. Except for where my name is Caleb and I’m a lot older. That car wreck happened over ten years ago, and I still think about it on a constant basis. It isn’t because of what happened, so much as because of what could have happened. Obviously God’s will wasn’t that any of us would die that day. But the paramedics and firemen all agreed that had the truck hit us from the side, not much further from where it had hit us, both my brother and my father would have been killed. The wreck might have left me to grow up without two of my closest friends. And without them, I think it’d be perfectly safe to say I’d be a very different person.
I turned twenty-one a couple months ago, and here in the US that’s kind of a big deal because that’s when it’s legal for someone to go out and get smashing drunk. It isn’t legal to get in a car and drive in that state, but it didn’t stop that guy in the truck who hit my dad and brother and me on our way home from church one night. I had to work on my birthday, and every time someone asked me if I was going to party it up, alluding to me getting drunk, I just wanted to punch their face in.
It wasn’t their fault, they didn’t understand. But because of that childhood experience I have a very personal aversion to drunkenness, and it would aggravate me when they would suggest that I would have any part in such a stupor.
I’ve been twenty-one since February, and in that short stint of time I’ve had enough liquor to know I really like it. I’m not so stodgy so as not to joke about drunkenness in the moment. But when it comes down to reality and I’m expected to be serious, no, I don’t do drunk. I just don’t have any interest in becoming a raging idiot and losing what little control I do have of myself.
Yes, I do very much enjoy a bit of Johnnie Walker: Black Label on the rocks.
No I do not drink it with the intention to get slobbering drunk.
It’s a balance. Like in everything, moderation should be key.
I guess I can count myself lucky. Lucky that I had such an experience to give me the mindset I have on the matter. And common sense to interpret the experience in the way that I do, so that I choose to live in moderation instead of lacking control. Others aren’t so lucky. And that’s why I’m here I guess. I share my experience, to write about it and dramatize it so that others realize the seriousness and need of self-restraint.
Lives are at stake.
Make the right choice.
… Okay, now I just sound like a public service announcement.