Thursday, May 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

And she said, "I can't feel my toes."

Charles pulled her feet close to him. He vigorously rubbed his hands over her six year old, chuck taylors, which were holding on to her tiny feet by a few tenacious threads. He scooted closer to her placing her feet between his legs. "I think this 'ill help."

It was the wreckage behind them that was keeping them alive for the time being. The flames were maybe six feet high, and were showing no signs of going out. A massive wave of heat was hitting their backs and a third of their faces, but even still, their appendages were suffering the early onsets of frostbite. As, always with winter air, it seemed thin to Charles. He became worried more so about what happens to a pair of lungs when left unsheltered in below zero weather for too long, then about the survival rate for fingers and toes. For the first couple of hours, this was how he occupied his mind out there. Moving from one hellish end to another for various body parts he had never before considered losing. Garish, well yes. But the roads were long and his cell phone smashed. He could smell the distinct bouquet of burning flesh from the passenger in the other car. Charles vomited a bit, in the rear of this mouth, when he realized the source of smell. He swallowed it though, so as not to upset Clara.

"It's lookin' like these flames will go on 'till mornin', and by then someone will, no doubt, come down this road." Clara didn't respond. She gets quiet when she's upset, Charles reminded himself, she'll talk when she's ready. Charles picked up her tiny delicate little precious hands and placed them between his knees.

The air was getting increasingly more pungent with the smell of burnt flesh. It was impossible not to notice at this point. Charles was sure he must have seen the man's face before they hit him, but try as he might, he cannot place an image to the smell. He imagined movies, where it all happens so slowly and people are given opportunity to make eye contact with one another. Something Charles swore to never tell Clara or any one else for that matter, was how he really didn't feel bad for the other driver. He didn't feel sad. Charles just wished he would stop smelling so awful.

Charles touched the back of Clara's neck. He noticed it was quite cold. He spun around moving her closer to the fire. He held her close to his body, because he thought she could use the heat he was making. He once had a girlfriend call him a human furnace, which she meant as a complaint, but he always interpreted as a compliment. In a way, he thought, if something happens to her, I can use her as a blanket.

Charles felt guilty for thinking that, and he squeezed her lifeless body a little tighter.

No comments: