American Wife

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Book: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld Read Free Book Online
Authors: Curtis Sittenfeld
Tags: Fiction
her the following week. I didn’t want to have any sort of public conflict—no doubt if we did, it would be terrifically entertaining to our classmates and probably serve as the defining event of the evening, but how mortifying.
    And this was what I was pondering, this was the subject my skittering, fickle mind had landed upon, when I breezed through the intersection of De Soto Way and Farm Road 177 and collided loudly with a blur of pale metal. Very quickly, it had already happened. I was lying on my back on the gravel road; my door had flown open, I’d been thrown about eight feet from the car, and shards of glass were sprinkled around me. It was dark by then, the sun had set perhaps half an hour earlier, and I lay there, first confused and then so startled and upset that I had difficulty catching my breath. The collision (how had it occurred, where had the other car come from?) had been a squealing boom accompanied by the shatter of windshields, and now my car and the other one were making creaking, whirring noises of adjustment. Oddly, my radio was still playing—the song was “Venus in Blue Jeans.” The other car must have been making a right turn from Farm Road 177 onto De Soto Way, I thought, because when I lifted my head, I saw that the hood of my parents’ Bel Air was smashed up against the driver’s door. I was in the middle of the road, I realized; I needed to move. I tried to prop myself up on my elbows, and a searing pain shot through my left arm. I leaned my weight on my right arm and dragged myself around the back of the sedan, trying to avoid the glass; the road had no shoulder, and a shallow ditch ran along it, so there wasn’t really anywhere to go. Something was dripping from my left temple, and when I wiped at it, blood coated my fingers.
    It was not until I saw the farmer and his wife approaching that I sat up, though I felt too weak to call to them. The farmer was a stout white-haired man in overalls, not running but lumbering along in a quick way, and his wife was a few yards behind him in a housedress. They had heard the collision and had called for an ambulance, the farmer said. When he asked what had happened, we all turned to look at the cars, the mess of metal and broken glass, and this was when I realized two things: that the other car was a mint-green Ford and that there was a slumped, unmoving figure in the driver’s seat.
    I could hear the rise of my own hysteria, a panicked kind of panting—was it him or was it not him?—and the farmer spoke to his wife, and then his wife was crouching, her arms were around me, and she was saying, “Honey, when the ambulance comes, they’ll take care of that fellow.” I believe they thought I was babbling nonsensically, but the wife understood first. Raising her head, she said softly to her husband, “She thinks she might know him. She says they’re classmates.”
    There were two ambulances that came, ambulances in those days being just police-cruiser station wagons fitted in the back to hold stretchers, a single flashing red light on the top. As I was raised on the stretcher, I saw, shockingly and unmistakably: It
was
him. His head hung at a strange angle, but it was him. Inside the ambulance, while I cried uncontrollably, one nurse took my pulse and examined me as another nurse and two police officers attended to the Thunderbird. The farmer’s wife appeared at the rear of my ambulance and said she’d call my parents if I told her their name and number. Then she sighed and said, “Honey, they put that stop sign where it’s so hard to see that it was only a matter of time.” The ambulances were parked south of the accident, and I raised myself, peering out the window and noticing for the first time the sign she was referring to. It was in a field to the right of the road—it had been my stop sign.
    My ambulance left before the other one, and though I did not yet understand everything, I knew that it was very bad, that it was far worse

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