– 1 –
I am thinking of an apple when the streetcar hits and my leg severs and my ribs crumble and my arm is no longer an arm but something unrecognizable, wet and red.
An apple. It was in a vendor’s stall at the farmers’ market off Powell. I’d noticed it because it was so weirdly out of place, a defiant crimson McIntosh in an army of dull green Granny Smiths.
When you die—and I realize this as I hurtle through the air like a wounded bird—you should be thinking about love. If not love, at the very least you should be counting up your sins or wondering why you didn’t cross at the light.
But you should not be thinking about an apple.
I register the brakes screeching and the horrified cries before I hit the pavement. I listen as my bones splinter and shatter. It’s not an unpleasant sound, more delicate than I would have imagined. It reminds me of the bamboo wind chimes on our patio.
A thicket of legs encircles me. Between a bike messenger’s ropy calves I can just make out the 30% OFF TODAY ONLY sign at Lady Foot Locker.
I should be thinking about love right now—not apples, and certainly not a new pair of Nikes—and then I stop thinking altogether because I am too busy screaming.
* * *
I open my eyes and the light is blinding. I know I must be dead because in the movies there’s always a tunnel of brilliant light before someone croaks.
“Evening? Stay with us, girl. Evening? Cool name. Look at me, Evening. You’re in the hospital. Who should we call?”
The pain slams me down, and I realize I’m not dead after all, although I really wish I could be because maybe then I could breathe instead of scream.
“Evening? You go by Eve or Evening?”
Something white smeared in red hovers above me like a cloud at sunset. It pokes and prods and mutters. There’s another, then another. They are grim but determined, these clouds. They talk in fragments. Pieces, like I am in pieces. Vitals. Prep. Notify. Permission. Bad.
“Evening? Who should we call?”
“Check her phone. Who’s got her damn cell?”
“They couldn’t find it. Just her school ID.”
“What’s your mom’s name, hon? Or your dad’s?”
“My dad is dead,” I say, but it comes out in ear-splitting moans, a song I didn’t know I could sing. It’s funny, really, because I cannot remotely carry a tune. A C+ in Beginning Women’s Chorus—and that was totally a pity grade—but here I am, singing my heart out.
Dead would be so good right now. My dad and me, just us, not this.
OR 2’s ready. No time. Now now now.
I’m pinned flat like a lab specimen, and yet I’m moving, flying past the red and white clouds. I didn’t know I could fly. So many things I know this afternoon that I didn’t know this morning.
“Evening? Eve? Give me a name, hon.”
I try to go back to the morning, before I knew that clouds could talk, before I knew a stranger could retrieve the dripping stump of your own leg.
What do I do with it? he’d asked.
“My mother’s Terra Spiker,” I sing.
The clouds are silent for a moment, and then I fly from the room of bright light.
Copyright © 2012 by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate