April Hunter is currently a student at Full Sail University for her degree in Creative Writing for Entertainment and a comic book character. She is a former professional wrestler and model.
The GTO came to life with a roar and idled as Nick sat, unmoving. The loud rumbling comforted him. He pulled the cross out of a box that sat on the seat next to him. Its silver chain draped through his fingers and felt cool, its platinum catching the sunlight and creating dappled patterns on the dark interior. He traced his finger along the inscription that read, For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. -Timothy 1:7
The crucifix looked too bulky for the rear-view, but he draped it over the mirror and watched it dance with the vibrating engine. His mother had kept it on the post of her bed, religiously kneeling before it every evening. The entire situation brought out feelings he didn’t have a label for. Regret? Remorse? They’re often confused as one in the same, but they’re not. He pulled away from the house, slammed the clutch from first gear to second and ripped around a corner to the tune of screeching tires and scent of burnt rubber.
Regret is when you did something you wish you hadn’t. Remorse is when you didn’t do something you wish you had. He’d hastily purchased the flight after putting it off until he was six hours and a lifetime late, which had earned him a middle seat in the back of the plane and a missed connection. By the time he got home, Mom had passed. Remorse.
Maybe she’d played down just how bad it really was. Maybe he’d chosen his career over his mother. Or maybe he just couldn’t stand the thought of seeing her in such a deteriorated state; his treasured memories marred by sunken cheeks, bald patches and shaky hands. After Mom had gotten sick, she’d asked him to come home so many times, and Nick told her his work was too hectic at the moment. Every time he lied to her, saying he’d be home as soon as it slowed down, he felt the gutting ache in the pit of his stomach growing stronger. Regret.
The evening wake had passed in a blur. A smoky pub, his friends and endless cheers for his dead Mom. “To Mrs. Kelly…Brenda…for her ridiculously fantastic brownies and for never ratting us out for smokin’ a dube behind your garage. Salut!”
His father had treasured that classic car even though he kidded about it.
“You know what GTO stands for? Gas, tools and oil.” When he died from a heart attack, Mom kept it partly out of nostalgia and hid the keys from Nick partly because she worried.
“You’re too reckless. I don’t want to get a phone call in the middle of the night,” she said.
“That’s how you drive a car like that, Mom. You have to go balls out. It’s not meant for the speed limit,” Nick said.
“That is exactly why you’re not getting it until you’re more mature,” she’d said. “I’m your mother. It’s my job to protect you, which includes keeping you safe from yourself. You can’t escape me. I’ve got eyes in the back of my head. I’ll always be looking out for you.”
“Jeez, Ma. I’m not a baby anymore.”
“Sorry, kiddo. You’re always gonna be my baby.” She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead and he squirmed, pretending to push her away while laughing.
She left it for him when she died. Dad’s car, Mom’s cross. Nick had never felt more alone. There was no one else. It had always been just the three of them. The house was going to be sold. They say that the one thing that never changes in life is that you can always go home, but what if there’s no home to go to? Who is going to take care of me now?
Nick pressed the pedal of the GTO to the floor. The deep rumble soothed him on the dark, empty, country road. Miles flew by with nothing but woods and the narrow beams of the car’s headlights on blackened asphalt. Nick caught a glint of something. What is that? Nick slowed, but it was too late. A giant buck stood stock-still in the middle of the one-lane road. Jerking the wheel, Nick swerved hard and lost control.
The cold, dark water started to fill the GTO, creeping up to his ankles. He couldn’t get the car door to open. Gritting his teeth, Nick pushed his shoulder into the door, shoving hard, but it wouldn’t budge. The water had created too much pressure. The power windows, state of the art for the car’s era, shorted out along with the rest of the electrical system leaving him in complete darkness. Water was creeping up to his belt buckle, moving upward rapidly. Nick turned sideways and tried to push the door open with his legs. When that didn’t work, he tried kicking the frame. The door bent slightly, and more water rushed in.
“Oh, God. Shit. Shit!”
As icy liquid reached the bottom of the steering wheel, his heart pounded with the realization that Gas Tools and Oil was about to be his metal grave.
Nick squatted on the seat, keeping his head up for air and grabbed the crucifix off the rearview mirror. Not knowing what else to do, he read Mom’s scripture out loud. For God gave us spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control…spirit not of fear, but of power…self-control. Power.
He positioned the large crucifix in his fist, fingers wrapped around the cross.
Rearing back, Nick took a deep breath and hit the window as hard as he could with the base of the cross. Sounding a dull thud, it shattered inward, releasing a whoosh of glass-filled water over his face. Clutching the crucifix, he grabbed the roof with his other hand, pulled himself through the opening, and swam upwards.
By April Hunter
Published 11/16 in Page & Spine Literary Journal