NIGHT DRIVER AND THE INJURED MAN
I’m doing that damn driving thing again tonight,” sighed Robert Benson.
at the digital clock on the dash and saw it was 12:05 AM; the same time it
always was when he first checked it while on “the drive.”
there was a little fog, but visibility was good. Robert saw the figure lurch
from the ditch
onto the road and start stumbling down the white center line toward him.
He put on
his brights and slowed to about 15 m.p.h.
Carefully, he veered over to straddle the left shoulder and started the
practiced maneuver around the man who was now frantically waving his hands over
it could be me,” Robert said. “It’s hard to tell for sure.”
see the man had cut himself on the forehead and his face was covered in
blood. Robert thought he probably had
been in a fight or more likely a car accident.
“Stop! Please stop!”
the injured man yelled as
Robert slowly crept past him. He lunged
at the car and left a bloody handprint on the driver’s side window.
When he was
sure he was past him, Robert hit the accelerator and took off toward home.
In the morning
after breakfast, he went out to the garage to check the car. As always, the
handprint was gone.
those five minutes on the foggy road that occurred once or twice a month,
Robert’s life was pretty normal. He had
a good job, nice house, and a new car.
But he had no one to share this odd experience with. Even if he had,
who would believe it?
time it had happened, as the driver finding himself in his car instead of in
his bed, he had been too befuddled to consider stopping. That following morning,
he had felt guilty
about not helping the injured man but hadn’t really been sure it had actually
So much was
puzzling. When he was the driver, he
never knew where he was coming from or going to. At 12:05 AM he was just “there.” The last thing he remembered before that was
getting into bed for the night.
When he was
the one walking on the road, if he indeed was also the injured man on the road,
he didn’t remember the incident that had put him in the ditch. Each time,
he started by struggling to get
out of the ditch and then walking down the middle of the road trying to flag
disoriented from the accident and the cut on his forehead had bled into his
eyes. This, coupled with the bright
lights in the otherwise dark surroundings, made the whole situation surreal.
another night, later in the same month, he found himself as the injured man in
that hurts,” he said as he crawled through the weeds and made for the
road. He could see a car approaching and
started waving his arms to get them to stop,
The car did
slow down as it always did, but rather than stop, it again started to inch its
way around him.
be me in there,” said the injured man, trying to look into the car. The
bright lights made it so he could only
make out a vague shape behind the wheel.
“Stop! Please stop!”
he screamed, but the car kept moving until it was safely past and then
it sped away.
man staggered a few more steps and then fell face first onto the road.
awoke in his car as he always did when he might have been the man on the
road. Fortunately, he always shut off
the engine. As he had done before, he
had somehow driven home, made it into the garage, and had fallen asleep.
the rearview mirror and saw no cut on his forehead or blood on his face. Was
he the injured man or wasn’t he?
get ready for work,” he sighed.
later at 12:05 AM, Robert was driving
again and wondered if he changed things a little maybe he could make this whole
business go away.
What if he
just stopped now and made a U-turn in the road?
Or what if he sped up right now instead of slowing down and made it past
the spot where the stumbling man came out of the ditch?
option was too scary to consider — what if he stopped the car, got out, and
offered to help the injured man? Would
his mind be able to handle it if the injured man got into the car — and turned
out to be himself? He was already half
convinced he was somehow both the driver and the injured man. He didn’t
like what that might do to his
But now he
saw it was too late. Up ahead he saw the
injured man was somehow already on the road and finding his way to the center
line. Robert put on his brights but
didn’t slow down. Another option had
occurred to him — he could run the injured man down and kill him.
carrying a gas can walking on the side of the road toward town waved to the
oncoming driver, but then stopped when saw the car was heading right at him.
three quick steps from the center and dove into the ditch.
continued accelerating and followed him.
His car abruptly stopped when it crashed head-on into a twenty-foot burr
oak tree. Before the airbag could deploy,
Robert’s head had smashed into the steering wheel.
sign of any skid marks,” said State Trooper Lester Biggs, the first officer on
the scene. “Looks like he left the road
and didn’t try to stop at all; it was the tree that stopped him.”
EMTs will be here in a few minutes,” said Trooper Janice Wilson, a seasoned
veteran who had arrived just minutes after Biggs. “I told ‘em we
had an injured man. Seems like he’s breathing normally; I think
you’re right that we shouldn’t move him.”
what he was doing out here,” said Biggs.
“I mean he’s barefoot and in his pajamas. And there’s
no smell of alcohol. I ran his plates through the DMV. The driver, the injured man, might be a
guy sitting over there?” said Wilson.
“Was he a passenger?”
Biggs. “That’s the guy who first called
it in. He ran out of gas a ways back and
was walking on this side of the road. He
stepped out to flag this guy down and the guy veered from his lane and tried to
run him over. That’s his bloody
handprint on the driver side window. He
cut his hand on some broken glass when he dove into the ditch and left the
handprint when he checked on the driver.”
broken bottle,” said Wilson. “When we
were kids we’d get somebody old enough to buy beer to get us a six-pack. Then
we’d head out into the country, drink
our beer while we drove along with the radio blaring, and throw the empty
bottles out the windows into the ditch.”
share that little piece of your glorious youth with the captain, Janice,” said
Biggs. “You are a police officer, ya
“I was just thinking,”
said Wilson. “Maybe the
detectives should see if there’s a personal connection between the driver and
the guy who ran out of gas.”
be. This shift sure does get the
occasional odd one, don’t it?” said
Wilson. “Ya just can’t make this shit up.”
Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights. He
has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near
to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence,
Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and
a number of other online magazines.