Kim Chinquee

Cars on the highway weren’t moving. It was early morning. Broken vans and trucks and people had stopped up ahead. Karen sat in her Volvo, smoking. Her radio on, horns beeped, sirens wailed. A guy in a Honda next to her asked for a light. She got out of her car, handed over her cigarette, told him to keep it. It was winter; she was sleeveless, almost shaking. She went back to her car, rolled up her window, got her swiss-and-bacon lunch out from her cooler, found she wasn’t hungry.

The guy got out of his car and knocked on her frosty window. “Thank you for the smoke,” he said.

She nodded; looking at him, thought he looked familiar. Everything and everyone looked familiar: the woman in that green Toyota, the black man up ahead, the young kid in the gold-and-red Sephia. The scene ahead.

She asked the guy from the Honda if he was hungry, handed him the sandwich. He wore a suit, said he was a lawyer. Karen used to be a teacher. Last year, while she drove the school van back from a field trip (they’d been at the arena, for the circus; she bought everyone popcorn), the van slid on a patch of ice and she lost control. She was unhurt but ten of her first-grade students were either killed or injured.

“Bad news,” the man said, pointing to the wreck. People were out of their cars now, talking on cell phones, pacing.

“I know,” Karen said. She was crying, shaking. She thought of Jeremy, her favorite student, whose head had been sliced open. He was dead. His twin sister Jilly lived, and got around on crutches.

Kim Chinquee's

. . . recent fiction has appeared in Noon, North Dakota Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, So to Speak, The South Carolina Review, and several other journals. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Central Michigan University.