“Fell Out of the Car” by Lanny Durbin

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Fell out of the goddamn car. Can you believe that? Really made me think, honestly. Made me think, man, what the hell am I doing anyway? The things I did to lead me to tumbling out of my 1994 Ford Taurus and eating shit on the pavement—I probably shouldn’t have been doing all those things. Maybe I deserved it then? As I walked in the ditch by the side of the road towards where the car finally stopped rolling and hit a tree, I really wondered if I deserved it.

Driver’s side door didn’t latch all the way anymore. You gotta pull this stretched-out coat hanger through the door handle and then spool it around the steering wheel or something to get it to stay shut. But I was a zombie and I forgot about the coat hanger. Leaned my head against the window, for just a second you know, and I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and then—baddabing—that’s how I fell out of the car going thirty. A thump, my gut slamming against the pavement, then some scratching and thuds as I rolled like a stupid baked potato into the ditch. 

I felt a little relief when no cars passed me by as I walked, a bloody scuffed up mess. I was embarrassed to be seen, for one, but it also had me thinking of this episode of Unsolved Mysteries I watched with my mom back then. This lady had a flat on a two-lane like this one. Guy in a Wrecker pulled up, bam, shot her in the gut. Didn’t rob her or touch her or nothing—just wanted to shoot someone. She didn’t die, just lied there and bled until another wrecker showed up and didn’t feel like shooting someone. Never found the guy. And this lady was a nurse or a veterinarian, can’t remember, and I’m just some bum who pours my paycheck into the video poker machines. My episode of Unsolved Mysteries wouldn’t make the cut!

Got to my car. It was toast. Some drippy hissings coming from the hood, some smoke, front end absolutely creamed against a tree. I grabbed my wallet and the handful of change out of the center console and the sack lunch I’d brought to work and left the car. The sandwich was fucked but the can of Sam’s Choice Cola and the bag of Cheetos were both doable. Not all bad, considering. Left my dead car and dead sandwich there in the ditch and kept walking.

Knew I wasn’t far from town proper, could see the lights of the little strip of a neighborhood that sat on the cusp. There was a NASCAR bar there. Figured I could lay low there for a while. And they’d have to have a couple video poker machines. The sun was still up when I fell out of the car but I couldn’t tell you how much time had passed. Was for sure night time. I got into Duffer’s and I was right—a couple video poker machines. A lot of things I thought would always be around, well, they weren’t around anymore. Things like helpful friends, self-worth, ambition, or a clear signal to a good feeling. If not gone—hell if I know where they were hiding. But there was still something I had that, at least, gave me something to focus on for a while. Video poker machines. The Slots. You put the money in and maybe some more comes out if you press the right button, or land on the right number in the algorithm. There’s nothing else to worry about when sitting in front of The Slots. The Slots were the last thing I had around.

The Slots and booze.

Maybe you come out in the black. Maybe you win big as hell and drift on that high a while. Also, maybe you really shit the bed and have to work doubles for a month to climb back out and then you fall asleep at the wheel and fall out of the car like a stupid baked potato. But that can’t be the norm. Plus, how the hell else was I gonna get a new car?

I started hot, like red hot. Stayed in a groove for a couple hours. Started greasing up, ordering gin and tonics for myself and rounds for the few patrons that shuffled in and out. Hey, thanks, pal, they might’ve said. Some looked at their free drink sideways. What is this about? It is kindness friend, kindness that exists only when my hand is HOT and I’m lining up the little treble clefs inside the Rock N Roll Dice game. I was the king of Duffer’s Bar and a benevolent one at that. Duffer himself came out from behind the bar to marvel at my winning ways. Slapped me on the shoulder and laughed, said what are ya gonna buy my bar with those winnings? 

I said, maybe! 

We laughed again and then he left. I sat and waited for my own personal wrecker to roll by—a slug in the gut or a ride back into town. Was just like the Slots. Who knows what was gonna happen! 

And I thought about the next car I’d buy for 1,200 bucks and in which ditch it would look best, rotting away.

A stupid carcass.

A real worthless thing.