When is was 10 years old, I sat in the middle bench seat of my dad’s new, sky blue, Plymouth Grand Voyager. My sisters slept in the back. My mom slept in the passenger seat. I was the king of my own bench. My dad, 20 years ahead of his time, installed a TV, VCR and nintendo in the van. I sat with the TV. A couple years before that I cracked my head open on the TV. The doctor tied my hair together instead of stitches.
We were on our way back from Arizona. My grandparents retired out there and we would visit during spring and then catch a few Cubs spring training games. It was a very long drive. The very drive that was the basis for National Lampoon’s Vacation. No truckster. Minivan. The door only opened on one side. The windows were not automatic.
We were on the home stretch. Passing through St. Louis on our way back to the coveted suburbia of Chicago. I couldn’t see the arch yet. The arch never made much sense to me anyway. Seemed very trivial. My sisters slept in back. My mom slept in the passenger seat. My dad was driving. I was watching one of my personal picture shows. We went under an underpass.
I saw the next underpass. I cocked my head. This underpass was different. It had something I had seen in only one other thing to that point. Better Off Dead. “Now who would throw a perfectly good white boy out?” That movie was funny. This one wasn’t. He jumped.
“Pat!” My dad smacked my mom awake. Stop motion. Frame by frame. The man floated down towards the street. A semi-trailer locked his brakes. Black smoke began to fill his side of the highway. The trailer was jumping up and down. The driver’s eyes were bright and full of trauma. The leaping rag doll connected with the grill of the semi. His body bent into halves. A shower of blood filled the air and our side of the street.
The rag doll was thrown 20 feet in front of the semi. Its limbs were moving about every which way. Our minivan passed the semi and then I saw the arch. The meaningless structure of metal, greeting people to the worst city that I have had the mispleasure of visiting. I remained on the bench seat wide-eyed with a new personal picture show. I still see it from time to time. My sisters were awake in the back. My mom was awake in the passenger seat.
Please to enjoy.