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[Brother James, after seeing the detective in LA]

I creep the truck over the broken glass. The taillights in front of me flash but it’s too late for them to avoid what they were trying to miss. How I didn’t end up in that heap is a miracle. And I need a miracle. Two days without sleeping, too much coffee, bad food in my belly. The raven.

Just before I must have fallen asleep, it was there. The shadow overhead but the sun was nearly down. The raven, that damn black bird. I’m cold, but I’m starting to sweat. My tires crunch on the glass and I hope, no I can say pray, I won’t get a flat. Ahead the shoulder lane is free and so I roll ahead, past the pileup, past what will surely be filled with red lights and CHP. I am out and away from that. I roll and crunch and no one looks at me because they’re out of their cars walking in the dark, surprised. A semi has jack-knifed and blocks my route.

I idle and feel the shake of the truck under my feet. I gotta get out of here. I am in no mood for giving a report. I did nothing. I’m okay, so I’m free to leave, right?

I take a chance and roll into the dirt beyond the shoulder, not meant for driving. The truck tilts and I move to the high side hugging the door, as if my weight can keep me up. I got one chance. Hard packed roadway ahead. Angle made to allow the monsoon rains to escape. I’m escaping and I gotta just punch it and go.

The dirt spins under the wheels, I am hanging on the high side of the truck. I got the accelerator punched to the floor, the wheels are spinning. I don’t look, I go and go and go. I hear gravel and yelling and then I’m free.

I sidewind myself back onto the asphalt, behind me a mess of glass and tangles. The big rid is gonna need a big tow. Those people are gonna need rides back to LA. I’m free. Somehow I’m safe. I’m shaking and sweating and freezing. I turn on the heat. It’s gotta still be 80 degrees outside but I’m shivering. I force myself to breath for the first time since seeing that raven. I take big gulps. I feel my chest start to calm down. I decide to sing the Star Spangled Banner because that’s all I can think of right now. I belt it out and hope I can stay awake all the way to Tuscon. Merrill’s not gonna be happy to see me.


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