Two parties, six alternating points of view, and three letters that says it all--WTF!
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November 09, 2009
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Excerpt from wtf by Peter Lerangis
"Jesus, it's still alive!"
Byron's voice. From the backseat.
Byron was okay.
Jimmy jumped up from the road. He struggled to keep upright, his leg numb. He spat his mouth clean as he made his way around the car. Through the side window he could see Byron's silhouette, peering over the front seat. Jimmy looked through the driver's side window. The deer's back was enormous, matted with blood and flecks of windshield. Under it he could make out only the right side of Cam's body from the shoulder down, but not his face. Cam was completely smothered.
"Oh God, Jimmy, what did you do?" Byron said.
"I -- I don't know....It just, like, appeared!" Jimmy had to grip the side of the car to keep from falling, or flying away, or completely disintegrating. He blinked, trying desperately to find the right angle, hoping to see a sign that Cam was alive. "Push it, Byron -- push it off!"
"It's a monster -- how the fuck am I supposed to push it? Shit, Jimmy, how could you have not seen it?"
"I did!" Jimmy screamed. "I braked. I tried to get out of the way -- "
"Dickwad! You tried to outmaneuver a deer? You don't brake! That makes the grill drop lower -- lifts the animal right up into the car, like a fucking spoon! You just drive. That way you smack it right back into the woods."
"If you know so much, why weren't you driving?"
"With what license?"
"I don't have one either!"
"You told me you did!"
"I never told you that! I just said I knew how to drive. I never took the test -- "
"Oh, great -- the only person in Manhattan our age who knows how to drive, and you don't bother to get a license." Byron leaned closer, suddenly looking concerned. "Jesus Christ, what happened to your mouth?"
"It's what I get for applying lipstick without a mirror -- "
"Awwww, shit!" Byron was looking at something in his hand. "My BlackBerry's totaled."
"How can you think about your BlackBerry while Cam is under the deer?"
Byron looked up with a start, then immediately leaped out of the car. "Oh fuck, Cam. Is he dead?"
"'Oh fuck, Cam'? You just noticed him? You're yelling at me, and you just thought of Cam?" Jimmy's hands trembled as he pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. "I'm calling 911."
"No, don't!" Byron said, snatching the phone from Jimmy's hand.
"Are you crazy?" Jimmy said. "What's wrong with you?"
"We're in East Dogshit and the GPS is busted -- do you even know what road we're on? What are you going to tell the cops? Um, there's this tree? And, like, a ditch? And a road? And then what, we wait? We don't have time, Jimmy!"
"But -- "
"Think it through, Einstein. What's your story? One, you wrecked a car that's not yours. Two, you don't have a license. Three, you killed a deer. And four, look at Cam. You planning to go to Princeton and room with Rhodes scholars? How about a guy with three teeth who can't wait for you to bend over? Because if we don't stop talking, dude, you're facing murder charges."
"He's not dead, Byron -- "
"Just put the fucking phone away and let's get Bambi off Cam." Byron threw Jimmy the phone and raced to the back of the car. "Throw me the keys. I'll get a rope out of the trunk. When I give you back the keys, get in the car."
Jimmy reached into the car, tossing the phone onto the dashboard. Quickly removing the keys from the steering column, he threw them to Byron. He eyed the driver's seat. The deer was still moving, still trying to get away. No way was he going back in there.
But he couldn't abandon Cam.
If only he could think straight. His brain was useless.
In that moment, he was picturing a cloud of small, hungry ticks hovering over the front seat. He tried to shake it off, but it was like some weird psychological hijacking brought on by his mother's lifelong vigil over the mortal threat posed by proximity to deer, which turned every suburban outing into a preparation for war.
"What are you fucking worried about, Lyme's disease?" Byron shouted. "Get in there!"
Jimmy cringed. "It's Lyme," he muttered, grabbing the door handle. "Not Lyme's."
"What?" Byron shouted.
"Nothing. What am I supposed to do -- in the car?"
"What the fuck do you think you're supposed to do?"
As if in response, the deer gave a sudden shudder. Jimmy jumped back, stifling a scream. "I -- I'm not sure..."
"When I give the word, put it in reverse, Jimmy. And gun it."
Byron yanked open the trunk and threw the keys to Jimmy, who kept a wary eye on the deer as he opened the door. It was motionless now, its snout resting just below the gear shift.
As Jimmy climbed inside, the car rocked with Byron's efforts to shove stuff under the rear tires for traction.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Jimmy tried to stop himself from hyperventilating. He eyed Cam's feet, blinking back tears. He had never liked Cam, or any of the smart-ass jocks who treated the Speech Team kids like they were some kind of lower life-form. Since freshman year he had devoted a lot of time conjuring horrible fates for most of them, fates not unlike this.
Jimmy hadn't wanted to go on this drive. It was Byron who'd pushed the idea. Cam wants us to go, Cam says suburban parties are the best ever, Cam says Westchester chicks are hot for NYC guys. Cam wants to be friends. It would be stupid to miss a chance at d�tente between the worlds of sports and geekdom.
Until this time, Jimmy couldn't imagine that Byron would be friends with a guy like Cam. Byron the potty-mouthed genius, Cam the football guy. Was this some kind of crush? Was that the reason for --
"Wake up, douche bag!" Byron shouted. "Now! Go!"
With his foot on the brake, Jimmy threw the car in reverse. The accelerator was touching the bottom of the caved-in dashboard. Carefully, he wedged his foot in and floored it.
The engine roared to life, the tires gripping the debris. As the car lurched backward, the deer's head rose slowly off the seat with the force of the rope. Something warm spattered against the side of Jimmy's face.
"AAAGHH!" he screamed, yanking his foot away from the accelerator.
"WHAT?" Byron cried, running around the side of the car. "Why'd you stop? We almost had it!"
"It puked on me!"
Byron shone a flashlight into the front seat. "It's not puke. It's blood."
"Oh, great..." Jimmy's stomach flipped. This couldn't be happening!
"Here. This'll protect you." Byron was throwing something over the animal's head -- a rag, a blanket, it was impossible to see. "Don't think about it, Jimmy. Just step on it! And put on your seat belt."
Jimmy felt a lightness in his head. His eyes were crossing. Focus.
He buckled his belt and put the car in reverse again, slipping his foot under the wreckage of the dashboard. As he floored it, the car began to move, the engine roaring. The animal's hulk rose up beside him, away from him -- scraping across the bottom of the windshield, slowly receding out of the car and onto the hood.
The blanket fell off the deer's head, as the carcass finally slipped off, the car jerked backward.
Jimmy's head whipped against the headrest. He bounced back, his chest catching the seat belt and knocking the wind out of him.
"Are you okay?" Byron cried.
"Fah -- fah -- " Everything was white. Jimmy struggled to breathe, his eyes slowly focusing on the image in the rearview mirror, the twisted metal of a guardrail reflecting against the taillights.
Byron was leaning in the open passenger window, training a flashlight on the dim silhouette of Cam's lifeless body, now freed from the deer. "This does not look good...." he said.
"Is his chest moving?"
"I don't know! I don't think so, but I can't -- " In the distance a muffled siren burst through the rain's din. Byron drew back, shutting the flashlight. "Shit! Did you call them?"
"No!" Jimmy said.
"Then how do they know?"
Jimmy thought about the red pickup. "Someone drove past us, just after the accident. Maybe they called."
"Someone saw us?"
"This is a New York suburb. Occasionally people drive on the roads."
"Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, shit. Oh, God." Byron was backing away from the car, disappearing into the darkness.
"I'm the one who's supposed to be freaking out, not you!" Jimmy leaned toward Cam's inert body, his hands shaking. The cold rain, evaporating against his body, rose up in smoky wisps. Don't be dead don't be dead please please please please don't be dead.
"C-C-Cam?" Jimmy slapped Cam's cheek and shook his massive shoulders, but Cam was limp and unresponsive. His body began to slip on the rain-slicked seat, falling toward the driver's side. Jimmy tried to shove back, but he was helpless against the weight. Cam's head plopped heavily in Jimmy's lap.
"Aaaaghhh!" He pushed open the door, jumped out, and looked around for Byron. "I think he's...he's..."
The siren's wail was growing closer. How would he explain this? You see, officer, in New York City no one gets a license until they're in college. But my dad taught me to drive on weekends, on Long Island. No, I don't have the registration either. The car belongs to -- belonged to...him...the deceased.
He'd have to get out of here before they came. He looked past the car. There was a gully, a hill. It was pitchblack. He could get lost in the night.
Asshole! No, the cops would figure it out. Fingerprints. Friends knew he was driving -- Reina Sanchez, she had to know. She was all over Cam. She'd tell them. So it wouldn't only be manslaughter. It would also be leaving the scene of the crime. What was that? Life in prison?
Stay or go, he was screwed either way. Because of a deer. A fucking stupid deer. Without the deer, everything would have been all right.
"BYRON!" he shouted.
In the distance he heard Byron retching, with characteristic heroism.
Cam was now slumped into the driver's seat, his right shoulder touching the bottom of the steering wheel.
He used me. He convinced Byron to get me to drive so he could go to a party. And now he will never ever be accountable. Because he's...
Dead. He was dead. He would never move again, never talk.
And that opened up several possibilities, some of which were
An idea was taking shape cancerously fast among his battered brain cells. If you were thinking something, it wasn't unthinkable -- that was Goethe, or maybe Wittgenstein, or Charlie Brown. The idea danced between the synapses, on the line between survival and absolute awfulness, presenting itself in a sick, Quentin Tarantino way that made perfect sense.
It was Cam's dad's car. It would be logical that Cam would be driving it.
No one will know.
He grabbed Cam's legs. They were heavy, dead weight. He pulled them across the car toward the driver's side, letting Cam's butt slide with them -- across the bench seat, across the pool of animal blood and pebbled glass.
Jimmy lifted Cam into an upright position, but his body fell forward, his torso resting hard against the steering wheel.
The sound was ridiculously loud. Around the bend, distant headlights were making the curtain of rain glow. No time to fix this now.
Jimmy bolted for the woods.
"What are you doing?" Byron called out of the dark. He was standing now, peering into the car. "Jesus Christ! You're trying to make it look like Cam drove? What if he's alive? He'll tell them you were driving!"
Jimmy stopped, frantically looking around for something blunt. He stooped to pick up a rusted piece of tailpipe, maybe a foot long. It would do the trick. He knelt by the driver's door and drew it back.
"JIMMY, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?"
Byron's eyes were like softballs. He grabbed Jimmy's arm.
Jimmy let the tailpipe fall to the ground. He felt his brain whirling, his knees buckling. He felt Byron pulling him away.
As the cop cars squealed to a halt near the blaring car, he was moving fast but feeling nothing.