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"What She Remembers" by Kellie Scott-Reed

“You know the stolen vehicle from that police chase in the city last week? The one that wrecked with a mother of five? Well, that was mine.”

The subject came out of nowhere, sucker-punching her with the suddenness of its violence. Her body had been relaxed at first. She had worked at this place for 10 years and had good relationships with her coworkers. She had seen this man before; he’d come to work on the office security systems a few times, but he had waited to address her until just now, half-up a ladder and towering over her desk. She froze reflexively and stopped breathing for a moment. “Wait, “she said, “was it YOU?”

“Na, na…” he chuckled slightly and took off his stained baseball hat, exposing his paltry threads of graying hair. He wiped his hand across his slick forehead. “She died though.”

“My God.” She put her hand to her mouth in shock. What do you say to this kind of information being thrust in your direction on a Wednesday?

He continued without prompting. He kept puckering his mouth like an asshole to keep the spittle from raining down on her. Excited, his belly shook, punctuating his convictions. She remembers it like this:

Insurance: “They’d better total it! I mean what the hell, it wasn’t MY fault this guy got out on that new bail reform law! They are letting these thugs out for violent crimes and then this happens!”

The Cops: “Yeah, the cops told me the black box in my car said the guy was going 80 miles an hour when he hit her! These boys were great; they apologized for my inconvenience over and over again. They’re gonna tell me all about this guy later.”

“The Higher-Ups”: “I want a new vehicle! I shouldn’t have to drive that car after this! My insurance company keeps saying they need to talk to the Higher-Ups about my situation, but I know people and I WILL go to the media if I’m not satisfied. These Higher-Ups better be careful. “

Victim Blaming: “That woman, she was pregnant —WITH ANOTHER ONE! I mean she already had FIVE! And the cops told me she didn’t have insurance.”

She stood stock-still, her mask disguising her disgust. She felt held hostage, wondering if it was possible that he was venting because he felt traumatized. No, his eyes were red and barely making contact with hers. Was it his nonchalant dismissal of the death of a beloved mother, and the now-parentless children, and the dead baby? Or was it his absolute certainty that HE was the real victim here that made her hate him?

It reminded her of the time she was stuck in line at the DMV behind two men who chatted openly and loudly about what bitches their wives were and the lies they told just to get some peace and quiet. As if what they had to say was of the utmost importance and universally accepted as true. THEY were the real victims in this world, and it was high time we all knew it. She remembered her heart beating in her ears. She had longed to tell them about her ex-husband, and his midnight texts and the smell of another woman’s body on his face. About the humiliation of gaslighting, about a paralysis perpetrated by audacity that left one unable to defend themself. About the certainty that he was telling similar stories to similar men stuck in lines just like these about her.

She stood quietly then, her eyes transfixed just beyond the man still babbling to no one. The wall behind him held a glass case that contained a fire extinguisher. An ax rested just beneath it, as glass can be tricky to shatter otherwise. The sign above the case read “Break for Emergencies Only.”

It was then, in the fog of this memory, she decided to kill him.


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