Watch Out for Highway Workers (Mostly Fiction) & Watch Out for Highway Workers (Anti-Fiction)

I’m working on a new project (which will most likely make up my eventual dissertation), a hybrid collection I’m calling Day of No Dead (Fiction & Anti-Fiction). What’s most important to me as I work on this (excitedly) is interrogating what makes for fiction and non-fiction, and what some of the stock techniques or traits are that identify one from the other. So if you have the time and patience to read these two works (the fictional version has been published recently in Big Bridge Magazine, listed in my bibliography), please do so, and comment on how they differ or resemble each other, and what effect one or the other (or both) have on you. Thanks readers!

Watch Out for Highway Workers (Mostly Fiction)

A woman crossed the street in the early evening hours and a car struck her dead. It was reported that she had just left a house party in honor of Father’s Day.

A young man hitched a ride in Mexico. The brakes on the truck failed, which led to the truck careening off a cliff. The accident resulted in 7 fatalities, including the young man.

A man fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of his car. He swerved sideways across the freeway and another vehicle slammed into his at high speed. The other vehicle carried two – the driver and one passenger. No fatalities reported. The three involved complained of minor injuries.

The pedestrian’s name was Sandra. She was 47 years old.

The hitchhiker is reported as the only American fatality. The others were of Mexican descent.

The man who fell asleep on the road stands at 6’2” with red hair. His name is Ken and his license plates are from Arizona.

The house party Sandra attended was not in honor of her father but for the father of her best friend Connie. Sandra’s father died when she was three. She never knew her father, but kept a sepia-colored photo of him on her refrigerator, pinned up with a rose-colored F-shaped magnet. She only went to the party for Connie’s father because it happened to be Father’s Day, which falls on a Sunday every year. Sundays are Sandra’s only day off. Every other day is devoted to various routine tasks.

The American hitchhiker, Rick, was on the dream trip of his lifetime. He was at the tail end of his tour of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. He died on a Sunday. It also happened to be the day before his 37th birthday.

The driver with the Arizona license plates never met the two women in the other vehicle. His name is Ken. Ken was informed that the names of the opposing claimants are Susanna and Amanda. Ken suffered a minor injury to his hand, which he insisted on caring for himself, while Susanna and Amanda suffered from chest and neck pains, which sent them to the ER. That same night they spent a total of 6 hours in the waiting room. They discovered that the reason for this long wait time was that there was another car collision that same day, reporting several fatalities.

Sandra used to collect anything and everything to do with roses, both real and manufactured. One Sunday morning at her favorite flower shop, she admired a bouquet of roses with her fingertips, raising one rose to her nostrils to enjoy its fragrance. She pricked herself on a thorn and winced as she licked the spot of blood from her pointer finger. She bought the whole bouquet, set it on top of the TV, and watched it more than the television show. The dozen roses were carefully arranged with three in front, three on each side and three in back. The primary rose – the one that pricked her – sat in the middle front row. The fragrance filled the room until the next morning when she dumped the bouquet into the trash.

All three accidents involved a vehicle. Vehicles, though they can kill, are not made to kill. Not like guns. Guns are ultimately made to kill. No guns were involved.

There was no cab on the truck. The truck was new. No one knows for sure why the brakes failed. An ongoing investigation is expected to reveal the true cause of the accident. It is apparent that six of the eight passengers sat in the back of the truck. All six died of major injuries. It so happened that the only two survivors were the only children in the group, an infant and nine year old who had been sitting inside the truck where they were found with only minor injuries. The driver – who obviously was also inside the truck – died.

A single rose was found on the road where Sandra was hit. When asked, no one who attended the Father’s Day party remembered whether or not Sandra took a rose from the two party bouquets with her.

Rick’s car could not be found for weeks after his death. It was speculated that someone noticed his car sitting close to the border without movement and so took the opportunity to steal it. An investigation led to an arrest. The car had been stripped. Luckily there were no items of value left in the car. Rick’s backpack, with his valuables, was found further down the cliff, including a one-use camera with photos of his Mexico trip.

Amanda drove a two-year old Toyota Corolla that her father had given her as a gift. Her car was totaled in the accident. Amanda and Susanna remain best friends. Though they live countries apart (Susanna in Germany and Amanda in America), they post frequent status updates and current photos on Facebook that show no trace of the trauma incurred on that Easter Sunday. Amanda keeps photos of the accident in a private folder on her computer. She doesn’t look at them, just as she doesn’t look at the photos of her mother lying in a coffin.

Shortly after the accident, Susanna said, “Everything happens for a reason.” Amanda’s response was, “Hmmm.” Susanna made this statement while she and Amanda rode in the car driven by Amanda’s father, who had been in a serious collision the year before. In fact, no less than four of Amanda’s family members have been involved in some kind of collision.

Rick had never been in a car accident of any kind before the one in which he died.

Sandra had never been struck by a car before.

Ken had never struck a car before.

Rick had been a volunteer many times. He had been a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders.

Amanda had never volunteered for anything except for the library book fair in her freshman year of college. This was part of a required Community Service Project and therefore does not count as real volunteer service.

Several of Rick’s friends speculated that he must have offered up his body as a human shield for the two children who miraculously survived the accident. They were not yet aware of the fact that the two children sat inside of the vehicle while Rick sat in the back.

Amanda had met Rick two weeks after her accident at a friend’s house party. She told him and two others about her accident. How the airbags deployed, causing her pains in the chest. How she felt traumatized. He said, while rubbing her arm, “At least you’re alive.” Amanda had only met Rick once because he died in that tragic truck accident in Mexico a month later. She had planned to meet him some more.

Shortly after the accident, Susanna told Amanda, “I was praying right after it happened.” Amanda’s response was, “Aha.” Amanda hadn’t prayed because she hadn’t believed in God. She still doesn’t.

Rick didn’t have a chance to pray. This is what is assumed. He died instantly. His loved ones hope he died instantly so he wouldn’t suffer.

Amanda and Susanna suffered because they lived.

Sandra might have suffered.

Amanda still doesn’t know what really caused the accident. She has a hard time believing the police report, which quotes Ken as saying: “I fell asleep for a second.”

The accident occurred shortly after 9 in the morning.

Amanda’s car is the only one that collided with Ken’s on a freeway containing other moving vehicles.

Some say that everything happens for a reason.

If you build it, it can fail.

An apple falls – not floats – from a tree.

E = mc2.

It’s like this see. Moving objects within the same atmosphere = encounters, collisions, explosions, implosions. Add to that mix human beings and you have the likelihood of injuries. According to Collision Theory, for a reaction to occur, molecules must collide. But not all collisions result in a reaction.

Amanda does not express her spoken responses very well. She prefers the written word. “Just teaches you to enjoy the moment. Live. Really live, man.” To which she writes: We live somewhere between memory and fantasy. Never here. Never now. It only appears that one has lived here and now, after he is gone.

She still doesn’t know why she lived and why he died. She stopped asking why, taking the human out of the equation.

A 53-year old highway worker was struck dead this morning on the off-ramp of Highway 5. He will be replaced by a 32-year old worker first thing in the morning.

The first highway message board on Highway 5 reads: Safety Alert! WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS.

Another message board half a mile down the highway reads: WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS.

Watch out.

Watch Out for Highway Workers (Anti-Fiction)

“…had just purchased a popsicle from a traveling ice cream vendor’s truck, when she went into the road and was hit and run over…aunt…tells 27 News…was visiting her and other family members…for a Father’s Day barbeque before the collision.”

A young man hitched a ride in Mexico. The brakes on the truck failed, which led to the truck careening off into a steep gully. The accident resulted in 7 fatalities, including the young man.

A man fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of his car (so the accident report states). He swerved sideways across the free, any way you look at it (as reported by the injured and three witnesses) and another vehicle slammed into his at high speed. The other vehicle carried two – the driver and one passenger. No fatalities reported. The three involved complained of minor injuries.

The pedestrian shall remain here unnamed.

The hitchhiker is reported as the only American fatality. One – a 42-year old woman – lived in New Zealand. The origins of the other 5 fatalities is not known, frankly because research on the accident produced no clear results.

The name of the man who fell asleep on the road shall remain here unnamed. His license plates are from Arizona.

Father’s Day falls on a Sunday in June every year. The child was a victim of a collision with a drunk driver on the evening of that Father’s Day Sunday. According to one report, the “instances of drunk driving, speeding and driving without a safety belt all significantly increase during the night hours and each contributes to increased fatalities.”

“…had just purchased a popsicle from a traveling ice cream vendor’s truck, when she went into the road and was hit and run over…” Although July is the average warmest month in Madison, where the accident occurred and the maximum average precipitation occurs in June, it can be assumed that the weather was warm enough for ice cream trucks to go about their business, and for 9 year olds to purchase popsicles, even in rainy weather.

Of the two children and only survivors of the Mexico crash, one was a 9-year old. As of the last report, the 9-year old victim of the drunk driver continued to make recovery, though in critical condition. A neighbor’s eleven-year old son who witnessed the collision, according to his aunt, has been left traumatized by what he witnessed and doesn’t want to go out anymore.

Although the drunk driver shall remain fully unnamed, it will be duly noted that she went by the name “Miracle.”

All three accidents involved a vehicle. Vehicles, though they can kill, are not made to kill. Not like guns. Guns are ultimately made to kill (or at least harm or maim). No guns were involved.

There was no cab on the truck. The brakes failed. Six of the eight passengers sat in the back of the truck. All six died of major injuries. The only two survivors (as mentioned above, but bares repeating), an infant and nine-year old who had been sitting inside the truck where they were found, were found with only minor injuries. The driver – who obviously was also inside the truck – died.

Since the 9-year old pedestrian had just purchased a popsicle from the ice-cream truck, it is likely that remains of the popsicle were on her person, on the road, within the vicinity.

The car of the hitchhiking young man could not be found for weeks after his death. An investigation led to an arrest. The car had been stripped. His backpack, along with his valuables, was found further down the gully, including a one-use camera with photos of his Mexico trip.

The driver of the totaled vehicle drove a two-year old Toyota Yaris that her father had purchased for her as a kind of gift, completely in cash. For a brief period, the driver and her passenger remained close friends. Though they lived countries apart – the passenger in Germany and the driver in the United States – they posted frequent updates and photos on Facebook (the driver more so) that showed no signs of trauma incurred on that Easter Sunday. The driver keeps photos of the accident in a private virtual folder on her computer, as she does of nude photos of herself, self-taken. She doesn’t look at them (the photos of the accident that is) just as she doesn’t look at the photos of her mother lying in coffin.

The American driver recalls (if memory servers her right, she says) that shortly after the accident her foreign friend said, “Everything happens for a reason.” She responded with something like a hmmm, or maybe a sigh. Her friend had made the statement while riding in the car driven by the driver’s father, who had been in a serious collision the year before. In fact, at the time of this writing no less than four of the driver’s family have been involved in some kind of car collision.

The American hitchhiker had never been in a car accident before the one in which he died.

It is assumed that the 9-year old pedestrian had never been run over a car before (or else this fact would have surely been reported in the newspaper report).

It is not known whether the at-fault driver who fell asleep at the wheel had ever struck a car before.

According to his friends, the hitchhiker had been a volunteer many times. He had been a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders. Note: Since calling him “the hitchhiker” needlessly limits his identity to this one descriptor, for here on out the young man involved in the fatal Mexico truck accident will hereon out be referred to as merely the young man).

The American driver (labelled so because in contrast her friend was German) had never volunteered for anything except for the library book fair in her freshman year of college. This was part of a required Community Service Project and therefore does not really count as volunteer service.

Some of the young man’s friends speculated on his still live Facebook account that he must have offered his body as a human shield for the two children who survived the accident. They were not yet aware of the fact that the two children sat inside of the vehicle while he sat in back.

The American driver had met the young man approximately two weeks after her accident at a mutual friend’s house party. She told him and two of her friends about her accident. How the airbags deployed, causing her chest pains. How she felt traumatized. He said, while rubbing her arm, “At least you’re alive.” She had only met him once because he died in the truck accident in Mexico approximately one month later. She had hoped to meet him some more.

Shortly after the accident, the driver’s foreign passenger friend told her, “I was praying right after it happened.” At least this is what she recalls. Her response was something like a hmmm, or maybe a sigh. She hadn’t prayed because she hadn’t believed in God. She still doesn’t.

The young man may or may not have had a chance to pray. If he died instantly, then he didn’t. His loved ones surely hoped that he died instantly in order to be comforted by the thought of his not suffering.

The driver and her passenger suffered since they survived the accident. They live.

The 9-year old pedestrian most certainly suffered.

The driver still isn’t really sure of what really caused the accident. She has a hard time believing the police report, which quotes the other driver as saying: “I fell asleep for a second.” The accident occurred shortly after 9 in the morning.

The driver’s car is the only one that collided with the sleepy driver’s vehicle on a freeway containing other moving vehicles.

Some say that everything happens for a reason.

Or – you build it, it can fail.

An apple falls – not floats – from a tree.

E=mc2.

When you have moving objects within the same vicinity you get the likelihood of collisions, possibly explosions. Add to that mix human beings and you have the likelihood of injuries. According to Collision Theory, for a reaction to occur, molecules must collide. But not all collisions result in a reaction.

The driver says she doesn’t express herself very well. She prefers the written word. some have said to her something along the lines of, “Just teaches you to enjoy the moment. Live. Really live man.” She imagines the young man she met once, whom she got to know after his death, to have lived (and died) by this sort of saying. To which she writes: We live somewhere between memory and fantasy. Never here. Never now. It only appears that on has lived here and now, after he is gone.

She still doesn’t understand why she lived and he died. She stopped asking why, taking the human out of the equation.

Some time ago, she read news of a highway worker who had been struck dead on the off-ramp of Highway 5. She imagined he would be quickly replaced.

A highway message board on Highway 5 read: Safety Alert! WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS.

Another message board half a mile down the same highway read: WATCH OUT FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS. Again.

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