Chapter Two

It was just a few months ago that I took a sharp corner too fast down the freeway of life and this story began, but I will need to go back a little earlier than that to properly relate to you what has happened ever since it began.

I have always been your average Joe, except my name is John. I describe myself as "good at everything and great at nothing." I’ve always felt like I was wandering through life just a little bit off course and slightly lost, unnoticed, unmissed, never quite finding my niche, just blending in with society and trying to keep up as best I could.

I have always been borderline reclusive. I was an only child. My parents died in a car accident three months after I graduated from high school. I live alone. I like to work alone. I like to relax alone. I have a few friends, none close…but that‘s what makes me comfortable. No ties. No obligations. Responsible for no one but myself. Answering to no one but myself.

I am average height, just a hair under six feet. Average weight for my size at 170. Sandy-brownish-blondish hair at collar length and parted down the right side. Brown eyes, clean shaven (I couldn’t grow a beard if I tried…which I have a time or two…unsuccessfully.) I am now 33 years old, 32 when this…whatever it is (I’ll let you decide) started. I’ve never married, though I was once engaged for a couple of years. It just never happened. We weren’t ready. We eventually went our separate ways, or I guess I should say, she went her way. I never really went anywhere.

Born and raised in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, never having traveled much farther than The Wisconsin Dells (about 4 hours away) in all my 32 years, I know the Twin Cities like the back of my hand and for the past five years I have been using that talent as a courier driver. I drive about 300 miles a day all over the Metro area in my little forest green Dodge Neon, picking up and delivering packages and envelopes for banks and lawyers as quickly as I possibly can without pissing off any cops. Usually the items I am delivering are on an ‘urgent-direct’ or ‘one-hour’ service request. And of course with a job like this, being paid a percentage of each delivery, the faster one makes one’s deliveries, the more deliveries one makes, consequently, the more money one makes. I am not one that lives for money, but it does take money to live so I try to make as much as I can.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am generally a very fine and courteous driver who shares the road and respects its rules. Like everything else, I am a good driver, but of course not a great one. I am a courier, after all. I’ve got my Dew in one hand with a forgotten Winston burning down to the filter at my knuckles while I read the newest order on my NexTel phone laying in my lap and writing down the new info in my log book with the other hand while passing semi-trucks on the Interstates at 70 miles per hour (the speed limit would be 60 at that point) and steering with my left knee. All my meals are received through little drive-thru windows and I am usually trying to figure out if they got the order right at the same time that I am deciding if I should merge ahead of or behind the car pulling a boat twice its size.

Like I said, I am not great, but despite all my multi-tasking while I drive, I do stay alert and am always aware of my surroundings. I have avoided countless potential accidents that were almost caused by even less attentive drivers than myself over the miles and years. It’s my job…and I am pretty good at it.

Of course, to endure five years of driving the cities the way I do, you must respect the rules of the road and be very capable of forcing yourself to be patient at times when you‘d rather not. If you were to get caught up in the little road rage battles I witness on a daily basis, you’d drive yourself to insanity, literally.

Every day as I work, I listen to the traffic reports on the radio so that I can avoid the bumper-to-bumper fun caused by the many, many rush-hour accidents that never seem to cease. I had never been involved in an accident myself…until a few months ago.

* * * * *

But let me ask you a few more questions first. (Have you decided on an answer for the first one yet?) Do you believe in coincidence and luck, or that everything happens for a reason? Do you believe in fate? How about Karma and "what goes around comes around?" Or do you believe that God has an agenda in mind for each of us? Many people believe that God is constantly watching over us all and judging us. And some say He lives in our hearts or maybe in our souls (wherever that is) and plays a hand in, helps out, or even dictates for us, the events of our lives and the decisions we make.

Or maybe you subscribe to my personal favorite, the Domino Theory, wherein all the experiences and trials and tribulations we live through, both good times and bad, are the direct result of a long, endless chain of events, a domino effect that began on the day of our conception. Everything we do or think or say or decide is based on things we have done and heard and said and experienced in the past. Our future is then based entirely on our past. What happens next is because of what happened before.

Or is everything pure and simple random luck?

A man is driving home from work as a little girl runs in front of his car chasing a stray cat. The man alertly veers out of the way barely missing the little girl but sideswipes a parked car on the opposite side of the street. The young woman watching it all from her window is the little girl’s neighbor and the owner of the car the man just damaged. She runs outside to tell the man that he is not responsible for the damage because she had seen that he had no other choice. He helped pay for the repairs anyway and a few years later they were married and had three children, the eldest of which grew up to become the medical researcher that discovers the cure to a new highly contagious and deadly influenza spreading rapidly throughout the world's population. So in a nut shell, millions of lives were ultimately saved because a stray cat had run in front of a curious five-year-old girl 58 years earlier.

Just lucky? Pure coincidence? Or is it as many very level-headed and well respected people would believe, "God’s Will," or part of His plan?

* * * * *

The day started like any other. I usually wake up at 5:30am, shower, dress, eat a bowl of Honey Combs cereal with a banana sliced up and dropped into it, and brush my teeth. At 6:00am, I sit out in the garage with the door open and smoke my first of too many Winstons for the day while I soak in the day’s weather and work on the Star Tribune's daily crossword puzzle. I like to start my days out nice and slow and relaxed, at peace with each new day, so to speak. Then I try to carry that attitude with me as I join the masses on our frantic freeway system. By 7am, I am in my car, engine running, logged onto my NexTel phone and awaiting my first order.

Again, this particular day started out as usual. I remember when my parents had been killed in an accident. I had just seen them that morning. We had breakfast, chatted about something unimportant, and went on with our day as we always did. They didn’t tell me that I would never see them again. No one said "good-bye." There was no warning. They were five minutes into their fifteen minute routine drive to the shop when a trucker who was just finishing an all night push to make it to the Twin Cities by morning, nodded off again for a quick second. But this particular second came as he plowed through a red light. This exact moment also coincided with the moment my parents were crossing the intersection on their green light. I spent a month after the accident trying to figure out what I could have done…no, what I should have done that morning to delay their leaving even if only for thirty seconds. A longer hug, a simple question, anything, a million things could have changed what had happened and they would still be alive.

A few seconds here or a few seconds there and the whole world would be a completely different place.

Now some people would say it was "their time," that it was part of God’s plan. I was told countless times by relatives and concerned acquaintances that my parents were in Heaven now with God, watching over me, still helping to guide their teenage son through life. I never believed it for a second but didn’t argue the point with any of them. Dead is dead. My parents didn’t deserve what happened to them. They were good people. They were healthy people. They were happy people. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were at the end of a long chain of events, happenstances coming together at a really, really bad time.

Pure bad luck.

My accident was not pure bad luck. There was plenty of bad luck that led up to my being in that place at that time, but the accident itself did not need to happen.

I had picked up a one-hour package going south out of downtown Minneapolis to Bloomington, normally a fifteen minute straight shot down I-35W. As I started up the car, on the radio, since it happened to be precisely four minutes past the hour, I heard a traffic update claiming I-35W, which I was two blocks away from and about to head for, was clogged up and not moving due to an accident. A semi-truck had flipped over and was blocking three out of four lanes of the south bound highway. I quickly changed plans, as any good courier would, and headed for the west exit out of downtown on I-394. It would take a few more minutes to get out of the downtown mess and the trip would be a few miles longer but the time saved by going around the jam would make it all worth it.

Ten minutes later, 11:15am, I was finally breaking free from downtown, opening up my window, lapping in the breeze on a hot day, smiling, no traffic, no pedestrians, rapidly accelerating my little Neon towards fifty-five or sixty miles per hour and feeling pretty smart for avoiding the jam.

To my right, a Mayflower moving truck was joining me on the long ramp to I-394 from the second on-ramp out of downtown. There is a third on-ramp and then a car-pool lane off-ramp before our two lanes merge left into one lane ¾ of a mile ahead as it joins the last tributary that forms I-394 out of downtown.

The slower moving, 60-ton truck that was joining the highway slightly ahead of me put on his left blinker and proceeded to cross two lanes at once landing himself directly in front of me. No big deal. I’m a professional. This happens all the time. Every day. I know this street like the back of my hand. I move to the right-hand lane and proceed to resume my acceleration past the truck. It was at this point, as I came along side the rear of the 70 foot semi, I noticed he was beginning to stray back into the right-hand lane, the one I was using to go around him since he had decided to commandeer the one I had been in. I speed up a little more. He moves more into my lane. Now I am going sixty-five miles per hour, on the shoulder, screaming at the top of my lungs at the object that appears to be about to smash me into the side of a bridge/ramp wall. And then in the next moment I am in front of the truck. A slight jerk of the wheel, a small, quick fishtail on loose gravel at the shoulder’s edge, the wall fell away to my right, the truck was in my rear view mirror.

Now generally, I try not to generalize people, but I did already hold an understandable bias against truck drivers. Believe me. If a clown had killed both your parents, you would probably carry with you a personal bias against all clowns. Anyway, had I just hit the accelerator and put the truck driver out of my mind, I wouldn’t be telling this story right now. There would be nothing to tell. But I was not able put that trucker out of my mind. In fact, he was temporarily consuming my mind.

Why?! Was he falling asleep at the wheel as the one that killed my parents had? No. I knew he wasn’t falling asleep. Whether he was truly maliciously out to get little green Neons or just trying to scare the hell out of me for the fun of it, I didn’t know, but I held no doubts that he had done it on purpose.

I was furious, still screaming at my rearview mirror. I don’t recall exactly what, really, I just remember that I did not go through the ordeal silently. Nor had I yet accelerated away from the truck. I can not explain why I made the next decision that I made. I was not thinking clearly. Quite instantly, I said out loud to the truck in my mirror, "Don’t you get it?! How would you like it if someone just pulls in front of you to deliberately slow you down?! Sure you can dish it out, but can you take it?!"

I never hit my brakes, but I centered myself in front of the truck and never hit the accelerator, either. I started to coast, my speed dropping rapidly even without applying the brakes. I took my eyes off the truck in my rear view mirror only for an instant to determine how much distance I had before the two lanes merged into one. Plenty of space available for another vehicle that comes along to go around us both…good. Back to the rear view mirror and the task at hand, slowing down a 60-ton truck with my 1-ton Neon.

As I returned my gaze to my mirror, only a second or two from the previous look, I noticed that the truck driver was not noticing me. I only had time to think about going for the accelerator again as I watched the truck's grill coming through the back of my car. I was lurched forward, now laying flat on my back still in the driver’s seat.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the truck roll slowly past me on my left. Then I noticed the street light pole outside my other widow was not moving so I knew that my car had stopped rolling. Still on my back, I felt my way to the gear shift and slid it into park. I couldn’t tell if I was hurt or not. I didn’t feel hurt, but at the same time, in the instant that I saw the truck’s grill tattooing the rear of my car through my mirror, I had already accepted the fact that I was probably going to be hurt, if not killed.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. I was breathing and that had to be a good thing. It was hard to think, but at least I could breathe. I figured the police would be along pretty soon. I didn’t know if the truck was still there or not, but I was fairly certain that I was still there…somehow. For now that was good enough. Leaving my eyes closed, not wanting to move until necessary, I tried to empty my mind, and I waited.

* * * * *

Let’s go back in time again for just a moment. Two years ago, more than a year and a half before the accident, the little Honda I used to scoot around town with was pushing 250,000 miles on the odometer and was no longer reliable. I need reliable transportation in my line of work so I went car shopping. I custom ordered a new Neon with as many luxuries as I could fit into the thing, cheap but loaded. I spend almost as many hours in my car every day as I do my home so it was worth the three-week wait to receive my factory special order.

I got a call two and a half weeks later saying my car was ready which was a good thing. My Honda was definitely on its last legs. I sputtered into the dealership to complete the transaction, to trade in my old workhorse for my brand new steed only to discover they had made one very serious mistake with my order. My car was a five-speed stick. I had ordered an automatic. I already drive with three hands as is. Add a stick to the mix and I would need a fourth. I didn’t have a fourth.

In the end, my very apologetic salesman had set me up in another Neon they had on the lot that was pretty close to what I had ordered. Someone else had ordered this one and then lost their job and decided not to buy it. It was green instead of blue and didn’t have the CD player I had ordered or the rear windshield wiper. And it had a trailer hitch attached to it. I got another thousand bucks knocked off for the inconvenience and rolled away thinking tapes were cheaper than CD’s anyway. No biggie.

Now leap ahead again to a few months ago and imagine what happens to a little Dodge Neon traveling about thirty-five miles per hour when a 60-ton truck traveling about sixty miles per hour runs right up it’s back not even aware that it is there. Normally, the results of a meeting of this ilk would be a flattened mass of metal beneath a relatively undamaged truck. (I really, REALLY have no idea what the hell I thought I was doing.)

I got lucky. But I didn’t get lucky at that point. It was incredibly unlucky for me that the trucker that had just tried to run me off the road for kicks was busy looking at his wife in the passenger seat "…he think twice ‘fore he try go ‘round me nex’ time…" and had no idea I was still directly in front of him. But rather, I got lucky sixteen months earlier when Dodge screwed up my order. I got lucky that some other poor soul got fired from his job and couldn’t pay for his new car. I got incredibly lucky that this guy had a small boat he had wanted to tow with his new Neon that he never bought. Ultimately, it was that hitch that saved my life more than a year and a half later.

The car was totaled. The rear end was in my back seat next to my head where I lay waiting for the Highway Patrol to arrive on the scene. The steel hitch with ball and bar had soaked up the initial impact and deflected the truck’s hit in a way that despite the fact that my car was now four feet shorter than it had been that morning, I had bounced off the truck instead of just crumpling beneath it. I didn’t know it then as I lay there with my eyes closed, perfectly content at the moment with the feeling of air flowing through my lungs, but it had been the hitch that made that feeling possible.

Just lucky? Or is it all part of a plan?

We’re getting to that.

* * * * *

I’m not sure how long it was, I would have guessed just a few minutes, but it had obviously been longer than that. There were people in all my windows. They were all looking at me. The sun was bright on my eyes, too bright. I tasted blood on my lips. I squinted. I heard someone call out, "They’re here!" and a woman leaned in over me through my open window. She spoke softly, almost in a whisper, but I could hear her just fine.

"Don’t move," she said. "Help is here." Her deep blue eyes were inches from my own. They looked caring and calming. I was willing to do whatever she told me, so I remained still and tried to focus on her soporific eyes. I could have gone swimming in those eyes. Cool, deep, beautiful eyes. I smiled and she smiled back. I felt her hand run down my left cheek as I gazed into her depth and a thought (84:32) more like a memory raced through my mind.

I knew I had been in an accident. I was still a bit fuzzy on the details, but I knew that I was in my car and that it had just been hit by a truck because I had made a really stupid decision. I was in no pain but could tell something wasn’t right. (84:32) flashed in my mind again like a memory, as though I was supposed to know what it meant, but I didn’t, and I ignored it. The woman was backing out of the car window now and that concerned me more than the meaning of some random numbers at that point.

"Don’t move," she repeated as she pulled her soft, warm hand away from my cheek and backed out of the window.

For an instant, as her face disappeared from my peripheral vision, I attempted to recall the memory that had just unsuccessfully tried to steal my attention from the comfort of the woman’s eyes, but it had escaped me. My brain still felt fuzzy. Thinking at all was still difficult. Two new faces were now leaning in my window. One of them repeated the instruction the woman had given me, "Don’t move." I just blinked to him in response. I didn’t feel like trying to talk yet. I felt no reason not to do as he said, but I had liked looking into the woman’s eyes more than this guy’s. At least he doesn’t have to give me mouth to mouth, I remember thinking.

Then the new guy with the boring business-like eyes pulled out a huge needle and tested it. I hate needles. He must have seen a little panic in my eyes because he signaled to the other guy who leaned in farther and held me still with two large, incredibly soft hands, one pressing hard on my chest, the other with his palm firmly against my forehead. When the second guy leaned in and placed his hands on me, his face was in front of mine as the woman’s had been moments before, blocking my view of the guy with the needle. I braced myself for the prick but could only think (56:6).

Just as I was trying to figure out what the hell 56:6 meant, I felt the prick in my left arm. The man’s hands relaxed against my chest and forehead and his eyes suddenly started to actually swim on his face. I may have tried to ask him how he did that with his eyes but I knew the prick in my left arm was probably why the guy’s face was melting and ultimately I decided to simply shut my eyes and go with the flow. I didn’t want to have to think. It was far too difficult to think.

A moment later, the morphine took hold and I was out.

* * * * *

Chapter Three


Front Desk

Return to Author's Page

The Master Plan

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine