John rubbed his chin and felt the small spot of stubble the electric razor missed. Looking in the mirror at his ruddy skin, the spot wasn't noticeable so he brushed his teeth and pulled the brush through his medium brown hair. Wandering out of the bathroom, he slid on his jeans and carefully buttoned up his shirt. He leaned over and kissed his wife then slowly walked up the hall. He peeked in on his daughter and son as he headed into the kitchen. Today's lunch was neatly arranged in the refrigerator. He grabbed the sack and headed out the door to his car.
Outside the cool, dry air felt refreshing, a nice change from yesterday. The car started normally and he carefully backed out of his driveway. As he pulled onto the roadway, he noticed a thin slice of the moon floating in a cloudless sky. He heard no strange sounds from his car so he turned on the radio.
"Be there! The only live performance from..." he, "...home run in the bottom of the tenth..." pressed, "..Irene is headed toward Cuba packing winds..." the buttons, "...Eastex Freeway is backing down around Quittman due to a stalled..." The traffic report continued, but his mind wandered.
"Albert said they closed down another department," Buddy had told him yesterday. "Nobody knows what is going on."
All he could do was shake his head. Through the years at work he evolved from whiz kid, to up and coming, to valued employee. The changes were subtle, but he knew that eventually it led to mediocrity and perhaps an early retirement. Just like all those former whiz kids that hang around just to make a pension.
"...us in another ten minutes for a traffic update. And now the weather..." "Damn, missed the traffic report," John thought to himself.
Suddenly, he noticed something extraordinary. A strange cloud hovered in front of him with two strange beams of light shining upward. The reddish cloud swirled slowly, like a giant lava lamp. Realizing a car had run off the road, he stopped and carefully climbed down the embankment.
"I have a phone, I'll call for help," someone shouted. Another car had stopped.
"Yes, call an ambulance," John shouted as he reached the wreckage. The engine was racing and the front wheels spun wildly in the air. Kneeling down, he saw the driver crumpled on the roof of the upside down car. He quickly turned off the ignition, but left the lights on.
The driver's eyes were closed, but he heard her moan softly. Blood ran out of one of her ears and he saw a large knot on the right side of her head. The windshield was badly cracked. "No seatbelt, so stupid," he thought, as he looked her over. He saw no blood or other signs of injury.
Without moving her head, John straightened out her legs into a more comfortable position. She trembled so he grabbed a jacket that lay nearby and pulled it over her. Not sure if she was conscious, he held her hand softly and whispered, "Don't worry, help is on the way." Her eyes remained shut and she didn't say anything, but he felt her grip tighten slightly.
Not sure what else to do, he simply knelt beside her and held her hand. He could see her chest move up and down at each breath, so he knew she was still alive. He began talking to her, in soft pleasant tones, hoping to soothe her some: "Your headlights, they are shining up towards the sky," he whispered, "like fingers reaching to touch the moon. Inside the beams I see dust swirling in a cloud. It looks just like a Lava Lamp, yes it does. You know the Lava Lamps that float and swirl slowly, yeah, it looks like that."
John continued whispering as he heard the sirens and saw the flashing red lights. All the while, he held her hand, squeezing it softly from time to time. "Help is here now, I'm gonna move and get out of their way," he said as the paramedic slid down beside him. She grabbed the victim's wrist, and carefully unfolded her fingers from John's hand. Quickly she checked her pulse and shined a light over her face. "I'm sorry sir, she's dead. Did you know her?"
John shook his head, "No, I just found her here." He sat back leaning against the wreckage. She was dead! She had died! Sometime while he held her hand, while he whispered to her, she quietly died. John felt confused; there was no great gasp of breath, no last minute revelation and nothing extraordinary marked her passing.
The police officers asked a few questions and jotted a few notes. Soon the paramedics loaded her body and drove off. John walked to his car as a wrecker was backed up towards the wreckage. Everything went smoothly, they took a few measurements, jotted a few more notes and turned the car upright.
John noticed he still held her jacket. As he handed it to one of the police officers he asked, "What was her name?"
"I can't release her whole name, but her first name was Jane," the officer said heading back to his car.
John climbed into his car, and headed on to work. Traffic was pretty normal the rest of the way in. He found a parking place not far from the door and gathered his stuff. Just before he climbed out of the car he whispered to himself, "Jane . . . such an ordinary name." He wiped a tear from his eye.
The sun peeked over the horizon as he reached for the door to the building. The skies were painted in watercolor pastels: pinks, oranges, purples, and blues, beautiful blues. He stood a moment, soaking in the extraordinary sunrise. He opened the door and stepped inside.