Valerie

A man seeks revenge for the death of his brother

 
Photo by Eugene Triguba on UNSPLASH.
 

The world spins and threatens to go away as the crater that was my right hip fills again with pain. I feel myself slipping towards unconsciousness; I steady myself against the dashboard, will the dizziness to pass. I got to focus. I am in the passenger seat of a car, her car. Why am I here? Focus, Joseph, focus.

I suspect she is hitting the speed bumps on purpose; each causes me to emit a pathetic little yelp. It feels like my hip socket has been filled with ground glass. Valerie’s cruelty is endless. My naive brother never stood a chance with this she-devil.

I must stay awake; too much is at stake here. I remember Rami, looking so lifelike under the candles and then, later in the rain and wind and lightning as we huddled under pulsing umbrellas, the men lowering him into the ground.

I look down at my left arm. My arm is in a cast, but I have no memory of injuring it.


Earlier, in the garage, I nearly panicked. For a while, I forgot why I was there. When her father and uncle started whispering to each other, I caught only one word: chipper. I remember seeing a wood chipper on the right side of their home when we arrived. Later, I overhead them and learned that she had to keep a low profile, maintain a spotless driving record, or she could lose her scholarship. This was news to me. And her father couldn’t afford the tuition; Valerie’s future depended upon that scholarship.

It was a kind of moral math the two men were doing less than twelve feet from me. They must protect her future. The chipper must seem like a pretty, goddamn practical solution to the problem of finding a gravely wounded man writhing in pain on your spotless garage floor.

During the ride to her house, I had forgotten all about my shattered hip. The instant she got me on my feet, I collapsed on the hard, cold concrete floor. The fall hurt me almost as much as being struck by the Mustang.

After her car made sure I would never walk without a limp, did I blackout? Even for a few seconds?

I saw the red sports car, recognized the plates, and the splash of blond hair through the windshield, and I knew it was time. “For Rami,” I whispered and stepped into the street.

I didn’t pass out, but I was barely conscious when I heard the squeal of brakes, felt the nauseating crunch as my right hip joint shattered, felt my head crack against the asphalt. But I didn’t pass out. No. If I would’ve passed out, I would still be out.

She was up and out of the car, screaming hysterically, crying, coming around to check on me. But two steps from me, she glanced sideways at her car and paused for a second as she wiped at the hood with a wadded tissue. Why would she do that? Was it because a brown-skinned person had touched her car?

That’s a good question, but the bigger one will not leave me alone.

Did I blackout?

Valerie had helped me sit up. Somehow, she got me to my feet. Neither of these actions is recommended for an accident victim. Then she guided me into the passenger seat.

Did I blackout after being hit?

The question is a fly in my ear, buzzing and demanding an answer.

What difference could it make?

I look down at the thick moving blanket on the seat below me.

If I didn’t blackout, when did she, and why did she stop to cover her passenger seat?

There is more, Joseph; what are you missing?

Because..,

But the pain from my injuries is a weight that I need to drop. I want to sleep for a year.

Not now. What are you overlooking?

I’m getting some louder sensations from my right hip. That isn’t good news. When the pain returns in full, it will be a symphony, and I will be unable to think of anything else.

Because if I didn’t blackout and the seat was already covered, why? Did she know she would hit a pedestrian today? Did she know it would be me? But she doesn’t know who I am, or does she?

I’d been planning today’s encounter since the day after Rami’s funeral. But I told no one.

Then my mind drifts back to a picture in the local paper, Rami and I, smiling together beneath a headline that included the three dreaded words: Hit and Run.


Lying on the cold ground in the garage, still trying to overhear the men, she reappeared. Where had she been? Then her breaking down and sobbing while the two men stood plotting their next logical move. They thought I was unconscious, but I was faking. I saw her, the woman who killed my brother, steal a scrutinizing, sidelong glance at the two men while she was crying. They were arguing and didn’t notice. Somehow she steered them out of the garage. Then a few minutes later, she’s hurriedly shoving me back into her car, and we are leaving her home. I can’t decide which is scarier: the wood chipper or Valerie.


She is sobbing, driving erratically as she searches for the hospital, or so she would have me believe.

“I’m not your first, am I, Valerie?”

“What do you mean?” She dabs at her eyes with a tissue and stops at the light at an intersection we’ve driven through three times already. She turns to face me.

She sees something in my expression, and she knows. The carefully crafted persona Valerie had been hiding behind melts. One instant it’s there; the next instant it isn’t, and I am looking into the face of evil. I blink, and she’s holding a sleek silver pistol on me.

It’s such a little thing, her gun, but I don’t believe that she wants to mess up the interior of her car or jeopardize her scholarship. I pull the detonator from beneath the sticky plaster cast, show it to her, then slowly press the button. The car fills with fire, becomes airborne. By the time it lands, we are gone.

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