The Time I Didn't Die

It was August, 1977.  I was returning to FSU after a year off at home in Winter Garden, where I had worked as an offset stripper and typesetter in a print shop.

I had driven up to Tallahassee to rent an apartment for the fall term.  I would be living at Jefferson Arms, a block of flats across Jefferson Street from the law school.

I was on my way back to my parents' house on Lake Butler in west Orange County, in a yellow Volkswagen that had belonged to my grandfather.  South of Gainesville, and about to enter Ocala, I approached an intersection and decided to change to the left lane.

Seconds later, I was sliding along the road on my back, with the VW close behind, slewed sideways, cracked open like an egg.  I stopped sliding, and so did the VW.  I stood up.  I could see gasoline dripping from the forward-mounted tank onto the road.  Weirdly, a deck of Tarot cards I'd had with me were strewn all over the highway, a hell of a spread.  It was Palladini's Art Nouveau Aquarian Tarot.  I began limping around, picking up the cards.

A UPS man ran up to me, said he couldn't believe I was alive.  Other people came and made me lie down on the grass in the median.  An ambulance took me to a hospital.  I was checked and probed, told them to call My Father the Doctor, who took charge over the telephone and came to get me.

I never saw the driver who hit me.  A car traveling at a terrific rate of speed had struck my VW just behind its left front fender.  The whole front of the VW back to the windshield was sheared away on the left side.  My left calf and ankle were badly bruised by the impact, and my right elbow was lacerated from my road-slide.  A bone spur grew on that elbow that would break off and drift, over the years, to a spot an inch away on my forearm.

My father fretted over the VW, and found where it had been towed to.  It was a total loss.  He retrieved my wire-rimmed glasses from the back seat, and a handful of tarot cards.

I started the fall term at FSU walking with a brightly colored cane from Mexico that my father gave me.  I leaned on it, waiting for the crossing signal at Woodward on campus one day, when I saw a woman I had met who ran Co-op Books, a radical bookstore, passing in her old Toyota Corolla.  I smiled at her, and she smiled at me.


Steerforth said...

Wonderful writing - I love the image of the tarot cards spread across the highway.

I must admit that I did a double-take when I read the words "where I had worked as a stripper..."

Anonymous said...

so glad you didn't die...and we are still smiling at each other--RC

Brett said...

Thanks for reading, Steerforth. Heh, I was afraid "stripper" might be misconstrued! I've added "offset", if that helps.

R. I remember that moment so well. "Oh, there she is!"

Mercedes said...

I second the double-take over the word "stripper"!

Brett said...

Well, I hope it gives readers a chuckle. I could say "image positioner", but that wouldn't explain much.

A stripper tapes large photographic negatives of jobs to be printed onto opaque plastic sheets, then turns them over and cuts "windows" in the plastic where there are images to be "burned" by bright light onto photo-sensitive metal plates. The plates will then draw ink from the press rollers only where there are images.