4th of July

Summer is in full swing and we are already halfway through 2018! Phew! Where is the time going? Once the 4th of July rolls around, it always makes me feel like Summer vacation is also halfway over.  Midwest kids start school in Mid-August, so it’s not too far off already.  Have any big plans for the holiday? What have you done thus far during the warm months? How about my Southern Hemisphere friends? How’s winter treating you?

Story Background

I wrote this in a couple of hours back in early May, when I was writing short stories left and right.  I was driving down a road in Suburbia, saw the workers cutting limbs, a student driver taking his time in front of me, and beside me, a man obviously agitated by the driver in front of him.  Bam! Inspiration.  Life truly happens in moments and unless your number is up, you can always move forward from something, even the most terrible of things. I’d like to think I conveyed that here.

As always, leave a review and enter a chance to win a $5 Amazon GC. More importantly, let me know how I’m doing. Feedback feeds the muse. Without it, it’s easy for creativity to dry up.

It Only Takes a Second

“Mom! Where’s my hoodie?!”

“Where you left it. You should wear your light jacket anyway. It’s only going to be 50 today.” Nathan Sellers never knew where anything was. The typical 16-yr-old, going on 25. His mom sighed, stirring a spoon of sugar into her coffee cup, watching patiently as her son buzzed around the house, gathering all of his items for school.

“That’s warm! Besides, I have Driver Ed first thing this morning. I’ll be too hot sitting in the car with a coat on.”

Nathan’s mother, Jessica, was secretly a nervous wreck. He had only turned 16 over the weekend and had never driven a car out on the road. When he was 15 ¾, he passed his learner’s permit test and immediately wanted to jump behind the wheel. But, she suffered from anxiety and couldn’t handle the additional stress. She often drove him to the high school parking lot to practice parking and driving under 10 mph. She’d even let him practice pulling the car in and out of the garage, which was a feat for both of them, since it was a large SUV in a small garage, packed with tubs of decoration and things one collects while living in a suburban household for any length of time. The car insurance company offered discounted rates to parents with drivers under 18, who took a Driver’s Education class, so when the high school offered it as an elective for the Spring Semester, she leaped at the chance of allowing someone else to handle the daunting task of teaching her son how to drive.

Pulling Nathan in for a tight hug, Jessica whispers a silent prayer, “Please be safe today. You are my life. I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to you.”

“Geez, mom. Relax! It’s just driving! Millions of kids get behind the wheel every day!” Nathan breaks the hug and puts his hands on his mother’s shoulders. He is already taller than her by at least three inches and expected to be even more by the time he’s done growing.

“That’s what I’m afraid of!”

“It’ll be fine. Billy’s grandpa is the teacher! He’s taught like a thousand kids how to drive.”

“A thousand? Really?”

“Well, a lot anyway. Ever since he retired, he’s been teaching Driver’s Ed. Billy says he’s pretty much taught everyone in the family how to drive at some point.”

“I don’t care if he taught Henry Ford himself, he hasn’t taught my son, and I want you to be careful. Do everything he says. Don’t take your eyes off the road or the wheel for even a second, you understand?!”

A car horn blares. “That’s my ride. Gotta go! Love you, mom!”

Nathan rushes out the door, forgetting his backpack. Jessica meets him on the porch, just as he turns to come back inside.

“Be safe!” she calls as he gets in the car. She watches as they back out of the driveway and down the street, hugging herself in reassurance that he’s growing up and will be fine. “Millions of kids do this every day,” she murmurs to herself.

“Hey, Nate! You ready for this?” Avery Johnstone greets Nathan at his locker.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!”

“Me too! Do you think he’ll let us drive first thing or do you think he’ll make us watch bloody accident films first?”

“It’s like the only nice day for the next month. I’m sure he’ll let us go out on the road. Besides, we’ve all driven some already, right?”

“Yeah. Let’s go, before we’re late!”

Avery and Nathan rush off to the back entrance of the school, where the buses drop off students. Standing next to a shiny newer sedan is Marshall, Billy’s grandpa. There is another student already there, Lucas Cruz, a big bully kid who always gave Nathan a hard time.

“Good morning, Nathan. And you must be Avery. I’m Mr. Ballard, but everyone calls me Marshall.” He extends his hand to Avery and after, clasps Nathan on the shoulder in a friendly greeting. “Since it is such a nice day out and each of you has had your learner’s permit for some time, as well as some driving experience, I’m going to take you out on one of the main roads in town. It’s after rush hour, so traffic should be light, but enough to give you a sense of what it is like to share the road with others. Lucas was here first, so he’ll have the honors of getting us to our initial destination, the Donut Café! My treat.”

All three kids whoop in excitement as they get in the car. Before they set out on their excursion, Marshall goes over the safety features of the vehicle, and quizzes each of the kids on the general rules of the road. Confident that everyone is clear on their goals, and comfortable with their capabilities, they set out for their first milestone: Donuts with the teacher!

After a short break and constructive feedback on Lucas’ driving, it’s Nathan’s turn. His goal is to drive three miles down the road to a local convenience store, where they will practice the experience of gassing up a vehicle.

“I’ve been pumping gas for my mom since I was ten years old. This is dumb,” Lucas complains.

“It’s better than Biology!” Avery chirps. “Besides, it’s not all about you, Lucas.”

Nathan glances at Lucas in his review mirror, and Lucas flips him the middle finger. Surprised and angered, Nathan jerks the wheel a little.

“Try loosening your grip a little, Nate. Your hands will cramp at that rate. Also, the tighter you hold on, the stiffer the steering will be. Generally, a car will continue in a straight path, if the road is even, with little manipulation on your part.”

Nathan nods and tries to relax, but Lucas is snickering in the backseat. Up ahead are orange cones along the road and a temporary sign, ‘Caution. Workers Ahead.’

“Looks like the power company is out trimming branches before everything starts blooming. Stay in your lane and watch for any directional changes,” Marshall advises.

Naturally, Nathan slows as they come upon three trucks with cherry pickers attached to them. There are men in each bucket, working close to the power lines to remove limbs and dead branches damaged from the Fall and Winter weather.

“Wow! Look at that!” Lucas exclaims.

Nathan jerks the wheel and accidentally presses the gas as his body stiffens in reaction to Lucas’ outburst.
“Nathan! Look out!” Marshall yells, reaching for the wheel to avoid careening into the trucks. But it’s too late.

The front bumper of the sedan clips the oversized metal bumper of one of the trucks. Not enough to do any damage, but enough to make the truck lurch. The sudden movement causes the bucket of the cherry picker to pitch. John, a power company employee of fifteen years, is in the middle of sawing a large branch. The unexpected shift causes him to lose his balance. His chainsaw touches live powerlines before releasing his grip from the throttle. He is electrocuted.

Meanwhile, sparks fly from the cut power line. The chainsaw careens to the pavement, shattering into pieces and gasoline begins to ooze out of its enclosure. Just feet from the trucks, on a nearby pedestrian walking path, Lou a safety worker also with the utility company, runs and yells to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Terry, a man in his late 70’s who recently had bypass surgery, is walking his dog. Upon seeing the accident, his heart rate bursts out of control, and he collapses on the ground in the throes of another heart attack. His French bulldog Lincoln escapes his leash and runs out into the street where a passing motorist named Ian, sees the small dog coming and swerves to avoid hitting it. By doing so, his vehicle crosses into the lanes of oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with a minivan. Inside is Theresa who is in the last trimester of her second pregnancy. Her toddler, Jonah, is asleep in the back, strapped into his car seat. Stephen, a home security salesman, is running late for an appointment. The minivan in front of him has been driving him crazy because she, it has to be a she, is driving too damn slow. He thinks if he tailgates her, she’ll get the hint and speed up a little. Unfortunately, Stephen would not make his appointment. For when Theresa was hit, he was following so closely, that he didn’t have time to stop and he ran right into the back of her.

Meanwhile, Marshall helped guide the car off to the side of the road and is checking to make sure the students are unharmed. As he reaches for the handle to get out of the car, he hears Lou’s screams.
“Stay in your vehicles. There is a live wire down. The area is charged with electricity. Until the power can be turned off, it is unsafe to step out of your vehicles.”


LOU – Two Hours Before the Accident

“Finally, a nice warm sunny day. I didn’t think Spring would ever arrive.”

John laughed. “Spring arrived the minute the Sun crossed north of the Equator. Just be grateful it didn’t become summer instantly as it does in Arizona. My sister said one minute it was 75, the next 100.”

“Oh, cry me a river. I’d take 100 over -20 any day. Anyways, since the weather is good, we need to head out and get those trees on Russell Rd cleared. Later this week we are supposed to get thunderboomers already, and the last thing we need is a situation where wires are down. That road connects Upper Kipton Township to six other communities. I can’t begin to tell you how much of a cluster that would be. As for safety, you all know the drill. Three teams, one man at the truck to watch for any falling debris, one man in the bucket, and I’ll be spotting everyone. We’ll use Ethan for traffic coordination.”

“Um, boss? Ethan called in sick today,” John announced. “That kid is unreliable, just like I said he’d be.”
“Shit. We can’t put this off another day. OK, I guess I’ll play safety and traffic duty. As long as we put plenty of signage and cones out, we should be fine. I’ve been with this company for thirty years, and in those thirty years, I’ve yet to lose a guy to an accident. Let’s keep it that way.”

The group of men agreed and set out for the day.


JOHN – An Hour Before the Accident

“Hey, Lou?” John called in his wireless headset.

“Yeah, John?”

“Have you checked these chainsaws recently?”

“I had them serviced over the winter. Why? What’s wrong?”

John hesitated. Lou was passionate about his job. Anything you pointed out that might have even the slightest thing to do with safety, Lou took it personally. “Nothing’s wrong. Just seems like mine has more kickback than it should. We are pretty close to the wires up here.”

“I checked each one when they came back. They all operate in accordance with OSHA standards.”

“OK, Lou.”


TERRY – 30 Minutes Before Accident

“Now that the weather is getting nicer, you need to get out and exercise,” Terry imitates his doctor as he bends over to tie his walking shoes. It’s been four weeks since his bypass surgery. He was almost a goner at 70 years old, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe the powers that be should’ve just let him go when they had the chance. He’d lost the love of his life twenty years before to breast cancer, and their rotten kids called once a month if that. He wasted his youth working a job he hated so he could put his two sons through college, and for what? So they could tell him he was never around to do the things that their friend’s dads did, like coach their little league team, or take them fishing?! Because sending them to top-rated schools, all expenses paid just didn’t make the cut in the fatherly duty column. He has yet to see his only grandson, a few pictures sent through the computer and that’s it. You’d think they lived in another country, not in the city that lies less than thirty miles away. What was left for him in this life other than his old buddy Lincoln, the aging French Bulldog?


IAN – Minutes Before Accident

“Stupid Auto-correct! I said: I am 10 minutes away. Have the projector ready and my presentation cued. I’m bringing hard copies.” Ian speaks into his phone to send a text message to his assistant.

“I swear I’d be better off typing with one finger sometimes,” he murmurs to himself as he glances back down at his phone to re-read everything that his voice-to-text feature translated. “Of course, half of it is wrong! UGH! Holy shit! Is that a dog?!”


THERESA – Minutes Before Accident

“I’m not speeding up, jerk! I just got my baby to sleep, so if I have to drive around the world doing exactly the speed limit while Wiggly Piggly plays on auto-repeat, I’ll do it.” Theresa grumbles as she watches the car in her rearview mirror inch closer. She sees the man waving his hands as if he is casting a spell on her. She wishes someone would cast a spell on her! A sleeping spell specifically. Between the morning sickness, Jonah’s double-ear infection and her husband out of town on business, sleep has been hard to come by. She takes a sip of coffee to stave off another yawning jag. Twenty more minutes is all she needs and then she can pick up the medicine at the drug-store that will help Jonah’s pain and then they can hopefully lay down for a nap. She knows she isn’t supposed to have too much caffeine, it’s not good for the baby, but if she yawns one more time…


STEPHEN – An Hour Before Accident

“I’m leaving.”

“We are not having this conversation again. I said I was sorry. What more can I give you?” Stephen begs his wife.

“I can’t get past it. She was my best friend! Why do you have to ruin everything?”

“I’ll make it up to you. We can go on that cruise you’ve always talked about. The one that sends the catalogs once a week. We’ll go. Name a date, and I’ll make it happen.”

“You bet your ass you will when I take you to court and take half of what is mine. I’m done with your lying, cheating ways!”

Stephen’s phone beeps. “I’ve got to go. I have an appointment with a client. Please be here when I get back.” He steps forward to touch his wife’s cheek. She bats his hand away before stepping into their bedroom and slamming the door.



“Did you think when you woke up this morning that you’d see anything like this?” Jack Mayson asked his partner of three years, Zach Willis.

“Never. And I bet neither did any of these people. Jesus, where do we start?”

“There are two more rigs at least coming. Let’s check with that guy over there with the bright yellow safety vest, see what he knows.”



Nathan shivers in his seat.

“It’s going to be okay, kid. They’ll turn the power off, and we can find out if everyone is ok. Then we’ll go back to school and live out our day.” Marshall was trying to reassure all of them, as much as Nathan. He knew the signs of shock all too well, having completed three tours in Vietnam, at the height of the war. Incidentally, he taught many soldiers in his various units how to drive too. They were all a bunch of kids, barely out of high school, hardly any hair on their face, and they were sent halfway around the world to kill people they’d never met.

“Here, take my jacket. It will help warm you up. You two okay back there?”

Avery was quietly sobbing, while Lucas stared out the window watching all the commotion and murmuring to himself.

“My mother told me to bring a jacket. Said I’d be cold. Warned me not to take my eyes off the road, even for a second. That’s all it took. Just a second!”

“It’s all it ever takes, son. One minute we’re here, cruising through life and when we least expect it, something comes along and bumps us off our path. But as long as you’re still breathing, you have time to get back up and keep going. You still breathing?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Then we’ll get through this.”


NEWSWOMAN – 5 O’clock News

“Good Evening. I’m Samantha Westwind with breaking news. A student driver, his first time behind the wheel, collided with a utility truck this morning on Russell Rd in Upper Kipton Township, where tree trimming services had begun in preparation for the Spring bloom. The accident triggered a deadly chain reaction that claimed the lives of three and injured six.”

Well, that’s it for me.  Be careful out on the roads this weekend if you are in the States.  Hell, be cautious wherever you live.  The world needs you.  — KTG

© K.T. George 2018 | This post was first seen on ktgeorge.com


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Short Story Series: Story 10 – It Only Takes a Second
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3 thoughts on “Short Story Series: Story 10 – It Only Takes a Second

  • July 2, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    This is like that movie…Crash…from a few years ago. Everyone saw it from a different view point. Not sure I will look at roadside tree trimmer the same after this! Yikes.

  • July 8, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Sorry I haven’t been leaving comments. But I’ve read every single one of your stories published to date and have enjoyed each one. This one in particular has haunted me, though. Because it was so real. Like this could’ve happened the other day and I am now watching it on the news. Great job!

  • July 10, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    I like how you developed each of the side characters a little bit before you killed them all. Haha. I think your writing improves with each post. Keep it up!


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