October, 1916 - Yancy County, North Carolina
I think I may have just killed somebody.
My hands clutch the steering wheel as I fight the sudden uneasiness, the agitating pressure in my chest and arms. I return my full attention to the dark
highway in front of me, confirming that I’m still on the road, the double yellow line to my left and the solid white stripe to my right, the car moving a safe and
reasonable speed. It only took a second, like the sound of a shotgun, that moment when my eyes left the road to look at the clock on the dash. But a
second was all Doubt needed to creep in and start its sadistic tease.
You could have knocked a construction barrel into oncoming traffic! You could have forced another car off the road! You could have run down a jogger!
I take several deep breaths and try to think back to what happened: Did I loose control of the car? Did I feel an impact? Did I hear brakes screech?
So much can happen in only a second.
I pull onto the next side road, make a three-point turn, and retrace my path. The country highway shows no sympathy-it simply twists and turns before
my headlights, like a giant serpent about to swallow me whole. So all I can do is drive back to the spot of the possible accident-or at least to where I think
it was. The scenery is desolate and rather mundane-a tree here and there, an occasional farmhouse, lots of cornfields, empty for the winter. But my mind is
cluttered with all sorts of questions, wondering what type of disaster could have happened during that second: Will I come across a construction site in
disarray? Will I find a car wrapped around a tree? Will I see a mangled body on the shoulder?
And if I do, will it have been my fault?
I see the area up ahead, just past a large oak tree, its barren and twisted branches overhanging the highway. That was the site, wasn’t it? My foot hits
the brake, and the car slows to 25 mph-half the speed limit. I gawk out the side window, twisting my neck to the left and then back as I drive by. As
always, I see nothing unusual-no scattered barrels, no demolished cars, no ragged bodies. I turn the car around at the next crossroad and resume my
original route, but Doubt doesn’t give up so easily.
Are you sure you looked in the right spot?
I should be mingling with my colleagues at the office Christmas party, but as usual, I’m running late. That’s why I dared to look at the clock in the first place.
Earlier, back at the office, I went through my usual routine before leaving. I stood at the sink inside the men’s room, lathering each individual finger with
soap, moving from the tip to the base and then back again, paying attention to the space under each fingernail, then cleaning my palms and my wrists,
careful to avoid touching the backs of my hands.
James A. Roberts, II lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He earned his J.D. from Cornell Law School and his M.F.A. from Western Michigan University, where he has
taught English composition. He is working on his first book.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The narrator’s confusion intrigues me, and the last paragraph identifies an important psychological component. If I were the right agent, I’d
be interested in watching how this plays out.
“So what are you thinking of doing with your life?” my mom asked yet again. I sighed and ignored the question. It was our usual routine. We were
sitting in what everyone with a normal house would describe as a living room but what Mom always referred to as the parlor.
The parlor has been parlor-ized to the hilt. A big round antique oak table sat in the middle surrounded by an assortment of mismatched antique chairs.
Mom was sitting in one and I was across the table from her. Under the bay window was one of those Victorian style couches where comfort was a distinct
afterthought. There was also a matching chair and smaller round table which held our haunted mansion lamp. This lamp was a huge 1890s monstrosity on
the base was a large glass ball that I wished you could open up so you could fit a goldfish inside. Sadly it doesn’t. The couch, floor, and every chair are
covered in pillows none of which match each other or the heavy outdated drapes.
“I know you don’t like the question Victoria” Mom said “but you seem so directionless lately. I can’t believe your spirits haven’t been guiding you more.”
“We have been over this Mom,” I said. “I didn’t receive the family gift. I’m not psychic, or intuitive, or even particularly touchy feely. Nobody’s guiding
If you haven’t guessed by now my mother is the town psychic. Ironic since I am the town skeptic. She has the gift, her sister has the gift, all my
cousins have the gift and my little sister Charlotte has so much of the gift she once appeared on an episode of the reality show Mysterious Children.
I didn’t get the gift. I must have inherited my traits from my father’s side of the family. We don’t talk much about him since mom is angry that she didn’t
have the foresight to see that he was going to pack up and leave when I was eight.
Mom and Charlotte refuse to believe what is completely obvious. They are convinced I am in denial about my psychic abilities, but trust me if I had any
I would be using them. I wouldn’t have to study for most of my tests because the answers would just come to me, and I would be able to get money
anytime I wanted just by hitting the track instead of toiling away at my job at Andy’s Linen Outlet.
Only my family would see going to school and working a nearly full time job as being directionless. Mom doesn’t get the concept of general education
either. Yes I assume at Harvard or something you have a major and you only take classes in your major but at Stallings Community College you have to take
General education first then you transfer to a four year and pick a major there.
The reason why my mother is down on my attempt at getting an education is because she wants me to go into the family business. She has convinced
herself that because my psychic abilities have been so late in manifesting themselves I am in fact even more psychic than her or Charlotte.
Shannon Brown is the author of Rock’N’Roll in Locker Seventeen, available for purchase online. For more information please visit www.locker17.com. She
also runs www.tshirtfort.com, a funny gift website. Shannon lives in the Bay Area and graduated from Chico State University.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I like the bright, funny, angst-filled tone of this teenage narrator. I think she’d appeal to teenagers, and I’m always intrigued by families
with psychic abilities, so I might well request the rest of the manuscript to see how the story plays out and whether or not I could sell the manuscript.