Spilt-second

He said goodnight to the driver, and leapt from the bus, fingers clutching his greasy chips. In his haste 
for the savour of salt on his tongue
he ran into the road,
blind to the light
of the car's headlights 
and moving too fast to stop as I shouted a 
         terrified warning. The breaks screeched, but the car 
                            didn't stand a chance of halting.
                                        In my screaming brain
                                                   all motion
                                                       slowed
                                                         down
                                                       before
                                               the dire crack 
                                     of head-on impact.
                             My son;
                    my son was bounced into the air,
             flipped by the nose of the bonnet;
        his chips scattering, cascading.
     I saw him hurtling head first towards the ground
    and my brain raced.
    I saw his head shatter on the tarmac,
      the splash of blood
         and the scarlet puddle that swelled
             around his lifeless self.
               My anguish was too great to contain
               so, from a distance,
              I watched my feeble frame
           crouch beside my child,
        lift his broken head onto my lap,
     hearing keening sobs erupt from within me.
   a siren wailed.
  They took my dead son away.
 as I watched the tail lights recede
a sudden movement clicked me back to reality
his death had been no more
than a vision of the expected future
and he was still falling, but; 
in a split-second miracle
he had contorted in the air,
raising his shoulders and his head,
giving him a safe delivery.

                   He 
               wasn't dead.
       He wasn't dead or even hurt.
  As his incredulous audience marvelled    
I hugged him close,  crying out my relief.
Over and again,  the poor car-driver said                      
“he was right in front of me. I braked but 
 there was nothing I could do!” I uttered 
   words of comfort and agreement, but 
     I knew only time would heal his 
      unfounded shame.  While Paul 
       struggled to free himself 
        from my shaking embrace 
          I clung to him tight,
           hearing a muffled 
            complaint leave 
               those lips:
 
  “I was really longing to eat my chips.”

Written for Writing 101 Poetry – Day 4

This really happened. Paul was thirteen years old, and it was his second close brush with death, but years later,  more were to follow…

©Jane Paterson Basil

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36 thoughts on “Spilt-second

    1. It was a horrific moment. I can’t say for sure that the weird thing that happened in my head occurred at the time or afterwards, but I’ve re-lived it over and over, and the image of me sitting in the road, holding his broken body is so clear…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I often think of how much difference a second can make, to so many lives – the car misses the boy by a few inches, or it hits him. In this case it’s about a sequence of seconds, each one having it’s natural consequence, and then that split second when Paul twisted so strangely as he was plummeting head-first, saving his life. Incredible! We were very lucky that night, and you’re right, not everybody is…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Calen – I found this one really hard – particularly as I have been under a lot of stress over Paul’s health. His horrible doctor looked at him like a rabid dog. He told him that it was just inflamation, and it wasn’t infected. He didn’t take a urine sample or his temperature even though he had a fever, refused to give him any kind of medication and told him to take Ibuprofen. We got a second opinion. The guy he saw tonight took all the proper tests, and he was friendly and sympathetic. Paul has an infection that has spread to is bladder since seeing that awful doctor, and the guy told him to get shot of his doctor and switch to a different surgery altogether. He’s given him strong antibiotics. Paul’s mental health is very frail at the moment, and since seeing that quack on Tuesday he has been in agony, unable to sleep, traumatised and having thoughts of suicide.
      He was so grateful and relieved this evening that he broke down in the surgery.
      I’m furious and upset for Paul, and I feel a malpractice suit coming up.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nothing worse for a guy than a bladder infection. I hope those antibiotics kick in real quick. I’m starting to think there are no doctors worth their salt anymore… Hope he gets feeling better fast so he doesn’t keep thinking like that. {{{Jane}}}

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow! So much to take in. First, the poem. Took me straight back to my own experience of bouncing off the bonnet of a car in mid traffic on a busy road. Silly me took a risk and ran for it thinking I would make it. Didn’t.Bounced around like a rubber ball! Only bruised body and ego and a shattered driver. I think my Guardian Angels were on extra alert that day. Nice formatting by the way 🙂
    Second, Paul’s health. So sorry to hear he is not travelling well. good that he has found a better doctor. I assume he is drinking lots of water to help clear out the infection. Drinking a urine neutraliser like Ural will take some of the sting and pain out too. But I guess you know all this! Sorry, the nurse in me kicked in there 🙂 Hope he gets better real soon. Once he feels physically better his mental health should improve too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my daughters got knoocked down by a car too, when she was rushing to pick up my grandson from school. She walked away with a red face and a few bruises, fortunately.
      You take the trouble to read all the comments! Paul is managing to drink lots of water, but he hasn’t got Ural. It may have a different name in England. Please DON’T apologise – I’m grateful for any advice – as any parent would be – and I sincerely thank you for it. I’m not sure how much you know about Paul, but he’s a recovering addict, and is at a very shaky stage anyway. I feel confident that he’ll be in a much better frame of mind soon. The kind doctor he saw this evening has given him a massive lift.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I do often read comments. It can be very enlightening. Or incredibly funny. Just this morning I got more laughs reading a trail of comments than any of the posts I read.
        I really don’t know anything about Paul other than what I have just learnt. It’s a hard road he’s on at the moment. I wish him all the very best on his journey. A friend of ours is 2 years down the track in his recovery and now doing very well. Just saying there’s others out there who have done it, so he can too 🙂 I’m sure you know that!
        Any chemist would be able to advise you on what to use as a urine alkaliser. It’s usually acidic, and infections / inflammations make it very painful to pass water.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This was so powerful — well done! Your poem shows how a second can stretch into near-infinity when the stakes are high enough, and I loved how it folded in and out on itself. (it also reminded me, because of the subject matter and point of view, of that heartbreaking scene from All About My Mother where the protagonist’s son dies in an accident — have you seen that movie?)

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  3. This was powerful! I also visualize the worst case scenario. It’s traumatizing, and my kids don’t quite know what to do with it. I’m so glad of the outcome.

    There was a similar scene that occurred in my town, same age kid, but the outcome was the first one you gave us. It shook our town. He was so young.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A brilliantly described scene, Jane. I can’t imagine how traumatic that was for you to see Paul nearly run over. My other half texted me this a.m to say they’d driven past an accident on the way to work this morning. Horrific scenes. Other half was quite shaken. Incidents like this make you want to pull your loved ones close to you.
    I do hope Paul’s health is improving. Thank goodness you found that second doctor. Much as I love and value the NHS, some stories of incompetence make your toes curl. Hope he’s on the mend and can feel better in time to enjoy Christmas X

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    1. Paul is still not well, and he’s scared because he is experiencing strange symptoms. I think he’s recovering but feeling paranoid, but I may have to get him back to the doctor tomorrow. (or rather today, as it’s 3am) I’m sure he’ll recover soon, but his immune system seems to be shot to pieces.
      Thank you for your kind thoughts x
      PS I,ve just noticed imis-spelt the title, but I think I like it that way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yes, I hadn’t noticed the title. It works, though, doesn’t it?
        I hope he’ll be on the mend soon. As you say, it sounds as if his immune system has been overwhelmed by the infection. The doctor might just up the strength of his medication, do you think? If he’s paranoid it complicates things, doesn’t it? The mind is a strong organ and can create all sorts of things that weren’t previously there. All the best to you both and hope he’s feeling well soon X

        Liked by 1 person

        1. He’s on a massive dose already. One of the side-effects of giving up heroin is a lowered immunity to infection. The same is often true of giving up smoking and various other things, and the stress his sister causes doesn’t help. We’re waiting to hear whether she’s going to prison today. It’s very frightening because she won’t cope well with prison, and she’s petrified, but she’s trying to destroy herself.
          it’s all crazy. I feel as if I’m living somebody else’s life. Thank goodness my two older daughters are so wonderful.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’m so sorry, to hear about your daughter, Jane. I know a family facing the prospect of their loved one’s first Christmas in prison – a bleak prospect for any parent. Will it be good or bad for her to be inside? She’ll be away from a certain amount of drugs and friends who might be a bad influence. Whatever happens, I hope things turn out for the best for her.
            And let’s hope Paul’s system will begin to recover soon – then he can really begin to bounce back.

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            1. The court decided to put her on curfew instead of sending her to prison. She has to be at her father’s place 8 miles from town from 3pm to 7am every day. For reasons that I won’t go into, she won’t be able to do it, so she’ll end up with a custodial sentence. Paul has gone back to his dad now, and the first time Laura misses her curfew he’s going to ring me, and I’ll ring the police. It sounds harsh, but I believe prison is her only chance of survival. he police must be spitting blood over her getting a curfew – they’ve been wanting her off the streets for eighteen months, out of compassion for her. They’re trying oto save her.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. I’m sorry things aren’t really sorted out – it all just draws it out for you. The friend I mentioned the other day says her son is doing so much better than on the outside – getting clean, taking courses, being a mentor for other prisoners. It’s been a horrible thing, but it could just save him. It sounds strange to wish prison on anyone, but I hope your daughter gets the help she needs too and soon. All the best to you, love X

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I’ve heard a few prison success stories over the last couple of years. It’s very encouraging, but they are still dangerous places for people who don’t fit in.I hope your son continues to do well, and makes a go of his life when he comes out. xx

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yes, my friend’s son seems more positive in many ways, but you’re right – it’s not a healthy place for many.
                    One of the things this lad is doing is being a listener for depressed and suicidal prisoners – it’s helping him to help others. But it is a terribly hard place for many, you’re right

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. He aounds like one of the good guys who got lost somewhere along the way. I read Paul your message and he said he hopes your friend’s son gets the right support when he leaves prison. It could make all the difference to him/#.

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