Jacob shielded his eyes from the headlights of passing vehicles. Their passing glare just added to his already mounting frustrations. Sarah started to giggle again. She was still having a good laugh at his expense. She would barely talk to him and the sounds of her laughter would transition from a high pitch giggle of amusement to the somber, lower chuckle of grating sarcasm. She wouldn’t say anything else on the whole trip back to her hotel.
Jacob blurted, “Why did you have to tell mom about what I said?”
Sarah stopped giggling. Through the occasional glances between her and the road, Jacob watched her smile turn to a frown and her eyebrows bend toward her nose.
“Why the hell not?” She said. “She needs to know that you may start acting a little crazy.”
“I’m not certain I’m all that crazy.”
Sarah lifted her eyebrows, forming creases in her forehead. “Really? This, what you are doing, is connected to some sort of guilt because you couldn’t help Dad. You didn’t see this coming, no one did.” Her forehead smoothed, her eyes widened, softened. “You can’t blame yourself, because of some strange smiley face Dad wrote on a piece of paper.”
At least, she finally believed that Jacob hadn’t been pulling a prank. He couldn’t convince her that his own note had writing on it meant for his eyes only, and she saw was a smiley face.
Sarah turned to look out the passenger window. “Besides, maybe it was his way of finally saying that he was happy. Maybe, he thought he was making the right choice.”
Jacob raised his voice. It was his turn. “The right choice! Suicide!”
Sarah spun her head back to him. “Don’t you dare! I’m not saying he made the right choice. I’m his daughter! I’d like to have him around! I’m saying that he felt his choice was right; he was at peace with it.”
“But he had a family that loved him,” Jacob said. His voice was shaky, he couldn’t imagine his father ever finding unhappiness in his life.
“Our lives have never been a utopia, Jacob,” Sarah said.
“What family is?”
“You know better than me, you saw Dad move from job to job over the last two years. Laid off during the recession from a lucrative chemical engineering job. Laid off just a couple years before his retirement.”
“There was money put away.”
“Sure, but Dad still needed to work, so did Mom. The work was below his station too.”
“Work is work.” It was fine thing for his sister, the doctor, to judge about work being below his father’s station. Her degrees just made her more insufferable, Jacob found some comfort that he avoided college and never became like her at this moment.
“Work is work, Jacob, but Dad had a career, a workplace he enjoyed, and it all came crashing down. Apart from that, our parents managed to put themselves into debt that will take another five years to pay off, probably longer now that Dad will rack up so much in medical bills.”
Jacob had to admit that things had been tough. Dad also lost several close friends to accidents or health complications in the past two years. The deaths had wounded his spirit and his mother could see it. Her attempts at comfort failed and their closeness as a married couple thinned. Dad had been distant, but he was just grieving. At least that was what Jacob thought. He certainly never Dad wanted to commit suicide.
“Dad had suffered a couple of friends’ deaths and then Granddad,” Jacob admitted.
“Really? Who?” Sarah asked. Any anger and frustration from her voice had faded.
“Michael, his old college buddy, died after a car accident on the interstate. Although he had to lay Dad off, Mark and Dad stayed close, but Mark died in surgery, due to health complications. And then, Granddad.”
Sarah mused. “All in the past two years.”
Two years, thought Jacob.
“Yeah, it was a lot to go through.”
“I had no idea.”
“Of course, not, you were in California living your life. I sometimes thought you didn’t want to be around us anymore.”
“What? The nerve! I have been working!” Sarah shouted. She slapped Jacob on the side of his face.
The car swerved into the opposite lane as Jacob tried to regain control and shield his head from his sister. She was a doctor, she knew about head injuries.
Sarah dropped back to her seat and gripped the door handle. “Jacob!”
He heard the blaring horn of an oncoming car and swerved back into his lane. “I got it! That was your fault, you know!”
Sarah face flushed with anger and then drooped with resignation. “I know.”
“Do we need to add to the family tragedy this week?” Jacob continued to yell.
“I said, I know!”
“Fine!” Jacob breathed. He relaxed his position in the car seat, which calmed him. “Let’s just get you to the hotel without any more yelling. We are pretty high strung with current events.”
“Agreed,” Sarah said.
Jacob stopped at a stop sign at a three-way intersection and clicked on the left blinker. It’s monotonous, rhythmic clicking seeped into his frustrated mind.
“I guess,” Jacob admitted, “the past two years really hit Dad hard. And Mom and I never saw it.”
“Don’t blame yourself,” Sarah said. “Dad was a pretty stubborn guy. If he wanted to hide it, he would found every way to do so. Hiding is just not coping.”
“Don’t use ‘was’.”
“You said ‘Dad was’. He’s not dead.”
Sarah smiled weakly. “Right, you’re right.” She turned to look out the windshield into the night sky. It was cloudy. “He’s not dead.”
“And he’s not going to die.”
Jacob looked down the empty crossroad. No, traffic.
Two years of suffering, Dad had been in pain, but he always managed to smile, he always managed to rebound. At least that was what it looked like to Jacob. Was he just a terrible son? Wait. Two years. Dad got the jacket from Granddad two years ago. Sarah had said so earlier today.
His foot tapped the gas. The car moved forward.
“Sis, two years ago Granddad gave Dad that flight jacket and then bad shit went down. I get the jacket and Dad shoots himself to do what? End the curse?”
Sarah looked at him. She shook her head. “No, Jacob, don’t you dare do this?”
Headlights flooded Sarah’s passenger window. She became little more than a dark silhouette surrounded by bright lights. Jacob slammed the gas, but the SUV slammed into his little car, a near-perfect broadside. The SUV forced Jacob’s car off the road. Jacob’s car flipped and tumbled. Glass shattered as the car tumbled. The ceiling crumbled, he felt the pressure of the metal and fiberglass room on his head and neck. He heard his sister scream, he probably did as well.
As the car tumbled down the hill from the road, he thought of his screaming sister, his mother, his wounded father, and a family curse that was now etched into his mind as a possibility. His father had suffered incredibly, and now it was Jacob’s turn, it was the family’s turn. The suffering could be boundless, it could be infinite.
Jacob blacked out to the sound of his blaring horn.
© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.
Further Reading in this serial: