Dude. I wrecked my car. High five.

The speaker is a boy, although he insists he is a man, named Johnny. He is a quintessential beach bum, enjoying surfing and beers around bonfires with babes flitting around in bikinis. The four B’s. He is at one such bonfire when, for whatever primal reason teenagers are driven by, he decides to race his truck. Beers, high speeds, and winding roads, oh my. Are you surprised that as Johnny sloppily handles the car, he doesn’t notice the curve in the road ahead? That he keeps driving even when branches start scrabbling to hold him back, slow him down, save his life? They do. His car is totaled, but what does that really matter when adrenaline is adding a whole new level to the buzz he’s been riding all night?

The speaker addresses the best friend, Mark. Mark won’t return the high five. Where Johnny is light in every sense of the word- blonde hair, whimsical attitude- Mark is dark. And sensible. As it is, he needs to be sensible for many people in his life. Johnny, his older sister facing an upcoming court date, the younger brother he practically raised. He is aware of the trouble Johnny has gotten himself into, even though Johnny himself is not. Why does Mark stay with Johnny? I don’t know, and neither does he I suspect. Mark is sitting on a log by the bonfire, watching flames kiss each other the way the two girls behind him do.

“Dude. You hear me?” Johnny inquires, if you can call his drunken slur an inquiry at all. But Mark understands. He sighs and stands, resigned to another night of taking care of others. But at the back of his mind he wonders how long he can put others before himself? How long until they realize they’ve pushed him too far. Until he’s at the top of the business world, high above them as their boss, a success who escaped the town currently smothering him. Or high above them, momentarily, as he falls forward from the highest building in sight? No tree branches scrabble to slow him. Only his own sensible thoughts. Maybe they’ll be enough.

(A short story by Melissa Martin)

About the Author

Melissa Martin is a sophomore at UNCC pursuing dual degrees in psychology and English. Her talents include eating multiple Cosmic Brownies a day without tiring of them and slipping the word “incredible” into every conversation. She is incredibly fond of her friends, family, and reading.