The Electric Roller Coaster Ride

teensincarIt was a bright, sunny, windless day and I was in the middle of cooking dinner when the power went out.  With a certainty born of experience I instantly knew what had happened.  Like the all-knowing medium on TV, a vision scrolled out in front of my eyes and unfamiliar voices filled my ears.

Four teenage boys elbow each other inside a Honda Civic.  The air fills with cell phone conversation and side comments. 

“Hey Zach, lets roller coaster the dip,” says a backseat passenger to the driver.

“Yeah, Yeah, great idea,” the boy riding shotgun agrees.

Zach has a sensible look about him.  His parents have constantly counseled their first born on the importance of safe driving.  But the jostling of his friends’ bodies against his shoulders and right arm and the noise from three competing voices make it difficult for him to follow the silent conversation he is trying to have with himself. 

“Zach, get ready man, the dip is right after the next curve.  This is going to be so cool,” the originator of the plan says as he bounces up and down in anticipation.

teensincarThe buzz of excitement in the car catches Zach up and pushes the debate in his mind aside as he starts computing speed and trajectory.  Safely out of the curve, he pushes his foot down on the accelerator.  The shadows of the trees on either side of the road flatten out the short deep depression.  As the car plunges down and then up the ramp of the dip’s other side Zach has that momentary swooping feeling in his belly that plasters a grin on his face and he hears his voice joining the chorus of whoops from his friends.  Then his pleasure turns to a tight muscle of fear when the car seems to take control like something out of a Stephen King novel.  He fights the wheel as his foot instinctively slams on the brake.  His mouth opens adding to his friends’ screams as the car shimmies and skids knocking over a mailbox, and traffic sign warning of the next curve until finally with a loud crack it hits a telephone pole.  There is a snap and wires snake over the car to the ground spitting sparks.  Inside the car there is shocked silence.  Slowly, quiet, concerned voices check each other out.  Amazingly, nobody is hurt beyond some scratches and bruises. The three passengers laugh powerlinerepairnervously as they debate who will dial 911. Zach is silently trying to dispel the hollow space that seems to have replaced his internal organs and to calm himself as he continuously reviews all the probable consequences of the decision he made.

I am waiting, just like the last time some teenagers decided to take a cheap roller coaster ride.  In three hours my life will return to normal, but four once invincible teenagers will have had at least a temporary taste of mortality.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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